Over the years, I have heard about ancient civilisations and the deities they worshiped. Of course, from the position of our modern times with its modern knowledge, the word superstition is often evoked to describe these beliefs. Due to a lack of understanding about the world around them, these ancient peoples invented gods, rituals and the like as a means to both explain life and hopefully better their lot in the form of good crops and good hunting. For me, the curious aspect of this view of these people was that it could very well be applied to all of us in the modern world. Yes, we know more than those who lived a thousand years ago; heck more than those who lived 100 years ago! But in saying that, just what do we know today and are we any less susceptible to "making stuff up" to try and explain what we don’t understand?
Part of this also seems to be our inability to accept "random chance" as being the explanation for anything. If lightning strikes somebody dead, is it just random or is there the concept of intent? Did the gods hate that person? Did numerology correctly predict the death? No way could it just be a fluke, a random roll of the dice which turns up that individual’s number. There just has to be more to it than that. – Oh wait! Can the government control lightning?
Lies, Myths and The (My) Truth
In my blog posting, I talk about how we are bombarded with information that we ourselves either cannot verify or do not take the time to verify. And if the source of the information is, for instance, a political leader or a supposed expert, we have a tendency of believing the person without doing any fact checking. As a consequence, what we know, what we believe may be inaccurate or possibly not true at all. I cite some examples from both American and Canadian politics but also recount my personal 9/11 story.
My True Story of 9/11
Since 9/11, there have been scads of conspiracy theories about what happened and the biggest revolves around the Bush administration somehow being complicit in the event. One of my favourites is how the World Trade Center buildings had been previously set with explosives and what we all witnessed when the towers collapsed was actually a controlled demolition. I’ve seen the videos; I’ve heard so called demolition experts interviewed and… well, there you have it, proof positive.
What’s screwball is that flying a fuel laden jet plane into a building had never been done before. – In 1945, a B-25 bomber flew into the Empire State Building but that crash was in no way comparable to what happened at WTC. – Let me repeat: WTC never happened before. There is no other event with which to compare the WTC catastrophe. On top of it, when people point to the film of the popping and the supposed smoke coming out of every collapsing story as the buildings come down as somehow being indicative of a controlled charge going off, they have totally forgotten that the weight of the top part of the structure was so heavy that if the jet fuel weakened the supports on the one floor, that weight falling a mere 10 or 12 feet, the height of a story, would generate so much kinetic energy, that the remaining floors would be in no way able to withstand the force. The puffs were not demolition charges; they were the floors blowing out as this massive weight of the upper part of the building slammed downwards.
Fast forward to the spring of 2010. I am at work getting a cup of coffee in the lunchroom with another colleague whom I’ll call Carol. Somehow we got on the topic of 9/11 and the WTC buildings collapsing. Without a blink of an eye, Carol then tells me that the government has all important buildings wired with explosives so that in the event of a war or some sort of invasion, the government can order a building to be destroyed. I stare at her looking for some sign that she is joking: a smile, a wink, a glint in her eyes. Nothing. She is serious. I keep thinking to myself that she couldn’t possibly be serious but as I question her I arrive at the unmistakable conclusion that she actually believes this to be true. "You mean that this building, our office tower, has been set with explosives?" Yep, that’s what she believes. "So the government is able to give the command and this building will be demolished." Yep, that’s it.
I was stunned. This was bizarre. Carol is not some stupid hick, not some Forrest Gump but how could she believe such a thing? Then it occurred to me. Over the years, working in the computer field, I had verified hoax emails for family, friends and colleagues at work who were convinced the emails were true. I remembered people telling me things convinced what they were saying were true when they couldn’t substantiate it. Then I thought of Carol and I realized that the idea of myths, superstitions and rumours was as alive today as it was a thousand years ago. However now, it wasn’t so much that we could or couldn’t verify if something was true or not, we seemed to deliberately choose to believe. If our leader said it, it’s true. If we read it in an email, it’s true. If it’s on the Internet, it’s true.
Hmmm, curious. Then again, as I reflect while starring at the ceiling, do I myself have things that I believe to be true when in fact I may not have the facts to back up what I believe? Probably.
In looking at the idea, it is interesting how the definition itself of the phenomenon includes an inability to accurately and definitively prove something. You and I are sitting in Starbucks having a nice cup of Java when the topic of conversation turns to the question of faith. Prove that God exists or prove that He doesn’t exist. I can’t. I can reach inside my pocket and prove conclusively that I have a ten dollar bill in my possession but I can’t prove God exists and I can’t prove God doesn’t exist.
