9-11 Conspiracy and the Post-Modern Mutation

Excerpt from Heaven on Earth: Varieties of the Millennial Experience

This section in principle comes either at the end of a chapter on UFOlogy as a form of millennial thought, in which I discuss the close relationship between UFOlogy and conspiracy thinking, or in an epilogue, after the final chapter on Global Jihad as an apocalyptic millennial movement. The text is still raw — needs to be more coherent, and possibly more substantive — and the version below has been altered in ways that correspond with the style of my blog and the style of my academic writing (less of my “jargon” about demopaths, more careful about passing judgments). I welcome comments, links, reflections, criticism, etc.

9-11 and Post-Modern Western Conspiracy Thinking: We Are to Blame

9-11 Conspiracy constitutes the most powerful conspiracy theory in the brief history of the internet age. Within hours of the attacks, accusations that the Israeli Mossad had planned and executed the attacks while “4000 Jews stayed at home,” appeared, particularly in the Arab world, a textbook case of internet conspiracy mongering.

In the Muslim world these theories became the dominant public voice. There, traditional conspiracy operated: We are innocent, our enemies are guilty. In 2002 a Gallup poll found a majority of Muslims interviewed did not believe Bin Laden or any Muslim did 9-11. A 2006 Pew poll found this attitude widespread even among Muslims in the US — 28% — believe that Muslims did not do 9-11 (and 32% unsure, leaving only 40% of US Muslims polled agreeing that Bin Laden carried out 9-11.

Such claims, and their eager acceptance among fringe elements of Western conspiracy thinkers, especially those who already believed in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, should not astonish observers. Like so many other such conspiracies, they combine “cui bono?” [who benefits?] – Israel, Fascists in the US government – with a semiotic arousal that moves from perceived anomaly — isn’t this strange! — to “obvious” conclusion — what else could explain this? — in the blink of an eye. Among the plethora of Muslim conspiracies that blossomed in the wake of 9-11, perhaps the most scholarly and consequential came from the “progressive” Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed, The War on Freedom which came out within months of the event in February 2002 and blamed not Israel, but the US Government.

But the story was only beginning. Over the next months, a vast array of hypotheses, laid out in detail at a host of websites, accused George Bush and his administration either allowed the 9-11 attack to occur (Pearl Harbor version), or actively carried it out (Reichstag Fire version). The logic behind all of these theories focused on the perceived anomalies – the size of the hole in the Pentagon (too small), the collapse of the Twin Towers (too neat), of Building 7 (too far away), even the overall success of the plan (too great) – and rapidly moved to explaining them in terms of a government plot, primarily aimed at turning the US government into a police state. Cui bono? – the proto-fascists in the Bush administration.

Of course, no responsible claim of conspiracy at the highest levels of government can stop at anomalies in the available evidence. It must also explain the anomalies created by the conspiratorial version. In order for Thierry Meyssan’s “Pentagon Missile Attack Theory” to work, for example, not only would Bush and Co., in their first nine months in office, have had to order the military to attack the Pentagon with a missile, but also eliminate all trace of that extraordinary order, disappear a Boeing 757 aircraft, vanish all the passengers and crew aboard AA Flight 77, and carry out an extensive cover-up at the site of the alleged crash at the Pentagon. To so proceed would have involved the flawless cooperation of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Americans of all walks of life. In order, then, to believe a 9-11 conspiracy theory – certainly any “Reichstag version” like Meyssan’s – one needs to believe not just that the Bush administration is evil, but that the US is already a fascist society where everyone takes orders without question, where such a huge and complicated affair can go off without a hitch.

These formidable intellectual and emotional obstacles to articulating an aggressive conspiracy theory, may explain why the first major Western bestsellers claiming 9-11 theories came, not among Americans, but in Europe, first in France (2002), then in Germany (2003). Meyssan’s Terrible Imposture about the Pentagon came out March 8, 2002, a half year after the events, and a half year before the story even reached the internet media in the United States. And even then, it penetrated the MSM via Canadian MSM. Perhaps unfamiliar with American non-conformity, perhaps projecting expectations of their own society’s “obedient” civil servants, perhaps indulging resentment of American “hegemony,” Europeans showed remarkable receptiveness to conspiracies that called for ludicrous levels of administrative prowess and public complicity among Americans. Conversations with Europeans often took on the form of a dance around the issue, but once an interlocutor knew that you, as an American, would entertain a conspiracy theory, the avalanche of suspicious anomalies poured forth.

In the United States, self-protectiveness alone made any such reflections difficult to voice in the Mainstream media. Gore Vidal, the first major American figure to publish a conspiracy theory did it in an English Newspaper, using the work of a Muslim “human-rights” advocate. Conspiracy theories multiplied and spread by word of mouth and by internet, which offered the Petri dish conditions in which sites could display an increasingly detailed case, available for perusal by people the world over at any time.

The spread of 9-11 conspiracy theory deserves its own extensive treatment. Suffice to say that in the United States, it has moved from the margins well in towards the center, convincing many (some polls put the figure at a third of the population), and making the discussion legitimate for many more.

On July 8, 2007, the first Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison, made the following statement about 9-11 to a Public Forum organized by “Atheists for Human Rights”:

It’s almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that… After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it and it put the leader of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted. The fact is that I’m not saying it [Sept. 11] was a [U.S.] plan, or anything like that because, you know, that’s how they put you in the nut-ball box — dismiss you…

The audience applauded him at several points in his talk, while some Mainstream media and blogs proved hostile. The incident chronicles one of the stages of the conspiracy theory’s passage into the public sphere. He made the remark in answer to a question, orally, not “for the record,” and he rapidly backtracked once it “got out.” The “Atheists for Human Rights,” however, whom one might expect to show more signs of skepticism and “reasoning” ability, seem largely supportive of Ellison’s remarks.

Many Americans still prefer not to even discuss this matter: the owl’s first line of defense is to ignore the roosters. The necessary disproofs, including a new, peer-reviewed Journal of Debunking 911 Conspiracy Theories (2006-) — are available online for all to consult; what more need be said? That, as in so many cases of conspiracism, reasoning takes a back seat to desire? That people can visit a site with good evidence for a plane crash, and still believe the conspiracy. That the consequences of not thinking clearly about this may be very serious?

