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A Glossary of Conspiracy Theorist Words and Phrases

Author: Muertos
Date: Jun 29, 2011 at 01:03

By Muertos (

Given the fact that there are so many buzzwords and phrases out there used by conspiracy theorists ("CT'ers" for short; we use the term "CT" to refer to conspiracy theories themselves), we thought we would put together a handy little glossary so you can know what the hell they're talking about when they throw them around.

Note: this is not intended as a glossary of popular conspiracy theories, which is why you won't find items like "chemtrails" or "NWO" on the list. This is a glossary of terms used by conspiracy theorists.

Note: some of these terms, like ad hominem and cui buono, have legitimate meanings in the real world which are different than the way CT'ers use them. Terms like this are identified with CT'er meaning and real meaning.

Ad Hominem: Latin term. Real meaning: an argumentative tactic that diverts attention from the substance of an argument by conducting an irrelevant attack on the arguer. Example of this usage: "Barack Obama believes in universal health care. You should not believe in universal health care because Barack Obama is African-American." CT'er meaning (1): any question upon the credibility of any purveyor of CT information. For example, Steven Jones [9/11 Truther] believes the WTC towers were brought down by controlled demolition. The validity of Jones's scientific processes is open to serious question. However, according to the CT'er usage of ad hominem, questioning Jones or his competence to opine on 9/11 at all is an impermissible ad hominem attack. CT'er meaning (2): a way to try to derail any argument with someone who doesn't believe CTs. Example of this usage: "You haven't debunked anything! You're just engaging in ad hominem attacks!"

Asleep: the condition of being brainwashed, duped, and lulled into a false consciousness by the "powers that be." Essentially, the condition of not believing in conspiracy theories. If you deny the validity of CTs, you are "asleep."

Awake: the opposite of "asleep." Essentially, the condition of believing in conspiracy theories and not believing (supposedly) any government or "mainstream media" source. CT'ers employ numerous variations on the "asleep"/"awake" concept, such as "I woke up," "You're asleep," "Why did you go back to sleep?", "When I was asleep I believed...", "We're trying to wake people up!", "A lot of people are waking up," etc., etc.

Banksters: term referring to financial institutions or wealthy investors who are believed by CT'ers to control the world. Usually, but not always, a (supposedly) race-neutral synonym for the anti-Semitic CT idea of "Jewish bankers."

Coincidence Theorist: mocking term for someone who doesn't believe in CTs, particularly someone who refuses to connect factually unconnected events under the rubric of a conspiracy theory. This term is usually deployed to validate spurious and incorrect estimates of mathematical probabilities as substitutes for facts. Example of this usage: Senator Paul Wellstone died in an accidental plane crash in 2002 just before a Congressional election. "You don't believe the Bush Administration rubbed out Wellstone? You must be a coincidence theorist, then!"

COINTELPRO: an acronym for an FBI project, CounterIntelligence Program. Real meaning: a program undertaken by the FBI between 1956 and 1971 to infiltrate domestic political organizations. The program has been defunct since 1971. CT'er meaning: a vast program of total government surveillance and infiltration which supposedly continues to this day (despite zero evidence that it is active), aimed especially at discrediting CT'ers and refuting CTs. This term is often heard in conjunction with the term "disinformation agent" (q.v.) or "shill," but a CT'er who deploys the term COINTELPRO is affirmatively accusing someone of being a government agent paid to criticize CTs.

Critical thinking: a form of epistemology. Real meaning: reasoned inquiry that evaluates evidence from a logical standpoint and reaches conclusions based on that evidence. CT'er meaning: justification for out-of-hand rejection of any evidence that contradicts CT's as being part of the "establishment" or promoted by the "powers that be." To CT'ers, "critical thinking" is a fig leaf for automatically disregarding any factual evidence that impugns or in any way questions conspiracy theories. Example of this usage: "Of course peer-reviewed social science rejects Acharya S.'s conclusions that Christ never existed. They're afraid of pissing off religious people. Use critical thinking! You can see the scientific establishment is biased."

Cui Buono?: Latin for "who benefits?" Real meaning: an inquiry into who might stand to gain from a particular inquiry; not, however, a conclusion. CT'er meaning: a substitute for evidence of any kind. If anyone benefited in any way from something, "cui buono?" is absolute proof that they caused it. Example of this usage: "Acme Drug Company manufactures swine flu vaccine. 'Cui buono?' Because Acme Drug Company benefited financially from the swine flu outbreak, Acme Drug Company caused the swine flu outbreak."

Disinformation: any item of information that contradicts CTs. Most CT'ers cannot comprehend or understand why people would disagree with their conspiracy theories. Consequently, they conclude that anyone who disputes CTs must be paid to do so, or is deliberately spreading false information. Usually the claim is made that someone spreading "disinformation" works for the government or other supposed conspirators. Often shortened to disinfo.

Disinformation agent: someone who spreads "disinformation," meaning, someone who contradicts CT's regardless of motivation. CT'ers will often accuse "disinformation agents" as being part of COINTELPRO (q.v.) or "Project Vigilance" (a more recent government program to encourage pro-military bloggers during the Iraq War--a project which never got off the drawing board). Usually anyone who disputes CT's will be accused of being a "disinformation agent."

Do Your Own Research: a term used by lazy CT'ers who don't want to try to explain why they believe the silly things they believe. "Research," in this context, means looking at CT web sites and watching YouTube videos that promote CTs. It does not mean reading books or objectively evaluating evidence to determine whether a CT is true. Example of this usage: "Alex Jones can back up everything he says. Do your own research! Read!"

End the Fed!: political slogan calling for the dissolution or overhaul of the Federal Reserve system. Not always associated with CTs, but CT'ers who believe in CTs to the effect that the Federal Reserve is a tool of conspirators (the Illuminati, NWO, etc.) will often use this slogan. Warning: this slogan does have cachet in legitimate (non-CT) circles and can refer to a political objective not dependent upon CT thinking.

Enjoy your ignorance: thought-terminating cliché intended by CT'ers to make non-CT'ers feel bad about not accepting CTs. This is a condescending phrase used to paint the non-CT'er as a gullible dupe who is "asleep" (q.v.) or "sheeple." Example of this usage: "I can't convince you that 9/11 was an inside job? Well, then, enjoy your ignorance. I know you can't handle the truth anyway!"

Enslaved: someone who does not believe in CTs or is unwilling to "resist" what CT'ers believe is totalitarian control by conspirators. This term is heard particularly in connection with Illuminati/NWO or other world domination CTs. It's doubly ironic because CT'ers are unable to distinguish features of true repressive governments or societies from the imagined oppression that they think is happening.

Equal Money System (EMS): utopian ideology promoted by Desteni conspiracy cult. Similar to "resource based economy" (q.v.) without the technological elements. Supposedly in an EMS, all the world's people will have a guaranteed standard of living equivalent to the way millionaires in the first world live now. Subject of an elaborate mythology within the Desteni belief system.

Even an X-year old can tell... / Even an X-grader knows...: thought-terminating cliché used by CT'ers to cloak spurious arguments in erroneous terms of general acceptance. When this term is used, whatever is asserted, 99.9% of the time, is completely false. Example of this usage: "Even a 6-year-old knows that jet fuel doesn't burn hot enough to melt steel!" / "Even a 4th grader knows that something can't come down faster than free-fall speed!"

False Flag: military term. Real meaning: an attack deliberately and falsely ascribed to an enemy. Example: German attack on the Gleiwitz radio station in 1939, blamed on Poland. CT'er meaning: a massive operation by the U.S. (or Israeli) government or other conspirators which is intended as a pretext for some nefarious scheme that has not yet occurred. CT'ers believe that all wars, terrorist attacks or even accidents are "false flag" attacks. Example of this usage: "The guy who flew that plane into the IRS building [in February 2011]--that was a false flag, man!"

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win: quote erroneously attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, but it does not appear he ever said or wrote it; it may actually derive from labor leader Nicholas Klein. Used by CT'ers to shrug off widespread ridicule and disbelief of their theories. Also often used by CT-related cults and ideology groups (such as Zeitgeist and Desteni) to predict that their ideology will ultimately achieve victory despite what appear to be long odds in persuading people that they're right.

Free-fall speed: physics concept erroneously used by believers in 9/11 conspiracy theories to "prove" that controlled demolition was used at the WTC towers. Supposedly the towers fell at "free-fall speed" (which is false), which is supposedly impossible without them being "pushed" (by secret explosives no one has ever seen). Debunked many years ago, but maintains acceptance in CT circles.

Hit piece: an article, blog, video or news story that is critical of conspiracy theories or particular CT'ers, and which CT'ers want to believe is a maliciously motivated attack without any merit. Usually, but not always, deployed to discredit a criticism of a particular person. Example of this usage: "That blog debunking the New World Order was nothing more than a hit piece on Alex Jones!"

I feel sorry for you: condescending phrase designed both to terminate thought and to place the CT'er in a position of moral superiority to one who does not believe in CTs and is therefore, in the CT'er's mind, not enlightened or is doomed to suffer a life of "enslavement" (q.v.) or being "asleep" (q.v.). Almost always used disingenuously. Example of this usage: "You're totally happy getting raped by the NWO every day of your life, aren't you? I feel sorry for you!"

Intellectual inhibition: phrase coined by Zeitgeist cult leader and CT'er Peter Joseph Merola, referring to those who do not believe in CTs. Supposedly a form of mental illness afflicting those who are not "awake" (q.v.) enough to accept CTs.

Just asking questions: false and disingenuous phrase used by CT'ers to explain what they are supposedly doing by asserting the truth of CTs. Usually used to cover up and obfuscate assertions that CTs are literal fact in favor of a more reasonable-seeming, supposedly agnostic position. Disingenuous because in reality CT'ers do not wish to ask any question whose answer involves refutation of CTs. Example of this usage: "Why did the towers come down at free-fall speed? Why did the BBC report the hijackers were still alive? I'm not a conspiracy theorist--I'm just asking questions!"

Leave the Matrix: term used to refer to "waking up" (see "awake," q.v.) or otherwise rejecting the supposedly false reality imposed by conspirators, government, mainstream media, etc. It connotes the common CT delusion that there is a hidden reality (conspiracies) behind what most people take to be reality. Derives from the 1999 science fiction film The Matrix which involves a literal depiction of this type of scenario. Example of this usage: "If you really want to leave the Matrix, you should start listening to Alex Jones."

Lemmings: synonym of "sheeple" (q.v.), meant to connote blind obedience and group-think. Evokes the erroneous view that lemmings willingly commit mass suicide as the result of following the herd.

Lightworker: term used, particularly by CT'ers who believe in CTs involving evil extraterrestrials, to refer to someone who's working against evil conspirators for the benefit of mankind. Appears frequently in Desteni and NESARA CTs and sometimes Illuminati/NWO mythology. Example of this usage: "The reptoids control everything, but there are some lightworkers out there fighting against them."

Not The Movement: term used by members of the Zeitgeist Movement cult to divert attention away from embarrassing actions or statements by their own members. The phrase is usually deployed when a critic notes the association between the Zeitgeist Movement and CTs or CT'ers. Example of this usage: "The movies [the Zeitgeist films which promote conspiracy theories] aren't the movement." "Peter Joseph [Merola, leader of the Zeitgeist cult] is not the movement." "9/11 Truth is not the movement." "Jared Lee Loughner is not the movement."

Official Story: the opposite of a CT. Almost universally, CT'ers believe that explanations for events that are accepted by the majority of society are false constructs transmitted by the government or other officially-dominated organs of information control, and that these "official stories" are false, where CTs are supposedly true. Usually, but not always, heard in conjunction with 9/11. Example of this usage: "You mean you actually believe the official story of 9/11?" Non-9/11 example: "The official story on JFK is that Oswald acted alone."

Powers That Be (PTB): conspirators. Evil governments (usually U.S., but sometimes Israel), corporations, media outlets, the Jews, reptoids (q.v.), the Illuminati, etc. Generic term for shadowy figures, who are sometimes left undefined, that supposedly control everything.

PsyOp: military term. Real meaning: psychological operation, a form of hostile action against an enemy usually involving tactics to scare or deliberately irritate them. "Death cards" used by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam are a real-life example of a psyop. CT'er meaning: any act of deception committed by any government or conspirator anywhere for any reason. Often is a synonym for, or goes hand-in-hand with, "false flag" (q.v.). Example of this usage: "9/11 was just a big PsyOp to justify invasive TSA searches and the Patriot Act!"

Reptoid, Reptilian: extraterrestrial being of reptilian origin, usually evil, and often possessing the ability to project an outward humanoid appearance. Key feature of the CT mythology of David Icke, also believed by many members of the Desteni conspiracy cult.

