October 16, 2006

"The American public has every right to demand answers and all too many reasons to lack confidence in the government."

"Sadly, in such a climate, the fantasies of 9/11 conspiracists provide a seductive alternative to facing the hard facts and difficult choices of our time."

Popular Mechanics now has the afterword to "Debunking 9/11 Myths" available on line.

13 comments:

MadisonMan said...

Thanks for the link. That is a very interesting read.

Brent said...

What about this line is untrue:

The American Public is basically a collection of stupid people easily influenced by what they read and hear and generally unable to think for themselves.

As with the post below on the Columbia/Minuteman incident, you'd think that we are the most ignorant, stupid people on earth.

How can that happen in a country that has the "New York Times"?

JorgXMcKie said...

Wow! The Liberty Lobby. I've been trying to remember that bunch. They made the John Birch Society look normal. I can't quite remember the name of their in-house 'newspaper'. The Last Call or The Last Trump or The Last Clarion or some such.

Anyway, at the time they were regarded as Rightwingers, probably only because they were hysterically angry with the government of the 60s, which was rather more liberal than not. In truth, they were more like nutcase fascists, and of the far Left, not the Right.

The current far Left, as epitomized by Kos and the Democratic Underground has never reminded me of anything so much as the crazed, conspiracy-minded, anti-government Liberty Lobby. I predict that when the Democrats win again (maybe next month) it will take only months, if that long, for the far Left to turn on the Democrats.

Jacob said...

Kyle: "Anybody who thinks 9/11 was a conspiracy is a retard."
Cartman: "Oh, really? Well, did you know that over one-fourth of people in America think that 9/11 was a conspiracy? Are you saying that one-fourth of Americans are retards?"
Kyle: "Yes, I'm saying one-fourth of Americans are retards."
Stan: "Yeah, at least one-fourth."
Kyle: "Let's take a test sample. There's four of us and [points at Cartman] you're a retard. See? One out of four."

Eli Blake said...

The implication however is that either one agrees with the conspiracy theorists or one has confidence in the government.

However, I would posit that the majority of Americans are neither of the above. We think the 9/11 conspiracy theorists are a bunch of crackpots, but we also have little confidence that the government we have now will be able to bring the real perpetrators of 9/11 (bin Laden in particular) to justice.

Gerry said...

"What about this line is untrue:

The American Public is basically a collection of stupid people easily influenced by what they read and hear and generally unable to think for themselves."

I'll go with "pretty much the entire concept for $1000, Alex."

Pogo said...

Re: "9/11 conspiracists provide a seductive alternative to facing the hard facts and difficult choices of our time."

What a great quote.
I can understand Intarnet tubes choked with this rubbish, but why the University of Wisconsin Madison sees fit to foster such irrational thinking remains a mystery. Evidence perhaps that the school lacks the capacity for serious thought, or forgot how to teach it, or what the term actually means in the first place.

Tibore said...

I've been locking horns with conspiracy fantasists in other forums & blogs. For half of them, I don't even know if those folks realize how contradictory their stances are. For the other half, I think they full well realize that they're full of s***, but they think that advocating stupid conspiracy fantasies is a way to poke at and agitate "neocon" Americans. Ignoring the fact that there are liberals and non-Americans speaking out against them in these forums. All of these fantasists look on conspiracy fantasies as a way to express their disgust with Bush and the US government, but in doing so, they completely ignore the hysterical and illogical contents of their adopted belief system.

There's a really telling line in that linked article: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". Oh, boy, is that ever the opposite of what fantasists believe.

What's disturbing is the know-it-all self-centeredness and condescension of too many of the fantasists. Too many who actually believe in the tales truly believe that the rest of us are suckers or deliberately stupid. And their self-centeredness manifests itself in so many different ways. For example, there was an attempt by a fantasist to get Noam Chomsky in on their "movement". Pleading letters were sent describing his stance and why he believed Chomsky should join their crusade. The self important self centered qualities of the letter so disgusted Chomsky that he returned a scathing reply:

"I am, first of all, amazed at the extraordinary arrogance and fervor of the self-described "truth movement," which insists that I shift my priorities to theirs, something I can not imagine doing; and second, at the complete absence of argument, exemplified again in your letter, which gives not one single bit of evidence nor any argument. I'm surprised that you do not see that.

I am also surprised by your willingness to accept the pathetic wailing about the persecution of supporters of the "truth movement." Even if we were to accept what they report as correct -- for which they provide no evidence -- it would not amount to a row of pins as compared with what is standard, and expected, among those who devote themselves to combatting crimes of state."


Link

Here's the link to the original forum regarding this topic, but 1. It requires you sign up to log in, and 2. It's down at the moment:

Link

Anyway, thank goodness for the Physics.org, James Randi, and Bad Astronomy forums for sticking to the truth, regardless of their personal feelings about the President or this nation.