In fact the importance of intelligently assessing 9-11 conspiracy theories becomes clear when one considers the stakes involved. The authors of 9-11 declared violent hostility to the American people. If Osama bin Laden planned and executed 9-11 as he claims, then global Jihad represents the enemy; if 9-11 was largely or wholly the work of the Administration, then our own government is the enemy.

And here we come to the anomalous mutation that 21st century conditions – including cyberspace’s Petri Dish – have wrought in conspiracy theory. Most conspiracy theories view “them” as evil and “us” as innocent. But in the case of 9-11, we find a “post-modern” variant: the Reichstag version has Americans/Westerners believing “we” are guilty, and “they” are innocent. Bush, not Bin Laden, did 9-11. Gore Vidal, introduced a Muslim 9-11 conspiracy theory (we Muslims are innocent, you Americans are guilty), with the following explanation:

On the subject “How and Why America was Attacked on 11 September, 2001,” the best, most balanced report, thus far, is by Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed . . . Yes, yes, I know he is one of Them. But they often know things that we don’t — particularly about what we are up to. A political scientist, Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research and Development “a think-tank dedicated to the promotion of human rights, justice and peace” in Brighton.

It would be hard to find a better example of the Moebius Strip of dupe and demopath: they demonize us, we agree. One article quoted Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR on American Muslim attitudes towards 9-11:

As for the fact that a majority of respondents either don’t think Arabs were behind 9/11 or say they don’t know, Hooper called it “just a bit of wishful thinking. They would hope no Muslim is capable of that.” He added that “a growing number of Americans [are] buying into conspiracy theories” about 9/11.

Why should Muslims become self-critical, when the rest of Americans will do the job. Masochistic Omnipotence Complex joins up with Demonizing Scapegoating, and you get The Suicide of the West.

For the problem is not merely academic. Radically different policy options and directions for politicians, strategists and activists flow from conclusions about responsibility for 9-11. And if they are wrong, these conspiracy theories militate for policies that can only encourage our foe.

57 Responses to 9-11 Conspiracy and the Post-Modern Mutation

  1. I am looking forward to the finished work. I am interested in how you fit conspiracy theories into the mix with the increased insecurity/anxiety that fuels millenial movements.
    When individuals experience intolerable levels of anxiety and/or depression secondary to threats to their self-esteem, it is not unusual for them to externalize and project. These psychological processes are the basis of paranoia and closely aligned with conspiracy theories.
    The conditions in which such individual anxiety/projection meshes with cultural projections (its the Americans, the Jews) and ignites into millenial movements seems to me an important question.

  2. fp says:

    exactly.

    what is being done and his happening to the west it’s its own fault.

    you see exactly the same phenomenon in the ME: while here and there some arabs are starting to question their policies, regimes and behaviors, the west is increasingly rabidly anti-american, anti-semitic and anti-zionist, propping abbas and hamas when they are down, just as they did arafat. and they’re pumping arms into saudia and egypt. why, the great hope sarkozy is now feeding weapons including nuke technology to libya. and we know what will happen to them, don’t we?

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118575064310581669.html

  3. fp says:

    or how about this?

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/889210.html

    what a surprise.

    looks like olmert and his govt help fatah kill jews.

    after more than 40 years I have come to the conclusion that the arabs care more about the land than israel does and they deserve it. israel doe not anymore.

    same is true of the west: i don’t see any more justification for its existence.

  4. Michael B says:

    A solid beginning in coming to terms with the phenomena in question. 9/11 itself, obviously, presents its spectral quality to the senses. Too, the conspiratorial and quasi-conspiratorial reactions to 9/11 present their own spectral quality, personal and communal psychologies, ideological and political and cultural biases, etc. How to interpret it in a manner that responsibly negotiates it all, and attempts to assign coherence and meaning, is no mean task. But it’s a worthwhile task, even if much of what will be concluded is but a more limited and refined set of speculations.

    is this your way of saying, “nice try on a really tough topic, keep up the good work”? can you be a little more specific in what you mean by “spectral quality” — along a broad spectrum? or a spectre is haunting the US…

  5. Sophia says:

    I think there is another element to the conspiracy theories, and that is simple cognitive dissonance.

    Americans have believed for generations in our invincibility, in the security of our land within these borders.

    To have witnessed 9/11 is to have been dealt a profound shock. At once our security vanished, our sense of safety.

    Rather than relinquish this, however, we found it more acceptable to blame the US government or our allies.

    To admit that we were successfully attacked by hostile foreign elements is to admit that we are insecure and truly vulnerable.

    I don’t think people want to face this important fact let alone deal with the possibilities; it is easier to be an ostrich and blame ourselves than confront the fact that we have enemies.

  6. Richard Landes says:

    to Shrinkwrapped:
    you’re absolutely right, and that’s the main focus of the book — how does a millennial discourse go from the margins to the center of a culture… and that’s why the spread of this kind of paranoia in the USA and on the left — on my class list! — is so worrisome.

    in partial answer to your question about “increased/intolerable insecurity/anxiety,” i had a thought last night that might prove useful in considering the issue:

    i’m thinking more about shame/disgrace/humiliation than about anxiety and insecurity. maybe you can help me connect the two.

    in any case, it occurred to me, that one can live with shame, disgrace, having been humiliated (we all do) as long as people don’t remind you of it. it’s when someone or group goes out of their way to remind you publicly of a past (or present) humiliation, that it returns as an intense feeling.

    so i’d say one thing that sharpens the feelings of humiliation and activates rage responses, is feeling actively humiliated.

    in the case of the Arab world, for example, since 1800 and Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt, they’ve been humiliated by modernity. but the vast majority cd live with that most of the time. israel was a major source of active humiliation — 3 million dhimmi defeat 100 million arabs — and now, with globalization and communications revolutions, esp in purveying images, the arab world stands naked before the world as a corrupt, authoritarian, unproductive, ill-educated and poor society — permanent activated humiliation.

