February 4, 2008

What's not a conspiracy?

To call an observation a "conspiracy theory" is widely treated as an argument-winning move. Yet, which of the major historical events of the 20th Century did not have at least some aspect of conspiracy about them?

Start with the event that set in motion the main currents of the century, the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. This was the result of a conspiracy right out of an Oliver Stone movie: Elements high up in the Serbian government and military, organized in a secret paramilitary society with the comic book name Black Hand, infiltrated nine assassins and their weapons into Sarajevo and had them sit around for a month waiting for the Archduke to show up so they could ambush him. (They proved incompetent and all missed, but then the Austrians proved incompetent too and made a wrong turn and then stalled the Archduke's car right in front of the despondent Princip.)

Next, the Bolshevik Revolution. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and the rest of the Bolshie boys were classic cafe conspirators who got lucky. Lenin's deal with the German high command to be transported from Switzerland to the Finland Station in order to undermine Germany's Russian enemy is straight out of the conspiracy nut's textbook.

The Depression, however, is the most striking exception to this tendency of major 20th Century events to in some way partake of the conspiratorial. It just sort of happened.

What about the rise of Hitler? You might call the political maneuverings by the conservative Weimar powerbrokers who gave Hitler the Chancellorship in January 1933 a conspiracy, although that's stretching the term. Hitler's manner of government -- midnight meetings to plan great crimes with a few henchmen where no notes were taken (a particularly un-German way of running a government) -- was that of a conspirator rather than a national leader.

Japan's path to Pearl Harbor was laid down in the 1920s and 1930s by conspiracies of Army officers who assassinated all the moderates in the Japanese government.

On a strategic level, the Cold War was not particularly conspiratorial -- it naturally grew out of the radically different interests of the two major victors of WWII. But -- probably fortunately -- both sides preferred to wage it largely by conspiratorial means rather than by tank battle in the Fulda Gap.

According to Paul Johnson's Modern Times,

"Eisenhower's chief fear, in the tense atmosphere engendered by the Cold War, was that the government would fall into the grip of a combination of bellicose senators, over-eager brass-hats and greedy arms-suppliers -- what he termed the 'military-industrial complex.'" [p. 464]

Eisenhower preferred to fight the Cold War using cheaper means -- building a nuclear deterrent and using CIA covert operations, as in Guatemala and Iran.

Finally, the fall of the Soviet Empire doesn't seem terribly conspiratorial at this point, but the history hasn't all been written. I'd be particularly interested in what promises, if any, were made by the American government to Saudi Arabia in 1985 to persuade the Saudis to pump so much oil that the world price plummeted and the Soviet Union, a major oil exporter, went broke.

Of course, this doesn't mean that most (or any) of the popular conspiracy theories are true. Most are obviously pretty stupid.

What it does show is that, like with predictions, people are easily bored and depressed by true conspiracy theories. For example, the fact that WWI, the catastrophe of catastrophes, was set in motion by a classic large-scale conspiracy is of almost no interest to anybody -- I was only vaguely aware of that fact myself until I looked up the history tonight.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


daveg said...

The owner of the Spanish newspaper ABC paid to have a pilot go down to the Canary Islands and secretly whisk Franco off the island to begin the Spanish war.

Does that qualify?

Anonymous said...

You have to wait for the Soviet archives and/or CIA archives to be opened. A big question is how much influence the Soviets and/or CIA had over religious organizations such as the Catholic church.

Anonymous said...

A big conspiracy would be the take over of the Southern Baptist Church by fundamentalists. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SBC_Conservative_Resurgence/Fundamentalist_Takeover

It had implications for American politics.....

georgesdelatour said...


We're talking about two different concepts of conspiracy.

In October 1917 Lenin and the Bolsheviks conspired to storm the Winter Palace. But they didn't try to hide the fact they did it. They celebrated it and even made propaganda films glorifying it. So this is exactly the same kind of conspiracy as the "al-Queda conspires to crash planes into buildings then gloats about it" conspiracy theory. The "9/11 truth" conspiracy theory is the equivalent of saying it wasn't Lenin and the Bolsheviks who stormed the Winter Palace, but that the whole incident was staged by others pretending to be Bolsheviks for their own purposes.