Resource Based Economy (RBE): utopian ideology promoted by the Zeitgeist Movement, formerly espoused by the Venus Project (before the messy April 2011 public divorce between Zeitgeist and Venus leaders). A socioeconomic system where unlimited resources are provided to the earth's population in a moneyless perfect allocation, usually said to be technological in origin (i.e., computers decide who gets what). Similar to Communism without the elements of class struggle and with computers/robots in the role of the "dictatorship of the proletariat." Does not specifically refer to CT's, but believed in and promoted by many CT'ers as a result of Peter Joseph Merola's Zeitgeist conspiracy films.

Sheeple: singular or plural term for non-believers in CTs who supposedly do not believe in CTs as a result of "brainwashing" by conspiratorial powers. Derogatory contraction of "sheep" and "people." Example of this usage: "All the sheeple out there just believe whatever the government tells them!"

Shill: a person who argues against CTs and publicly maintains that CTs are false. Similar to, and sometimes synonymous with, "disinformation agent" (q.v.) except that "shill" does not always connote that the person arguing against CTs is being paid to do so or otherwise knowingly spreading falsehoods. Example of this usage: "Stop attacking Alex Jones! You're just a shill for the NWO!"

Straw man: argumentative fallacy. Real meaning: a deliberate misrepresentation of an opponent's argument which can be refuted with greater ease than the real argument. CT'er meaning: any piece of genuine evidence used to discredit conspiracy theories. Example of this usage: "You say Hani Hanjour actually could fly a plane? That's a straw man! He almost flunked out of flight school..."

Troll: (1) Someone who criticizes CTs, especially on the Internet. (2) Term used specifically by adherents of the Zeitgeist Movement to refer to persons who publicly oppose the cult. Trolls are often the scapegoats for whatever is wrong in the Zeitgeist Movement--essentially the Zeitgeist equivalent of Scientology's "suppressive persons."

Truther: someone who believes in CTs about the 9/11 attacks. Actual embrace of this term by Truthers themselves is waning; it was much more common in 2005-06 for CTs to self-identify as Truthers, but in recent years most of them reject the term. This term sparked the trend of identifying CT'ers by single-word terms ending in "-er" depending on the CT they believe in, such as "Birther" [one who believes Barack Obama was not born in the United States], "Deather" [one who believes Osama bin Laden is not dead], etc.

Truth seeker: conspiracy theorist. Derivative of "Truther" (q.v.) that is not specifically limited to belief in conspiracy theories about the September 11 attacks, but may, and usually does, encompass CTs going far beyond the subject of 9/11. Unlike "Truther," which CT'ers usually reject, "truth seeker" is not viewed by CT'ers as pejorative and many will self-identify with it.

The truth will set you free!: quote from the Bible, attributed to Christ (John 8:31). Platitude used by CT'ers to encourage belief in CT's, again relating to the idea that only CT's are real "truth" and anything that contradicts CT's is an artificial reality constructed by supposed conspirators. This phrase gained cachet when it was used by conspiracy filmmaker Nigel Turner in 1995 for a follow-up to his popular miniseries about the JFK assassination, The Men Who Killed Kennedy (which was roundly debunked many years ago).

USrael: deliberate pejorative conflation between "USA" and "Israel." Term used by anti-American and often anti-Semitic CT'ers to emphasize their belief that everything bad that happens in the world is the fault of the United States government working in conjunction with, or for the benefit of, Israel.

Wake up, sheeple!: desperate plea by CT'ers designed to induce belief in conspiracy theories. A rallying cry of sorts; you'll often see it appended to brief statements of conspiracy thinking. Example of this usage: "They're putting RFID chips in the swine flu vaccine! Wake up, sheeple!"

What's best for all: supposed credo of South Africa-based conspiracy cult Desteni. A nebulous concept usually deployed to justify behavior in any given situation. Example of this usage: "Desteni is only working to implement what's best for all, so why do you oppose them?"

What's your solution to fix the world?: thought-terminating cliché used by CT'ers promoting a utopian ideology, especially the Zeitgeist Movement. This question is deployed as a tactic to divert attention away from CTs and CT-criticism, the reasoning (such as it is) being that if you can't come up with a plan to solve all the world's problems on the spot, then you might as well give the desired ideology (Zeitgeist, Resource Based Economy, Equal Money System, etc.) a try. Example of this usage: "You don't like the Zeitgeist Movement? Well, then, what's your solution to fix the world? If you have one, I'm all ears. If you don't, you must accept Zeitgeist, because all you're doing is tearing people down without offering anything positive."

When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth: quote by the character Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle's 1926 story "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier." Used by CT'ers as a substitute for evidence and justification for jumping to conclusions prematurely. Example of this usage: "Jet fuel doesn't burn hot enough to melt steel. Therefore 9/11 had to be controlled demolition, man! When you have eliminated all which is impossible..."

You are being lied to: slogan used by CT'ers to attempt to "wake up" people (see "awake," q.v.) whom they believe are duped by an officially-dominated information structure. The passive voice deliberately eliminates the need to identify the supposed conspirators. Example of this usage: "Don't you know global warming is a hoax designed to justify carbon taxes? You are being lied to!"

You lose: thought-terminating cliché deployed by smug CT'ers in debates to hammer home their supposed superiority. Example of this usage: "You think Popular Mechanics debunked 9/11 theories? You lose! The editor of Popular Mechanics was related to Bush's cousin..."

More definitions may be added in the future by popular demand.

The Looming Tower: Another Book Conspiracy Theorists Will Never Read.

Author: Muertos
Date: Jun 16, 2011 at 02:42

By Muertos (

This blog was originally published here.

Just the other day I finished reading Lawrence Wright's book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006). I've been meaning to read this book, for which Wright won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, since it came out but my schedule (which is very heavy on reading) only just lightened up enough for me to get through it. The Looming Tower is an extremely impressive book, one which probably deserved to win the Pulitzer, and it's required reading for anyone with an interest in 9/11, terrorism, Al-Qaeda or the modern history of the Middle East in general. What is particularly interesting about this book, at least from my perspective, is what it can tell us about the ubiquitous and very hard-to-eradicate conspiracy theories that continue to linger on about September 11, now nearly ten years after its occurrence.

The Looming Tower is not about 9/11 conspiracy theories. It's only tangentially about 9/11 itself; the event, while the narrative climax of the book, is only briefly described in the second-to-last chapter. Its focus is on the origins and rise of Al-Qaeda as well as a semi-biography of its (thankfully) deceased leader, Osama bin Laden. However, what The Looming Tower does―without expressly setting out to―is demonstrate just how far removed from reality "9/11 Truth" theories really are. The Looming Tower is an exhaustive study of the background of the 9/11 event and what led up to it. This background is totally missing from conspiracy theorists' shallow views of the 9/11 attacks, but it is key to any rational person who wishes to understand why Osama and his group attacked us, what they hoped to accomplish, and―crucially―why the United States was caught blindsided on that fateful day.

Indeed, although it was not conceived as a piece to debunk the ridiculous conspiracy theories still pushed by 9/11 Twoofers (I call them that to emphasize that they believe in woo, or irrational and unsupportable things), The Looming Tower offers some excellent rejoinders to some of the Twoofers' most oft-repeated memes. I'll deal with a few in this blog.

1. "Al-Qaeda doesn't really exist!"

Twoofers see 9/11 as a comparatively simple event: a bunch of evil people, usually members of the Bush administration, Israeli intelligence services or "the Illuminati," decided to blow up the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon and blame the attack on a terrorist group called Al-Qaeda. This simple narrative becomes much less complicated if the Twoofers can assert, as many do, that Al-Qaeda doesn't really exist and is a figment of the conspirators' imagination  or some sort of propaganda stunt. Another especially ludicrous assertion is that Al-Qaeda doesn't exist because supposedly the words "al qaeda" mean "the toilet" in Arabic and no terrorist group would name itself after a toilet. I'm not kidding, some Twoofers actually make this claimThe Looming Tower shuts down this asinine supposition right off the bat.

Al-Qaeda very much exists, and its history is extremely complicated―reflecting a level of historical, political and religious complexity that Twoofers generally cannot perceive. Wright traces the development of the group from its intellectual and political roots in Islamist thought (note: Islamist is not synonymous with Islamic) and particularly the role of Egyptian political dissidents who, beginning in the 1940s, became increasingly unsatisfied with what they viewed as the corrupt secularism of a series of Egyptian governments, from King Farouk to General Nasser and eventually to Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak. Indeed Egypt, not Afghanistan, was the real cradle of Al-Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden was merely the last and most radical of a long line of Islamists who called for the unity of Islamic countries along strict religious lines and who ultimately came to blame the problems of the Middle East on external enemies―at first Israel but increasingly the United States. In tracing this progression Wright relies upon the written words of various Islamist figures themselves, interviews with people who knew them and contemporary news articles stretching back to the 1940s. It would be extremely difficult to fake these sources. It's especially interesting that very few of the sources Wright relies on were produced by the U.S. government, thus undermining one of the Twoofers' blanket assertions, that everything we supposedly know about Al-Qaeda is what the evil government has told us. Just browsing Wright's many pages of notes and his extensive bibliography shows that there aren't many government sources at all. Hmm, could it be because the existence and history of Al-Qaeda is well-documented independently of government say-so?

2. "Osama bin Laden is/was a CIA agent in the 1980s [or beyond.]"

This is one of the most common misconceptions about bin Laden, and it's not limited to conspiracy theorists―many people I know who clearly do not believe that 9/11 was an "inside job" still repeat the claim that Osama was a CIA agent as if it was true. It isn't. Not only does everything we know about bin Laden's philosophy, theology, personality and political orientation indicate that the last thing he would ever have done was work for an American intelligence agency, but in fact American intelligence had never even heard of bin Laden until years after the Afghan-Soviet War of the 1980s was over. Based on the history of bin Laden in the Afghan war presented in The Looming Tower, it is extremely difficult to make a case that he was ever any type of Western intelligence asset, much less a CIA stooge.

The myth that bin Laden worked for the CIA is born out of conflation and reduction from a few key facts. It is clearly true that the CIA and the U.S. government funded and armed the Afghan rebels who were fighting the Soviets, who invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up a tottering Marxist client state. It is also clearly true that bin Laden and other Islamists, such as Al-Zawahiri, went to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight the Soviets alongside the mujahedin (the Afghan resistance). However, the mujahedin was not monolithic, and just because bin Laden was supposedly on "our side" doesn't mean the CIA funded him or knew anything about him. In fact The Looming Tower makes the case that bin Laden and his Arabic friends (Afghans are not Arabs) were small fries in the Afghan insurgency. They only took part in a few battles against the Soviets, one of which was a major defeat, and these foreign fighters cannot be credited with turning the tide of the war. The vast majority of rebel activity was directed and carried out by indigenous Afghan groups who were receiving Western aid that was funneled through Pakistan's ISI intelligence service. Bin Laden and his friends were much more of an annoyance to the mujahedin than a help. The idea that bin Laden would have been on the CIA payroll is utterly laughable.

Furthermore, what would bin Laden have stood to gain? In the 1980s Osama bin Laden was quite wealthy, one of many sons of Mohammed bin Laden, an engineer and contractor who literally built modern Saudi Arabia and was one of the Saudi royal family's closest friends. (Mohammen bin Laden, who died in the early 1960s, had nothing to do with terrorism or Islamist ideology). Osama brought his own money to Afghanistan and wanted to use it to fund jihad against the Soviets. He could buy his own guns from the Pakistanis, and wouldn't have needed to get them from the CIA. A supposed alliance between bin Laden and the CIA doesn't make sense from the CIA's standpoint either. By the time the war ended in 1989 bin Laden was barely thirty years old, didn't have a lot of followers, and carried no clout among the mujahedin. It is difficult to see what the CIA would have stood to gain by funding him. Since there isn't an iota of evidence to suggest a bin Laden-CIA cooperation anyway, it is very safe to conclude that there never was any cooperation.

Bin Laden was not a CIA agent―not in 1987, 1997 or 2001. The claim simply isn't true.

3. "There is very little evidence linking Al-Qaeda or Osama to 9/11."

In the strange world of 9/11 Twoofers, the projection of blame for 9/11 onto Al-Qaeda is random and arbitrary, as if the conspirators fingered an innocent (or nonexistent) group and then sold a shoddy, flimsy case to the public about bin Laden's guilt. Twoofers love to present "evidence" supposedly showing how flimsy this case is. This ass-backwards reasoning leads to inveterate clangers such as various "sacred lists" argumentslike, "9/11 isn't even on Bin Laden's wanted poster!" or "The hijackers don't appear on the flight manifests!" I've blogged before about how silly these arguments are. In The Looming Tower, Wright makes clear not only that there was never any other suspect for who carried out the 9/11 attacks, but that the attacks were themselves an unmistakable calling card of Al-Qaeda's philosophy, tactics, objectives and modus operandi.

