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September 14, 2006

The American "Truther" Movement Not Even As "Fringe" As I'd Imagined

Allah wrote to let me know I'd seriously lowballed the number of Americans believing in 9/11 conspiracy theories.

I guessed 12%.

It's quite a bit worse than that.


Third of Americans suspect 9-11 government conspiracy

By THOMAS HARGROVE
Scripps Howard News Service

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, according to a new Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll.

...

Suspicions that the 9/11 attacks were "an inside job" _ the common phrase used by conspiracy theorists on the Internet _ quickly have become nearly as popular as decades-old conspiracy theories that the federal government was responsible for President John F. Kennedy's assassination and that it has covered up proof of space aliens.

At least Scripps notes the company they keep. Props.

...

Thirty-six percent of respondents overall said it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them "because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East."

"One out of three sounds high, but that may very well be right," said Lee Hamilton, former vice chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also called the 9/11 commission.) His congressionally appointed investigation concluded that federal officials bungled their attempts to prevent, but did not participate in, the attacks by al Qaeda five years ago.

Seems as good a time as any to re-link an old rant about the intellectual insecurity twinned with rampant egotism that drives the psychology of conspiracy theorists:

I have a friend who is fond of this sort of "deeper truth" conspiracy-theorizing. I keep warning him: You are succumbing to an intellectual vanity, and a very foolish one at that. You wish to believe you "know more" than the average citizen. You're better informed, more enlightened, more clever, and more open-minded about the "real truths" of the events of the world.

And you demonstrate this supposed intellectual superiority by postulating "secret knowledge" the public is either too stupid or too cowardly to see with their own eyes.

That's what drives these sorts of krazy konspiratorial konfabulations. For every behavior there is a psychological need or drive. In this case, it's the desire to differentiate oneself from the "sheep" that make up the vast majority of the American population, through the demonstrated possession of hidden, secret, or, dare I say, occult knowledge, known only by an elite few.

And this is what drives people, too, to create or join cults.

And I'm afraid what we have on our hands is basically a political cult, a cult of the perpetual enemy of many tentacles, Cthuluesque in shape and power.

Or this briefer one:

There's a certain madness to conspiracy-theorizing, of course. And that madness is ego-driven. From time immemorial, self-deluded charlatans have believed themselves possessed of Secret Knoweldge that made them special, made them superior to their fellow men.

Conspiracy-theorists seem to be of a similar psychological type, same as serial killers are. They're smart, but not stand-out smart, sort of smarter than average but not smart enough to achieve any sort of undeniable success. And their frustration over that -- the knowledge that while they are smart, others are smarter, and they'll never be big leagues -- compells them to invent fantasy worlds only they understand and thereby prove their superiority over their friends and co-workers and bosses.


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posted by Ace at 01:49 PM

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