I don't think it's impossible such deceptions ever occur. But 9/11 seems to be stretching the bounds of credibility. You need hundreds of US government officials willing to conspire in the murder of US citizens, all happy to obey illegal orders with no leaks. If there's any mess up on the day and the conspiracy is exposed, the President, Vice-President and virtually the whole inner government gets put in front of a firing squad. The Republican party goes out of government for maybe 50 years. Could any US President feel sure enough the operation would come off to risk his life for it? Remember Operation Eagle Claw?

I think you're right to suspect that the fall of the USSR was helped along its way by all manner of covert US levers. The cleverer US players always knew economics was the key. Even the Arms Race was really about economics. The Soviet economy was only about half the size of the US economy, so military spending was much more of a drag on the Soviets.

Even then, I think the world is lucky Gorbachev was ruler of Russia at the end of it. Most generals say the hardest manoeuvre to pull off is an orderly retreat. Gorbachev is still reviled in Russia. But I think he made about as orderly a retreat as anyone could have.

John S. Bolton said...

What if top democratic leaders and news magnates conspired to hold a keeper story/ news blackout item on McCain's being chargeable for treason, regarding the leaking of the story of the secret prisons for terrorists in E. Europe, run by the CIA? That is, the story would be held until after he won the nomination, then released, and charges perhaps brought. this would explain the free ride McCain has been getting so far from major media, or its leading elements, i.e. a conspiracy of several editors and several political leaders to assure a democratic White House next year."To The Big House Instead of the White House?" by Dr. Jack Wheeler gives the information on McCain's possible guilt in the leak/security breach of major proportions.

Reader said...

"Conspiracy" just means to get together and plan something in secret. People, especially powerful people, do that all the time. It's an effective way to get something done. Not letting your opponents know what you're doing is essential in warfare and any kind of competition. How anyone can insist that this kind of thing *doesn't happen* is beyond me.

Let's go down the list.

Freemasons - the importance of the Freemasons in American history is hard to overstate. Everything from the Founding Fathers and the Boston Tea Party through the Civil War, the Seal of the United States, the Statue of Liberty, the KKK, the Mormon Church, most labor unions and civic service organizations, even the moon landing have been heavily influenced by Freemasons. Whether the Masons are still important today remains unclear to me (probably not, unless lots of power people are secretly Masons - we haven't had a Masonic president since Ford, though it's hard to say).

Then we have the Yale Skull & Bones society, which famously produced both of our presidential candidates in 2004, despite having only several hundred living members. If you think that's a likely coincidence, you can't do math.

Secret societies are important in virtually every society in the world, even in primitive societies. Chinese, Arabs, Polynesians, even Australian aborigines all have secret societies that play important roles... I don't know why their significance in the West is scoffed at (probably because it's in the interest of powerful people to be considered weak - we see the same thing with the Israel lobby). In fact the importance of secret societies might even be compared with race and IQ in that it is important yet almost entirely disregarded by mainstream social scientists, and thus left to the realm of "kooks" and "conspiracy nuts".

Moving forward... you list the CIA coups in Guatemala and Iran as being something NOT conspiratorial, despite the fact that the overthrows of Mossadegh and Arbenz were classic conspiracies (along with many other CIA coups in this vein).

On the topic of the CIA, look into the connections between the CIA and drug smuggling. This is often considered to be nothing more than some crazed rant you hear from angry black people, but it's incredibly well-documented - you even have academic sources (e.g. The Politics of Heroin by Alfred McCoy).

Another common form of conspiracy is the "false flag", in which you attack your own or your ally's targets and then blame an enemy, in order to either drum up support from your own populace for war or gain your ally's support in attacking your own enemy. Basically the same idea as framing someone for a crime.

Examples include the USS Maine (an internal explosion which was either an accident or deliberately caused by the US was blamed on Spain to start the Spanish-American War), the sinking of the Lusitania (the Germans actually did sink the boat, but it was carrying munitions and the Germans warned us that they would sink it but we sent it full of passengers anyway), the Gulf of Tonkin incident (used to escalate the Vietnam War)... "sink a ship and blame the bad guy" is a common theme. This was probably what the Israelis and the Johnson administration had intended (but failed) with the sinking of the USS Liberty during the Six-Day War, and of course Israel was caught doing something similar with the Lavon affair in Egypt in 1953 (leaving one to wonder how often Israel has *succeeded* in carrying out terrorism against the US and framing Muslims for it).