Indeed, Al-Qaeda's history is a long progression leading directly to 9/11. Wright lays out the evolution of Al-Qaeda's reach and how they built successively on each one of their successes and failures, as well as the successes and failures of other terrorists. For example, Al-Qaeda's obsession with the World Trade Center can be seen in the February 1993 bombing, which used truck bombs in the basements and was plotted, not by bin Laden directly, but by fellow Islamists who traveled in the Al-Qaeda orbit. In the early 1990s Al-Qaeda began the tactic of using suicide missions; the direct targeting of civilians, the lack of political demands and no direct claims of responsibility also evolved in this period. Bin Laden and his allies learned from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and essentially replicated it in suicide-mission form in the 1996 Khobar Towers and the 1998 embassy blasts in Tanzania and Kenya. (Astonishingly, there are Twoofers out there who have never even heard of these prior terrorist attacks). The idea to use planes grew out of several attacks proposed, but not carried out, in the 1990s in the Philippines as well as the "Millennium Plot," where Al-Qaeda planned to hijack planes and crash them into buildings on the U.S. West Coast on December 31, 1999. Khaled Shiekh Mohammed, an Al-Qaeda terrorist now in U.S. custody, put all the pieces together for what became the 9/11 attacks and sold the idea to bin Laden. It's no secret that Mohammed planned the attacks. He admitted it to an Arabic TV network in 2002 of his own free will. At the time he admitted it, Mohammed was a free man--the interview was given before he was captured by U.S. forces, which means that his confession was not extracted by torture, as 9/11 Twoofers often like to claim. The fact that bin Laden himself clearly and unequivocally confessed to being the mastermind behind the attacks merely rounds out what we already know: that Al-Qaeda did 9/11, beyond any shadow of doubt.

Furthermore, the analysis provided in The Looming Tower focuses on the uniqueness of Al-Qaeda and the singularity of its deadly vision. There was, quite simply, no other terrorist group in the entire world that could have carried out the 9/11 attacks. Suicide attacks have been used by Palestinian terrorists since the 1990s on a small scale, but before 9/11 no other terrorist group in the world had attempted to utilize suicide bombs on such a large scale--but Al-Qaeda had done so four times (the attacks mentioned in the above paragraph as well as the USS Cole attack in Yemen in October 2000). No other terrorist group in the world had sleeper agents inside the United States--but Al-Qaeda did, and one of them, Zacarias Moussaoui, was in jail in the U.S. at the time of the attacks. No other terrorist group in the world had tried to attack the World Trade Center--but Al-Qaeda and its allies did, in 1993. Most tellingly, no other terrorist group had agents training at U.S. flight schools in the summer of 2001--but Al-Qaeda did, and U.S. intelligence services were following up those leads (quite poorly) even before the attacks took place.

From the moment the 9/11 attacks occurred there simply were no credible suspects other than Al-Qaeda. The investigations that occurred within days after the attacks--not four years, as Twoofers claim when they throw stones at the 9/11 Commission Report, but within days--confirmed beyond all doubt the suspicions that everybody had at the moment the attacks took place. Some of these immediate investigations are detailed inThe Looming Tower. Wright describes an interview between an FBI investigator and a Yemeni terrorist named Abu Jandal, three days after the attacks, in which Jandal admitted Al-Qaeda was responsible. This confession was not brought out under torture either. The long road to 9/11 was so unmistakable that it took merely a few confirmations after the attacks to confirm responsibility.

Twoofers' claims that there is little evidence linking Al-Qaeda to 9/11 is a toxic mixture of willful blindness and outright falsehood. You can't come away from The Looming Tower with any other impression.

4. "The U.S. government knew about the attacks in advance but let them happen anyway."

Most Twoofers subscribe to a conspiracy theory we call MIHOP--Made It Happen On Purpose, meaning they believe the attacks were deliberately carried out by someone else and blamed on Al-Qaeda who was wholly innocent. A minority of Twoofers subscribe to LIHOP--Let It Happen On Purpose, which means that they concede Al-Qaeda did it, but that the U.S. government deliberately allowed it to happen. Sometimes conspiracy theorists who have been brutally refuted by the mountains of evidence linking Al-Qaeda to the attacks will retreat to a LIHOP position as a last resort, or they'll throw it as a sop to debunkers because they think (erroneously) that it sounds more reasonable. LIHOP is definitely a minority position and not the desired one in Twoofer orthodoxy, so I'm not sure belief in it is really very strong, but you do hear it from time to time.

The Looming Tower puts LIHOP theories to bed too. Wright's book is not just a history of Al-Qaeda, but it also chronicles the U.S. government's efforts to respond to the threats emerging in the late 1990s as bin Laden began to ramp up his activities. The picture that the reader gets is one of incompetence, bureaucratic infighting, and failure to think creatively. If the counterterrorism bodies of the U.S. government, especially the FBI and the CIA, had been functioning properly, we might have been able to prevent the 9/11 attacks, if we were lucky. They weren't functioning, and we weren't lucky. The Looming Tower explains how agencies used intelligence as bargaining chips or even weapons against one another and how the rigid structures of investigation and response prevented people from taking action to follow up leads that could conceivably have led to the plot being discovered. Not surprisingly, that the counterterrorism arm of the government was fatally broken in 2001 was exactly the same conclusion that the 9/11 Commission came to. You don't hear Twoofers talk very much about that conclusion.

The reason LIHOP doesn't work is because it presumes that these agencies functioned perfectly, or at least well enough to detect the 9/11 plot before it happened, and then that some authority from on high (who? President Bush? Condi Rice?) decreed that nothing would be done about it. If this was true, the evidence that Wright describes of bureaucratic infighting and inertia, the leads not followed, and the advice of far-seeing agents not being implemented would all have to be false. Either the FBI and the CIA really did ferret out the plot and were overruled, or somebody else (who?) figured it out without the FBI and the CIA knowing about it and communicated that knowledge to whoever made the decision to let it go forward. The evidence Wright presents are totally inconsistent with both of those scenarios.

After reading The Looming Tower, I'm not convinced, frankly, that we could have discovered the plot beforehand in the detail that would have been necessary to foil it. Al-Qaeda functions through personal loyalty, family and clan affiliations, and trust. If you're an infiltrator, you can't buy your way in, and even if you share their philosophy they won't trust you just on that alone. This is the difference between gathering intelligence on a terrorist group such as this and spying on an established government, the Mafia or some other organization where money or ideological conviction are the main requirements for membership.

To foil a terrorist attack you must know where and exactly when it will take place, how it's going to be done, and who's going to do it. Unless you have a mole inside the organization itself, it's very difficult to piece all of that information together from external sources. Clearly the U.S. government could have done a much better job of that, and it's remotely possible that they might have gained a clear enough picture to be able to take some steps to prevent the attacks. But I doubt it. The LIHOP scenario is simply not logical, and Wright's look at how counterterrorism really functioned in the days before 9/11 underscores that conclusion.

5. "We don't (or can't) know what really happened on 9/11."

Some Twoofers--often those who don't want to admit they're Twoofers--will try to take an agnostic position about 9/11, and claim that debating what happened is pointless because "we can't ever know." The Looming Tower demolishes this idiocy too. We can know, and we do. It's all there.

We know who planned the attack. We know who came up with the idea. We know the evolution of the planners' thinking and strategies. We know their religious backgrounds and their political motivation. We know how they got to be in the positions that they were. We know how they financed the attacks. We know how they recruited those who carried them out. We know when and where they entered the United States. We know how, when and where the hijackers who had flight training received it, how the training was paid for and what they planned to do. For each and every one of the participants in 9/11, from Osama bin Laden down to Hani Hanjour, we know the personal histories that brought them to the point of committing this terrible act. We know all of these things, and it's all out there in the public domain--this information was not, as Twoofers believe, disseminated to us by government sources. We're not taking somebody's word for it. It's all there in Wright's text, in his footnotes and most importantly in his sources.

Indeed--what relevant facts about 9/11 don't we know? Honestly I can't think of any.

The assertion that "we don't know what really happened" is a dishonest claim from someone who either hasn't investigated the facts of 9/11, or, more likely, by someone who has investigated them but doesn't like what he or she found, so they'd rather just wish it away by claiming it doesn't exist. This is how Twoofers think, but it's not how rational people operate in the real world.

Why The Looming Tower will not convince a single conspiracy theorist to abandon their beliefs.

The Looming Tower is not new. It was published five years ago. Lawrence Wright has gone on to other highly-acclaimed projects. This book is certainly not news. Why, then, did it fail to convince Twoofers that their beliefs about 9/11 being an "inside job" were nothing but paranoid delusions?

The answer is simple: the Twoofers didn't read it. Furthermore, they never will.

Conspiracy theorists are notoriously unwilling to do any real scholarly investigation into the subjects that they claim they're passionate about. If it's not on the Alex Jones show, in the movie Zeitgeist or (better yet) on YouTube, they don't want to have anything to do with it. They love spurious sources that can't be verified, which are mostly pseudoscientists and other conspiracy theorists. They hate academic researchers with a passion. Consequently, a book like The Looming Tower will never mean anything to them, even if it ever crosses their event horizon at all.

I've never heard of a single Twoofer who has read this book. My guess is that any Twoofers reading this article now will simply sneer and dismiss the book out of hand by saying something like, "Lawrence Wright is a disinfo agent" or "he's part of the mainstream media, so naturally he'd support the official story."

But actually read it? Actually engage with the sources to determine their veracity? Conduct some sort of logical analysis about what the book argues, whether it is plausible, and whether its argument is supported by the material Wright cites? That is asking far too much of your typical conspiracy theorist. No; it's easier to hunker down, bellow that anyone who disagrees with 9/11 conspiracy theories is a "shill" or a "sheeple," or a paid government agent, and simply pretend that the very professional, academic and scholarly analysis engaged in by a writer with Wright's credentials simply doesn't exist.

Herein lies the irony. Without even specifically addressing a single 9/11 conspiracy theory, The Looming Tower demonstrates that all of those theories lie completely beyond the realm of reality or possibility. Therefore, the Twoofers will never acknowledge it. It does not exist in their world. And it's likely to stay that way.

Thanks for reading.

Herding Cats: How And Why Conspiracy Theorists Are Wrong About Experts and Academicians

Author: Muertos
Date: Nov 13, 2010 at 03:04

By Muertos (

Originally posted here.

It is a question that drives conspiracy theorists, and other traffickers in fringe beliefs, batty: "Why don't more experts and academicians agree with me?"

It's a fair question.  If a conspiracy theorist or other fringe believer, who is typically not an academician him or herself, has been convinced of something nutty--that 9/11 was an inside job, that Christianity is a false construct, that aliens visited the earth in ancient times, that global warming is a hoax, that colloidal silver cures cancer, etc.--it is difficult to understand why experts in various fields aren't convinced by the same "evidence."  Usually the answer in the conspiracy theorist's mind comes down to a dismissal of the value, independence, or honesty of experts and academicians: "They are all part of the Establishment.  The truth I believe in fundamentally challenges the Establishment.  Therefore, they're either unable to recognize that it's true, or afraid to endorse it."

This blog will explain why this position is incorrect, and even absurd.  I will do so by utilizing three case studies of fringe believers who can't get any legitimate experts to sign on to their theories: Acharya S./D.M. Murdock, who claims that Christianity is a hoax; Erich von Däniken, who promotes the "ancient astronaut" theory; and Steven Jones, who maintains that the World Trade Center towers were blown up on 9/11 by "controlled demolition."

<strong style="font-weight: bold;">1.  How Academia Really Works

First, the groundwork.  Conspiracy theorists and fringe believers generally think that academia and the world of experts is a small, close-knit, elitist club where an "official" orthodoxy is rigidly enforced and extreme peer pressure maintains order.  In this ivory tower that conspiracy theorists think academicians live in, the slightest deviation from the "official line" is a career-destroying move for any expert.  He or she will be blacklisted, unable to publish, drummed out of faculty departments and brutally ridiculed by his or her former colleagues.  In the world of conspiracy theorists and fringe believers, this orthodoxy holds fast even if the facts it is based on are demonstrably false--comparisons are often drawn to the geocentric view of astronomy that Copernicus challenged in the sixteenth century, or the (actually incorrect) assertion that "before Columbus, everyone thought the world was flat."

