Conspiracy theories

Orly Mercado

Posted on September 19, 2006

Rewriting history

A few months ago a friend of mine was excited about a documentary he saw on the Internet. He said it was a must-see that detailed the “truth” about the twin towers collapse September 11, 2001. Not being a conspiracy buff, I did not bother to check it out. During the week of the fifth anniversary of 9-11 there was much talk about this documentary, which claimed that the Bush administration actually orchestrated the attack on the twin towers. It further averred that the worst terrorist attack on US soil which we saw on TV was actually a professional demolition job.

I would not have bothered about this so-called documentary until Professor Michael Shermer’s Skeptic Magazine published its research findings on this conspiracy theory. Shermer, who has done much in popularizing a science culture, has said that conspiracy theories are not new. Even during the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, there were claims that Roosevelt and Churchill knew of the attacks. He says that because we are not all natural scientists, “those who can string together a collection of anomalous facts” can attract some attention.

Shermer’s most compelling argument debunking the theory that the 9-11 attacks was a staged event was that five years later, no one has come out in the open and confirmed personal knowledge and participation in the conspiracy. This conspiracy, in order to have been carried out, would have involved a number of people who would have to be sworn to secrecy. In his words, “people cannot just keep their mouths shut.” By this time someone would have written a bestseller, or have gone on TV with “the scoop of the century.” Shermer calls it the residue problem.

In the week Katie Couric started her solo anchoring at CBS News, I could not help but think how the intersections of news and entertainment, politics and science, the Internet and alternative media have produced a dizzying bombardment of stimuli that allows lies to be constantly repeated and become truisms.

Paul Joseph Goebbels was right. Today those who assert that the Holocaust never happened, have somehow not only found their voice, but a new audience as well. The attempts to rewrite history will not cease. Conspiracy theories will continue to amuse most of us, and unfortunately create adherents of some. This, in a world where docu-dramas and movies have become a substitute for history books.

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