  7. Richard Landes says:

    to sophia -
    i agree about bringing cognitive dissonance into the discussion, but i’m really surprised by the direction you took it in. believing it was bush/the administration/hundreds of thousands of cooperative fellow citizens seems far scarier to me than that it’s an external enemy. i may be wrong tho, since most of the people who go for this probably don’t think beyond bush and cheney, so you’re right — it is an easier problem to solve if you view it that way… IMPEACHMENT! and something to do.
    the more i think of it, the more your comment seems accurate.

  8. fp says:

    You’ve got leftist fantasy-ideologists (a la Lee Harris) with access to an exploding media desperate for sensations reaching a public who is uneducated, uninformed and gullible in the presence of an utterly incompetent adminstration who has done practically nothing to endear itself on anybody except the rightist fantasy-ideologists.

    So the move to the center is not as complex or unclear to deserve much attention.

  9. RL says:

    fp: i don’t understand what your post means. Lee Harris is hardly what i’d call a leftist fantasy ideologist (are you confusing him with someone). and i don’t understand the comment about the move to the center.

  10. fp says:

    rl,

    I was referring to your “move to the center from the periphery” of the 9/11 conspiracy theory. I was explaining the mechanism by which it moved and that it is not complicated.

    And when I referred to Harris I did not mean he HELD a leftist fantasy-ideology, but rather that he uses (introduces) the term in his book.

    incidentally here is harris in a more convincing argument:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/harris200602070750.asp

  11. David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 08/03/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  12. RL says:

    i think the reason it deserves so much attention is that it bodes ill, grave ill. you’ve already written off the west, if i understand. i’m still trying to have sanity prevail rather than self-destruction.

  13. Lynne T says:

    Sophia and Robert Landis:

    Nick Cohen in “What’s Left” ascribes the western liberal-left’s willingness to hate/lay disproportionate blame, etc., on the US administration, Israel, etc., to the fact that, xenophobes aside, it is easier to hold the familiar in contempt.

    Combine that with the “superior virtue of the oppressed” as described by Bertrand Russell and you got bozos from Australia posting on the J-Post website today that the only reason Egyptian soldiers/border guards would be killing Sudanese refugees trying to cross the border was because they were acting on Israel’s orders (and not because they were fleeing persecution and likely to have unpleasant things to say about Egypt).

  14. fp says:

    rl,

    I know your objective. i just think it’s not achievable. the west is too far gone. that this particularly idiotic conspiracy theory has gotten any traction is nothing but evidence for it: those who believe it believe anything. iow, they suspended all judgment.

    lynne,

    i recommend the following article by lee harris:

    http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/3458371.html

    it is a much better explanation of the left’s hatred of the west.

  15. Michael B says:

    is this your way of saying, “nice try on a really tough topic, keep up the good work”?

    Oh, apologies, I can be too casual and “stream of consciousness” at times and do need to better edit my comments.

    A really tough topic, absolutely, at least so imo and yes, I was attempting to say “keep up the good work,” was attempting to be encouraging. Only hours ago I received my own copy of Lee Harris’s latest along with a couple other potentially related volumes, so in part that’s where my interest stems from. But unlike fp I think, largely along intuitive lines, that there’s potential for some very fruitful explorations in this area, even though there are abundant potentials for pitfalls as well.

    As to “spectral quality,” I was thinking along lines of that which perturbs the mind due to unassimilable or difficult to assimilate data, data which also ranges across a broad spectrum, so was invoking two senses of the term.

    9/11 itself presents this type of spectral quality to us, and of course to the world. When I heard of the first plane hitting the tower I simply wondered how it could have happened, an accident?, how strange!, terrorists?, well, perhaps, but why? When I heard of the second plane I simply stated “terrorists!” But even such a reasonable approach doesn’t explain it all in yet more meaningful epistemic terms (deeper motives, psychologies, cultural and ideological influences, etc).

    And yet, the mind demands explanations, and furnishes them, so 9/11 becomes a type of Rorschach test as well; the unassimilable filtered through our mind and senses and variously “explained.” So that Rorschach quality lends a highly intriguing and revealing quality to it all, one which also, in turn, demands its own explanations and which presents its own pitfalls.

    tmi perhaps, but that’s the lengthier explanation.

  16. fp says:

    michael,

    i think you tend to overintellectualize things. in fact, if you read harris, he invokes hegel which warns against this very tendency.

    be that as it may, while harris has some very good insights, there are also quite a few problems, not the least of which is contradiction. see if you can detect it between this:

    http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/4825051.html

    and this:

    http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/3459646.html

  17. fp says:

    further folly. they thought there was a new france. but it’s hard to get the whore out of the french:

    http://the-american-israeli-patriot.blogspot.com/2007/08/french-military-aid-to-libya.html

  18. lgude says:

    A topic I have thought quite a bit about having a friend addicted to conspiracy theory. I wrote about it here
    http://yankeewombat.com/?p=512

    I link there to Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics, which if you don’t know it is a very penetrating view of conspiracy theory from the mid 60s.

    I have more to say about ‘the move of millennial discourses going from the margins to the center’ – but will think about it more before I write about it.

  19. Michael B says:

    fp, i sincerely appreciate your thought but disagree, or at least I do until you can offer something far more specific and convincing. I’m very conscious of both the difference and the interplay and nexus between ideality/reality, between abstraction/concretion, between objectivity/subjectivity, between the rational and the empirical. Indeed, I’m very open to criticisms but such a general statement leaves me a bit nonplussed. Too, from what I’ve read of Harris I’m broadly in agreement with him.

    And I may well read the two Harris articles in Policy Review, but why not offer something more specific, more incisive?

  20. fp says:

    well, maybe we disagree about what incisiveness is.

    it is possible to know about over intellectualization, but not realize or admit it in oneself.

    i did offer something specific — two articles by harris which, imo, are not consistent. I don’t want to bias the readers — want them to validate or invalidate my impression.

    a hint: it has something to do with joanne’s reference to the concept of rationality and game theory.

  21. Joanne says:

    This reminds me of an incident last fall, when I was on vacation in Morocco. I was sitting in the lounge of a hammam, a cross between a public bath and spa, with two women, one older and one young. Once they realized that I was an American, the older woman said how much she liked Americans, but then harangued me with the common complaints.

