Siren Song - Conspiracy!

By Berlet, Chip | New Internationalist, October 2007 | Go to article overview

Siren Song - Conspiracy!


Berlet, Chip, New Internationalist


'A good conspiracy is unprovable. I mean, if you can prove it, it means they screwed up somewhere along the line.'

Jerry Fletcher (played by Mel Gibson) in the 1997 movie Conspiracy Theory.

High profile scientist David Bellamy was not led to the mythic rocks of destruction, but to the cold hard reality of glaciers. He was unwittingly seduced by the sirens of conspiracy theory. His 2005 letter to New Scientist magazine questioned the reality of global warming and made false assertions about glacier melting rates. Guardian columnist George Monbiot traced Bellamy's flawed claims back to a conspiracist website run by a group of addled crackpots led by Lyndon LaRouche.

Columnist John Naughton wrote that it was a lack of scepticism toward this type of'codswallop that lured Bellamy to his professional doom'. We can nod about how silly this all is when our political adversaries make such dubious claims and shrill predictions revealing their gullibility; but what about when it is our political allies who embrace conspiracy theories? Belief in them is rampant around the world, and increasingly among activists working for peace, a safe environment, social equality, civil liberties and economic justice. Conspiracism in these human rights movements, in my view, distorts accurate strategic analysis and undermines effective action.

Criticizing the flaws in conspiracy thinking, however, has made me part of the conspiracy - as a simple internet search will confirm. Critics like me are dubbed 'Left Gatekeepers' who are tools of the ruling élites and the CIA. The Canadian journalist Barrie Zwicker suggests we are all part of the 'Conspiracy Theory Conspiracy'. Zwicker produced a DVD The Great Conspiracy: The 9/11 News Special You Never Saw, and wrote Towers of Deception.

'An entire industry has sprung up about the speculation of the events of 9/11/ reports the Canadian Broadcasting Company's flagship public affairs programme The Fifth Estate. After thoroughly researching numerous 9/11 conspiracy claims, it 'found no credible evidence in the public domain to prove the US Government had any specific advance knowledge of exactly what would happen on 11 September 2001'. According to the programme: 'The most infamous conspiracy theorist of them all is Thierry Meyssan. His book The Big lie was a bestseller in Europe.' One English journalist stated: 'Meyssan s theories are often circumlocutory and warped. They contain huge gaps.' The less formal Canadian journalists just called them 'wild allegations'.

It's not just about 9/11. Conspiracy theories flourish in many areas. As if the documented erosion of civil liberties in the United States were not bad enough, conspiracy hysterics such as Alex Jones and Jeff Rense feature forecasts of élite conspiracies presaging tyranny and massive waves of destruction. In Britain, David Icke warns of humanoid lizard aliens plotting really bad things, and fills auditoriums around the world when he tours. In Japan - a country with an infinitesimal Jewish population - antisemitic conspiracy theories are widespread. In parts of Africa, conspiracy theories about what causes AIDS have resulted in needless deaths.

9/11 fantasies

Sonali Kolhatkar hosts a radio news programme in Los Angeles. Her specialty is the war in Afghanistan. When she speaks in public she is heckled by vocal audience members who bring up 'the 9/11 attacks as some sort of "inside job" which implies [that] I should really be talking about the "much bigger story"'.' Kolhatkar objects when 'serious journalism is mixed in with conspiracy theory' in a way that draws in 'innocent listeners'. This is 'hard to resist unless you are a complete sceptic and willing to do lots of homework'.

We are all attracted to'conspiracy theories. Forensic psychologist Evan Harrington suggests that to some extent 'suspiciousness is part of human nature'. Part of 'our evolutionary heritage', he says, is that humans are efficient at organizing social information'. …

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