There's just one problem with this view.  It simply isn't true.

I am formerly a lawyer, but I now work in academia.  My colleagues and superiors are well-trained and respected historians.  They have put in years of research and are well-versed in the methodology of history in everything from medieval Japan to U.S. nuclear policy in the 1960s.  But getting them to agree on <em style="font-style: italic;">anything is impossible.

Academics have a reputation for being idiosyncratic and curmudgeonly.  Sometimes that is true.  Anyone who's ever attended a faculty meeting, though, knows immediately that trying to drive academicians in any particular direction is like trying to herd cats.  You just can't do it.  So the idea that there is some sort of rigid orthodoxy, especially one that's artificially imposed by a government or other "Establishment" actor, is simply laughable.

Furthermore, not only is the research of academicians <em style="font-style: italic;">not intended to reinforce any sort of "official line" on anything, but most of them actively<em style="font-style: italic;">seek to expand the boundaries of their field in new and previously undiscovered directions.  After all, being the pioneer of a new line of study ensures academic immortality.  Einstein is famous, and justly so, for being the first physicist to describe relativity.  Everyone's heard of Maynard Keynes because he pioneered a new type of economics.  Doing something new, different and revolutionary is every academician's dream.  They constantly seek new avenues of inquiry in all fields from science to sociology.  Closing yourself off to new ideas is the kiss of death for an academician.

But what is also the kiss of death--an even quicker and more final death--is to commit academic malpractice.  Academicians are, after all, professionals in their field.  They don't get there by ignoring the tenets on which their expertise is based.  If those tenets turn out to be flawed, part of the academician's job is to question and reexamine them.  But if the tenets are sound, ignoring them is, by definition, the mark of a bad expert.

Let's use two quick, simple examples.  Suppose I break my arm and go see a medical doctor.  How bones break, and how they heal, is clearly understood by medical science.  It is not inconceivable that in the future medical science may develop some technology to re-grow broken bones faster or in a more efficient and healthful way.  Perhaps, if I was lucky and willing to take a risk, my broken arm could be healed by such a revolutionary new method.  But that method would rest upon, and be consistent with, what's already known about how bones break and how they heal.  Whether the doctor puts my arm in a cast (the old-fashioned way) or grows me a new humerus with fancy stem cells (the revolutionary new way), my arm is still going to heal using the same biological processes as have been understood for a long time about how broken bones heal.

Now say, instead of going to a doctor for either an old-fashioned cast or a new-fangled cure, I see a doctor who promises that my bone will heal by doing nothing other than dabbling colloidal silver on it.  Perhaps the doctor has some arcane theory as to how colloidal silver re-grows bones.  Obviously my arm isn't going to heal.  Equally obviously, the doctor who prescribes colloidal silver for a broken arm is a quack.  Why?  Because colloidal silver as a treatment for broken bones does not rest upon, and does not comport with, anything that medical science knows about healing bones.  A doctor who prescribes colloidal silver, and nothing else, for broken bones isn't going to remain a doctor for long.  He'll be drummed out of the profession quickly because--no matter how fervently he may believe his theory about colloidal silver--he's committing malpractice.

Think of it this way: if colloidal silver really <em style="font-style: italic;">did work to heal broken bones, wouldn't medical science have at least <em style="font-style: italic;">some inkling of it?  Why would the quack know this and no legitimate doctor wouldn't?  Even if they couldn't explain how or why it works, wouldn't somebody in the medical profession be saying, "Hey, you know, I'm not sure how this colloidal silver works, but it appears to be effective"?  In short: if there was anything to the quack's theory, wouldn't someone <em style="font-style: italic;">other than the quack have said something about it?

This is an extreme example, but keep the principle in mind as we examine the following case studies.

<strong style="font-weight: bold;">2.  Acharya S./D.M. Murdock: Pseudohistorian.

"Acharya S." is the pen name of one D.M. Murdock, an author from Seattle whose claim to fame is the advancement of the "Christ myth theory:" basically the idea that Jesus never existed and Christianity is a hoax constructed by ancient political and religious leaders from various pagan practices, especially sun worship.  Murdock first advanced her theory in a 1999 self-published book <em style="font-style: italic;">The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold, which she has followed up with numerous books since then which all harp on the same theory.  Murdock/Acharya is well known to conspiracy theorists.  Her views on the supposed nonexistence of Christ were a cornerstone of Peter Joseph Merola's 2007 conspiracy theorist film <em style="font-style: italic;">Zeitgeist: The Movie, which itself spawned the Zeitgeist Movement, a movement whose main (but not officially acknowledged) goal is the dissemination of conspiracy theories.

Murdock is not really an academic in the classic sense.  She holds no advanced degrees.  She has a bachelor's degree in classics from Franklin &amp; Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and attended for a year an archaeological institute in Greece.  (cite)  As she passionately espouses on her website, she believes these credentials are sufficient to qualify her to rewrite the history of Judeo-Christian civilization.  (In fact, at the start of her passionate defense of her own credentials, she charges that any attempt to question her work based on her lack of them is an "ad hominem attack."  Conspiracy theorists love the words <em style="font-style: italic;">ad hominem).

Murdock believes Christ never existed and that evil power-hungry political and religious leaders thought him up, cribbing from Egyptian sun myths, the life of Buddha and other sources.  She gets there, as all pseudohistorians do, by cherry-picking sources and drawing very strained interpretations of ancient history and astronomy.  Her books are not peer-reviewed.  They are self-published through her own press, Stellar House Publishing.  So far as I can tell, Stellar House Publishing publishes no other authors other than Murdock.  Searching on JSTOR and other academic databases at my university, I couldn't even find a <em style="font-style: italic;">review of any of Murdock's books--not even to denounce them.  The legitimate academic community doesn't even care enough about Murdock to waste a page in some journal refuting her.

Yet, there are thousands of historians, archaeologists and researchers out there with advanced degrees in classics, ancient history, archaeology, and religious studies--degrees that Murdock does not have--and each and every one of them would <em style="font-style: italic;">love to have something new, cutting-edge and revolutionary to write about.  Strangely, not one of them is writing about what Murdock is writing about.  No dissertations or research theses are being churned out of the Notre Dame or Berkeley history departments that even <em style="font-style: italic;">remotely comport with Murdock's theories.  With as desperate as academics are for cutting-edge stuff, you'd think that one of them would have found her by now, or would at least be nibbling at the edges of the body of work she claims to have interpreted correctly.  But they aren't.  Why?  Because to advance the "Christ conspiracy" theory is academic malpractice.  Why is it malpractice?  Because it isn't true.

Murdock and the <em style="font-style: italic;">Zeitgeist conspiracy theorists would have you believe that the reason legitimate academia pays no attention to her is because her theories are "too radical" and violate the orthodoxy of academic study in ancient history, or because it's somehow "taboo" to claim that Christ never existed or isn't holy.  One need not remind Murdock and the Zeitgeisters that there are more than just Christians researching ancient history.  Learned universities in the Islamic world and in Asia employ historians, archaeologists and researchers every bit as competent as the ones in the West.  Strangely those people--who, being Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Shintos or atheists, certainly have no personal or professional attachment to the idea of Christ--haven't picked up on Murdock's theories either.

So the idea of Christ not existing is <em style="font-style: italic;">so taboo that the devout Muslim head of the history department at the University of Cairo is quaking in his boots to take on the topic?  Who's not going to publish <em style="font-style: italic;">him for taking that stance?  Who's not going to give <em style="font-style: italic;">him a grant for doing that sort of research?

There must, therefore, be another reason why no one in the academic community is talking about Murdock's ideas.  You don't have to look hard to find it: they're not talking about her ideas because her ideas have no factual merit.  They're so obviously identifiable as false, the unvetted work of an amateur, that even the devoutly Muslim head of the history department at the University of Cairo wouldn't touch them.  <em style="font-style: italic;">Any academic advancing them would be advancing a falsehood.  If they weren't false, somebody <em style="font-style: italic;">other than Murdock would be working on them.  Just as if colloidal silver cured broken bones, somebody legitimate within the medical science field would be working on it--somebody, somewhere, at some institution.

Because the total academic indifference to Acharya S. cannot be explained by anything <em style="font-style: italic;">other than the notion that her ideas and research are so wrong as to constitute academic malpractice to assert them, it is entirely legitimate and appropriate to dismiss them.  Acharya S. isn't ignored by the academic community because her work violates some "taboo."  Even if that were the case--and remember I told you that academia doesn't work that way anyway--ancient historians and archaeologists would be writing article after article dismissing her.  Acharya S. is ignored by the academic community because her theories are ridiculous.  She's the classic example of a pseudohistorian.

Acharya S. has a lot of supporters, especially conspiracy theorists in the Zeitgeist Movement.  I will probably get hate mail regarding this blog to the effect of, "You haven't debunked anything!  You haven't disproven a <em style="font-style: italic;">single claim of Acharya S.!"  This criticism is asinine and betrays the fundamental misunderstanding by conspiracy theorists such as Zeitgeisters of the academic process.  <em style="font-style: italic;">In academia, someone's assertions are not judged on a "true unless proven otherwise" standard.  In fact, it's exactly the opposite.  Your assertions are judged to be a tissue of lies until they've been thoroughly vetted by the peer-review process.  This is why graduate students have to defend their dissertations.  You're judged to be a liar until you prove you are correct.

The question, therefore, is not, what does Acharya S. get wrong, but what does she get <em style="font-style: italic;">right? The burden of proof is on her to show that her theories hold any water.  She cannot meet that burden.  Until she can, no one is obligated to give her the time of day.

<strong style="font-weight: bold;">3.  Erich von Däniken: Pseudohistorian and Pseudoarchaeologist.

D.M. Murdock is one in a long line of pseudohistorians whose work strikes a chord with the public but who is shunned by the academic community.  The granddaddy of them all is Swiss author Erich von Däniken, whose famous 1968 book <em style="font-style: italic;">Chariots of the Gods? proposed the idea that extraterrestrials visited Earth in prehistoric times, helping primitive humans build such things as Stonehenge or the Nazca Lines.  <em style="font-style: italic;">Chariots of the Gods? was a runaway bestseller and is still in print.  The "ancient astronauts" idea has achieved such cultural resonance that it has become a central plot element of many books and movies, most notably the 2008 film <em style="font-style: italic;">Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The most amazing thing about von Däniken is that he's taken as "seriously" as he is.  His credentials are even thinner than D.M. Murdock's--in researching this blog I looked for some notation of any professional degrees held by von Däniken and have found nothing.  Even his own homepage doesn't list any degrees.  You would think if he was trained, for instance, as an archaeologist or an Egyptologist he'd trumpet it from the rooftops.  So we can assume, unless someone can correct me, that von Däniken has no degrees in what he claims to specialize in.

As for his claims themselves, they scarcely need refutation here.  (If you want refutation try this and this).  Suffice it to say that von Däniken's theories rest upon shallow and ethnocentric assumptions about ancient peoples: that, simply because they were ancient and more "backwards" than we, they couldn't have built the pyramids or Stonehenge with the technology they possessed.  Of course this is ridiculous.  They could, and they did.  The belief that modern technology is the <em style="font-style: italic;">sina qua non of civilization is a dangerous ideology called "high modernism," a viewpoint that I blogged on at length earlier (here).  The Egyptians were no less brilliant architects and engineers than the people who built the World Trade Centers.  In fact they may have been considerably more so.  Von Däniken's reasoning is shallow and simply silly.

Yet he sells books.  Still, more than 40 years later.  Again think of the quack doctor and his colloidal silver.  If von Däniken had a point, wouldn't someone <em style="font-style: italic;">other than von Däniken be making it?  If there really <em style="font-style: italic;">was any evidence of "ancient astronauts," wouldn't Carl Sagan, the founder of Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), have been interested in that?  Wouldn't it have validated his entire life's ambition, which was to find evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence?  In fact Sagan denounced von Däniken publicly and notoriously.  If von Däniken's theories had <em style="font-style: italic;">anycredibility, Sagan could have built his career on bringing them into the mainstream.  He didn't.  Ever wonder why that is?

<strong style="font-weight: bold;">4.  Steven Jones: Pseudoscientist.

Our final case study involves Steven E. Jones, the former Brigham Young University physicist who had, not one, but <em style="font-style: italic;">two high-profile flirtations with pseudoscience, the latter resulting in the end of his career.  If you troll in the conspiracy underground you've no doubt heard of Jones.  He's one of only two people with significant scientific degrees who are out there claiming that 9/11 was an inside job.  The other, for the record, believes the towers were destroyed by super duper beam weapons from outer space.

