“Conspiracy theorists routinely evince this curious lack of interest in facts, data, corroboration. ” Oh, and “Buy Fred’s Books! Tutankhamen didn’t, and He’s Dead. Coincidence?”
BY FRED REED
To me fascinating is a curious fragmentation of thought, as if clusters of neurons were not communicating with others. For example, the hundred concentration camps of FEMA would require many personnel, towns to supply food, roads going to them, and so would be easily found. CTs neither say where these camps are, nor take a weekend and find one, nor show any interest in the question. Conspiracy theories say that the airliner, AA 77, that hit the Pentagon was actually a missile. In that case either AA77 landed safely in LA, its destination, easily checked with a few phone calls, or it never existed, as any travel agency would know. A newspaper reporter would think of these things. CTs don’t and become angry if others do.
Oh God, oh God, oh God, I knew it would happen. It did. The anniversary of Nine-Eleven just passed and swarms of conspiracy loons have erupted forth to holler about inside jobs and Israeli demolitions squads and collusion thicker than mayonnaise on Mom’s picnic ham sandwiches and holographic projections and nanoparticles. (Wait. I think nanoparticles are what are in covid vaccines to alter your DNA and make you into a robot. Maybe it’s nanothermite that blows up buildings, or maybe nanotermites that gnaw them down, or something) All swathed in darkling clouds of subclinical paranoia. There is something mildly wrong with these people. I figure they’ve been sniffing bad glue. The astute John Derbyshire has said that conspiracy theorism is a minor psychic condition like obsessive-compulsive disorder. Sounds about right.
You have to understand about conspiracy theories. They seem almost deliberately squirrelly, lacking substance and checkable specificity. For example, Nine-Eleven theory says that the buildings were demolished by an unspecified number of demolition experts of unspecified origin recruited by unspecified means to place an unspecified quantity of explosives of unspecified origin in an unspecified number of unspecified locations on an unspecified number of floors over an unspecified number of days, weeks, or months, these activities being hidden from notice by a massive workforce by unspecified means.
Is that clear, or what? It’s blank ignorance but it confers theoretic maneuvering room. When you know nothing, you can believe anything.
Conspiracy theorists are intriguing rather than harmful, only borderline nuts, usually able to dress themselves. Some are quite intelligence. Maybe to be truly twisted you need to start with enough string. It may just be inner-directed anxiety disorder. They don’t care whether there is substance to their theories, ore even whether they really have a theory. Maybe it’s just the of the spirit of the thing.
But it’s exasperating to a former reporter. I listen to this balmy soup and think ”Ye gods and little catfish, they don’t know anything about their own theory. Or demolitions. Or journalism.”
Curiously, the faithful show no interest in how the Towers were blown up, or whether they could have been these being details. They are sure they were blown up, though. None of the foregoing unspecified can be evaluated since there really is no theory, just repeated assertion of conspiracy. A reporter cannot fact-check the story because there are no facts to check. Conspiracy theorists routinely evince this curious lack of interest in facts, data, corroboration. For example, they insist that explosions were heard—passive voice—when the buildings came down, but do not wonder why the many video recordings do not contain these explosions. If asked about this absence, some will say that the sounds were edited out. Israeli audio editors presumably.
If you want to blame the Towers on Israel, come up with a story I can believe. For example, Arabic speaking Mossad agents talked a bunch of Saudis in a bar in Bangkok into doing it. This doesn’t involve lunacy or physical impossibility. It is a serviceable tale of universal applicability. Today we could substitute Russians, Chinese, Trump supporters or Iranians with no loss.
Conspiracy theorists everywhere sense the Hidden Hand, sense dark and malevolent forces invisible to most but detected by those in the know. Typically a government of corporate, and malevolent agents, lurk behind visible events and are often responsible for things that don’t even exist. For example, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has a hundred concentration camps fully manned and ready to be filled with patriots when the country is taken over by whoever is going to take it over.
To me fascinating is a curious fragmentation of thought, as if clusters of neurons were not communicating with others. For example, the hundred concentration camps of FEMA would require many personnel, towns to supply food, roads going to them, and so would be easily found. CTs neither say where these camps are, nor take a weekend and find one, nor show any interest in the question. Similarly, conspiracy loons say that the airliner, AA 77, that hit the Pentagon was actually a missile. In that case either AA77 landed safely in LA, its destination, easily checked with a few phone calls, or it never existed, as any travel agency would know. A newspaper reporter would think of these things. CTs don’t and become angry if others do.
