One Pristine Bullet? That Dog Don't Hunt!

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The Scripps Howard News Service has done a wonderful thing in asking Americans what they thought of five popular conspiracy theories. The least credible theory: "The Pentagon was not struck by an airliner captured by terrorists but instead was hit by a cruise missile fired by the U.S. military." A mere 12 percent of Americans buy into that. But a sizable 40 percent think "officials in the federal government were directly responsible for the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy." The support for theories of a cover-up of life on other planets and a "Reichstag fire" conspiracy on 9/11 are probably the biggest shocks in the poll—the former is only 38 percent, the latter is a whopping 36 percent. (I know 38 is bigger than 36, but there have been several more movies over more decades about Area 51 than about any 9/11 conspiracies.)

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  1. I think these numbers are skewed by people who are gullible enough to be talked into taking a telephone survey.

  2. Good call, David.

    Anyway, you say a mere 12%? That’s a lot of people! They really believe that?

  3. I’d be curious to see the results of a cross reference of this survey and the one with the number of people who believe Saddam was directly involved in orchestrating 9/11. If we’ve got 75% or so of the population that believes either Saddam or GWB was the matermind behind 9/11, where’s that leave the rest of us? Your choices are a brown body of water and an uncomfortable entrance through an exit, with much friction.

  4. a mere 12%? That’s a lot of people! They really believe that?

    Clearly, the Libertarian Party could radically increase its vote totals by becoming more fringy.

  5. With so much apparent mistrust of the government, why doesn’t the Libertarian Party do better? If large numbers really believe Lyndon Johnson killed Kennedy and Cheney killed the World Trade Towers, how does our society even continue to function?

  6. Alex Jones of http://www.prisonplanet.com has put out alot of 9/11 conspiracy theory videos which are circulating on the Internet. A friend of mine here in Orlando recommended one to me. I had heard of him before, but I didn’t think my friend was the type to buy into anything like this.

    As for me, I’m not really a believer in 9/11 conspiracy theories, mainly because I think our leaders are too bumbling to carry out anything which would require this much shrewd evil.

  7. The amusing part is when you meet someone who similtaeously believes that Saddam planned 9/11 and the government did it.

    Even funnier are the ones who believe both the literal story of biblical creation and that we are descended from space aliens.

  8. Sadly, this helps to explain the trend towards more government. If I believe that the government is competent enough to achieve goals requiring secret conspiracies of thousands of people, then it must know better than me how to run my life.

  9. “With so much apparent mistrust of the government, why doesn’t the Libertarian Party do better?”

    A substantial number of these people either (a) don’t vote at all because they believe the entire system is corrupt; or (b) they think only one of the two major parties is corrupt so they vote for the other one out of a self-preservation theory.

  10. Liberty magazine carried an article a few years ago that pretty much demolished the Kennedy assassination conspiracy. (Sorry they don’t have much on line so no linkee).

    The premise was pretty much, “Why would anyone go to the trouble of organizing a convoluted conspiracy when all anyone needed to do to destroy JFK would have been to expose his personal life and health problems?”

    On top of that JFK was not all that popular at that point. Anyone in his right mind would have just waited until he lost the ’64 election. And if he won, fall back on assassination as Plan B.

    I think that for a lot of people the conspiracy gives their lives some meaning. After all, what kind of world is it if someone as great as the POTUS can be offed by a lone delusional whackjob?

    Still and all, I enjoyed Stone’s JFK. The thought of a world where the CIA was competent and JFK was not the best friend the Military-Industrial Complex ever had was a beautiful fiction. Beside whatever alse you can say about Oliver Stone, he is a masterful filmmaker.

  11. Clearly, the Libertarian Party could radically increase its vote totals by becoming more fringy.

    Jesse, You’d be correct except that conspiracy afficianados also believe that US elections are fixed and therefore are unlikely to bother with voting. And after Washington state’s last gubernatorial election, that’s one conspiracy theory that is easy to believe in.

  12. With so much apparent mistrust of the government, why doesn’t the Libertarian Party do better?

    If you ever listen to any of these folks you will find that the last thing they want is more freedom. The only thing that will solve the world’s problems will be a benevolent, uncorrupt tyrant. He will protect us from harm and fill all our needs.

    The only thing preventing this eminence from taking power are all the corrupt conspirators just lining their own pockets.

    You guys haven’t spent much time hanging out in working class bars, have you. 🙂

    The Hitlers and Stalins of the world didn’t develop in a vacuum.

  13. idk about all the rest of em, but aliens definitely exist and the government does know about it.
    don’t believe me? take a look at the remote viewing experiments the CIA did with the Stanford Research Institute. The documents are now public.

