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Bill Whittle has a long essay on critical thinking.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 12, 2007 07:25 AM
...and then there was the one about Saddam and WTC '93 and Oklahoma City etc. etc. That one was a laff. Chortle!
All caveats on wacky conspiracy theories of course being lifted between 1/1993 and 1/2001, due to the well known Clinton's Genitals clause of the constitution.Posted by Duncan Young at April 12, 2007 08:20 AM
The fallacy that we should look to is our unfounded belief in sudden, fundamental changes: People who obsess on JFK theories are prone to "loss of innocence" mythology, and those in the "9/11 Truth" movement, like their equally irrational antagonists in Bush's camp, need to believe in supernatural causes to rationalize their emotions.
On 9/11, one set is utterly convinced, on a deep instinctive level, that 9/11 could only have been caused by a literally impossible US government conspiracy; meanwhile another set is utterly convinced, based on the same instincts, that our enemies can only be a ubiquitous, all-powerful shadow army battling us in a new "World War." The resemblance to reality of these two reactions is, of course, equally zero.
Unfortunately, irrationalism like that can show up even in criticism of itself, reflecting the notion that people buying preposterous ideas is some strange, shocking new phenomenon. Consider: Most Americans have always believed in angels and Heaven, and a large minority believes everything in the Bible to be literal fact, yet somehow it's shocking that someone believes in alien abductions and 9/11 conspiracies? I don't see anything particularly alarming or new in any of it. When the public feels threatened or uncertain, they lose perspective and paranoia rises; when optimism and confidence dominate, they look back at their paranoia and feel embarrassed.
What is actually new is the level to which ordinary people are engaged in information, and that has led to what may seem like a shocking transformation in the public character. In truth, this is just revealing conditions that were already present, but which failed to have any affect beyond the local. Suddenly, every small town nut with a black helicopter theory about the "gubmint" can form a "community" instead of being ignored and neutralized by obscurity, so their ideas and delusions can synergize.
Since this phenomenon is emergent, the information spectrum hasn't yet evolved effective immunities to the spread of such ideas, so any arbitrary nonsense can potentially build critical mass and become self-sustaining like a religion.Posted by Brian Swiderski at April 12, 2007 10:19 AM
"meanwhile another set is utterly convinced, based on the same instincts, that our enemies can only be a ubiquitous, all-powerful shadow army battling us in a new "World War." The resemblance to reality of these two reactions is, of course, equally zero."
I've seen very few claims, even from the Minions of Bush, that our enemy is "ubiquitous" or "all powerful." But anyone who doubts that they are indeed out there, and that they are indeed capable, is suffering from rectal-cranial inversion.Posted by at April 12, 2007 11:19 AM
sorry, forgot my name....again.Posted by Andy at April 12, 2007 11:20 AM
Nice post Brian. I like the article better, but your post was nice too.Posted by Mac at April 12, 2007 11:23 AM
"If you further believe that the Kennedy Assassination was not the unlucky intersection of a parade route and a commie loser with a rifle, but rather a coup d’etat orchestrated by Johnson or Castro or the Mob, then you believe that your government is willing to kill a man – the duly elected President of the United States – in order for some shadow figure to gain power."
That's illogical, except in the case of Johnson as suspect. If you believe that either "Castro or the Mob" arranged the JFK assassination, then you need to believe nothing at all about "your government". Castro, in particular, had an obvious motive - because JFK had been trying to have Castro assassinated. That's not *proof* of anything - however, all the amateur psychoanalysis of that "pathetic loser" Oswald does not prove anything *either* - and does *not* discredit any conspiracy theory. A "pathetic loser" *may* act on his own - but may also be used by somebody. Oswald's having lived in Cuba and being pro-Castro; Oswald's own assassination *just after* his act but *before* he could talk - these *may* be coincidences. They don't stretch credulity to the *breaking* point - still, they stretch it somewhat. I remain unconvinced and agnostic - and with an impression that on *this* topic Whittle is as much a true believer, swayed by emotion, as those he criticizes.