Invasion of Iraq - definitely a wide-ranging conspiracy by elements of the US goverment and media to falsify evidence that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction with the intent of attacking the United States in order to provide a justification for war. Same goes with current efforts toward demonizing Iran.

9/11 and 7/7 were definitely conspiracies - whether they were conspiracies carried out by Muslims or false flags is the only real point of dispute (I'm really surprised there isn't more skepticism of the official story from the types of people who read this blog, given what we now know about Iraq). It seems we're willing to accept ANY conspiracy theory as long as Muslims are the alleged conspirators, but NO conspiracy theory where the perpetrators are Americans, British, Israelis, etc.

JFK assassination - please. The leaps of faith required to believe that this was not a conspiracy ("magic bullet", Ruby shot Oswald why again?, etc.) are astounding.

I could keep going forever...

Robert said...

I think that the Saudi's probably freaked out when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and threatened Iran. The US may have made some kind of deal but I don't think that the Saudi's needed prodding. The Saudi's sent many volunteers to fight the Soviets in the Afghan war, this is where Osama bin Laden started, and we may have cut deals through this area.

manindarkhat said...

To call an observation a "conspiracy theory" is widely treated as an argument-winning move.

David Icke's a good name to introduce too. Alien lizards! Rockwell! Area 51! Mockery and sarcasm aren't good tools for arriving at the truth, but not many people are really interested in the truth. Conspiracies certainly happen, but there are sometimes other explanations. Do birds conspire to flock or fish to school? No: individuals with shared interests follow simple rules based on their immediate surroundings and a group behavior emerges that looks like a "conspiracy."

acilius said...

"The Depression, however, is the most striking exception to this tendency of major 20th Century events to in some way partake of the conspiratorial. It just sort of happened."

The other day you wrote about things like Davos as "overt conspiracies." If Milton Friedman's explanation of the Great Depression is right, then surely the Federal Reserve board would qualify as an "overt conspiracy" as well.

fish said...

Nuclear deterrence.....cheap! 6 trillion and counting.... Just on our side! Maybe cheaper than a large scale conventional conflict but still not "cheap".

TH said...

In a way, the Second World War started because of a conspiracy, too. The Soviet-German non-aggression pact of August 1939 included a secret protocol:

In addition to stipulations of non-aggression, the treaty included a secret protocol dividing the independent countries of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania into spheres of Nazi and Soviet influence, anticipating "territorial and political rearrangements" of these countries' territories. All were subsequently invaded, occupied, or forced to cede territory by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, or both. (source)

The war started a week after the signing of the pact, when Germany invaded Poland. The Soviets soon followed, taking the eastern part of the country. Everything went according to the secret plan.

The Soviets did not admit the existence of the secret protocol until 1989.

Deogolwulf said...

Another: the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, involving many high-ranking Wehrmacht officers throughout occupied Europe, and finally attempted by one who had been part of the "Geheimes Deutschland" circle around the poet Stefan George.

Martin said...

During the gulf war (the second one, that is, and our first) I remember seeing a "Frontline" documentary about U.S. military preparation in Saudi Arabia prior to our liberation of Kuwait in 1991. Our campaign there was aided by the fact that we had built a large complex of bases and air-fields in Saudi Arabia in the 1980's. This was done in the 1980's with little fanfare, and as far as I know, with no public debate whatsoever.

Our government obligated us to a defacto defence treaty with Saudi Arabia - a secret treaty that was never ratified by the Senate to my knowledge. Perhaps this was the price paid for the Saudi's flooding the market in the mid 80's.

Anonymous said...

In 'World War I' published last year, Norman Stone argued that the war was to a great extent the result of a German plot - that they wanted to knock out Russia before it became too technologically advanced.

Here is Robert McCrum in the Observer ont he book. "Just as worrying to the faculty will be the sheer readability of Stone's version, targeted at a new generation for whom the First World War is almost as remote as The Iliad. Coming from an older school, he has an infectious love of quirky detail: the first shots of the Anglo-German war fired in Sydney, Australia; the overnight deployment of German troops on the river Aisne concealed by the croaking of frogs; the Austro-Hungarian dugouts with glass windows and so on.

As well as the novelist's eye for anecdote, Stone also displays the authoritative command of a scholar steeped in his lifelong subject. Who could better his description of Churchill's 'extraordinary quickness and imagination, his wit, his old-fashioned grand accent, his sense of English history'. The First Lord of the Admiralty nailed in fewer than 20 words.