    “I love Americans,” she said, “but I don’t like Bush.” Also: “How can the Americans support Israel? It can’t be for money. America gives money to Israel, not the other way around.”

    Then she started in with the conspiracy nonsense. Sheik Zaki Yamani (the Saudi oil minister during the 1970s) was having surgery in New Jersey, according to this woman. And he SAW WITH HIS OWN EYES Israelis dancing after the Twin Towers were hit. QED.

    Then she went on to say that the US government had to be behind the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Why? Because the US is so powerful that there was no way it couldn’t have known the attacks would happen.

    Yep. That was her reasoning. Nice enough woman, really. But this conversation gave me the creeps.

    Anyway, I explained to her that the US may be powerful, but it is not omnipotent or omnipresent. It cannot know everything. I explained to her that intelligence functions are divided among many agencies, like the NSA, CIA, FBI, army intelligence, and God knows what else. And these agencies don’t communicate well with each other; in some ways, they’re competitive with each other. I said there was also a lack of communication between the New York fire and police departments.

    I also explained that there are problems of bureaucracy, that some people at lower levels of the intelligence bureaucracy (I heard of a case of a staffer in Minnesota and one in, I think, Arizona) came upon relevant information before 9/11, but their memos got lost in the tangle of several levels of bureaucracy, and no one paid attention in Washington.

    I also explained about background “noise,” the volumes of information the intelligence services get every year, 99% of it false. I told her that it was probably not very easy to realize which tidbits were real.

    The younger woman seemed to be swayed, and she tried to shush the older woman to let me speak. But the older woman had her script down pat.

    What is it with some people? I won’t mince words here: How can so many people be so stupid? There seems to be something missing on a basic cognitive level.

    And I’m surprised at the Europeans. I heard of those books about 9/11. I have long heard that, on average, Europeans are supposed to be better educated and more intellectually sophisticated than Americans. But then why are such books bestsellers. It’s one thing to be anti-American. It’s another to be so on such a moronic level.

    That Bush could get us into a war in Iraq for stupid, ideological reasons is something I can believe. That he could disregard the suffering the war and its aftermath could cause for Iraqis and American soldiers I could also believe, because it’s clear that he didn’t understand what he was getting us into. But to believe that he would purposely kill thousands of Americans in premeditated cold blood just to promote a foreign policy is just crazy.

  22. igout says:

    For what it’s worth, the conspiracy theorists (JFK assassination, UFO cover ups, the Moon landing, 9/11, jadda, yadda, yadda) I’ve known along the way had two traits in common: They weren’t religious yet they believed, or maybe I should say, needed to believe, in some all-knowing, omnipotent entity, namely Bush, the Jews, the us government–take your pick. Odd to replace God with the CIA. Very odd.

    Now, everybody, don’t pounce. This is no more than one man’s field observation.

  23. fp says:

    joanne,

    the middle easterners have an excuse: they are not properly educated and instilled with nonsense since childhood. they possess no knowledge and they were not trained to reason or go by rules of evidence. they are produced gullible to be manipulated by constipated old clerics and their regimes. after a lifetime of this crap, you should be surprised if you got anything other than what you got.

    the europeans, bush and increasingly more americans shouldn’t have the same excuse. except that the educational system has been collapsing in the west and the consequences are beginning to be the same as in the me.

    i think gore vidal said about reagan: the extent of his knowledge is that he knows what he wants. that may be a praise for bush.

    people are born with the capacity to learn and reason, but these faculties (and appreciation of them) must be developed. that has not happened yet in the me, but it did happen in the west. except that the west has given it up.

  24. fp says:

    both religion and such conspiracy theories require suspension of judgment, so in a sense they probably have similar mental roots and serve similar functions.

    however, it’s not entirely clear that conspiracy theories substitute for religion. do you have any evidence that those who believe in the former tend to be NOT religious?

    here’s another’s observation: most of those who come up with these things seem to be nobodies who without such would remain nobodies. even in those cases of not totally unknown one can detect a desire for more attention than they already got, to gain some recognition that would otherwise not materialize or be sufficient.

    a good example is juan cole: he’s creepy in his conspiracy theories, but where would he be without those? who would pay attention to him?

  25. Peter B says:

    Just from the standpoint of taxonomy, I’m not sure this is a good fit with UFOlogy, or, at any rate with some UFOlogists. Among other things, the tone isn’t the same.

    I admit to a secret vice: I sometimes listen to Coast to Coast AM, and heard a show on July 29 that illustrates my point. It’s in the archives at http://www.coasttocoastam.com/shows/2007/07/

  26. Peter B says:

    To elaborate:

    UFOlogy rests on the premise that there have been non-human visitors to Earth, who/which came for their own ends, and that there are government agencies which know about it and conceal it.

    9/11 conspiracies promote the idea that our government did something bad to us for nefarious purposes and is concealing its own wrongdoing.

    Granted, these categories can bleed into one another, but the secret knowledge that is concealed, sort of a Gnostic thing that can be distinguished from the 9/11 type governmental malice and malfeasance.

  27. fp says:

    in the following

    http://www.hairenik.com/armenianweekly/com08040703.htm

    you can see how the distortive effect of a fantasy ideology which conflicts with real life practice.

  28. Michael B says:

    “it is possible to know about over intellectualization, but not realize or admit it in oneself.”

    Indeed, but that’s a banal observation. It is possible to know about over generalizing, but not realize or admit it in oneself; it is possible to know about presumption, but not realize or admit it in oneself; it is possible to know about most anything, yet not realize or admit it in oneself. And the point being? That’s why I asked for something more specific, more incisive.

    I did read the two Lee Harris articles however and found nothing that was necessarily contradictory in the two; the differences can readily be attributed to different emphases. Too though, I don’t read authors in a too positive manner, a positivist manner, rather I read them as advancing tentative and speculative ideas, as advancing working hypotheses. Harris himself acknowledges such an approach and that’s one reason I find him helpful, he takes himself seriously enough and writes with gravitas, without taking himself too seriously.

