What’s the difference between a whistleblower and a conspiracy theorist? Sometimes it can be very hard to tell.
This week, Annie Machon, former MI5 intelligence official, won praise for announcing that she is setting up a fund called Courage to help whistleblowers. According to Wired, the aim of the Courage Fund to Protect Journalistic Sources, to give it its full title, is to “encourage [more] whistleblowers to come forward” and spill the beans on the dastardly doings in the government or security department they work in. Ms Machon, who together with her then partner David Shayler left MI5 in 1996 and subsequently told the world about some of the dodgier things it was getting up to, was earlier this year included in a list of “brave whistleblowers” in the Guardian.
I know Ms Machon in a rather different capacity – not as an allegedly brave and level-headed revealer of truths about MI5, but as a spouter of utter bunkum about 9/11. In 2006, on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, I was sent by the New Statesman to interview Ms Machon and Mr Shayler at their home in Highgate. It wasn’t only their home but also the unofficial headquarters of the 9/11 Truth Movement, a conspiracy-theory outfit that believes America attacked itself on 11 September 2001. I described Machon and Shayler as “the Richard and Judy of the 9/11 conspiracy theory set”.
Machon told me that on 9/11 the Pentagon was attacked by a “missile fired by a US military plane”. I was also treated to claims that the World Trade Centre was brought down by a “controlled demolition” organised by the US government and that the 7/7 bombings were organised by British intelligence. Why? Because Western governments wanted an excuse to get stuck into wars in the Middle East in order to “make billions upon trillions of dollars”. It was one of the craziest afternoon chats I’ve ever had (though the tea was nice).
The fact that Ms Machon, believer in hidden puppeteers behind the worst-ever terrorist atrocity, has recently been rehabilitated to the extent that she is celebrated in the Guardian and by the whistleblower-cheering Twitterati is very interesting. I suppose it could simply show that people are willing to overlook her crankier claims, given that she is such a loud champion of that much-cheered modern trend of whistleblowing.
Or – and my money is on this one – it demonstrates that whistleblowers and conspiracy theorists are cut from the same cloth, are driven by the same dark view of the world as a sinister place controlled by tiny cliques hidden from the ignorant masses. I think the reason Ms Machon can successfully straddle the worlds of conspiracy theorising and whistleblowing is because these two worlds are becoming increasingly alike…
[continues at the Telegraph]