  14. Sadly, this helps to explain the trend towards more government. If I believe that the government is competent enough to achieve goals requiring secret conspiracies of thousands of people, then it must know better than me how to run my life.

    I’ve always figured the first step towards becoming a conspiracy nut is unyielding faith in government. Must be comforting to imagine world leaders being that organized.

  15. Some years ago, I met someone who was actually employed by the Trilateral Commission. He didn’t seem all that sinister, but behind that geeky wonk exterior I’m sure was a person of pure evil.

  16. Oops, the dude actually worked for the Council on Foreign Relations. Same diff as far as conspiracy types go. Does the Trilateral Commission actually exist?

  17. “Gullible” people take telephone surveys…and don’t ordinary people also fuck with people for fun? One retail store I worked at had an irritating “end of the day” data collection software, to determine weather’s effect on business, and we intentionally fed it bad information out of pure spite.

    Don’t forget Margaret Mead’s “Coming of Age” quandary, either, where she asked a bunch of teenaged girl how often they had sex. “Constantly! With everyone! All…pffffffshhh…everybody diddles us! Our father encourages it!”

    But maybe those numbers are more or less accurate?

  18. You guys haven’t spent much time hanging out in working class bars, have you. 🙂

    LOL, sad, but oh so true.

  19. General scientific illiteracy, a specific inability to understand what constitutes evidence, and just plain down-home dumbness probably explain the relative popularity of all this conspiracy shit. Another factor is a loser psychology. Losers desperately need some explanation of their status as losers. Somebody’s got to be pulling the strings. It’s usually the Jews. And these dimwits aren’t anti-Semites. For them, it isn’t that Jews are bad; it’s rather that the bad guys are Jews (aliens, Mossad, the CIA, or MacDonald’s managers would work just as well.)

  20. General scientific illiteracy, a specific inability to understand what constitutes evidence, and just plain down-home dumbness probably explain the relative popularity of all this conspiracy shit. Another factor is a loser psychology. Losers desperately need some explanation of their status as losers. Somebody’s got to be pulling the strings. It’s usually the Jews. And these dimwits aren’t anti-Semites. For them, it isn’t that Jews are bad; it’s rather that the bad guys are Jews (aliens, Mossad, the CIA, or MacDonald’s managers would work just as well.)

    I never thought that I had so many soul mates out there. Death to the morons.

  21. the bad thing about alex jones is he generally makes one good point (expanded presidential power can be used very badly) and then piles the most emotionalistic crap he can find on top of it. so you end up with a good idea being covered in shit and then his fans wonder why no one takes them seriously (usually after telling you that anyone who doesn’t see the obvious truth is a brainwashed sheeple, etc).

    so in that sense they’re an awful lot like libertarians. they just have different conspiracies.

    for me the idea of one unified conspiracy is too much. maybe a few thousand, though.

  22. Does the Trilateral Commission actually exist?

    Apparently, yes.

    And of course the Council on Foreign Relations was founded with money from Cecil Rhodes. Like the scholarships its purpose is to foster reunification of the United States into a newly reinvigorated British Empire so that the world can be made safe for white men again.

    Or, at least, that’s what I heard. 😉

  23. Popular Mechanics ran an article on this sort of nonsense: Debunking the 9/11 Myths.

    I like how an event with thousands of witnesses, loads of physical evidence, and people confessing to the crime can be reduced to nonsensical conspiracy theories. Next thing you know, people will say we never went to the Moon or something ridiculous like that.

  24. Anyone in his right mind would have just waited until he lost the ’64 election.

    So they had him killed ensuring LBJ got the sympathy vote and the party stayed in power.

    You can shoot holes in the president’s head, but not in my theories.

  25. Isaac: Yes, many conspiracy theories fall apart with simple logic. I once had an online argument with a JFK conspiracy-monger, and asked why, if there was a huge conspiracy both inside and outside the government to murder him, why go to the trouble and risk of hiring one or more snipers to do it in public? Why not just have something slipped into his morning coffee, and say it’s a heart attack, since they’re going to “fix” the autopsy anyway? His answer was “Because they wanted to send a message.” However, he couldn’t explain what that message was, why a sniper-murder is a better message than a poison-murder, or why a secret conspiracy would ever need or want to send such a public message.

    The 9/11 theories have the same sort of problems: if you’re going to blow up the WTC with explosives, why bother making the plan much more complex by coordinating it with crashing planes? There are now many more things that can go wrong, and you’d kill more people by just blowing up the buildings with no warning. And if the Pentagon was hit by a missile, what happened to that plane? Why not just attack the Pentagon with a missile, and claim it was fired by terrorists? Why involve a plane at all? Frankly, I’ve read Holocaust denial theories that had more internal consistency (not that I believe them, either).

