Facts and Conspiracies

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Butler, I had a lengthy and very angry encounter with a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, someone who wanted to convince me that the World Trade Center towers were brought down by controlled explosions. For me, having sat across the Hudson River in New Jersey and watched those two towers come down with my own eyes, that is the weakest argument the “conspiracy theorists” have. Everything I saw is consistent with the “official story” (if one must call it that) that those two buildings came down on their own. It was no controlled demolition, not based on what I saw. As for the damage to WTC7, the collapse of the two towers damaged a lot of surrounding buildings — One Liberty Plaza (there were reports for several days afterwards that building might have been so damaged it would have to be “pulled” too), the Deutsche Bank building, and the building I was in when the airplanes hit, Three World Financial Center (built on landfill, and there was also concern the day after the attack that the foundation of World Financial Center may have been damaged, which it wasn’t).

It was an angry exchange of e-mail (my correspondent accused me of loving Fox News, among other things), and boiled down to him saying: “who will I belive, me, or your own lying eyes?”

I believe my eyes. I believe what I saw.This doesn’t mean I don’t have questions about the government’s actions that day — who knew what and when — or more importantly, the meaning that the Bush Jong Il administration has assigned to September 11, 2001, the excuse for never-ending war and unaccountable executive power. That I generally accept “the official explanation” does not mean I accept “the official meaning.” But too many Americans seem to believe that facts imply meaning — so acceptance of the “official” facts means acceptance of the official meaning (to be post-modern about it, the official narrative) — and they don’t. By themselves, mere facts don’t mean very much.

I think I understand the desire of conspiracy theorists to create tangled webs of conspiracy. It hardly seems that things could happen at random, without direction or purpose, and that a group of patient, driven Muslims could really have pulled the attack off. But in doing so, they consruct a nearly omnipotent, omniscience government/state that controls nearly everything and that reaches nearly everywhere. I’m never entirely sure of the point of fighting a government that powerful, capable of controlling nearly all things. What can you win? And how?

It also puts far too much faith in government. I mean, really, who trusts government more — the person who more-or-less accepts “the official story” or the person who says the attack was carried about by government agents (either on or remotely controlling the jets), concocts long-winded possible explanations as to what might have happened to the real jetliners and their passengers, and that the two World Trade Center towers were downed by explosives planted by government agents?

I see no evidence that government, those who run it and those who work in it are smart enough, organized enough, capable enough or even evil enough to sow much deliberate chaos, much less run the world. That those who govern sometimes aspire to run the world is clear. But that they have always failed, and will always fail, should be clear as well.

10:31 am on May 17, 2006