Friday, October 26, 2007

Reasons to Believe: Why Americans Have Swallowed an Official Conspiracy Theory More Full of Holes Than Swiss Cheese

by Len Hart

Bill Maher drank the Kool-aid --to be expected from a jester for whom there are limits to his license to offend the court. The rest of us, it is hoped, can still think for ourselves but haven't!

There are several reasons Americans simply refuse to believe anything other than Bushco's official conspiracy theory of 911.

  1. The official lie relieves Americans of all responsibility for the attacks. In other words, we don't have to feel guilty about being a greedy, militaristic empire. We don't have to feel guilty about the fact that the CIA --in our name --routinely commits heinous crimes against innocent people everyday. We don't have to feel guilty about having threatened the world with nuclear annihilation for a period of some fifty years.
  2. For similar reasons, Americans find it impossible to believe that their own government could be involved in anything so heinous. The very idea strikes at an individual's self-esteem. Only the irredeemably evil enjoy thinking of themselves in those terms. Normal folk like to think themselves good even when they are not. These folk prefer to believe that the US is always morally beyond reproach though it most certainly is not and perhaps never was. Get reall!
  3. Many Americans, perhaps most, are typically incurious. There is not a lot to be said about or for these folk. They are most at ease with themselves when plonked down on the sofa swilling beer, stuffing pretzels and pork rinds, watching the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders or Fox swill ie, Bill O'Really?
  4. The 911 Truth Movement is an easy target of demagoguery. Popular Science got away with every version of the classic strawman fallacy because the 911 Truth Movement is, in fact, not centralized or top down. Some alternative theories are, indeed, pure bunkum but no more so than Bush's "official conspiracy theory". The movement, meanwhile, makes an easy target of demogogues, GOP liars, and Fox blow hards like balding Billo.

It doesn't matter that there is absolutely no admissible evidence in support of Bush's ongoing, ever revised lie. The official conspiracy theorists will delude themselves, believing that the official narrative is not a "conspiracy theory" when, in fact, it is the least believable of all conspiracy theories, shot through with demonstrable lies, falsehoods and fallacy.

Bush's official conspiracy fails the litmus test of any good theory. That is, it fails to "explain" a given set of observable facts.

  • Bush's official conspiracy theory does not explain how arab hijackers got on board airplanes without showing up on flight manifests.
  • Bush's official theory does not explain the collapse of the twin towers of WTC. No version of the official narrative has explained the towers' fall. In fact, the "official" narrative on that score has been changed several times under criticism by the 911 truth movement. The first establishment version, aired in a PBS documentary, used the term "pancaking". The animation used conveniently omitted the existence of a heavily reinforced core which would have remained standing had the outer floors simply pancaked. Newer versions of the animation now show a core though it is still unaffected by the pancaking around it. The unexplained fact is simply this: the core did not remain standing. Just one of many facts not explained by the official theory.
  • The official line does not explain a "punch out hole" in the Pentagon's inner ring, a hole considerably smaller than the fuselage of a 757. Only in Alice in Wonderland does something so large disappear into holes so small --a diameter about the height of human being. Perhaps it was a portal and the 757 got sucked into a black hole. Perhaps it popped into a parallel universe. Perhaps it got whisked away by Dr. Who!
  • The official conspiracy theory espoused by GWB does not explain nor does the 911 Commission report address the collapse of Building 7. The building's owner --Larry Silverstein explains it very simply. He is on record stating unambiguously that Building 7 was "pulled" (controlled demolition) down that day. It is a fact that a controlled demolition of that magnitude requires weeks, perhaps months of engineering and/or architectural studies, careful placement of explosives, a regimen of safeguards. Someone, therefore, had planned to pull down Building 7.

Interesting thing about theories, they are not a Chinese menu from which you choose one from column "A", one from column "B". A theory is a package. If the theory fails to explain any part of a related set of facts it must be discarded. That's how science works. As Johnny Cochran said of a glove, we say of theories: if it does not fit, you must acquit!

Now --superstition and propaganda will never live up to that high standard and neither does Bush's official conspiracy theory. As propaganda, the official conspiracy theory more nearly resembles superstition. People will believe superstition and myths because much claptrap makes one feel good about him/herself.

