Conspiracy theories: Everything old is new again


Conspiracies are the easiest and simplest explanation for singular tragedies. Bad things happen because bad people sat down in a room somewhere and planned them. Fortuitous, happy events are never seen as the outcome of a conspiracy.

Still, it is striking that a new poll finds more than a third _ 36 percent of Americans _ believe it is probable that the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were an "inside job," that U.S. government officials either abetted the attacks or did nothing to stop them.

SHNS reporter Tom Hargrove attributes the widespread credence given to 9/11 conspiracy theories to anger and resentment toward the federal government, that after the White House misstatements leading up to the war in Iraq, many theorists are disinclined to believe anything the U.S. government says.

Those who believe the U.S. government was somehow behind 9/11 said federal officials carried out this act of treachery "because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East," the Scripps Howard/ Ohio University poll found.

That puts the conspiracists firmly in a rich if disturbing American tradition: President Roosevelt allowed Pearl Harbor to happen to get us into World War II; President Wilson allowed the Lusitania to be torpedoed to get us into World War I; and the battleship Maine was deliberately blown up in Havana harbor to get us into a war with Spain.

Conspiracy theories in this country are as old as the Salem witch trials and continue through the whispered plots of the Catholics, Freemasons, Jews, Illuminati, Trilateral Commission, right up to the black helicopter crowd and the imminent takeover of the U.S. by the U.N.

The Internet has become the great marketplace of conspiracy theories, and, as the poll found, the people must likely to believe those theories got most of their information off the Internet and the people least likely to believe relied on the "mainstream media."

No matter how thoroughly conspiracies are debunked — and the 9/11 Commission investigation fingered the usual culprits of incompetence and inattention — the true believers will remain unconvinced. To them, every piece of contradictory evidence is only further proof of the sinister subtlety of the conspiracy.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)

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