Stone's Great War is fought as much on the Vistula as the Somme. His instinctively contrarian approach to a war famous for its Western Front is partly conditioned by his current vantage point, partly influenced by his work on the Eastern Front, and also shaped, I suspect, by his fascination with the inane foibles of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of Europe's most moth-eaten operas bouffes.

He loves to find 'neurotic homosexual' generals appointed through the court intrigues of superannuated dowagers dripping with fur and diamonds, or 'pop-eyed' Tsarist military commanders attending Russian Orthodox mass at staff HQ, or mystified peasants dragooned into the signing ceremony of Brest-Litovsk. At its best, World War One is a heady cocktail of Tacitus and Waugh. Who but Stone would describe Lenin's famous 'sealed train' to the Finland Station as 'the first no-smoking train in history'?

Behind the jokes and the fireworks, there's a serious argument, though hardly a new one. For the British Foreign Office, the strategic choice in Europe has always been: Germany or Russia? Here, Stone wants to argue that, in the transformation of Europe from 1914-18, the deepest anxiety among the allies was that a disintegrating Russia would allow Germany to dominate the east. Simultaneously, he points out that it was precisely Germany's paranoid fear of Russia's potential strength that, in the run-up to hostilities, inspired Berlin to manipulate the European alliance system into war while time was still on the side of the German railway timetables.

So, in a fatal and bloody confluence of competing imperial visions, Germany and its enemies blundered towards a shared aim (the containment of Russia) whose upshot was four years of carnage and the poisoned aftermath that has shaped our history ever since. Another of Stone's themes in this account of Louis-Ferdinand Celine's 'vaccinated apocalypse' is the degree to which the Great War marked a turning point in Europe's journey towards the global tensions of the contemporary world.

It is not difficult to locate the high notes in anything that Stone writes, but the darker chords are here, too. His chapter on 1917, the most brutal and merciless year of the conflict, is deeply felt and his account of the third battle of Ypres and Passchendaele (just three pages) is intensely moving. The soldiers' songs, he notes, were no longer high-spirited expressions of patriotism: 'We're here, because we're here, because we're here,' they chanted. Obviously, I'm biased, but it seems that, with this scintillating volume, Stone has finally arrived at an armistice with his demons."

Anonymous said...

Of course, if there really is some vast conspiracy out there, it is to the conspirators' advantage to have everyone discount "conspiracy theories".

Proofreader said...

Guy Fawkes´plot to blow up the parliament looked suspiciously like a conspiracy to overthrow protestant rule at the time... But we all know conspiracies are non-existent in northern European countries, don´t we?

In France, you had "La Fronde" during the mid -17 th century, a movement to reverse Richelieu´s and Mazarin´s centralization of the French monarchy.
The leaders were discontented princes and nobles: Gaston of Orleans (the king's uncle); the great Louis II, Prince of Condé and his brother Armand, Prince of Conti; Frédéric, the Duke of Bouillon, and his brother Henri, Viscount of Turenne. To these must be added Gaston's daughter, Mademoiselle de Montpensier (La grande Mademoiselle); Condé's sister, Madame de Longueville; Madame de Chevreuse; and the astute intriguer Paul de Gondi, the future Cardinal de Retz
There was no conspiracy involved, of course. That only happens south of the Pyrenees and south of the Alps, in garlic-rich countries.

Anonymous said...

Conspiracy theories fail when the act as scapegoats for an unwillingness to address real problems.

The classic one is the JFK conspiracy. JFK was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, a Communist kook who was allowed to knock around the country. JFK Leftists could not handle the facts -- one of their own killed their hero -- so they invented a conspiracy.

WWI was not the sole province of a conspiracy either Steve. Various confrontations over the Balkans had almost produced war in 1911, and 1912. Confrontation between the two power blocs in the Balkans was bound to produce a war sooner or later.

Russia was sure to back Serbia (which had a long history of fighting the Austrians). Once Russia mobilized, Germany had to mobilize. Once Germany mobilized, France had to mobilize, and France could not allow it's only major ally against Germany to be crushed.

The conspiracy itself was a minor and unpredictable act within a larger and more certain conflict. Just like 9/11 was a conspiracy but set against a larger chain of events since 1979 of Muslim attacks against the US simply for the sake of attacks.

