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May 06, 2011


John in Michigan, USA

At last, a post that David and I fully agree upon!

It would be interesting to compare this "truther" pathology to the pathology of the "birther" crowd.

In both cases it is clear to me that one of the main motives is the same motive that causes people to gossip. We might call this the somewhat benign motive. In some cases, the motive doesn't go much deeper than that. Sadly, information traded during gossip sessions very much influences interpretation of the news, and even voting behavior. Such is life in a democracy.

But, sometimes the motive goes deeper, and is more malignant. In the case of birtherism, I feel that xenophobia as good a word as racism to describe the more malignant motive. Not all birthers are motivated by this, but enough of them are that it is a real problem.

In the case of trutherism (German or US versions) the deeper motive might be oikophobia, the irrational fear of ourselves, or alternately, xenophilia, an irrational love of the "other".

Of course, I am not saying it is irrational to be self-critical, or to appreciate or even love other cultures. But when the fear (or love) goes to such extremes as to be pathological, then there is a problem.


Sorry, the worst pathology here (and the most sickening of all this) is us-american ultra-nationalism and violence addiction.

It has truly become the greatest idiocy and crime since 20th century european fascism.

Strahler 70

I agree, but it's not only the left, but also the extreme right wing that sticks to anti-american conspiracy theories and in case of Bin Laden this goes across the whole political spectrum.

Nevertheless, it is also a fact, that 99% (probably all) conspiracy theories have their origin in the US themselves. Be it Michael Moore, websites like fractali, you name it... America serves you well, no matter what you want to believe and if you don't believe anything, no problem, there's lots of obscure outsider opinions to stuff your brain.

So, you might be a loyal friend of the US, or a rational sceptic, or a true anti-American - you won't escape the fact that all your knowledge is based on American sources. Thus, America also controls the minds of its enemies, drags them onto the well prepared battle field of multi-level thinking (meta-pictures) where they can be left to themselves, meaning no harm or serious threat to the US anymore. But that is, of course, just another conspiracy theory, but in this case it's from Germany.


Strahler, good point. Most of the "Deather" theories were started by some of the Tea Party crazies.

The difference is, these conspiracies seem to accepted by the mainstream German left, while they are rejected by most in the US.


The popularity of these theories stems from a high level of distrust towards America.

Consequently it is high time that the alliance is dissolved and Americans troops get lost quickly.

I wonder when the day comes that our political class faces reality and starts to become consequent on this.

Never ever would our ruling politicians have to face the tough situation of upsetting a large part of the electorate just to keep up lip-service towards an anachronistic alliance (eg Afghanistan). Or angering the "allies" because it appeases the elctorate (eg Libya).


Maybe a closer alliance with Russia? Perhaps Germany would be happier with Putin's authoritarian style and where hatred of foreigners is institutionalized.

Putin seems to be just the kind of "strong leader" you are longing for, Zyme.

Strahler 70

Going to war for humanity is probably the most implausible excuse because it is always accompanied by specific national and economic motives. A vast majority of the German population rejects engagements in any wars, for what reason ever. The war on terrorism is just a fight against the symptons, not against the disease. The root of all evil is in Saudi-Arabia and Pakistan, both strategic partners of the USA... In Colombia, the US keeps on privatizing military engagement with mercenaries of DynCorp, in Afghanistan it's Xe Services - hidden wars more and more beyond political control and press coverage.

Of course, foreign politics have always been based on pragmatism rather than on moral standards and before this background one must admit the German government, i.e. Merkel and Westerwelle, has lacked both in the past weeks. But, as i said before, this was a lose-lose situation for the German government which is defintely unable to claim leadership in peace politics or follow any war coalitions for what reasons ever.

But it would be the last thing to say the conclusion would be an alliance with Russia or any other authoritarian state. I'd rather say the Germans are missing, and dreaming of true political leadership really representing the people - since, at least, 1993.

Strahler 70

In other words: Germans deeply distrust their own government - why should they trust foreign governments?


Ahhh David, how I miss the times when Gerd and Vladimir were sitting in the carriage, driving through Russia's snowy winter-world, drilling holes into both Siberia's vast lands and the transatlantic relationship at the same time.

Go ahead, look at where it all began:


Such pictures do warm my heart :-)

John in Michigan, USA

I agree the conspiracy theories (about bin Laden or about other things) go "across the whole political spectrum", including the far right.

However, when this sort of anti-intellectual conspiracy thinking finds a home in the university, it is far more disturbing than when it finds a home in the general population.

Conspiracy-minded academics like Noam Chomsky or Tariq Ramadan are respected and credentialed. They could probably arrange an invitation to lecture at any major US or European university. Whereas, right-leaning conspiracists with similar academic credentials and prestige simply don't exist.

Anyone who is a fan of knowledge and education, as I am, should be bothered by this. Western universities do a reasonably good job of marginalizing one style of conspiracy thinking, but they seem unable to marginalize the other style. In fact, most don't even see a problem.

I feel like our great Western universities could greatly strengthen their natural role as the keeper of the flame of knowledge, driver of policy, etc. if only they could find the will to clean their own house.

Strahler 70

JiM, quote:"...right-leaning conspiracists with similar academic credentials and prestige simply don't exist."

They are hired by energy and commodity companies to explain why nuclear energy is safe and laws to protect the environment are dangerous. They are engaged in think tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations advocating a new world order. The major difference between them and the left: Their campaigns are better managed through excellent commercial marketing and huge financial coverage. For example, Exxon has spent nearly 100 million dollars to finance think tanks and scientists who pretend the dangers of pollution are not real - repeating similar campaigns of the tobacco industry some years ago. Of course they to everything to avoid the impression that these campaigns are just a clever type of advertizing, the effort of putting politics under pressure is hidden behind the mask of scientific enlightenment. They focus on the political mainstream, they don't restrict themselves to preaching those are already convinced.