  26. Some people believe in conspiracy theories for fun.

    Others juggle geese. Goslings, actually.

  27. Of course, many cnspiracy theories quote a certain amount of simply false information and “evidence”.

    One of the more entertaining episodes of King of the Hill had Dale going to Dallas to find out the truth, once and for all. Instead of finding confirmation he found that the site looked nothing like he had heard it did, and he came away convinced that the official version was, in fact, true.

    Someone told me about a JFK theory debunking on one of the cable channels. They apparently opened up the storm drainage structure in which one of the sniper’s supposedly hid. Like most urban drainage inlets there is barely enough room for a small dog, let alone a human with a rifle.

    Mind you where would fiction be without the supposed labrinthe of storm and sanitary sewer tunnels under every city into which the hero or villain can escape at will and travel for miles across town?

    Knowing that such facilities are mostly small diameter pipes really spoils a lot of stories for me. 🙂

  28. Sadly, this helps to explain the trend towards more government. If I believe that the government is competent enough to achieve goals requiring secret conspiracies of thousands of people, then it must know better than me how to run my life.

    Perfect answer

  29. Mind you where would fiction be without the supposed labrinthe of storm and sanitary sewer tunnels under every city into which the hero or villain can escape at will and travel for miles across town?

    Or across a building. You should see what it’s really like inside airconditioning ducts.

    Conspiracy Theory Rule 1: If more than a dozen living people have to keep the elements of a conspiracy secret that’s too many people for the conspiracy to be kept secret.

  30. If you want conspiracy theories writ large, check out the Civil Rights museum in Memphis. There is a whole section dedicated to “Who shot MLK?”

    I couldn’t keep track.

  31. Mind you where would fiction be without the supposed labrinthe of storm and sanitary sewer tunnels under every city into which the hero or villain can escape at will and travel for miles across town

    They are not all “supposed” — Chicago has the Pedway

  32. ChicagoTom,

    The funny thing is if you asked Chicagoans about the Pedway, most of them would say there’s no such thing (it’s so poorly labeled).

  33. Russ

    You are right about that.

    I’ve lived in the Chicago metro area all my life and although I know of it, and how to get into it, i have never actually used it myself and only found out about in the last 6 years.

    Every once in a while a local paper will write a puff-piece on the Pedway reminding everyone of how great it is and how useful it is in the Winter just to remind everyone that its there.

  34. Does the Trilateral Commission actually exist?

    Apparently, yes.

    And of all the names shown on the web page, there is only one obvious woman’s name.

    No wonder everyone worries about the TC.

    T’Surakmaat

  35. Isaac Bartram,

    Don’t Stop Believin’

  36. Won’t somebody defend conspiracy theories (wink, wink)?

  37. ChicagoTom,

    During my tenure in Chicago, I got the distinct impression that entering the Pedways was like playing Dungeons and Dragons. For real. Without magic.

    For true underground escapades, the best town is Vienna. Tell ’em Orson sent ya!

  38. If large numbers really believe Lyndon Johnson killed Kennedy and Cheney killed the World Trade Towers, how does our society even continue to function?

    The same way it functions despite all the people who beleived that if you eat meat on Friday, your soul will burn in hell for all of eternity. That is to say: they don’t really believe it. Not the same way they believe their left hand is connected to their left arm, or that the bathroom light comes on when they flick the switch.

    The beliefs are not held so profoundly as to produce difficulty in coping with the affairs of the world (which they surely would); rather, it’s just “something to talk about”.

  39. Shit, this is too fuckin’ big for you, you know that? Who did the president, who killed Kennedy, fuck man! It’s a mystery! It’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma! The fuckin’ shooters don’t even know! Don’t you get it?

  40. They are not all “supposed” — Chicago has the Pedway

    I’m sure the environment in the Pedway is a lot more pleasant and safe than it is in a sanitary (or for that matter – storm) sewer tunnel. 🙂

    I thought someone might bring up Chicago’s Freight Tunnels.

    For what it’s worth there are some really bigass sewer tunnels under the largest cities. They’re just not very easy to get into. Oh, and there’s no electric lights in them that are on all the freakin’ time! And anybody who has never been underground has no idea how really, really dark dark is.

  41. “Every once in a while a local paper will write a puff-piece on the Pedway reminding everyone of how great it is and how useful it is in the Winter just to remind everyone that its there.”

    The messengers and office clerks use it religiously in the winter. It’s that sort of thing: if you have a need to use it everyday, you eventually learn it real well. February in Chicago can suck out loud. 10 years ago I could have drawn you a map of it here. But that info is all gone now.

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