A whole bunch of writers and thinkers predicted the start of WWI in the Balkans before it happened. Just as various writers including Frank Miller of comic book fame had Muslim terrorists crashing jetliners into skyscrapers (and Pentagon analysts had predicted it in 1988).

Or take your Hitler conspiracy. The conspiracy itself would have gone nowhere had not Weimar society been so sick and debased that it was unable to "crowd out" the Freikorps of which the NSDAP was only one. If Hitler had been killed in WWI, some other guy like him would have taken his place.

tanabear said...

There is a big difference between "conspiracy" and conspiracy theory." Everyone admits that conspiracies occur. The phrase 'conpiracy theory' is used to denote a belief that is seemingly absurd and ridiculous. For instance, under the wikepedia page for the TWA 800 disaster they have alternative theories to explain those by Peter Lance. For the collapse of WTC7, they refer to the controlled demolition hypothesis as a conspiracy theory.

dearieme said...

What about the Dimmest Conspiracy in History? One contender must be the German wheeze of smuggling Lenin into Russia.

Dutch Boy said...

Open conspiracies are by far the most common but the secret ones are not rare either. How about the British elites plan to declare war on Germany in 1914 (the decision that made the war a world war)? They used the pretext of the violation of Belgian neutrality by the Germans but they had already decided on war (most wars are fought under false pretenses with pretexts as the casus belli).

mq said...

Georgesdelatour is right above. These aren't conspiracies. If people privately plan an action that they eventually perform publicly, then that's just planning, not a conspiracy. By Steve's definition every private business meeting is a conspiracy.

Robert said...

World War 1 was fought for oil. The British navy had just switched their ships from coal power to oil just befor the war started. Winston Churchill helped implement this. This gave them the British a great advantage at sea since it increased the speed of their ships. After this the Germans conspired with the Turks and Austo-Hungarians to develop the oil fields in the Middle East, then in Ottoman Turkish hands. They began building railroads through the Balkans to help with the development. This concerned the British since this would mean that they would lose their competative edge to a rising industrial rival. The French were on edge about any German move since the Franco-Prussian war ended. The Russians were leery about any thing the Austrians were doing since they believed in Pan-Slavicism and the Austrians ruled many of the Slavic peoples. They also were afraid of their eternal enemy the Turks. The British took advantage of all of this in various ways and helped, with propaganda and such, to destablize Europe to the point that when it came to blows WW1 was the result. During the war the British formented revolutions in the Middle East among the Arabs and created the Balfour Declaration to screw the Turks out of their lands. After the war besides dividing up Austria, and Germany to some extent, the British and the French kept the Middle East to themselves. This is what was the British, and probably the French objective in the first place. That is my conspiricy theory.

Guy Flaneur said...

I always liked the way Archduke Franz Ferdinand showed elan when during that parade a hand grenade landed in his lap. He picked it up and tossed it over his shoulder where it proceeded to kill or wound a dozen people. Franz ordered the parade to continue, which it did, on to the fateful meeting with the school teacher Gavrilo Princip. Of course, Franz might have lived had the driver not taking a left instead of a right to the hospital but no one seemed to know the right way and he bled to death from rather minor wounds.
None of this would have happened had Rudolph not offed himself at Mayerling, ort had his mother not been assassinated at that railway station. The Hapsburgs had a lot of bad days.
More interesting is that Princip lived until 1918, dying of TB.
And so, in one way, the origin of WWI goes back to a heterosexual affair gone awry.
Or how about Hershel Grynspan, the 17-year old Jew who shot a third-level diplomat at the German Embassy in 1938 thus precipitating Kristallncht? He survived until at least 1945 then disappeared from history; he may have made it to Israel, however, as there are reports he died there in 1954. Hitler himself stopped the trial in 1942.
André Gide wrote that Grynzpan had had a gay affair with vom Rath and had shot him out of pique.
Thus part of the origins of WWII possibly centre around a gay love affair gone awry.
Omnia vincit amor et nos cedamus amori

rob said...

The "9/11 truth" conspiracy theory is the equivalent of saying it wasn't Lenin and the Bolsheviks who stormed the Winter Palace, but that the whole incident was staged by others pretending to be Bolsheviks for their own purposes.

George, would 9/11 truthers be equivalent to someone who thought that some faction of the German government burned down the Reichstag and blamed it on communists?