The administration of Ronald Reagan sold his absurd tax cuts benefiting only a tiny upper class because he promised wealth would trickle back down to them. People believed it. They wanted to believe it. They chose to believe it. It made them feel better about themselves and about the world despite the cold, hard fact that Reagan's economic policy would make only the rich even richer and the poorer even poorer.

That is, in fact, what happened; I have the facts from the US Census Bureau to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I most certainly do not believe it because it makes me feel better about being me. It doesn't. The truth is often almost too much to bear but it is still the truth and wishful thinking never changed a thing. I believe the cold, hard facts from the CB. The picture painted by those numbers is a demonstrable, statistical truth for which there is no spin, no refutation, no escape into GOP fantasy-land.

Yet --people would simply not believe any thing "bad" about Uncle Ronnie about whom many opined at the GOP National Convention in Houston in 1993 that Reagan "...made us feel good about ourselves". Masturbation makes one feel good but the effect is temporary. Nevertheless, it has more to recommend it than indulging GOP ideology --the bad effects of which last for a long, long time.

Michael Shermer listed 25 fallacies that lead us to believe weird things:

(1) Theory influences observation. Heisenberg wrote, "What we observe is not nature itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning." Our perception of reality is influenced by the theories framing our examination of it.

(2) The observer changes the observed. The act of studying an event can change it, an effect particularly profound in the social sciences, which is why psychologists use blind and double-blind controls.

(3) Equipment constructs results. How we make and understand measurements is highly influenced by the equipment we use.

(4) Anecdotes do not make science. Stories recounted in support of a claim are not scientific without corroborative evidence from other sources or physical proof of some sort.

(5) Scientific language does not make a science. Dressing up a belief in jargon, often with no precise or operational definitions, means nothing without evidence, experimental testing, and corroboration.

(6) Bold statements do not make claims true. The more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinarily well-tested the evidence must be.

(7) Heresy does not equal correctness. Being laughed at by the mainstream does not mean one is right. The scientific community cannot be expected to test every fantastic claim that comes along, especially when so many are logically inconsistent. If you want to do science, you have to learn to play the game of science. This involves exchanging data and ideas with colleagues informally, and formally presenting results in conference papers, peer-reviewed journals, books, and the like.

(8.) Burden of proof. It is the person who makes the extraordinary claim who has the burden of proving the validity of the evidence.

(9) Rumors do not equal reality. Repeated tales are not of necessity true.

(10) Unexplained is not inexplicable. Many people think that if they themselves cannot explain something that it must be inexplicable and therefore a true mystery of the paranormal.

(11) Failures are rationalized. In science, the value of negative findings is high, and honest scientists will readily admit their mistakes. Pseudoscientists ignore or rationalize failures.

(12) After-the-fact reasoning. Also known as "post hoc, ergo propter hoc," literally "after this, therefore because of this." At its basest level, this is a form of superstition. As Hume taught us, the fact that two events follow each other in sequence does not mean they are connected causally. Correlation does not mean causation.

(13) Coincidence. In the paranormal world, coincidences are often seen as deeply significant. As the behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner proved in the laboratory, the human mind seeks relationships between events and often finds them even when they are not present.

(14) Representiveness. As Aristotle said, "The sum of the coincidences equals certainty." We forget most of the insignificant coincidences and remember the meaningful ones. We must always remember the larger context in which a seemingly unusual event occurs, and we must always analyze unusual events for their representiveness of their class of phenomena.

(15) Emotive words and false analogies. Emotive words are used to provoke emotion and sometimes to obscure rationality. Likewise, metaphors and analogies can cloud thinking with emotion and steer us onto a side path. Like anecdotes, analogies and metaphors do not constitute proof. They are merely tools of rhetoric.

(16) Ad ignoratum. This is an appeal to ignorance or lack of knowledge, where someone claims that if you cannot disprove a claim it must be true. In science, belief should come from positive evidence, not a lack of evidence for or against a claim.

(17) Ad hominem and tu quoque. Literally "to the man" and "you also," these fallacies redirect the focus from thinking about the idea to thinking about the person holding the idea. The goal of an ad hominem attack is to discredit the claimant in hopes that it will discredit the claim. Similarly for tu quoque. As a defense, the critic is accused of making the same mistakes attributed to the criticized, and nothing is proved one way or the other.