Andy: "I've seen very few claims, even from the Minions of Bush, that our enemy is "ubiquitous" or "all powerful."
Well, let's consider what they insist is necessary to defeat our enemies:
(1)Pulling an Iron Curtain over every agency of the government, issuing blanket denials of FOIA requests, and fighting tooth and nail in court to keep every scrap of information secret. Normally this is what you do when facing a national enemy with a powerful, technologically advanced, and ubiquitous spy network, not terrorists.
(2)Torturing people. Now, this is classified in the highest echelon of crime at every level of law from international on down, with no exceptions or immunities whatsoever, and if it leads to the death of the victim, qualifies as "special circumstances" that permit the death penalty in this country. It is a tactic so purely, unqualifiably evil that we refused to use it against Waffen SS officers when "timely information" might have determined the outcome of the entire war, not just "saved lives."
But the regime says these enemies are so dangerous, so evil, and the threat so imminent at all times, that our situation transcends even that of D-Day in urgency at every moment of every day, and our national survival is so precarious that we MUST ignore fundamental human rights and our most basic laws and principles. Needless to say, anyone who actually believes that is insane, and more of a danger to this country than al Qaeda could be in its wildest dreams.
(3)Termination of the 4th Amendment. The mere, vague, distant, remote hypothetical possibility of receiving a time-critical piece of information means that all government investigations related in any way, shape, or form to terrorism are completely exempt from the Constitution at all times, and need show no probable cause whatsoever.
This is because every second of every minute of every day is so precious, and the margin of survival so razor-thin, that unspeakable devastation will rain down if even a single minute is "wasted" on the Bill of Rights....although agents still take coffee breaks, are still allowed to take vacations, and still go home at the end of the day and watch football.
Andy: "But anyone who doubts that they are indeed out there, and that they are indeed capable, is suffering from rectal-cranial inversion."
But what exactly does it mean to say they're "out there" and "capable"? It wasn't like a huge number of people were directly involved in 9/11--like five people planned and directed it, and nineteen carried it out, with the other few hundred terrorists supporting it logistically. We've killed most of those people, and the wannabes who replace them are nowhere near their level of sophistication or numbers. The vast, overwhelming majority of terrorists are complete morons, and most of the ones who knew how to plan are dust in the Afghan wind.
The whole issue is one great big meaningless distraction.
Posted by Brian Swiderski at April 12, 2007 02:18 PM
The whole issue is one great big meaningless distraction.
You should make that your tagline, Brian.Posted by Leland at April 12, 2007 03:04 PM
Also, check out the Senior Military, Intelligence, Law Enforcement, Government Officials, Professors, 9-11 Survivors and Family Members who have expressed significant criticism of the 9-11 Commission Report and/or allege government complicity in 9-11 found here:
-Posted by stinker at April 12, 2007 04:56 PM
"Suddenly, every small town nut with a black helicopter theory about the "gubmint" can form a "community" instead of being ignored and neutralized by obscurity, so their ideas and delusions can synergize."
Brian, I know you were thinking of us when you wrote this ;-). I feel synergized in my delusions already.
A great debunking of the "fake moon landing" claim can be found here:
http://www.clavius.orgPosted by BDavis at April 12, 2007 07:24 PM
Toast: "Brian, I know you were thinking of us when you wrote this ;-)."
Who is "us"?
BDavis: "A great debunking of the "fake moon landing" claim can be found here"
Here's an ever better response to moon conspiracy claims:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQKxAqpjrooPosted by Brian Swiderski at April 13, 2007 12:00 PM
Brian, I'm of the growing number of conspiratorialist's that believe you are living proof that doctors have figured out how to replace a human brain with a semi-intelligent bowl of instant mashed potatoes.Posted by Josh Reiter at April 16, 2007 01:07 AM
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