Granted, I don't 9/11 conspiracies hold water, but they don't violate reason.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Anonymous: You have to wait for the Soviet archives and/or CIA archives to be opened.

You need to read Simon Sebag Montefiore:

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

Young Stalin

Geronimo McTavish said...

I have a feeling that people with a leftward bias tend to give credence to conspiracies involving Freemasons or Skull & Bones but dismiss instantly the idea that Jews might act together in some way.

Phil said...

Anonymous 2:05
Or take your Hitler conspiracy. The conspiracy itself would have gone nowhere had not Weimar society been so sick and debased that it was unable to "crowd out" the Freikorps of which the NSDAP was only one. If Hitler had been killed in WWI, some other guy like him would have taken his place.

Sorry, but that is just wrong. The Freikorps were mostly formed by soldiers returning home after having been defeated, finding civilian life unfulfiling, and joining a paramilitary for military structure. The culture was debased because Germany lost a major war. This seems very similar to the US after Vietnam and the formation of various "survivalist" organizations and militias. At the beginning (1919-1920), Hitler was just the head of the small German Worker Party. The only important Nazis who were also Freikorps members were Ernst Röhm and Rudolf Höß. Many members were outsiders in the Third Reich.

Ivan Novoselov said...

If conspiracies are transparent - like the Black Hand - then they don't capture the imagination, they're hardly even what the public thinks of as a conspiracy. It's not exactly surprising that Serbs would have wanted to kill the Austrian crown prince. Now if you could show that German government officials were actually manipulating the Serbs to kill Archduke Ferdinand in order to provoke a war with Russia - that would be a true conspiracy.

ben tillman said...

The "9/11 truth" conspiracy theory is the equivalent of saying it wasn't Lenin and the Bolsheviks who stormed the Winter Palace, but that the whole incident was staged by others pretending to be Bolsheviks for their own purposes.

No, it's more like saying the Bolsheviks had assistance from Jacob Schiff, the German Army, et al.

David said...

All political actions (by a government, or to influence a government) are undertaken by groups of people who are limited in number and who are not always forthcoming.

If you believe that a given such group is good, it's not a conspiracy. If you believe the group is bad, it is a conspiracy.

If you are adversely affected by such a group, it's a conspiracy. If not, it isn't. If you're outside the group, it's likely a conspiracy. If you're an insider, outsiders are kooks and conspiracy theorists.

Since such groups are the primary means by which poltical action occurs, the real debate is not over whether conspiracies exist; they do. The debate is over what is good and what is bad. The word "conspiracy" has a sinister connotation.

Any put-down of "conspiracy theories" is often a smokescreen to avoid the good-bad debate, a way of avoiding moral accountability. It is simple enough to identify the outlines of a given group as identified above. Questioning whether a given such group's activities are good or bad creates the "conspiracy theory" debate: insiders react so negatively to being thought evil that they deny the very existence of the group to which they belong or subscribe.

In fine, the dismissal of an argument on the basis that it's a "conspiracy theory" is simply...a canard. A way of avoiding moral judgment.

jan said...

Good point Davidd:

A conspiracy is anything done by a group that:

(a) you don't belong to and is
(b) an action you don't like

Most everything these days seems like a conspiracy.

georgesdelatour said...

Hi Ben Tillman

I have to admit I don't know very much about Jacob Schiff. I thought he only backed Kerensky, not Lenin. But I could be wrong. As for the Kaiser, my impression is that he was only secretive about helping Lenin because Lenin wanted secrecy. For himself he'd have been happy to tell all.

Maybe I've misunderstood the "9/11 Truth" narrative. As far as I know the "truthers" think George Bush masterminded 9/11, which is the equivalent of saying Tsar Nicholas masterminded the Bolshevik Revolution. Maybe his subsequent execution by the Bolsheviks was a "false flag" suicide - although having his entire family gunned down alongside him seems a tad - overenthusiastic?

Imagine if the IRA's assassination attempt on Mrs Thatcher had been successful. She only survived because she was still awake and working on a speech at 4 am. Had she been asleep in bed, the bomb would have killed her. Virtually any successor to Mrs T would have changed UK policies in several key areas. Soon conspiracy theories would have arisen saying the bomb was too sophisticated for the IRA. Someone else - the KGB, CIA, MI5, Mossad, the EU, Banco Ambrosiano, maybe all of them together - would have been blamed for it.