Jones, unlike Murdock and von Däniken, at least <em style="font-style: italic;">was a real academic.  He earned a Ph.D. in physics from Vanderbilt University and once worked at the Stanford Linear Accelerator.  Long before 9/11, though, he got into a bit of trouble by claiming he and some other BYU professors had observed "muon-catalyzed fusion"--popularly known as cold fusion.  Whether or not cold fusion is a scientific possibility, the bottom line was that Jones's experiments couldn't be replicated, although other scientists later discovered why they thought Jones came to the conclusions that he did.  Jones would not be known as a pseudoscientist if he'd left it at this, though he probably wishes he could have.

Then, 12 years after the cold fusion controversy, Osama bin Laden's hijackers attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  Jones became the poster boy for the 9/11 Truth movement when he began advocating for the "controlled demolition" hypothesis and then later published a paper claiming he found "iron microspheres" in paint chips from the World Trade Center, which he convinced himself was somehow evidence of controlled demolition.  What happened?  BYU cashiered him in 2006.

You can read all about why Jones's theories are wrong here.  That's not the point of this blog.  Note, however, that Jones's paper was not published in a peer-reviewed journal--he paid $800 to have it published in an obscure Korean journal that does not use traditional peer-review processes--and that his thesis has been denounced by other scientists who (curiously) have <em style="font-style: italic;">not been canned from their universities.  Here we have the same pattern as Acharya S. and Erich von Däniken: either academic indifference, or active refutation by legitimate academics.  But nowhere is there the hint of legitimate academia finding any support for Jones's theories.

Conspiracy theorists claim that academics are afraid to support Jones, even though he is supposedly right, because they fear some sort of official retribution.  Once more this assumption is revealed as silly when you think of who actually comprises academic departments.  Conspiracy theorists would have you believe that scientists exist in total lockstep with government orthodoxy, and any deviation from the "official line" brings horrible consequences.  (Some even claim what happened to Jones is an example of those horrible consequences--as if somehow George W. Bush or whoever is supposed to have blown up the WTC towers called the BYU faculty and told them to can Jones.  Yeah, right).  If 9/11 <em style="font-style: italic;">was an inside job, though--meaning, if Jones's theory had any validity--the scientist(s) who exposed it would be lauded as national heroes and brave patriots.  Why would they have any interest in helping the government cover up the murder of 3,000 innocent people?  In all of academia there isn't <em style="font-style: italic;">one scientist--excepting Steven Jones--who has one ounce of decency or morality?  Not <em style="font-style: italic;">one?

Steven Jones's own behavior demonstrates the fallacy of this argument.  We can assume that Steven Jones honestly believes the towers were brought down by controlled demolition.  Look how tenaciously <em style="font-style: italic;">he defends the conspiracy theory.  Despite years of being debunked, Jones continues to hammer his tinfoil hat theories.  He seems to have no problem going against "orthodoxy," so why should other academicians?  In order for the conspiracy theorists' conception of academia to be true, Jones must be, by definition, qualitatively different in ethics, morality and professional courage than every other physicist in the United States (if not the world).  If you assume that Jones's theories are actually true, he is automatically <em style="font-style: italic;">more moral, ethical and courageous than every single other physicist in the world.  If you accept Jones's theory as fact you have no choice but to believe this no matter how arrogant it sounds.  What, then, sets Jones apart from all his other colleagues--the "sheeple" who are supposedly so cowed by this official academic orthodoxy that they'll avoid speaking out against a factually untrue story and a monstrously unjust act of murder?  Is Steven Jones <em style="font-style: italic;">that different, in courage and moral character, from all of his other colleagues?

He may believe he is--and 9/11 Truthers would certainly maintain that he is--but I venture to say that what's different about Jones as opposed to his colleagues isn't the same thing.  The difference is this: all of them realize he's wrong, but he doesn't.  For whatever reason he can't see the scientific, logical and empirical flaws in his ridiculous theory.  He is the outlier--whereas, to hear conspiracy theorists tell it, Jones is the only one who's right and <em style="font-style: italic;">every other physicist in the world is wrong.  Yes, <em style="font-style: italic;">every other one.

Let's assume there are 8 million physicists in the world total.  Which is more likely?  That Steven Jones is factually correct and more morally and professionally courageous than 7,999,999 of his colleagues?  Or that <em style="font-style: italic;">Jones is the one that's wrong, and the 7,999,999 physicists who don't believe in controlled demolition have the better argument?

What's really happening here is very clear.  Jones got drummed out of the profession because he committed academic malpractice.  None of his colleagues want to follow him out on that limb, not because they're afraid of peer pressure or the big bad government, but because they can't get behind a demonstrably false theory.  Jones is wrong.  The academics who shun him are right.

<strong style="font-weight: bold;">Conclusion

The real world of academics and experts bears little resemblance to the one imagined by conspiracy theorists and fringe believers.  In reality there is no rigid orthodoxy, no brutal peer pressure to conform to false realities, no swift and terrible retribution for standing up against an arbitrary officially-derived "party line."  Academics hunger for something new, different and paradigm-shifting.  If there was any possible chance that the routes of inquiry urged on them by conspiracy theorists and fringe believers had any validity, academics would jump all over it in an attempt to be the first to expand the boundaries of their own discipline, and thus attain academic and intellectual immortality.

In our world of increasingly specialized functions and mountains of information, expert opinion <em style="font-style: italic;">does matter.  Academics exist for a reason.  Advanced degrees are difficult and expensive to get on purpose, to make sure that the people who obtain them have what it takes to do good work in their respective fields.  Conspiracy theorists and fringe believers see none of this.  To them, amateur understanding is on par with, or even superior to, expert opinion.  The divinity of Christ can be disproven by a self-published author from Seattle.  A Swiss ufologist with no expert training can rewrite all of human history.  A screwy physicist who fell for a conspiracy theory can be morally and ethically superior to every other one of his colleagues on the planet.

That is the Bizarro world in which conspiracy theorists dwell.  They may take great comfort in their delusions, but the real world should be left to the experts.  It just might be that they're experts for a reason.

Seeing Like a State: Why Zeitgeist's World-Changing Visions Are A Recipe For Disaster

Author: Muertos
Date: Oct 24, 2010 at 17:09

By Muertos

Originally posted on Muertos's blog (link)

I've blogged several times before about the Zeitgeist Movement.  This bizarre organization, based almost exclusively on the Internet and spawned from the <em style="font-style: italic;">Zeitgeist series of Internet films, is primarily aimed at spreading conspiracy theories, but another objective of the movement is to implement a total top-down reordering of society along the lines of a neo-utopian vision called the Venus Project.  In this blog I'm not going to take on the conspiracy aspects of the Zeitgeist Movement, because I think I've covered that topic well already.  Instead, I'm going to discuss their utopian ideology, a subject which hasn't interested me much in the past; however, a book I read recently did a fantastic job of articulating and fleshing out the doubts I always had about the Zeitgeisters' ambitious plans for humanity's future.  Therefore, in this blog I intend to explain why the Zeitgeist Movement/Venus Project's utopian vision for the future of humanity is, at best, doomed never to get off the ground, and at worst is a recipe for a catastrophe that could potentially claim millions of lives.

First, the basic background.  In the 1970s Jacque Fresco, who bills himself as an "industrial designer," came up with what he thought was a great idea for human progress: let's all live in specially-designed circular cities and put computers in charge of the world to distribute resources according to the scientific method.  Since the seventies, and particularly since Fresco fell in with <em style="font-style: italic;">Zeitgeist director and conspiracy theorist Peter Joseph Merola, Fresco and his followers have championed what they call a "resource-based economy" (RBE).  We'll all be happier, say Merola and Fresco, abolishing our horrible "money system" and living in an RBE.  All needs will be met, all wants pacified, and all desires fulfilled--by robots and computers.  It's difficult to find a group of utopians with bigger <em style="font-style: italic;">cajones than the Zeitgeist Movement.

In 1998 James C. Scott, a professor who specializes in agrarian studies with a sociological bent, published a ground-breaking book called <em style="font-style: italic;">Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed.  (You can find it on Amazon here).  This book, which commanded a great deal of attention from sociologists, agriculturalists, and historians, examines a few of the great social engineering disasters of the 20th century, including Stalin's forced collectivization in Russia in the 1930s and the Quixotic plan of a dictator in Tanzania in the 1970s to relocate most of his population to efficient, government-run farm villages.  In <em style="font-style: italic;">Seeing Like a State, Scott analyzes the causes of these failures, which are naturally complex but they can be boiled down to a few common elements.  The most important element is what Scott refers to as "high modernist ideology," which he defines thusly:
"[High modernism] is best conceived as a strong, one might even say muscle-bound, version of the self-confidence about scientific and technical progress, the expansion of production, the growing satisfaction of human needs, the mastery of nature (including human nature), and, above all, the rational design of social order commensurate with the scientific understanding of natural laws.  It originated, of course, in the West, as a by-product of unprecedented progress in science and technology."

This definition describes the Zeitgeist Movement/Venus Project perfectly.  The departure point of Zeitgeisters' belief system--aside from conspiracy theories, of course--is the assumption that all the material needs of the world's people can be provided at our current level of technology, if only we change our social and economic system to allow it.  Zeitgeisters embody Scott's definition of high modernist ideology in several interesting ways.  First, there is the blind and virtually unquestioning acceptance of the concept of superabundance, which Zeitgeisters believe is technologically created.  Second, Zeitgeisters' ideology explicitly refers to the "scientific method," which they say is the bedrock of how their system will organize the world.  Thirdly, they insist that human nature is mutable and will be subordinated to ideology in an RBE order.  Finally, their visions--lavishly illustrated in artist's depictions of circular cities and YouTube videos--unabashedly wallow in technological and aesthetic fetishism.  Any one of their designs could have been torn from a sketchbook from the 1930s film <em style="font-style: italic;">Things To Come, depicting a utopian future world where denizens of an automated city are pampered by ubiquitous machinery.

Scott's analysis, however, does not bode well for high modernist projects.  The thesis of <em style="font-style: italic;">Seeing Like a State is that high modernist ideology ignores the complexity, expansiveness, and functional chaos of systems and social structures that develop organically--such as our "money system" that Zeitgeisters want to abolish.  In simpler terms, high modernist projects are doomed to fail because they are profoundly naïve about human behavior, institutions and culture.  High modernists simply assume that people and their behaviors can be neatly crammed into well-ordered boxes that will operate efficiently.  Their contempt for the idea of human nature is a by-product of this myopia.  History shows, however, that these types of projects <em style="font-style: italic;">always fail.  When a high modernist project is undertaken by an authoritarian state, such as the Soviet Union under Stalin, the zeal to achieve unrealistic goals combined with the state's increasing efforts to streamline the process often results in death and suffering on a colossal scale.

Let's take an example, one that doesn't involve mass murder: the city of Brasília.  In the 1950s, the government of Brazil was eager to forge a totally new capital city, one that would be functional, efficient, beautiful and above all ultra-modern.  The government cleared a tract of jungle in the interior and went right to work, utilizing the best city planners who envisioned broad open squares, spacious apartment buildings, and easy access of the city's residents (mostly government bureaucrats) to places of work as well as cultural facilities.  When it opened in 1960, Brasília was the most modern and remarkable city on the globe.

Sounds great, right?  Well, not so much.  In fact Brasília was a dismal failure.  No one congregates in the broad open squares because there's nothing to do there--no shops, no places of social interaction, no <em style="font-style: italic;">reason to go there other than to <em style="font-style: italic;">be there.  Everyone hates the apartment buildings because they're bland, blocky and utterly devoid of any sort of character.  Traffic is a nightmare because the streets are all highways designed for a single purpose: to take people from their homes to workplaces.  There are no side streets, no neighborhoods, none of the character of an urban city.  As a result, Brasília's residents are frustrated and depressed, and the place has the reputation of being bleak and oppressive, like Batman's Gotham City if it were designed by Ayn Rand's fictional architect Howard Roarke.  High modernist planning certainly failed the people of Brasília.

Another and more sinister example: Stalin's forced collectivization.  In the late 1920s, Stalin wanted to modernize the Soviet Union and streamline its process of agricultural production, thus ending Russia's age-old problems of feeding itself.  (He also wanted to crush the peasant class, but that's beside the point).  His high modernism was administrative in nature, involving lumping all the peasants in a village together in one commune with specific production quotas.  The project was a disaster on a virtually genocidal scale.  Millions of people starved to death between 1929 and 1934, and when Stalin's quotas weren't met, brutal repression and crackdown were the result.  The Soviet state was ideologically incapable of recognizing that its high modernist ideology simply couldn't replace the culture, micro-economies and behavior patterns of Russian peasants.  In a conflict between those peasants and ideology, the peasants paid the price.  The soil of Russia today is littered with their bones.