  29. fp says:

    well, I am sorry, but if you don’t see the overintellectualization in your post, there is little I can do about it. i’ll let others decide for themselves. I think it’s rather obvious when one reads your posts.

    There is a contradiction. harris says in one that operations such as 9/11 are not clausewitzian in that they are not means to a goal, but rather “for show”. yet in the other he describes how undermining the west can be achieved by such operations. and, in fact, AQ is pretty explicit about this goal. It is in line with a grand strategy devised in 1982 by the Muslim Brotherhood:

    http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID={67736123-6864-4205-B51E-BCBDEF45FCDE}

    Therefore 9/11 was clausewitzian and, in game-theoretic terms, rational.

    As you can see I did not go well up on the abstraction scale in my comments.

  30. Michael B says:

    No, I can see it, it’s a style I choose at times, usually consciously choose; several reasons, in part because it tends to deter people from responding to me so we don’t get involved in fruitless exchanges. (Btw, what did we accomplish with this exchange?)

    And yes, I thought the Clausewitz angle might be your contention but again I read it as a different emphasis and not a mutually exclusive set of themes; I think the fantasist angle as well as the more rational, Clausewitz angle can work in tandem with one another. I think the current situation is largely sui generis, so it’s helpful to consider different, and different systheses of, paradigms/hypotheses.

    As you can see I did not resort to simplistic, reductionist formulations in my comments.

  31. fp says:

    So you agree you do it, to discourage replies, but
    you insist I explain what i meant (which is a reply)? Rather puzzling, to put it politely.

    I would argue that there is ample evidence that everything AQ does fulfills a clear strategy and is effective in achieving its goals.

  32. lgude says:

    igout

    That is my experience too – I know a particular person who is really into conspiracy theory who is very much a non believer – his mother (over 80 and lively) is Irish and Catholic and I know she is an ordinary believer. I can’t prove it the way fp wants, but that is my observation too. This guy is into Bush causing the towers plus the tsunami and even ‘chemtrails’ ie contrails. I too have noticed the projection of omnipotence on the Bushhitler or whoever. I think there is a lot of Stockholm syndrome going around among people who go to conspiracy theory as well as with people who just think terrorism would go away if only Bush didn’t do this or that – but essentially fight back and therefore – in that view – increase the likelihood of more attacks. So I see conspiracy theory as a delusional addition to the more normal denial plus ‘root causes’ view. I also see a direct connection in my friend between conspiracy theory and the Marxist remnant. He is also a great fan of Putin, Chavez, and the Chinese even though he knows they are now capitalist. In him I see a genuine preference for totalitarianism or at least a very strong social order and that may be more a personal trait although I notice a lot of ‘better Saddam’ attitude on the left still.

  33. RL says:

    Joanne wrote: And I’m surprised at the Europeans. I heard of those books about 9/11. I have long heard that, on average, Europeans are supposed to be better educated and more intellectually sophisticated than Americans. But then why are such books bestsellers. It’s one thing to be anti-American. It’s another to be so on such a moronic level.

    the key here is emotional not intellectual. european pride has been deeply damaged by american cultural dominance (which they call hegemony because they get to compare it to imperial conquest, when europe lost in a non-violent competition with americans). their resentment of america has them a) behaving stupidly, and b) in the context of islamic aggression, suicidally.

    igout wrote: They weren’t religious yet they believed, or maybe I should say, needed to believe, in some all-knowing, omnipotent entity, namely Bush, the Jews, the us government–take your pick. Odd to replace God with the CIA. Very odd.

    someone commented: “when people cease to believe in god, they don’t cease to believe, on the contrary, they’ll believe in anything.” our dilemma is, true to the principles of aniconism, that nothing can be fixed and settled, not even the existence or non-existence of god. we need faith, and our character is tested not by whether we believe in something bigger than ourselves or not, but what we choose to believe in.

    fp wrote: however, it’s not entirely clear that conspiracy theories substitute for religion. do you have any evidence that those who believe in the former tend to be NOT religious?

    certainly the “religious people” of the middle ages who believed that the jews poisoned wells, or had a horde of troops hidden in the caucuasus waiting for gog and magog to free them, believed both in god and conspiracy. indeed antichrist/dajjal thinking is pure conspiracism.

    Gavin Langmuir, on the other hand, argues that conspiracy theory and violent anti-semitism arise when Christians feel doubt about their faith and then scapegoat jews as a way to deal with the cognitive dissonance. i do think you can argue that religions that resort to violence to “spread the word” suffer from a lack of real faith in god.

    Peter B wrote: Just from the standpoint of taxonomy, I’m not sure this is a good fit with UFOlogy, or, at any rate with some UFOlogists. Among other things, the tone isn’t the same.

    agreed. i think i’m moving it from that chapter to the conclusion. what i did find was that the same relativism that led to accepting UFO beliefs as legitimate (eg scholars studying a group like the Raelians – after all, who are we to judge), made it difficult for people to exercise their critical faculties — “we all have something special to say…”

    also i found that the basic mutation of what i call post-modern c.t. is already embedded in a movie like ET, where the govt is evil and the space creatures warm and cuddly.

    again Peter B: Granted, these categories can bleed into one another, but the secret knowledge that is concealed, sort of a Gnostic thing that can be distinguished from the 9/11 type governmental malice and malfeasance.

    go to the 9-11 truther sites and you’ll find plenty of gnostic elements. there’s a basic attraction of what Michael Barkun calls “proscribed knowledge” which is “true” because it’s rejected by the (malevolent) guardians of the public sphere (often the Jooooos).

    on the exchange btw fp and michael b: i don’t think it’s worth criticizing someone’s style until it gets in the way. michael does tend towards abstractions and abstruse formulations, but i think that, just as he says he reads LH, the comments are well worth the rereads to glean valuable insights.

    as for the clausewitzian argument, we see it in the problems with analyzing the behavior of a hitler or an ahmadenijad. in both cases journalists described how rational and shrewd they were. when playing chicken with rationalists, being suicidal is an advantage. rational? i’m less sure. in any case the “inconsistency” deserves analysis primarily in the context of making a point that that inconsistency obscures.

    and i agree with lgude about stockholm syndrome. it’s a whole lot easier to attack israelis and jews who will listen to almost everything and still keep the dialogue going, than to criticize arabs who take offense easily. i’ve been wondering as i look at the british boycott: what is it that makes the brits so entitled to judge and punish israelis, but they don’t feel the same freedom in doing that to muslims (eg in darfur). on the one hand, i think it has to do with their moral competition with the jews (we are the chosen people, not the jews) — who bothers to think about the moral superiority of islam by modern progressive values? but on the other i think it has to do with the obvious fact that criticizing israel, no matter how harshly, is relatively cost-free — indeed you get lots of approval for it; whereas criticizing the muslims has a high price. similarly, with 9-11, it’s easier to think it’s bush’s fault. then we can do something about it… IMPEACH!