(18.) Hasty generalization. In logic, the hasty generalization is a form of improper induction. In life it is called prejudice. In either case, conclusions are drawn before the facts warrant it.

(19) Overreliance on authorities. We tend to rely heavily on authorities in our culture, especially if the authority is considered to be highly intelligent. Authorities, by virtue of their expertise in a field, may have a better chance of being right in that field, but correctness is certainly not guaranteed, and their expertise does not necessarily qualify them to draw conclusions in other areas.

(20) Either-or. Also known as the fallacy of negation or the false dilemma, this is the tendency to dichotomize the world so that if you discredit one position, the observed is forced to accept the other. A new theory needs evidence in favor of it, not just against the opposition.

(21) Circular reasoning. Also known as fallacy of redundancy, begging the question, or tautology, this occurs when the conclusion or claim is merely a restatement of one of the premises.

(22) Reductio ad absurdum and the slippery slope. Reductio ad absurdum is the refutation of an argument by carrying the argument to its logical end and so reducing it to an absurd conclusion. Surely, if an argument's consequences are absurd, it must be false. This is not necessarily so, though sometimes pushing an argument to its limits is a useful exercise in critical thinking; often this is a way to discover whether a claim has validity, especially when an experiment testing the actual reduction can be run. Similarly, the slippery slope fallacy involves constructing a scenario in which one thing leads ultimately to an end so extreme that the first step should never be taken.

(23) Effort inadequacies and the need for certainty, control, and simplicity. Most of us, most of the time, want certainty, want to control our environment, and want nice, neat, simple explanations. Scientific and critical thinking does not come naturally. it takes training, experience, and effort. We must always work to suppress our need to be absolutely certain and in total control ands our tendency to seek the simple and effortless solution to a problem.

(24) Problem-solving inadequacies. All critical and scientific thinking is, in a fashion, problem solving. There are numerous psychological disruptions that cause inadequacies in problem solving. We must all make the effort to overcome them.

(25) Ideological immunity, or the Planck Problem. In day-to-day life, as in science, we all resist fundamental paradigm change. Social scientist Jay Stuart Snelson calls this resistance an ideological immune system: "educated, intelligent, and successful adults rarely change their most fundamental presuppositions." As individuals accumulate more knowledge, theories become more well-founded, and confidence in ideologies is strengthened. The consequence of this, however, is that we build up an "immunity" against new ideas that do not corroborate previous ones. Historians of science call this the Planck Problem, after physicist Max Planck, who made this observation on what must happen for innovation to occur in science: "An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning."

In the meantime, Bill Maher has joined Bushco in labeling critics kooks or, to use Maher's terminology: nut jobs! I have a message for Maher: people who have a case, make it. Those who don't call other people names.

As we have said, many people believe whatever makes them feel good about themselves. I would like to believe that if you played Bush's 2003 State of the Union address backward, you hear him confess to lying about everything, including 911. But, unlike Bushheads and Reaganites, I don't have to indulge an absurd fantasy in order to feel good about myself. There is enough evidence in the public record to bring capital charges against George W. Bush right now. This evidence and probable cause meets the high standard required of a court at law. No mumbo jumbo, no supply-side hokum, no GOP sloganeering or meaningless platitudes required.

Top Ten Conspiracy Theories

Courtesy of Indymedia New York Mike Ward of PopMatters lists the most outrageous top ten officially spun conspiracy theories of the year - Scoop Editor's Note: If you feel like a laugh then read this!

He forgot to mention the most outlandish conspiracy of them all (and the most widely accepted): 19 hijackers from a third world terrorist group armed with boxcutters forced 3 planes into 3 of the the nation's most important and symbolic structures with no assistance from US government/intelligence insiders. ...

As we have proposed for your consideration, people tend to believe whatever makes them feel good about themselves. I wonder how good Maher manages to feel about himself after selling out to superstition and corporate financed ideology --however well-financed and packaged! I am not curious enough to sell out to the establish just to find how how it makes me feel. I will settle for Maher's report and I suspect that he is, rather, the authority on that subject right now.

Does it matter what is believed? Indeed, those who don't believe in the existence of cliffs may one day walk off one. Unless the US awakens to George W. Bush, it will have soon walked off a cliff.