What does this all have to do with the Zeitgeist Movement?  Just this: <em style="font-style: italic;">Zeitgeist wants the entire human race to adopt a high modernist ideology regarding the production and distribution of resources. Peter Merola's and Jacque Fresco's plans for the future are far grander than Brasília or even the collectivization of Stalin's peasant masses.  Zeitgeisters demand nothing less than radical transformation of the <em style="font-style: italic;">entire earth.  Not that this goal will ever come even remotely within their reach, but Scott's book very clearly explains why the goal itself is naïve, misguided and ultimately dangerous.  It's the ultimate pinnacle of high modernist folly, and would invariably collapse into a disaster so bloody and chaotic that it would make Stalin's forced collectivization look benign by comparison.

Scott explains how high modernist projects almost invariably tempt authoritarian measures in their implementation:
"First and foremost, high modernism implies a truly radical break with history and tradition....All human habits and practices that were inherited and hence not based on scientific reasoning--from the structure of the family and patterns of residence to moral values and forms of production--would have to be reexamined and redesigned...

The sources of this view are deeply authoritarian. If a planned social order is better than the accidental, irrational deposit of historical practice, two conclusions follow. Only those who have the scientific knowledge to discern and create this superior social order are fit to rule in the new age. Further, those who through retrograde ignorance refuse to yield to the new scientific plan need to be educated to its benefits or else swept aside."

If the Zeitgeisters ever got their way, this would be the inevitable result.  The change they envision for society is so massive, so sweeping and so total that the only way it could ever be implemented would be by force--probably by the force of a large authoritarian government or perhaps multi-national coalition.  To be fair, Zeitgeisters do not now advocate the use of force to achieve their Resource Based Economy, at least so far as I know.  Also, do not misunderstand me as stating that I think Zeitgeisters <em style="font-style: italic;">intend a bloody result to their designs; clearly they don't.  However, it's plain that the temptation to use force to achieve their goals lies on the other side of the inevitable realization that a Resource Based Economy isn't going to happen by itself and that it's not likely to be adopted voluntarily by significant sectors of the world's population.  As in Stalin's Russia, the ideology will inevitably be valued over the people who resist it, whether they resist willingly or by accident.  Zeitgeisters already operate with disturbing ease in the realm of "ends justify the means" arguments--just ask one why it's justifiable to push demonstrably false conspiracy theories in the service of talking up a Resource Based Economy and you will experience this phenomenon.

Even without the addition of an authoritarian implementation, the Zeitgeisters' RBE model is a recipe for mass suffering.  High modernist projects that attempt to tinker with peoples' basic means of food and sustenance are particularly dangerous, because even slight mistakes in the ideological model of distribution usually translate into starving bellies somewhere.  One can easily imagine the RBE model failing to supply food and necessities because the high modernists who thought it up have done so without regard to the way our organic and chaotic system of resource management--imperfect as it clearly is--actually works on the ground.  Zeitgeisters would be reluctant to undermine their own ideology by allowing the old "money system" economics to backstop their bold plans for fear that people would come to rely on the backstopping and that ultimately nothing would change.  Here again the temptation to ignore or rationalize mass suffering to avoid admitting ideological failure is probably irresistible.  Even without any nefarious designs, therefore, the Zeitgeist program for a better world is ominous.

High modernist projects fail because they fundamentally devalue organically-created social structures, and they invariably victimize people because this process of devaluation is, in itself, profoundly dehumanizing.  In high modernist schemes the residents of Brasília, the peasants of 1930s Russia or the farmers of Tanzania are reduced to nothing more than interchangeable cogs in a gigantic machine, designed by people who profess to know better and who demand compliance with their better way.  This is the essence of the Zeitgeist Movement's social vision for the future.  The pretty pictures of circular cities and neatly-trimmed parks and gardens look great in YouTube videos, but they do not show the profound suffering and staggering human cost that adopting such a lifestyle would necessarily entail.  They don't show those things because Zeitgeisters are fundamentally incapable of conceiving that their ideology <em style="font-style: italic;">could have that effect.  They're as blind as the overzealous architects, city planners and Soviet revolutionaries described in <em style="font-style: italic;">Seeing Like a State.  Given the colossal scale of Zeitgeist's designs, their dangerous naïvete far outstrips any of those examples.

Fortunately, in the real world we don't have to worry about Zeitgeisters implementing their designs, because they'll never get anywhere close to achieving them.  Zeitgeist is a fringe movement existing mostly on the Internet.  Oddly, its internal cohesion seems to owe more to its reliance on conspiracy theories than on any conscious unification behind the RBE concept (despite what many of its followers say to the contrary).  Not a single economist, sociologist or government official, to my knowledge, has associated him or herself with the Zeitgeist Movement.  The leader of the movement, Peter Joseph Merola, holds no position of power and isn't likely to in the future.  But it's worth thinking about why the Zeitgeist Movement's defective ideology, and other schemes like it that will invariably be proposed in the future, hold attraction for some people.  High modernist plans have been with us for a long time and will probably continue to be implemented in the future--and they will fail as spectacularly, and often as bloodily, as the past schemes detailed in <em style="font-style: italic;">Seeing Like a State.  What we can learn from these failures, and from Scott's book, is how to recognize these projects when some future politician, revolutionary or industrial designer proposes them and demands we follow them.  Analyzing the failure of such past schemes arms us with invaluable knowledge on how to resist future ones.  In that sense, <em style="font-style: italic;">Seeing Like a State is a very important book, and one that deserves to be read by anyone who, like the Zeitgeisters, dreams of a bold new future for humanity.  They may learn that the infinitesimal chances of success of such bold futures often come at an appalling and tragic human cost.

The Usual Retorts: Conspiracy Theorists' Top 10 Misconceptions of Debunkers

Author: Muertos
Date: Aug 11, 2010 at 23:36

By Muertos (

If there's one perennial truth in the world of conspiracy theories, it's this: nothing's ever new.  If you spend even a small amount of time pushing back against conspiracy theories, especially on the Internet, you'll notice very quickly that conspiracy theorists often respond to you with very similar arguments, and they usually make these arguments sound like they're making them for the first time.  Conspiracy theorists often have misconceptions--both innocent and sometimes deliberate--about people who don't share their belief systems, and especially about those who actively refute them.  The purpose of this blog is to expose the reader (whether he or she is a conspiracy theorist or not) to the most popular of these misconceptions, and to address them one by one.

As I said on a previous blog that also used this "top 10 arguments" format, at we don't stifle debate--in fact we like it.  However, because so much of dialogue with conspiracy theorists involves hearing and responding to points that have been made ad infinitum previously, often for years on end, there is some value in consolidating some of conspiracy theorists' top misconceptions about debunkers.  This blog is aimed primarily at people who may be fairly new to the world of conspiracy theories, or those who've begun to dip a toe into the waters of critical thinking and argument and want to have some pithy comebacks when a conspiracy theorist throws one of these shopworn clichés at you.  If that describes you, dig in!

The arguments that will be dealt with in this blog are the following:

1.  "You don't believe in Conspiracy Theory X, Y or Z?  You must love/support/never question the government, then!"

2.  "You don't believe in conspiracy theories because you've been conditioned to trust the mainstream media."

3.  "Debunkers simply ignore the evidence."

4.  "Debunkers are biased." and related "Debunkers are arrogant, always convinced they're right."

5.  "Debunkers ignore the fact that some conspiracy theories turn out to be true."

6.  "You believe everything is a coincidence!"  and related "If I'm a conspiracy theorist, you must be a coincidence theorist!"

7.  "So, you don't believe there is corruption in government/business/the world?"

8.  "I'm not a conspiracy theorist!  You are a conspiracy theorist!"

9.  "You don't believe in conspiracy theories because you've been brainwashed by vaccines/fluoridated water/RFID chips."

10.  "You debunk conspiracies because you're a paid disinformation agent."

Taking each one of these misconceptions in turn:

1.  "You don't believe in Conspiracy Theory X, Y or Z?  You must love/support/never question the government, then!"

This is without a doubt the number one misconception that conspiracy theorists harbor about debunkers, and it's one of their favorite comebacks.  Nearly every conspiracy theorist I've ever talked to has deployed this argument in one form or another.  9/11 Truthers particularly love it, since most of them believe at least one government (usually the U.S.'s, but sometimes Israel's) is responsible for the attacks, and anyone who defends what conspiracy theorists call the "official story" is automatically tarred as a mouthpiece for that evil, corrupt government.

The argument is invalid because it establishes a binary choice.  Either you believe the conspiracy theory 100%, or you believe the government 100%.  There is no in-between.  In the mind of a conspiracy theorist, it's not possible to question or oppose the government and also deny the validity of conspiracy theories accusing that government of wrongdoing; you're either enlightened or you're a shill.  I find this phenomenon interesting because it illustrates the shallowness of conspiracist thinking and also, in a subtle way, the attraction conspiracy theories have for their followers.  Conspiracy theorists like these theories because they separate a complicated world into black and white, good and evil, wrongdoers and the enlightened warriors.  Consequently, if you aren't willing to stand up and be counted with the enlightened warriors, you may as well cross over to the dark side.  There is no gray area.

The argument also illustrates a clear presupposition of the conspiracist crowd: that the government controls and dominates the information structure, and that the government is the ultimate source of all "official stories" used to explain events that conspiracy theorists question.  This is also a binary choice, dividing the information out there into two diametrically opposed camps, the "official story" and "the truth," again brooking no possibility of information falling into any other category.  Reality is that the government, at least in the western world, really doesn't dominate the information structure, and government is rarely the ultimate source of what happened on a given event.  It simply doesn't occur to conspiracy theorists that facts proving how a particular event, such as 9/11, actually happened can be ascertained from non-governmental, non-"official" sources.

On 9/11, for instance, the government was not the source of the facts we know about that day.  Thousands of people saw with their own eyes the planes strike the towers.  Media outlets from all over the world--including the non-western world--extensively documented what happened.  I remember on 9/11 telephone exchanges and web servers crashed repeatedly because so many people were talking about what happened.  The details that emerged about what happened, especially the identity of the terrorists and their Al-Qaeda affiliations, were in most cases initially reported by non-governmental sources, and in all cases were subsequently verified by media reporting unconnected to governmental investigations.  (For example, 9/11 Truthers routinely ignore the fact that Al-Jazeera, the largest news network in the Islamic world, investigated 9/11 extensively, even going so far as to interview the planners and perpetrators on a documentary program--there's no way the U.S. government could have had any involvement with this).  Yet, to be asked the question, "Well, you must never question the government, then, do you?" means that conspiracists view an event like 9/11 as having been essentially inexplicable at the moment of its occurrence, and then a sole and unified voice of authority pronounced from on high what the expected interpretation was to be.  In reality that's not how it happened.

Debunkers question governmental actions all the time.  Personally I believe the war in Iraq was a terrible mistake.  I believe the PATRIOT Act should be repealed.  I believe there's a case for charging George W. Bush with war crimes.  Those are my personal beliefs.  Yet I am a noted and vociferous critic of 9/11 conspiracy theories.  I'm not atypical either.  One of the best debunkers in America, Vincent Bugliosi, who wrote the all-time best book on the Kennedy assassination which demolishes all the conspiracy theories, went so far as to write a book stating his view that George W. Bush is guilty of murder as a result of the Iraq War.  So to claim that "debunkers always love the government" or "debunkers never question the government" is absurd and insulting.

2.  "You don't believe in conspiracy theories because you've been conditioned to trust the mainstream media."

This is a species of what I call the Sheeple Argument.  Conspiracy theorists typically have a great deal of contempt for society at large, and assume that most people are complacent zombies with no more intellectual capacity than sheep being led to an abattoir, hence the derisive term "sheeple."  The "brainwashed by mainstream media" trope is similar to the "you always trust the government" line, but goes a step further by asserting obliquely that major media outlets such as cable news channels, wire services and newspapers are also controlled by the government or the powers that be, and are little more than uncritical loudspeakers carpet-bombing the public with official pronouncements that obscure "what really happened."

This Sheeple Argument assumes many forms.  I had a conspiracy theorist tell me that I'm incapable of believing anything I didn't see on CNN, despite the fact that I don't even watch CNN; I had another one predict that I would eventually sign on to 9/11 Truth when the conspiracy theory was presented to me "by someone you trust."  A perennial favorite is when conspiracy theorists cite statistics like the number of people who vote for American Idol celebrities versus those who profess to care about national or international issues.  (This assumes that someone who cares about international issues can't also watch American Idol).