So I would say, leftist conspiracy theories will always remain theories - while the real conspiracies keep on proceeding.

John in Michigan, USA


It is true that the debate about nuclear power, or the other issues you mentioned, is sometimes obscured by propaganda. Both the right and the left have academics and think tanks, who sometimes use various propaganda methods to distort the debate.

But, I am talking about conspiracy theories, which are a different thing than propaganda.

For example, a group that is emitting propaganda usually *knows* that what they are saying is a distortion. Whereas, a group that is emitting conspiracy theories is usually made up of "true believers" who actually think they understand the truth.

Propagandists hope that their targets are irrational; conspiracy theorists are *themselves* irrational. So, they are both problems, but conspiracy thinking is a much more insidious problem since it involves self-delusion.

Strahler 70

It can't be ruled out that conspiracy theories are just an aspect of propaganda: Disinformation. As I have explained - if you don't believe the official version, you'll be supplied with some alternatives. 9/11 was the example par excellence, the official version was Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, the alternative version was a high level conspiracy within the Bush administration. Both version came from the USA, but the last one kept the 'Arabic Street' quiet, thus undermining Bin Laden's historical chance to claim leadership in a pan-arabic jihad.
In this very moment the USA secured their strategic interests in Saudi-Arabia and the Persian Gulf. In other words: Without a conspiracy theory about 9/11 it might have been very difficult to convince the Arabic world not to follow Bin Laden, who had clearly qualified as the supreme military and religious leader (Khalifa).

John in Michigan, USA


OK, now it gets interesting.

At all times, we must distinguish between an ordinary conspiracy, and a conspiracy theory.

For example: in the early stages of a political campaign, strategy is usually plotted in secret, and official statements are usually made that deny that the candidate is a candidate. Another example: before a book or movie is released, the publisher and the reviewers, who ordinarily are antagonists, conspire in order to facilitate pre-publication review while embargoing the publication of the reviews before the agreed-upon date. These are examples of an ordinary conspiracies. Covert government operations, such as the bin Laden raid, are also a type of ordinary conspiracy. In an open society, ordinary conspiracies almost always leak, and usually fail. Reliable insider testimony is often available.

Conspiracy theories, on the other hand, are theories that, by their nature, are very difficult to disprove. Evidence against the theory is instantly re-interpreted as evidence that the conspiracy is deeper and more powerful than before. In these theories, the alleged conspiracy is complex, has many members, and spans great distances of time and space, and yet, in spite of this complexity, the conspiracy rarely leaks, and almost never fails.

I agree that, sometimes, "conspiracy theories are just an aspect of propaganda". But, conspiracy theories also exist that are not part of someone's propaganda effort. Lets call these Type I and Type II.

Both types of conspiracy theories are, by their nature, volatile and unpredictable. Therefore, Type I conspiracy theories require very elaborate propaganda mechanisms to maintain and control them. It is common to have this sort of propaganda control in a closed, homogeneous society; it is nearly impossible to have this sort of control in an open, pluralistic society. Therefore, the sort of propagandists that operate in an open society (advertizing, public relations, government sources, etc.) tend to shy away from getting involved in conspiracy theories.

In closed societies, Type II is rare. Type II is seen as a threat to the system, and it is quickly stamped out, or else co-opted (Type II turned into Type I).

In an open society, Type II is much more common than Type I. Here, the conspiracy theory is driven by "genuine" bottom-up, community movements composed of "true believers". Occasionally, propagandists will attempt to co-opt these movements, but mostly, this fails due to the nature of an open society (harder to hide propaganda efforts) and the nature of conspiracy theories (without close control, they are unpredictable, prone to unintended consequences, and therefore not useful to propagandists).

In the US and Germany, I feel like the Type II conspiracy theory is the dominant type when it comes to 9/11 Trutherism, Birtherism, Deatherism, etc.

You seem to feel like 9/11 Trutherism is Type I. Well, Type I can exist in an open society, but they are hard to maintain, and hard to keep secret. Therefore, open society conspiracy theories should be assumed to be Type II unless proven otherwise.

The evidence you offer takes the form of a "cui bono" narrative (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cui_bono). Here I must point out that over-reliance on cui bono narratives is one of the hallmarks of conspiracy theories.

Do you have stronger evidence that 9/11 Trutherism is Type I?

The US and German national security systems are full of leaks, thus we have Wikileaks, the "Curveball" revelations, etc. If 9/11 Trutherism is Type I, it would be the single largest and most successful propaganda operation of the past 10-15 years. It is hard to imagine that specific proof (documents, emails, videos, etc) wouldn't have leaked out by now.

If 9/11 Trutherism is Type I, wouldn't Wikileaks be mostly dominated by evidence showing the national security apparatus coordinating, monitoring, and promoting the 9/11 Truther movement? Wouldn't Wikileaks contain at least some evidence of prior knowledge of the 9/11 events themselves?

Yet, my reading of Wikileaks that 9/11 itself came as a surprise to all the national security insiders.

Doesn't Wikileaks suggest that our national security systems are not attempting to covertly manipulate 9/11 Trutherism? Their involvement in Trutherism is minimal, and is limited to attempts to debunk it. Importantly, this limited involvement is overt, not covert.

Isn't the contents of Wikileaks evidence that Trutherism is Type II?

(I've really got to stop posting these essays as comments...sorry)

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