After the bomb attempt, the IRA sent Mrs T a chilling note. It said "You have to be lucky every time. We only have to be lucky once."

truthseeker said...

Do birds conspire to flock or fish to school? No: individuals with shared interests follow simple rules based on their immediate surroundings and a group behavior emerges that looks like a "conspiracy."

But by believing that they _do_ conspire, as most people did until modern science revealed the details, you can arrive at a simple and reasonably accurate prediction about their behavior. Conspiracy theory, treated seriously but not literally, can be a good metaphor for the very complex emergent social behavior that is in fact occurring.

But 9/11 seems to be stretching the bounds of credibility. You need hundreds of US government officials willing to conspire in the murder of US citizens, all happy to obey illegal orders with no leaks.

The conspiracy theories that require this (for example, that a plane did not really crash into the Pentagon, or that the WTC buildings had specially rigged explosives installed all over them) should not be taken literally. But there are plenty of 9/11 conspiracy theories that do _not_ require knowledge substantially wider than that we already believe occurred among Al Quaeda members. For example, theories that the Al Quaeda hijackers were aided and abetted by small elements in the Mossad, by neoconservative fanatics in a U.S. agency (e.g. the DIA), or both. There is strong evidence that the Mossad knew about the plot ahead of time but did not notify the appropriate U.S. authorities. There is strong evidence of strong ties between the Bush family and the Bin Laden family. What are the odds that our President on 9/11 would have close connections to the lead perp of 9/11?

But that's hardly the only improbable phenomena related to 9/11. Several members of the Bin Laden family were allowed to fly freely out of the U.S. without any sort of interrogation while people completely unrelated to 9/11 were rounded up and put in naval brigs and Gitmo for many years without any evidence or charges being presented against them. The idea that Osama has been disowned by his family is at least exagerated -- in fact, the Bin Laden family has provided and continues to provide a large stream of funding for Osama and his "Al Quaeda" efforts. The Bin Laden family also bankrolled a number of Bush family business efforts and political campaigns. There is good evidence that Osama Bin Laden has all along been relatively easy to capture or kill if high level U.S. officials had actually desired to capture or kill him. But all this must be just a vast coincidence, the victims of 9/11 must have just had the very bad luck to lose the intergalactic lottery, because we don't know the details of what caused these vastly improbable phenomena -- we can only describe them metaphorically as conspiracies.

Beyond observing the vastly improbable, and concluding that there must be some good explanation besides miraculous coincidence, the conspiracy theories are necessarily murky because we lack detailed informationa about these social networks. But the conclusions we draw from such conspiracy theories -- for example, that many leaders in our federal government have more interest in stirring up our paranoia than in protecting us -- are likely to be better than the conclusions we draw from the mainstream conspiracy theories, for example the formerly mainstream theory that 9/11 was entirely plotted and committed by Islamic fundamentalists in cahoots with Saddam Hussein. (It turns out that neither the fundamentalism nor the Iraqi connection reflect the reality of the hijackers' backgrounds, as best as they can be determined).

Oil companies and oil countries like Saudi Arabia benefitted from both Gulf Wars, in terms of much higher profits from higher oil prices. The Bush, Saudi, and Bin Laden families all benefitted immensely from Iraqi crude being taken off the market. Washington and the Pentagon in particular are crawling with oil company lobbyists and ex-oil company employees even though there is no oil anywhere near Washington, D.C. Is this all a coincidence? Sure, I don't know the "real" explanation in terms of the actual social networks and cultural beliefs that give rise to these phenonmena. I can only explain the cause and effect with conspiratorial metaphors. That doesn't make them any less real, or any less destructive to those of us who do not inhabit these self-serving social networks. Networks of people who want you to laugh rather than think when the vastly improbable coincidences in their behavior that seem to contradict the mainstream conspiracy theory are observed.

Reader said...

Maybe I've misunderstood the "9/11 Truth" narrative. As far as I know the "truthers" think George Bush masterminded 9/11, which is the equivalent of saying Tsar Nicholas masterminded the Bolshevik Revolution.

Either I missed something and Bush was killed on 9/11, or this is a pretty stupid analogy.

Actually 9/11 led to bin Laden and the Taliban being taken out of power, so the *official story* of 9/11 is sort of like saying that the Tsar planned the Bolshevik Revolution if you think about it...