Like argument #1, the departure point for this belief is the assumption that people are incapable of ascertaining facts, of filtering good information from bad, or from distinguishing credible sources from non-credible ones.  Both of these arguments have at the core of their reasoning the certainty that it is the identity of the speaker as opposed to the content of the message that is determinative of peoples' beliefs.  I seriously doubt this is even close to being as true as conspiracy theorists believe it is.  Why, after all, do some people watch Fox News?  Is it because they trust Glenn Beck so completely--or could it be because they like the content of what Glenn Beck says, and thus expect him to frequently make statements that they like and agree with?  What would happen if Glenn Beck read one of Rachel Maddow's scripts on his show by mistake?  There would be a lot of complaints.  To hear conspiracy theorists tell it, if Glenn Beck says something, anything, his fans believe it unquestioningly.  I can't see Fox News viewers believing Rachel Maddow talking points simply because Glenn Beck says them (or vice-versa).

The "brainwashed by mainstream media" line is also at once a sour-grapes argument, and a breathtaking hypocrisy.  It's sour-grapes because conspiracy theorists, frustrated at being unable to get respectable large-audience media outlets to endorse nuttery like 9/11 Truth, NWO, ancient astronaut or Apollo moon hoax claims, lash out and deride those media outlets as tainted and untrustworthy, thus elevating fringe media like Alex Jones or Nexus Magazine to higher status.  It's hypocritical too because conspiracy theorists will seize upon any mainstream media report that they think supports their claims, and that particular media report will be treated as an unimpeachable "smoking gun."  A famous example is the brain-crushingly stupid claim that the 9/11 hijackers are still alive (we did an article on this subject), where Exhibit A for the Truthers is invariably a BBC news article reporting on mistaken identities in the early days of the 9/11 investigations.  For some reason, that BBC article is gospel truth, but yet BBC as a whole is "mainstream media" whose untrustworthy reporting is part and parcel of brainwashing the sheeple against conspiracy theories.

3.  "Debunkers simply ignore the evidence."

This argument is deployed in response to a debunker who brushes off any or all of the usually voluminous links to YouTube videos, quote mines, and links to stories on Prison Planet, Infowars or Above Top Secret in support of their conspiracy claims.  Further dismissal of such "evidence" will often elicit a sad shake of the head and a statement like, "There are none so blind as those who will not see," or some other cliché that attempts to paint the debunker as an arbitrary rejecter shooting from the hip to attack ideas he doesn't like.

What conspiracy theorists fail to recognize, however, is that, with extremely rare exceptions, there's nothing new under the sun.  Conspiracy theorists constantly rehash, re-package and re-broadcast the same old tired theories, often genuinely unaware of how old and tired they are.  9/11 theories are especially threadbare.  Almost all of the main conspiracy theories regarding 9/11 involve some sort of "controlled demolition" claim, which has been widely circulating at least since Thierry Meyssan's 2002 book 9-11: The Big Lie, and most likely before.  All of the usual bits of "evidence" pointing to a 9/11 conspiracy--squibs, Pentagon wreckage, free-fall claims, hijackers-still-alive, Willy Rodriguez, the "pull it" quote, etc.--were well-established gag lines in the 9/11 Truth movement no later than 2003.  Indeed, the only significant 9/11 theory that I'm aware of that's newer than 2005 is Dr. Judy Wood's ludicrous assertion that Star Trek-style beam weapons blew up the World Trade Center towers.  It's all been done, and it's all been debunked.  Repeatedly.

Of what utility is it, then, that Jesse Ventura gave an interview last week where he speculates (again) that 9/11 was a "controlled demolition?"  He's not presenting anything new.  Is a YouTube clip of Alex Jones warning, on last night's show, that we're all going to be herded into FEMA camps soon anything new?  He's been making that same claim for years.  Am I ignoring "evidence" by not watching the latest David Icke video?  I already know what David Icke has to say.  It's as crazy in 2010 as it was in 1991.  Nothing new under the sun.

Yet, to conspiracy theorists, every new video, every new Alex Jones film, every new Infowars story is freshly-minted "proof" of a conspiracy, even though it's just a new take on a very old theory.  Many conspiracy theorists we deal with on are quite young and have only recently fallen into the paranoid fold.  They probably don't even know who Thierry Meyssan is, or that Erich von Däniken has been pushing his ancient astronaut crap since at least 1968.  These days you can even run into Truthers who have never seen Loose Change because it was before their time.  So when someone today repeats the claim made in Loose Change that 9/11 was done to steal gold underneath the Twin Towers, a lot of conspiracy theorists think this is genuinely new.  They vomit up this "new" evidence to debunkers, and are puzzled why the brush-off is so quick.

In addition to this myopia, conspiracy theorists are prone to a technique called "slamming."  That is, they post vast multitudes of links, usually to YouTube videos, in rows as endlessly inexorable as the legions of battle droids in a Star Wars film, and insist that if you, the debunker, don't refute every single point made in every single one of those videos, you are "ignoring the evidence."  It's a Sisyphian game if you do manage to refute every point, because then the conspiracy theorist will say, "Oh yeah?  What about these?" and then slam you again with a huge spate of links.  This moving-the-goalpost behavior is very common among conspiracy theorists, but unfortunately they take debunkers' unwillingness to sit through the same YouTube video for the 67th time this week, electing instead to go spend time with their kids, as "proof" that the debunker can't refute the claims made in it.  Thus, some especially tiresome tidbits achieve the cachet, in conspiracy circles, of being "undebunkable."

This argument, like the last one, is also ironic.  I have never seen a 9/11 Truther comprehensively refute the NIST Report, for instance.  Usually it's a hit-and-run job like "Oh, well, the NIST is part of the government, so you can't trust it," or "we already know that jet fuel doesn't burn hot enough to melt steel."  So the slamming technique is ultimately hypocritical--as is argument #3.

4.  "Debunkers are biased." and related "Debunkers are arrogant, always convinced they're right."

The "bias" argument is fairly common, and is one usually leveled at websites such as this or other written pieces that (conspiracy theorists think) are somehow analogous to news sources.  The argument goes that debunkers can't see the truth because they're blinded by "bias" against conspiracy theories, and that even if evidence is presented to show a particular conspiracy theory is true, they wouldn't be able to see it because of this bias.

This argument toes the line between source/credibility arguments and what I call the epistemological objections to debunking, which quickly veer off into philosophical tangents like, "What do we really know?" and "How can we really know a particular fact is true?"  Conspiracy theorists who use the bias argument start from what seems at first like a rational departure point, that everything, even conspiracy theories, must stand or fall on the strength of the evidence available to support it, and that evidence should be considered afresh in all cases.  However, once you accept this rational view, the conspiracy theorist almost always starts slamming you with the same YouTube, Prison Planet, Infowars and Above Top Secret links that we saw in argument #3 and claiming that these things are evidence--and you're right back to the "Well, how do you know Alex Jones is wrong?" discussion.

Facts have no bias.  The facts of what happened on 9/11 do not care whether they point to Osama bin Laden, or to George W. Bush, or to Britney Spears.  The facts of the Kennedy assassination do not care whether they finger Lee Harvey Oswald, Lyndon Johnson or the Beatles.  If the facts indicated that 9/11 really was an "inside job," as strongly as the facts in real life indicate that it was not, then the conclusion that 9/11 was an "inside job" would be every bit as inescapable as the conclusion that Osama did it is in the real world.  If George W. Bush really did do 9/11, the facts would indicate that, and anyone who claimed that Osama bin Laden was really behind it would be a conspiracy theorist.  But they don't.  The facts demonstrate Osama did it.  Don't blame the facts if they lead to a conclusion you don't like.

Not all purported facts are equal, either.  Many are misconceptions, distortions, mistakes, or outright lies.  You may have heard that 4,000 Jews were warned to stay home on 9/11.  That is not a fact; it is a lie.  How do we know it's a lie?  Because there's no evidence to support it, and there is a great deal of credible evidence to contradict it.  Yet, lurking under the surface of the "you're biased!" argument is a tacit assumption by the conspiracy theorist that if you don't treat false claims and innuendo the same way as you do verifiable facts, you're somehow being unfair.  Bias doesn't work that way.  It never has, but this is something most conspiracy theorists have a particular difficulty understanding.

The "debunkers are arrogant" argument is not much different.  If you present a fact and can legitimately back it up, it is not arrogant to assert the truth of this fact and deny that conflicting claims are factual.  I use the George Washington example.  I know that George Washington was the first President of the United States.  If asked to, I can prove that fact is true.  If there is some poor sap out there who believes for whatever reason that Calvin Coolidge was the first President of the United States, my insistence that he is wrong is not me being unfair to him.  It's asserting what is true and what is false.  This isn't arrogance.  It's reality!

5.  "Debunkers ignore the fact that some conspiracy theories turn out to be true."

I love this one.  Ask, "Oh yeah?  Which ones?" and I can virtually guarantee that the list rattled off by the conspiracy theorist will contain (a) the Reichstag fire; (b) Operation Northwoods; and (c) MKULTRA.

This answer looks unimpeachable at first glance.  However, first impressions can be deceiving.  These aren't conspiracy theories--nor are the others the conspiracy theorist is likely to mention, such as Iran-Contra, Enron, Watergate, COINTELPRO, the 1953 Iranian coup, or the ouster of Allende in Chile in the 1970s.

Conspiracy theorists almost always conflate and confuse real examples of government or corporate secrecy or wrongdoing with perceived examples.  They ignore the differences, which are important.  To them, the fact that anybody, anywhere in government suggested or successfully took a covert or illegal action makes it more likely that someone must have in some other case--even if the transgression in the past is proven, and the one the conspiracy theorist believes happened is not.  There's also a difference in scale and result.  If the CIA did something that was dishonest 50 years ago that was comparatively minor in scope and didn't result in any deaths or crimes being committed, a conspiracy theorist will use the small long-ago transgression to "demonstrate" that it's likely the CIA would be willing to commit murder or criminal activity on a vast scale.

Let's take an example.  Conspiracy theorists love Operation Northwoods.  This was a plan proposed by some military brass in a 1962 document which would have had the CIA fake terrorist incidents and blame them on Cuban forces, thus building public support for U.S. military action against Cuba.  President John F. Kennedy rejected the plan out of hand and the officer who suggested it was later relieved of his command.  The document was not declassified until 1998.

Why is this not a conspiracy theory?  Well, first off, it was rejected; it never got off the ground.  Second, it was not even known about until the 1990s.  It's not like some conspiracy theorists were sitting around in 1962, batting scenarios around and someone said, "Hmm, you know, I bet the CIA is planning to stage false-flag attacks against the U.S. to justify an invasion of Cuba!" and then magically, 36 years later, a document drops out of the sky that proves this speculation was correct all along.  The real conspiracy (to do what?  Type up a memo and give it to the President?) was over and done with in 1962 and was a dead issue long before conspiracy theorists ever found out about it.  What it "proves" about conspiracy theories is exactly nothing.

Similarly, the other trope conspiracy theorists love to use, the Reichstag fire, wasn't even a conspiracy, much less a conspiracy theory.  In February 1933 the Reichstag was set ablaze by Marinus van der Lubbe in an act of arson.  It was not a false flag operation, and there is considerable evidence that van der Lubbe acted alone.  The Nazi Party made hay out of the incident while they were trying to gain power in Germany, but that does not mean they did it.  This not an example of a "conspiracy theory that came true."  It's not even relevant to conspiracy theories.  But for some bizarre reason conspiracy theorists trot it out on cue every time argument #5 makes an appearance.

Real-life conspiracies are much different than the fantasy plots that conspiracy theorists imagine exist.  Iran-Contra, Enron, Watergate and the others were all very small plots with very few participants; in all cases there were whistleblowers, in none of those cases were any lives lost, and none of these conspiracies were even suspected before there was ample evidence to support their existence.  In Watergate, for example, investigators knew there was a White House connection the very first night the Watergate burglars were arrested.  Similarly, there were no conspiracy theories floating around about secret government mind control experiments before MKULTRA was revealed, at least none that I'm aware of.  Real conspiracies always leave convincing and unmistakable evidence in their wake.  Conspiracy theories are unsupported by evidence.

I am not aware of any conspiracy theory that was postulated first without evidence and then later "turned out to be true."  That's not how conspiracies work in the real world.  Conspiracy theorists haven't learned this yet.

6.  "You believe everything is a coincidence!" and related "If I'm a conspiracy theorist, you must be a coincidence theorist!"

Dwelling as they do in a binary world of black-and-white extremes, conspiracy theorists believe that the polar opposite of devious design is innocent coincidence.  Thus, if you don't believe in conspiracy theories, you must believe in coincidences.