GPE said...

I'd have to echo Brent's sentiments. Most people would prefer someone else do the thinking. By extension, they then get to blame that someone if things don't work out. Not thinking and blame go together like thinking and responsibility.

It's a powerful tool/weapon to have at the ready, the ability to BS one or more members of the herd. It's easy. All you need are 1) a confident delivery, 2) the ability to use phrases that include math (note: the math does NOT have to be accurate or at all realistic) and 3) something, anything, that has been printed which you can quote out of context as needed. Presto! Zappo! You've got yourself a genuine snow storm. It's even easier if the herd members you are addressing are highly educated. They're all to ready to dismiss that pesky gut feeling thing.

Case in point, many years ago a friend and I convinced three coworkers, each very experienced RN's, that spaghetti grows on plants in South Dakota by making up bogus economic data, detailed descriptions of how difficult it is to grow and harvest and numerous tales from my grandfather's experience with growing spaghetti plants. It helped that none of the RN's were from anywhere near South Dakota and I, in fact, was. Ha ha. Fun.

Not so fun, the countless numbers of people swindled out of their life's savings by all manner of stock/land/entertainment/retirement/vacation/etc. scams.

PS. The key to successfully harvesting your spaghetti plants is to make sure it hasn't rained for at least three days. Dry fettuccini is much easier to cut and bundle. And for God's sake, stop watering the crops about mid August. The spaghetti farmers learned this the hard way with the great spaghetti crop failure of 1927.

Jeremy said...

Yes gpe, your friends may be idiots or they may just be city clickers. On the other hand, I imagine that you allow someone else to do your thinking for you when it comes to 1)the design and operation of your public works, 2)the qualification of the guy driving your kid's school bus, 3)the safety of your bagged spinach, etc. The point is that in our world of division of labor, we all let other people think for us and we all trust perfect strangers to do that thinking.

Tibore said...

"The key to successfully harvesting your spaghetti plants is to make sure it hasn't rained for at least three days."

That's what I'm doing wrong. Dammit!...

GPE said...

In response to Jeremy...

> Yes gpe, your friends may be idiots or they may just be city clickers.

Ummmm. Neither, actually. They were each very intelligent, one with her Masters in nursing. Context is everything, so given a different set of people our little lark could have just as easily failed. Or if the stakes were more than just conversation. I have every confidence they would have balked if we had tried to sell them a spaghetti farm in South Dakota.

> I imagine that you allow someone else to do your thinking for you when it comes to 1)the design and operation of your public works,

I allow this in the sense I have supported laws that require sufficient licensure and credentialing for the people that do this. It's a "trust but verify" relationship.

> 2)the qualification of the guy driving your kid's school bus,

Not having kids I can only offer what my expected behavior in this regard would be. And that is I would certainly know who my children's bus driver was, his/her name and look them in the eye to get a sense of the person behind the wheel. Here again, it's trust but verify.

> 3)the safety of your bagged spinach, etc.

I check products for signs of tampering before I purchase them, just kinda of wacky that way.

On the whole, the scope of your examples seek to diffuse the pedantic postulations and reasoning espoused by the 9/11 conspiracists. Yes, we make these kinds of assumptions and operate on a trust first basis zillions of times a day. Life would be a paralyzing chore if we didn't. In the scheme of things, this works pretty well. Bad things happen and we adjust. Good people make mistakes and we adjust. When bad people do bad things we adjust. In each case we try to make it so the bad results, what ever the cause, don't reoccur.

This is were the 9/11 conspiracists are failing to provide anything useful. Having read a number of the conspiracists "arguments", in each of them they fail to account for the scientific explanations. Rather they dogmatically stick to their little collection of treasured "facts" and substitute shrill rants for reasoned argument. If we were to allow the 9/11 conspiracists to construct a preventative strategy to the problem of terrorists attacks, they would replace the US government (who knows with what) and we'd be suffering a series of 9/11 scale attacks. They offer nothing of substance in regards to preventative measure.

> The point is that in our world of division of labor, we all let other people think for us and we all trust perfect strangers to do that thinking.

Point well made and taken. It's when that trust breaks down, particularly through deceitful practices by imperfect strangers, that we see the proliferation of lazy thinking as presented in this post. The canvas I sought to paint was in that subjective area of human gullibility. Just what division of labor principle is in play when grandma gets swindled out of her life saving in exchange for swamp land in Georgia or vociferous troglodytes afflicted with category error thinking press to solve problems that don't exist based on equally vacuous facts?

Bill Woods said...

I thought I remembered hearing a story on the spaghetti harvest on NPR some years back, but apparently it was just recycling a BBC story.

"Spaghetti is not a widely-eaten food in the UK and is considered by many as an exotic delicacy."
[boggle]