Here we encounter another characteristic of the genre: the multiplication of hypotheses. To protect the theory, they expand it. Explosions in New York were not recorded because the media were in on the plot. The FBI didn’t investigate because it was in on the plot. The white House didn’t…on and on. It doesn’t occur to them that the media don’t cover nonsensical theories because they are nonsensical. No, they are in on it. This intensifies the delicious satisfactions of seeing the Hidden Hand.
Oddly, CTs lack emotional response to horrendous crimes. It is as if they both believe but simultaneously don’t. If you, the reader, thought that the Israelis had murdered three thousand Americans, would you not be angry? Yet in reading volumes and in conversation with leading Israel-did-its, I have not heard an angry word at the Israelis doing it. I have been the object of fury for saying they didn’t.
Or, if an Air Force F-16 had killed a large number of people at the Pentagon with a missile, would you not want to investigate and bring the scoundrels to justice? It would be easy enough. For reasons obvious to anyone familiar with the Armed forces, such an attack would involve many people and leave major evidentiary trails. Yet the faithful do not think of this, evince no outrage, demand no investigation. Huh? Conspiracying seems a sort of psychic hobby, maybe, for people who really want to live in a comic book.
Conspiracy theorists seem politically conservative. Liberals have their own mental dislocations, inventing an imaginary world they would like to exist and then trying to move into it, resulting in policies unrelated to observable reality. But they don’t see strange shapes twisting at the verge of vision. The conservative’s is a darker view of life, more realistic and grimmer. I think of liberals as tweeters and conservative as woofers, but maybe that’s just me.
Conspiracy wackos also are overwhelmingly male. Someone once said that men, always wanting to slay dragons, wreck cars, or conquer empires, are romantics pretending to be realists and that women are realists pretending to be romantics. Well, it fits.
Then there is the Blob Mind, the aggregation of hundreds, sometimes many hundreds, of people into agglomerations all of whose minds apparently are connected into one entity. Consider the Navy ships that decades ago were said to have shot down an airliner leaving New York. At least five hundred anarchic and voluble sailors would know of this and tell their families and everybody in every bar for fifty miles around. CTs say “the Navy” suppressed the truth, as if all military personnel had their minds connected by invisible wires and appropriate thought pumped in from some underground control room. In many conspiracies, “the media”, similarly wired, hide the truth. Do the owners of thousands of publications tell their section editors who tell their vast swarms not to cover a story which any of them would kill his grandmother to break—“Don’t cover the biggest story in fifty years”? These large groups all act as multicellular, unvolitional beings under remote control.
Covid spawns conspiracy theories like oyster spawn eggs, bathing the world in subtreatable paranoia. On the same website you can read that it doesn’t exist, being just the seasonal flue and that it is a plot to depopulate the earth; that the vaccines contains nanoparticles, microchips, and substances to reprogram your genome; that the government (I think) is hiding miracle cures such as hydroquinone (an antiplasmodial, vitamin D, zinc, and a worm poison; hospitals are lying about the number of deaths, some exaggerating and others minimizing them. How you depopulate the earth with a disease that doesn’t exist isn’t clear. They don’t ask, so it doesn’t matter. There seems to be a tacit gentlemen’s agreement, or honor among cracked pots, holding that I won’t criticize your theory if you won’t criticize mine, though they are mutually contradictory
Further, a CT mindset exists. A normal person might believe in one Conspiracy through limited investigation and interest, but people who believe in one Conspiracy almost always believe in several.
And now I must run, to find a hotel room downtown. The CIA is burrowing a tunnel under my house, coming from Roswell, and I don’t want to be here when the collapse comes.
Buy Fred’s Books! Tutankhamen didn’t, and He’s Dead. Coincidence?
FRED REED describes himself as [previously] a “Washington police reporter, former Washington editor for Harper’s and staff writer for Soldier of Fortune magazine, Marine combat vet from Viet Nam, and former long-haul hitchhiker, part-time sociopath, who once lived in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the Yankee Capital.”
His essays “on the collapse of America” Mr. Reed calls “wildly funny, sometimes wacky, always provocative.”
“Fred is the Hunter Thompson of the right,” seconds Thomas E. Ricks in Foreign Policy magazine. His commentary is “well-written, pungent political incorrectness mixed with smart military commentary and libertarian impulses, topped off with a splash of Third World sunshine and tequila.”
Hardboiled is back! (The exclamation point is to arouse wild enthusiasm in the reader, a boiling literary lust.) Gritty crime fiction by longtime police reporter for the Washington Times, who knows the police from nine years of riding with them. Guaranteed free of white wine and cheese, sensitivity, or social justice.