Monday, July 14, 2008

Brooker Slams Conspiracy Types

Charlie Brooker has set out to generate the largest number of reader responses in Comment is Free's history with a piece condemning 9/11 conspiracy theorists (501 comments at the time of writing, no, 508. Oh no, it's now 770). The piece reproduces the standard line on the conspiratorial turn of mind. People believe conspiracy theories because they offer consolation of a sort; "I've seen through the deception that other people accept. What looks overwhelmingly complicated is, properly understood, comprehensible; there is a system, albeit a malevolent one. My life might seem dull, but really I am an actor in a cosmic struggle between Good and Evil". In this Brooker echoes Frank Furedi, who likes to suggest that the popularity of conspiracy theories is part of a quasi-religious retreat from reason. I think Melanie Phillips's position is similar. Cor, Charlie Brooker and Melanie Phillips.

The conspiratorial world-view does have its consolations. But there are also pleasures to be had from embracing the idea that it's all a matter of messy flux. You can preen yourself on how well adjusted you are, how you haven't fallen for that stuff about lizards, or Illuminati; "I am sceptical, I am rational. I don't have personal hygiene issues".

There is a psychological payoff either way.

We are still left with the question of whether particular conspiracies took place. It might well be consoling in some way to know that the CIA plots the overthrow of unhelpful foreign regimes. But it is also true. To insist that, say, the CIA had nothing to do with the fall of Arbenz or Allende might feel terrifically sensible and sane - can't always be seeing the hidden hand of the CIA, no call for reductionism ... It is also, you know, wrong.

What happened on 9/11 is, in the end a factual matter – it’s up to you to decide whether or not the evidence stacks up for the official version, and how it does so exactly.

Personally, I have fuck all idea what happened, because I have no more idea of how the business-intelligence-political nexus works than I have about what chess grandmasters are up to when they are staring at the board, looking all thoughtful. The whole thing, the thing of which 9/11 is part, is something to do with oil, and drugs, and organised crime, and imperialism, and actually existing institutions and us. Oh, and a bit of religion, and a lot of money.

But how it all fits together, or doesn't, that is some way over my head. Maybe no one knows, maybe no one can. Maybe it is all, in the end, inadvertence and error. But it is possible - highly likely - that some people know a sight more than I do, than Charlie Brooker does.

(It's worth noting as an aside that the most pernicious conspiracy theory about the 9/11 attacks was promoted by the American state. In the run-up to the Iraq war every effort was made to link Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda. Those who want to debunk conspiracy theories have an awkward time with this one - that particular paranoid fantasy wasn't pushed by the tinfoil hat brigade, but by a highly focussed and skilled group of people working in secret to manage the perceptions of the American and global public ... A conspiracy to promote a (false) conspiracy theory. That's much less entertaining than the 9/11 Truth Movement. The White House's psywar team were successful and apparently well adjusted. And they helped prepare the way for an illegal war in which more than half a million people have died. Did someone say something about holograms?)


Blogger Charles Lambert said...

I wrote a short post some time ago, commenting on Fisk's article about the third tower. At the time, it attracted a substantially higher number of hits than any other post I'd ever written. More recently, my daily visitors quintupled in number for a period of days. Why? Because the BBC were doing their documentary about the third tower (which I haven't seen) and my blog appeared on the second page of a Google search for 'third tower'. There's no way of knowing how many of these were conspiracy sceptics or believers, but the 9/11 effect never fails. (I'm agnostic on the subject, by the way.)

Coincidentally, another good way to up your visitor count is to publish a photograph of Silvio Berlusconi without his clothes on. Most hits seem to come from Eastern Europe...

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hi, Charles, thanks for dropping by. Agnostic, that's more or less where I am.

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