Put any subject you want on the table. Did the Twin Towers come down due to a controlled demolition? Is the government hiding aliens in Roswell? Sitting in Starbucks, anything is up for grabs. All statements are unverifiable. Heck, maybe Xenu was here 75 million years ago. I can’t prove otherwise. Now, I choose to believe otherwise but you have to admit, I can’t prove that Xenu was not here. (see my blog Scientology: Tom makes good movies)
Now we arrive at what I think is the funnier part of the whole idea of conspiracies or any belief system for that matter. It’s a question of faith. It’s not science with the idea of producing verifiable results. You cross a line and from that point onwards, it’s faith not fact. Believe in God. Believe in Raël. Believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. Sometimes these beliefs are innocuous but sometimes these beliefs push people to do things which are not acceptable by the rest of us. – Kool-aid, anyone? – Then we raise the issue of judging whether the faith in question is well founded or just plain nuts. Southpark had a good time with Xenu (see Trapped in the Closet) but admittedly there are believers who are die-hard fans of Ron. However let me be fair, I could easily go after many of the mainstream institutions as being just a nutty as anything else.
"The U.S. Cardinals said they are going to develop a code of ethics to help them deal with the sexual scandal. Wait a minute, I thought there already was a code of ethics, it’s called the Bible."—Jay Leno
Back to conspiracies
Was the government complicit in 9/11? If you mean were they unprepared, ill-informed and maybe just stupid when it comes to gathering and analysing intelligence, then yes, they were complicit. But if you mean there was some diabolical plan to orchestrate the event to justify invading Iraq, [chuckles] I think you give the government far too much credit. These guys can’t balance a budget, win a war or successfully respond to a hurricane crisis yet you think they could carry out a nefarious plan to topple WTC without anybody ever divulging such a plot to the press? Heck, the prez can’t even get a B.J. in the Oval office without the entire world finding out about it. How could you possibly imagine something like this could be kept a secret?
What would Freud have to say about this? You get fixated on an idea or a theory, then you set out to prove it’s true. Now it’s no longer a question of rationally and objectively weighing the evidence, you seek what proves your point. However unlike something as concrete as whether or not I have a ten dollar bill in my pocket, the issue may be something vaguer like the existence of God or something in the past like the assassination of Kennedy. Whatever the issue, there is the inability to objectively measure the facts as those "facts" may be out of reach or no longer available. There’s the guy on the corner with a megaphone yelling at you about Jesus while handing out his Chick tracts. There’s a woman saying you need to get "clear". There’s David Icke writing hundreds of thousands of words about the Reptilian Brotherhood taking over the planet. Somebody declares that feminism is a Marxist strategy designed to undermine the family and all other traditional institutions so that the primary relationship individuals have is ultimately with The State.
Is my glass half full or half empty? Well, that seems pretty easy to answer; I only have to look at my glass. Now is my glass only half full because the government has a secret plan to divert the other half of my glass of water to off-shore tankers to sell to desert sheikdoms in exchange for oil? And has the government laced my water with some mind altering drug so I won’t notice they have taken half my glass of water or so I won’t care if they do? Okay, I’m going to have a bit of time trying to refute that one. However, to any of you chuckling away at such an idea being absurd, let me throw down the gauntlet by offering you this challenge: Prove me wrong!
Wikipedia: Conspiracy Theory
Conspiracy theory was originally a neutral descriptor for any claim of civil, criminal, or political conspiracy. However, it has become largely pejorative and used almost exclusively to refer to any fringe theory which explains a historical or current event as the result of a secret plot by conspirators of almost superhuman power and cunning.
Wikipedia: List of conspiracy theories
The list of conspiracy theories is a collection of the most popular unproven theories related but not limited to clandestine government plans, elaborate murder plots, suppression of secret technology and knowledge, and other supposed schemes behind certain political, cultural, and historical events.
Wikipedia: 9/11 conspiracy theories
A poll taken in 2006 by Scripps Howard and Ohio University showed that, "More than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East." The most prominent theory is that the collapse of the World Trade Center and 7 World Trade Center were the result of a controlled demolition rather than structural weakening due to fire.
Wikipedia: South Park, episode #148: Mystery of the Urinal Deuce
"Mystery of the Urinal Deuce" is episode 148 of Comedy Central’s South Park which first aired on October 11, 2006. This episode focuses on the 9/11 conspiracy theories, which is brought up by Eric Cartman.
Wikipedia: 9/11 Truth movement
9/11 Truth movement is the collective name of loosely affiliated organizations and individuals who question the accepted account of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Wikipedia: September 11 attacks
Wikipedia: Barack Obama religion conspiracy theories
Stop it! He’s Christian!
Wikipedia: Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories
Stop it! He’s American born!
Wikipedia: Roswell UFO incident
The Roswell UFO Incident was the alleged recovery of extra-terrestrial debris, including aliens, from an object that crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, in June or July 1947.
Wikipedia: David Icke
What David may lack in believability, he makes up for by volume. This man has apparently written 18 books to substantiate his claims.
Wikipedia: Linda Thompson (attorney)
Linda is a great and wild woman with one of the most active imaginations I’ve seen in a long time. This is a great conspiracy theory.
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