Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Conspiracy or Stupidity?

I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next paranoid freak. There are some conspiracies I believe (the Kennedy assassination was a CIA coup) and others I do not (9-11 was an inside job). I have found that there certain rules of thumb that help deciding whether to don that tin-foil hat.
  1. Never ascribe to conspiracy what can more easily be explained by stupidity. Almost everything that went wrong on 9-11 can be explained by humans being human. People were confused, scared, panicked and reacted as humans will by doing a whole bunch of stupid things. Conversely, the Kennedy assassination requires us to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was not a fallible human but capable of herculean feats. Some theorists have suggested the Gulf oil spill was a conspiracy but isn't it more likely that BP engineers are simply ignorant twits?
  2. When you eliminate the impossible what ever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. The line is from Sherlock Holmes, the fictional master detective. It is fair to say that millions of dollars have been spent over the past forty years trying to prove the Single Bullet Theory to the Kennedy assassination is true. The best they have managed in all this time is to break down the strange trajectory of that one magic bullet into smaller bits and declare that the parts equal the whole. The single bullet theory was concocted by Arlen Specter to explain the nasty truth that the evidence required at least four bullets but a lone gunman could have only shot three times. If the magic bullet is impossible then there must have been a conspiracy. In the case of 9-11, the best case for such a denouncement is the theory that jet fuel is not energetic enough to have melted the steel girders of the Twin Towers and that thermite demolition charges were used. The theory is weak because there is no supportive evidence and no attempts to test the theory. Also, there is ample evidence for alternative explanations.
  3. There is no such thing as coincidence. The Warren Commission requires a staggering array of coincidences to make Oswald the lone assassin. There is no similar collection of coincidences surround the official 9-11 story.
  4. Commissions are formed to reach preordained conclusions. The Warren Commission went so far as to bend the laws of physics to prove a lone gunman killed Kennedy. The 9-11 Commission was formed to conclude that no one in government or the military could have prevented the attacks. The Gulf oil spill commission was formed to place blame on low level bureaucrats and BP middle managers. Bottom line is that commissions are a worthless waste of paper.
  5. Don't believe "I don't remember." People vividly remember the most important day in their lives and they remember everything that led up to it. When Condoleezza Rice said she didn't remember key conversations, she was lying.
  6. Lies don't prove conspiracy. People lie most frequently to cover their asses. Only if a lie doesn't involve ass protection can you suspect deeper motives.
  7. Conspiracies require motive. The most compelling motive for assassinating John Kennedy was to grease the wheels for an expansion of the Vietnam War that Kennedy opposed. And that's what happened. The most compelling motive for a 9-11 conspiracy was to create permanent war to impose an imperial Republican presidency. If that was the motive they were wholly unprepared to act on the fruits of the conspiracy. It is hard to believe they could have been so skilled at conspiracy yet so inept at follow up.

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