"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Friday, March 21, 2008

9/11 conspiracies and their antidote

I debated posting on this since I wasn't entirely sure it was worth anyone else's time, let alone my own, but now that I've 'finished my research' - and lacking anything else to do today - I figured, why not?

It all started a few weeks ago, when some of the guys in our admin department recommended a movie on the shared drive called Zeitgeist. I had never heard of it; they said it was a documentary propounding to unravel various myths which a lazy public accepted without question, and focused on three specific subjects: Christianity, 9/11, and the Federal Reserve. From their descriptions, it sounded like a regurgitation of boilerplate conspiracy theories, but then one day we had a sandstorm - big surprise - and I had some time on my hands, so I watched it. All two god-awful hours of it. I won't try to dismantle the entire film here - there's not nearly enough space - and suffice it to say that it lost all credibility after the first ten minutes. I spent those ten minutes trying to keep track of the factual errors presented in the first segment on Christianity and how it's really just a rehash of ancient Egyptians worshiping the sun-god; after ten minutes, I could no longer keep count. Thirty seconds of the most cursory research on some of their claims was enough to convince me that accuracy was the least of the director's concerns.

The segment that most disturbed me, however, was the one on 9/11. I am well aware that there exists a body of conspiracy theorists collectively known as "Truthers", who believe that 9/11 was an inside job, perpetrated by either George Bush, the CIA, or some shadow government far above them determined to bring about a New World Order. They think that it's inconceivable that a group of poorly trained Middle Eastern pilots could fly jumbo jets into 75% of their targets, and therefore the planes weren't commercial liners but military transports, that our military was ordered to 'stand down' to permit them to hit their targets, that the World Trade Center was destroyed by a controlled demolition, that the Pentagon was attacked with a cruise missile, and that Flight 93 was shot down by a mysterious white jet that vanished shortly thereafter. It was X-Files meets Michael Moore; and while their logic in tying these threads into some kind of cohesive narrative had all the accuracy of a shotgun blast, I'd never looked all that deeply into the technical and scientific explanations of it all because, well, it seemed pretty damn obvious what happened that day.

But, as I'd prefer to have a rebuttal more rational than "You're f***ing insane," I found a great little book called Debunking 9/11 Myths, researched and edited by the writers of Popular Mechanics. Want to know what actually brought the Twin Towers down, or why the hole in the Pentagon seems so small, or why there was nothing left of Flight 93 but a smoldering hole in the ground? It's all in there, dissected and analyzed by both subject matter experts and men and women who examined the crash sites themselves. They do not attempt to draw any larger political conclusions, and are not interested in blaming this agency or that for the various failures that contributed to disaster. They simply address each theory, one by one, and provide the evidence for why they don't hold water. An unglamorous and depressing job, to say the least, but it's one they believe is vital to addressing the real problems unearthed that day rather than imaginary ones. In return, they've been insulted, demonized, and outright threatened by Truthers who lump them in as part of the conspiracy.

I loved the X-Files when I was younger, and I still do, as at its height, it was highly creative and vastly entertaining. But after growing up a little bit, it's a lot harder to watch all of its government-conspiracy story-lines with a straight face. Because if there's one thing I've seen in my brief time on earth, it's that our government is pretty bad at keeping secrets, and to believe that it's capable of wielding such vast power with a shadowy and iron grip stretches the bounds of credulity. Confusion, not conspiracy, was the lesson of 9/11 - every system and protocol we had in place was completely unsuited to the scenario that unfolded. And it's a little scarier to think that the government can't protect me from getting incinerated by a fireball of jet fuel, rather than believing it's capable of such mass deception.

Enough on that. I still want those two hours of my life back from watching that movie though.


Meghan said...

Am I naive that I never thought to question why the hole in the Pentagon was so small, or why there's nothing left of Flight 93?

Cincinnatus said...

No, I don't think so, rather I believe most reasonable people came to the conclusion that when the equivalent of a flying soda can hits something hard like a wall or the ground at a high rate of speed, the hard object will win and there won't be much left of the soda can. However, the "Truthers" aren't what I'd consider 'reasonable'.