Like most people, I have a lot of friends on Facebook that I haven’t spoken to in years – we might have gone to high school together or shared a class once in undergrad, and I’m too lazy to go through and delete people, so I see their Facebook updates. One friend posted the following, and it blew me away:
View from the event I’m working at the building that collapsed* without a plane crashing into it on 9/11, World Trade building 7. Me. In building 7. A tad ironic. Very creepy. (*read: demolished)
What blows me away about the post isn’t even the 9/11 Conspiracy-ism, but rather the casual way that he references it – it’s clear that among his circle of friends, it’s just assumed that 9/11 was an inside job. A friend of his responded to the post with:
Hahahaha It was the ‘Heat’, remember?
as if this idea were the most ridiculous thing in the world. It’s strange to me that a guy who always seemed smart and good natured has decided that yes, our government deliberately murdered thousands of our own citizens. I’ve worked in the military and even the tiniest little bit of the high-security side of the house – the idea that our government is full of people that are (a) willing to kill Americans and (b) competent enough to cover it up is laughable.
Last summer, I read the excellent (if a bit dense) Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theories Shape the Modern World. It provided a history of various conspiracy theories, both large and small, since 1900. The most interesting point to me was the straight line the author draws between “conspiratorial thinking” and the Nazi Party/Holocaust. He makes a very convincing argument that many of the atrocities of that war were allowed because an entire nation allowed itself to be ruled by people that truly and deeply believed a conspiracy theory. Anti-semitism in the Third Reich was fueled by the twin ideas that Jews were (a) completely immoral and (b) all powerful – a conclusion that leads to the justification of almost any atrocity in opposition to them.
I’m not arguing here that 9/11 Truthers are Nazis – the vast majority are good intentioned people that just have a need to believe that somehow the “truth” is better than the messy reality the rest of us live in. I AM arguing that the sloppy thinking associated with conspiracy theories leads down some really bad roads — when you assign a group superhuman powers and subhuman morality, it’s easy to justify almost anything in opposition to them.