  34. fp says:

    several things:

    1. resentment towards america, of course. but not the whole reason. does this explain sweden’s total suicide, for example?

    2. regarding the need for faith: the fact is there is currently a rise in atheism and refusal to take anymore of the mumbo-jumbo of and damage caused by religion. and i don’t buy the argument that atheism is a faith just like religion. and a lot of it comes from scientifically educated people.

    3. i continue to think that religion as well as conspiracy theories can only survive and thrive where **proper** education is faulty or inexistent. people in the west can be schooled, but are increasingly not educated. it is not a full correlation, but it is close to one and besides human behavior does not have any full correlations. iow, it is likely that the correlation between faith and conspiracy is spurious via education.

    4. religion and conspiracy have a very strong social component — the need to belong. those who are not very successful or effective socially are recruited by religion and conspiracy and/or can gain some saliency or even prominence.

    5. langmuir thesis may be valid for those who can think for themselves and thus cognitive dissonance is possible. this explains the terrorists who are educated middle-class. it is less valid for the vast majority of believers who are into faith precisely because they either can’t or don’t want to think for themselves. those are exploited because they will follow instructions blindly.

    6. in the middle ages religion was dominant and enforced by inquisitin and indulgences. judeophobia was then naturally following from that dominance. and the level of knowledge was even less, so the spurious correlation stronger.

    7. the reality is that all current religions were invented when knowledge was practically inexistent — it was a way to explain and understand the world. as knowledge developed, religion weakened. it follows, therefore, that whatever vestiges of religion have remained have to do with poor dissemination of knowledge and it explains why islam has remained more potent than christianity and judaism in a world where education and knowledge are inferior.

  35. Michael B says:

    no fp, i was being difficult for your benefit specifically

  36. fp says:

    and i was trying to be polite

  37. Richard Landes says:

    response to fp:
    1. resentment towards america, of course. but not the whole reason. does this explain sweden’s total suicide, for example?

    i think it’s a combo of a) resentment of american cultural and political “hegemony” (they don’t know what real nasty hegemony is); b) resentment of israeli ability to defend themselves and remain democratic; which combine to make c) depression at not being visibly the “chosen people” (the muslim problem as well). all that adds up to d) secret sympathy with islamic supersessionism for targeting “their” enemy. e) all of the above equals suicidal cultural AIDS.

    2. regarding the need for faith: the fact is there is currently a rise in atheism and refusal to take anymore of the mumbo-jumbo of and damage caused by religion. and i don’t buy the argument that atheism is a faith just like religion. and a lot of it comes from scientifically educated people.

    i know way too many highly educated, scientific, people who are also of profound religious faith to buy your reduction of religious discourse (note, i did not say theology) as mumbo jumbo. that’s a kind of reductionism that reminds me of the joke about the drunk looking for his keys under the streetlamp when he lost it in the bushes. “but this is where the light is,” he protests. part of religion is having vision. one of the most obvious failings of the west today (esp in europe) is its lack of real vision, and as you point out, the kind of cultural egalitarianism that has substituted for vision, makes the west suicidal. by your very own analysis of the coming victory of islam, having a religious orientation is an evolutionary advantage, no?

    3. i continue to think that religion as well as conspiracy theories can only survive and thrive where **proper** education is faulty or inexistent. people in the west can be schooled, but are increasingly not educated. it is not a full correlation, but it is close to one and besides human behavior does not have any full correlations. iow, it is likely that the correlation between faith and conspiracy is spurious via education.

    you’re asking for a very difficult level of education. highly educated people have pushed conspiracy theories throughout history (including some of the Nazi ideologues). what you want is critical thinking capable of resisting the emotional appeal of seeing the world in a way that justifies the self and scapegoats someone else. that’s not really education (or only partially so), that’s a very high level of emotional maturity which i don’t think is ever “permanently” acquired by a culture (or even an individual). it’s a constant struggle, and every generation has to work on it, and the behavior of the current left – who think they’ve gone beyond scapegoating even as they dive into it, illustrates the point well.

    4. religion and conspiracy have a very strong social component — the need to belong. those who are not very successful or effective socially are recruited by religion and conspiracy and/or can gain some saliency or even prominence.

    and unless you come up with better, more mature, ways to give people ways to associate, cs and “religion” will appeal. Adam Smith has some fascinating remarks in book IV of Wealth of Nations about the importance of voluntary associations and public entertainment, otherwise the sectarians (here, in 18th century Scotland he meant millenarian sects) would flourish.

    5. langmuir thesis may be valid for those who can think for themselves and thus cognitive dissonance is possible. this explains the terrorists who are educated middle-class. it is less valid for the vast majority of believers who are into faith precisely because they either can’t or don’t want to think for themselves. those are exploited because they will follow instructions blindly.

    i don’t go for too easy divisions between elites and masses, but i have to think more about this.

    7. the reality is that all current religions were invented when knowledge was practically inexistent — it was a way to explain and understand the world. as knowledge developed, religion weakened. it follows, therefore, that whatever vestiges of religion have remained have to do with poor dissemination of knowledge and it explains why islam has remained more potent than christianity and judaism in a world where education and knowledge are inferior.

    that’s only a fraction of the story. religion is not going away because science is good at explaining “reality.” “there are more things tween heaven and earth, fp, than ever dreamed of in your philosophy.” or, as my cultural hero William Blake might say, “the body is that portion of the soul perceived by the senses, the chief inlets of soul in this age…” — by which he meant you and your scientific reductionism of everything to (explaining) the physical. surely you would not argue that sociology or pyschology or economics is a “science” – much less history…

    what about moral values? where do you get them? how do you talk about them and convey them?