The simple answer is: yes, we do.  However, that's not the end of the story.  Conspiracy theorists don't understand how coincidences really work, so it's not surprising that they misuse the concept to try to prove that their detractors are gullible dupes who'll believe anything.

Let's say I'm a Wall Street day trader.  Today I get up and have a hunch that Acme Airlines is going to decline tomorrow.  I sell my 50,000 shares of Acme Airlines and pocket the money.  Tomorrow, an Acme Airlines jumbo jet crashes killing 300 people.  The investigation indicates massive negligence on behalf of the company, and Acme Airlines' stock becomes worthless.  The fact that I sold my stock the day before the crash is a coincidence.  To a conspiracy theorist, however, it's "evidence" that I must be behind the crash, because to them the chances are too wild that someone who stood to gain from Acme's misfortune would happen to pick that day to sell their stock.

However, what if I woke up yesterday and decided to sell shares of ABC Co. instead of Acme?  Acme would still have crashed without any help from me, and then I wouldn't have gained anything because my stock would have gone down the same as all other Acme shareholders.  No one would care about me, and I wouldn't be a "suspect" in conspiracy theorists' eyes.  Or, if I sold the stock but Acme didn't crash, for the same reason nobody would care.  The type of decision I made with respect to the Acme case--the decision to sell stock or stand pat--is something I do every day as a Wall Street trader, and it's not noteworthy or unusual at all.  It is only the unforseeable fluke of the Acme plane crash the next day that somehow transforms my unremarkable decision, the type of thing I would do every day if I was in that business, into a "wild coincidence" that seems so farfetched that there's no way it could have happened unless I had "foreknowledge" of the crash.

Let's take another example, also involving a plane crash.  Let's assume that the average odds of dying in a plane crash from any cause--pilot error, equipment malfunction, terrorist incident, bad weather, etc.--are 1 in 1,000,000.  That is, every time anyone steps on a plane anywhere in the world, their odds of not making it to their destination alive are 1 in 1,000,000.  (In reality the odds of dying in a plane crash are much smaller than that, because many millions of people travel by plane every week with comparatively few crashes, but assume these numbers just to make them easy).

Now take a specific person.  Let's say he's a U.S. Senator.  Furthermore, he's a U.S. Senator who is known as very progressive and very anti-war.  Further still, he is running for re-election.  Even beyond that, the election is in only a few days.  Even beyond that, a key issue in this election is this Senator's stance on a potential war that many believe is soon to begin.

Suppose this man, in these specific circumstances, sets foot on an airplane a few days before an election.  Under these circumstances, what are the odds the Senator won't get to his destination alive?

Simple: 1 in 1,000,000, just the same as anybody else.  His specific circumstances and the timing of his journey, however extraordinary, make no difference whatsoever to the probability that he will survive his trip or die on the way.  If he traveled as an average joe in the middle of July, his chances of getting off that plane in a body bag are still 1 in 1,000,000.

Of course, the circumstance I'm describing is the October 2002 situation of Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, who was unlucky and died in a plane crash days before the elections in which the impending invasion of Iraq was a major political issue.  Despite absolutely no evidence of foul play--the cause of the crash was pilot error--I had conspiracy theorists tell me at the time that it had to have been a veiled assassination, because "what are the chances?  That can't be a coincidence!"

Evidently, conspiracy theorists believe that extraneous circumstances--whether a person is a prominent politician, whether a war is about to start, how far it is from an election, and what the politician's stance on that potential war is--can somehow magically make it so much less likely that a plane crash could happen from accidental circumstances as the same thing could result from foul play.  Mind you, this is in the total absence of evidence that the Wellstone crash was rigged.  Conspiracy theorists would have you believe that probabilities alone suffice to prove a conspiracy, and can replace that absence of evidence, because "What are the chances?!?!?"

Probabilities are never evidence.  Conspiracy theorists need to quit pretending that probabilities alone can replace actual evidence of a conspiracy.  This is one of the stupidest arguments employed by conspiracy theorists, scraping the ultimate bottom of an already very deep abyss of logical fallacy and non sequitur.

7.  "So, you don't believe there is corruption in government/business/the world?"

This is a variation of argument #1, and doesn't require much discussion beyond what I've already said about it.  It's a very similar binary choice: either you believe in conspiracy theories, or you believe all is right with the world, governments and corporations never commit any form of malfeasance and you cannot believe that evil exists anywhere in the world.

Of course, this argument is insulting to the intelligence.  Yes, corruption does occur in governments and corporations, as it does in all human enterprises.  Yes, bad people sometimes do bad things.  But belief in this truth of human nature does not translate, automatically and inextricably, into belief in conspiracy theories.  To suggest that non-believers in conspiracy theories must disbelieve them because they can't bring themselves to envision corruption or malfeasance in any sphere is utterly absurd.

And, not to get philosophical about it, but not all evil is created equal.  Bernie Madoff is one of the most notorious criminals of our time.  He bilked many people of their life savings and destroyed the lives of many of them.  He did it for profit and evidently without any remorse.  Bernie Madoff is corrupt, and evil at least on some level.

However, what if Bernie Madoff was not the administrator of a Ponzi scheme, but say a CIA operative?  Suppose some pointy-headed conspirators came to him and said, "Hey Bernie, we've got this secret plan to blow up the World Trade Centers and kill thousands of people, and we need your help to do it.  Are you in?"  What's to say Bernie Madoff wouldn't reply, "No way.  I draw the line at that!"  Just because people are corrupt, steal money, forge documents, or endorse nefarious plans, doesn't mean that they're cold-blooded megalomaniacal killers willing and able to bathe in the blood of thousands of innocent people.  Conspiracy theorists often assume that all forms of malfeasance or corruption are equal.  They're not.  As usual, human nature is far more complicated than their simplistic black-and-white categories.

8.  "I'm not a conspiracy theorist!  You are a conspiracy theorist!"

This argument is classic projection.  Most conspiracy theorists deeply resent being called conspiracy theorists.  (I recently had a believer in Judy Wood's 9/11 space beams tell me, "I am not a conspiracy theorist!")  They'll do anything to squirm out from under the label or, better yet, twist the label 180 degrees and use it as a weapon against the debunker.  This leads to some interesting argumentative acrobatics, particularly when conspiracy theorists start playing games with the definition of "conspiracy theorist."

One of the most common formulations of this argument is to claim that debunkers are themselves conspiracy theorists, because they believe in "official conspiracy theories," such as the "official story" of 9/11.  So the reasoning goes, because debunkers believe that Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda hijackers conspired to crash planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we therefore believe in a "conspiracy theory" that is indistinguishable from Truthers' flights of fancy except for the fact that the "official conspiracy theory" bears the imprimatur of government or mainstream endorsement.  The purpose of this argument is to confuse people into believing that conspiracy theories and the "official story" are essentially equal co-claimants on the truth, and that conspiracy theories have no less chance of being true than does the "official story."

What they fail to understand is that conspiracy theories are different than facts.  Yes, what happened on 9/11 was a conspiracy, hatched by Osama bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other Al-Qaeda terrorists.  However, there are plenty of facts to support this belief.  It is not a theory, it is a fact.  A conspiracy theory is the fantastic notion that the WTC towers were blown up by secret explosives or science-fiction beam weapons.  It's a theory because there are no facts that support it.  There is no such thing as an "official conspiracy theory."  There is the truth, which is supported by facts, and there are theories, which are supported by speculation.  They are not equal co-claimants on the truth.  One is truth, and the other is garbage.

The difference between a debunker and a conspiracy theorist is very simple.   The debunker believes in facts, evidence, logic and supported conclusions.  The conspiracy theorist believes in fantasy, supposition, conjecture, innuendo and jumping to unwarranted conclusions.  Conspiracy theorists never like to hear this and they never will, and this paragraph will probably generate more hate mail than any other part of this essay.  (You can send it to  But, harsh or not, it is the truth.

9.  "You don't believe in conspiracy theories because you've been brainwashed by vaccines/fluoridated water/RFID chips."

This is another form of Sheeple Argument, and if you hear it from someone, you can be sure that person is very deep in the clutches of almost pathological paranoia.  It's almost futile to point out that there's not a shred of evidence that fluoridated water causes "brainwashing," or that RFID chips are being implanted into people without their knowledge.  If you ask a conspiracy theorist for "evidence" that these things are true, you'll almost certainly get Alex Jones clips or articles, or other super-paranoid doom-and-gloom scenarios that often also involve wild claims about vaccinations, forced population reduction, etc., usually masterminded by imaginary organizations like "the NWO" or "the Illuminati."

It is difficult to push back against these arguments because they're so irrational.  Anyone who is so delusional as to believe that fluoridated water or RFID chips cause "brainwashing" is not likely to be persuaded by the total absence of evidence that either of these things are true.  For more than 50 years the effects of fluoride in water have been studied, and not once has any evidence surfaced to the effect that it "brainwashes" people.  I find it amusing that when this argument is made conspiracy theorists exempt themselves from the "brainwashing" effect, when they presumably drink the same water as the rest of us, but maybe the theta rays emanating from Alex Jones broadcasts and Jeff Rense's website somehow counteract the effect of fluoridated water.  Nevertheless, all you can do is scoff at this argument.  You can't do much more.

10.  "You debunk conspiracies because you're a paid disinformation agent."

This is very similar to #9, but the difference is it's not a Sheeple claim, where debunkers are assumed to be "brainwashed" and "asleep" whether through willful ignorance or victimization by the same mind control techniques that conspiracy theorists sometimes believe are used on everyone.  Instead, this version of the argument is a direct accusation that the debunker is themselves part of the conspiracy.  This argument was recently used against me on an Internet forum where I was accused of being a member of "Project Vigilance," supposedly a government-funded effort to recruit bloggers and other cyberspace warriors to debunk conspiracy theories and tar their believers as nutjobs not worthy of serious attention.

Personally, I find this argument both humorous and sad.  It's humorous because the notion that our government (or anyone's government) has nothing better to do with taxpayer money than to pay people like me to post on the Internet debunking 9/11 beam weapons, FEMA camps and reptile people is utterly fantastic.  It's sad because it shows not only the depths of paranoia at which conspiracy theorists live their lives, but also the ridiculous sense of self-importance that they gain from their belief in such theories.  How could some guy posting on Internet message forums from his basement in suburban Chicago really be a threat to a power structure so omnipotent and powerful that it keeps secret beam weapons on hand for events like 9/11 and can cause earthquakes in Haiti from hundreds of miles away by using HAARP?  The truly paranoid conspiracy theorists like to cast themselves in movie roles, like the heroic Neo in the movie The Matrix: an ordinary guy who somehow "wakes up" to a hidden truth, and then fights the good fight against all odds to bring that truth to others.  In such a simplistic story there have to be villains.  Argument #10 unequivocally casts debunkers in the role of villains.  It also provides an easy excuse for ignoring anything they have to say: because they're paid disinformation agents, naturally everything they say is a lie.

For the record, I don't get paid for writing these articles.  I've never been paid, nor offered, a single dime for any debunking activity I've ever done.  Twisted as it may sound, I do this because I enjoy it, and because I feel that combating illogic and promoting critical thinking is a worthwhile activity.  I also feel conspiracy theories are dangerous both to reason and to political discourse.  There's also something of the contrarian in me: the vast majority of material on the Internet regarding conspiracy theories is pro-conspiracy.  There's a very small minority of sites and sources that devote considerable attention to refuting these ridiculous conspiracy theories.  I just want people to do a search for "9/11" and not have eight links to Truther sites pop up in their first ten search results.  It'd be nice for them to get the facts for a change.  That's why I do this.

It occurs to me as I write this blog that perhaps the idea that someone would debunk for free, and for enjoyment, is even more offensive to conspiracy theorists than the notion that they would do it for money at the government's behest.  I mean, if your world view is so ignorant and illogical that people are actually offended by it to the point where they'll take to the Net to refute you year after year, you perhaps ought to rethink your world view!


There's very rarely anything new in conspiracy-land.  Almost everything conspiracy theorists throw at you is something that's been around for years, or even decades, in one form or another.  On the one hand it's comforting to know that the fact that conspiracy theories are still regarded by most people as fringe kooky stuff means that the sheer power of repetition will not serve to improve conspiracy theorists' fortunes in the future, at least until some real evidence of their claims surfaces; but on the other hand it's depressing to have to hack away at the same silly arguments that were debunked years ago which are still being repeated as if there was something new.  The ten arguments listed in this blog aren't going away.  I'm sure I'll be hearing them as long as I maintain an interest in conspiracy theories.  But since other debunkers will doubtless hear them too, I thought that corralling them and analyzing them is a worthwhile task.

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