  38. fp says:

    1. i think it’s a combo of a) resentment of american cultural and political “hegemony” (they don’t know what real nasty hegemony is); b) resentment of israeli ability to defend themselves and remain democratic; which combine to make c) depression at not being visibly the “chosen people” (the muslim problem as well). all that adds up to d) secret sympathy with islamic supersessionism for targeting “their” enemy. e) all of the above equals suicidal cultural AIDS.

    yes, but this still does not explain total suicidals like sweden. they are turning their own people into second class class citizens and descend in anarchy.

    2. i know way too many highly educated, scientific, people who are also of profound religious faith to buy your reduction of religious discourse (note, i did not say theology) as mumbo jumbo. that’s a kind of reductionism that reminds me of the joke about the drunk looking for his keys under the streetlamp when he lost it in the bushes. “but this is where the light is,” he protests. part of religion is having vision. one of the most obvious failings of the west today (esp in europe) is its lack of real vision, and as you point out, the kind of cultural egalitarianism that has substituted for vision, makes the west suicidal. by your very own analysis of the coming victory of islam, having a religious orientation is an evolutionary advantage, no?

    yes, there are those. dawkins has given some examples, one of whom is behe. science is incompatible with faith, period. when they are in conflict, we know which wins.

    i was telling the keys story a decade ago, except that it fits the faithful much better: they are looking for the keys where they cannot be found — “god”.

    not vision, maybe visions. like the 72 virgins. we don’t need the same kind of visions to counter their visions. that’s how we lose, lowering ourselves to their level.

    your interpretation of my analysis is incorrect. it is not secularism that is at the root of the cultural egalitarianism, but the religion of leftism/marxism, another bankrupt utopia, just like islam.

    religion may be an evolutionary advantage only when others give in to it, or substitute their own: two sides departing reality is hardly the recipe for evolution, but rather devolution. that’s what we did in the past and thought we outgrew that phase. well, one side almost did, the other did not. that’s the problem.

    3. you’re asking for a very difficult level of education. highly educated people have pushed conspiracy theories throughout history (including some of the Nazi ideologues). what you want is critical thinking capable of resisting the emotional appeal of seeing the world in a way that justifies the self and scapegoats someone else. that’s not really education (or only partially so), that’s a very high level of emotional maturity which i don’t think is ever “permanently” acquired by a culture (or even an individual). it’s a constant struggle, and every generation has to work on it, and the behavior of the current left – who think they’ve gone beyond scapegoating even as they dive into it, illustrates the point well.

    well, if it were easy we wouldn’t be in the situation we are. but we had something better and we dismantled it. my point is that it should be the function of education to help instill that kind of maturity. it used to do some of that, but it does not anymore.
    instead the system does everything it can to relieve people from thinking, to indoctrinate them and to make them conform so that they can be readily manipulated, controlled and exploited. certain similarity to islam, except when facing it, it loses.

    4. and unless you come up with better, more mature, ways to give people ways to associate, cs and “religion” will appeal. Adam Smith has some fascinating remarks in book IV of Wealth of Nations about the importance of voluntary associations and public entertainment, otherwise the sectarians (here, in 18th century Scotland he meant millenarian sects) would flourish.

    correct. i am claiming that we used to do some of that and we don’t anymore. iow, we deteriorated. yes, associations, by all means, but grounded in reality not infantilism.

    5. i don’t go for too easy divisions between elites and masses, but i have to think more about this.

    I don’t think there is any question of a division, but I did not say it was easy.

    7. that’s only a fraction of the story. religion is not going away because science is good at explaining “reality.” “there are more things tween heaven and earth, fp, than ever dreamed of in your philosophy.” or, as my cultural hero William Blake might say, “the body is that portion of the soul perceived by the senses, the chief inlets of soul in this age…” — by which he meant you and your scientific reductionism of everything to (explaining) the physical. surely you would not argue that sociology or pyschology or economics is a “science” – much less history…

    sorry, don’t buy it. were not religion instilled from childhood in the majority of faithful, had there not been exploiitation of weaknesses by the organized religions, we would have had a very different situation today. religion would be relegated to the margins.

    8. what about moral values? where do you get them? how do you talk about them and convey them?

    You can’t be serious. You can’t mean that we take them from religion? Because that would be not just utter nonsense, but counterfactual. Certainly laughable. Just read Dawkins or Hitchens on this subject.

    Clearly, the scriptures are cherrypicked for moral values. On what grounds? They must be using SOME CRITERIA for the selection. And those criteria were developed independent of religion and were then adopted and used in religion together with the mumbo-jumbo and immoral stuff. And lo and behold, the cherrypicks look very much like secular-humanism which counters religion. Why can’t we disseminate and convey that instead of supernatural mumbo-jumbo?

  39. fp says:

    btw, regarding faithful scientists, there is an article by dawkins somewhere online about one of them who ultimately had to choose between the two and gave up science. very eye-opening article. don’t remember where i read it. there is also a piece on collins of the genome project that is equally revealing.

  40. Michael B says:

    I know the article you’re referring to, fp, but no he didn’t “have” to choose. He chose to choose, which is something entirely different. Too, Dawkins’ presentation of that particular person and episode is highly tendentious as he leverages it well beyond its context and merit. It is illustrative and even tragic, imo, vis-a-vis the particular person in question, but it is not so broadly illustrative as Dawkins tendentiously indicates. Science is certainly a vaunted and worthy human enterprise, one among several, and it is a decidedly human enterprise, with all that implies.

  41. fp says:

    well, it won’t be surprising that we should agree to disagree.

    i think that is excellent evidence of my point and there is a difference between free choice and forced choice that u may not be attentive to. and forced does not mean putting a pistol to his head. it can be internal.

    there is hardly a doubt on my mind that all genuine faithful would make the same choice and i would tend to be quite suspicious of religious scientists as a rule.

  42. Michael B says:

    Oh good grief, give me credit for a modicum of intelligence, this is not semantics being addressed; I understand how you’re using the term “forced choice,” as applied to the person’s (his name was Wise) own internal logic, not a gun to his head. But all you’re doing is reifying and generalizing your assumptions into an absolute, into a dogma; you’re certainly not offering a proof of any kind. Though I have no doubt that there’s no doubt in your mind concerning this issue, which is evidence that you present of your own internal logic, ironically, an internal logic not unlike that of Wise’s.

    Again, the guy’s name was Wise and there’s an argument, contra Dawkins here, then a reply here which contests the original argument.

  43. Michael B says:

    Oops, the original is here.

  44. fp says:

    well, i admit that i did not read it with a great deal of attention after:

    “held the positions of professor of science and theology and director of the Center for Theology and Science at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Prior to that, Wise had taught for many years at Bryan College, a small evangelical college in Dayton”

    wise seems a rather confused and not very stable thinker. not good qualities in a teacher.

    i don’t find the argument serious and it does not affect my acceptance of dawkins position. (incidentally, i am not surprised that it speaks to you, it does have the marks of overintellectualization.)

    perhaps if i were to question anything of dawkins is the notion that he “judges” wise (i do’t recall if he actually did this, but if he did). the position should be just the way i expressed it: science is not compatible with religion. and for many more reasons than what dawkins covers in his piece.

  45. fp says:

    btw, rl,

    I saw how christianity is a bulwark against islam. 1st, the pope makes a mild comment, then he grovels: apologizes for speaking the truth, prays in a mosque converted from a cathedral with moslem clerics and then reverses his stand on Turkey and EU. Quite courageous.

    In fact, as courageous as the Vatican was with the Nazis and jews. And so moral. And as moral as, for example, as not neglecting its newly elected pope (Pope John I) and letting him die in distress; or as moral as protecting child abusing priests and moving them from parish to parish to do their thing. Or the Jesus Camp. Not to mention ancient morality of the inquisition.

    And you want to talk to me about morals? If there were a jesus — which I doubt — he would turn in his grave (as he could not possibly rise). In fact, christianity is a hijacked religion (just like islam copied stuff). It was a pure invention by Paul — essentially either a lie, or out of ignorance — away from judaism and including copying from hellenism and paganism. I recommend Maccobby and Crossan on the subject.

    That christianity can be the foundation of morality is absurd.

  46. Michael B says:

    fp, it was merely a ref. for the Wise case, nothing more, a presentation of two contrasting views. Too, I apologize for being surly, it was wrong of me, please do not take it personally.

  47. fp says:

    michael,

    no offense taken. takes much more to bother me, i can dish it but i can also take it.

    no problem with the ref. in fact whenever i read something that i find insightful or well reasoned, i usually try to find a contrasting view to make sure i did not miss anything. sometimes i do sometimes i dont.

    in this particular case my position is based in much more than just dawkins/wise (myself having a scientific background), so the ref was not persuasive.

  48. Michael B says:

    Again, I wasn’t attempting to persuade – indeed I had already mentioned I viewed the Wise case per se as something of a tragedy – they were intended as general references only. How about some humor from the estimable Mr. Geras.

  49. Michael B says:

    Prof. Geras

  50. JohnSal says:

    Sounds like an interesting book. I have what might be a useful suggestion. The following book was recently published “Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism” by James Pierison. It’s been getting a lot of publicity from conservative media. The thesis, as I understand it, is that the FDR-post WWII liberal consensus was shattered by the trauma of the JFK assassination. Since liberals had been used to blaming “right-wingers” for anti-civil rights intimidation and anti-communist excesses, the assassination of JFK by an avowed communist had to be explained away. Since admitting the violence inherent in leftist extremism was unacceptable, the “assassination conspiracy” myth was created by JFK’s mafia almost immediately. Just take a look at Amazon under ” assassination JFK” and you’ll find it not only still lives, but thrives. It would seem the dynamics of denial are similar and Pierison’s book may have some useful insights for you.

  51. [...] e US in the world, Israel in the Middle East – are also the most tolerant of criticism. So any American can say Bush was involved in 9-11 — i [...]

  52. [...] phenomenon and need serious study. Dr Richard Landes, eminent historian of millennialism, has made a start. 9-11 Conspiracy constitutes the most powerful conspiracy theory in the brief history of the [...]

  53. [...] me of that?? ….. but it is close to one and besides human behavior does not have any full …http://www.theaugeanstables.com/2007/08/02/9-11-conspiracy-and-the-post-modern-mutation/The Rude Guy??? ? The Rude Guy New York text of Podcast 47 … … of terror, the flyswatter of [...]

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  55. [...] – everything is meaningful, patterns appear everywhere, nothing is coincidental. It is also a pattern of the conspiratorial mind (which, in many cases, is also apocalyptic). We’ve seen this among Muslims who can see either [...]

  56. Albert says:

    David, thank you for engaging in with me in this dissscuion. I don’t think I was suggesting inclusiveness without boundaries, but the points I was trying to make above were that those who support direct discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the Church do so by placing conditions on those such as yourself in positions of authority: if you treat lesbians and gay men equally we will: leave your church, not pay our quota, not accept your authority take your pick of their threats. Whereas lesbians and gay Christians are saying please treat us equally and we will continue to respect the integrity of those who do not think we should be treated equally whilst disagreeing with them . No threats but then we don’t have the power to make threats. Secondly they discriminate against us not because of what we believe, but because of what we are, because of what God made us.Do I understand you to say that if a view is held with integrity it is unchallengeable? Hitler had very strong beliefs held undoubtedly with integrity. Racists have strongly held beliefs supported by the authority of scripture as they interpret it. Supporters of slavery had very strong beliefs supported by the authority of scripture as they understood it. Integrity is no criterion of truth of beliefs. It is the other side who draw the lines to exclude lesbians and gay men. You will probably know the quote: those who draw a line of exclusion are often surprised to see Jesus on the other side of it.

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