On Saturday afternoon, driving through Cambridge, Massachusetts and listening to the BBC World Service program World Have Your Say, the inevitable happened, though slightly earlier than I had anticipated. The BBC host read, in his plummy, Tuppy Glossop accent, an email from a Polish listener who had already determined, guided by both instinct and a basic knowledge of Russian imperialism, that the plane crash in Smolensk was engineered by the Russian security services, the FSB. Less than 24 hours after the crash and the Putinophobic (a condition from which I too suffer) were already connecting the dots, despite there being no available dots to connect.
The Week roundups up reactions to the "Katyn Two" (the plane was headed to a commemoration of the Soviet massacre of 20,000 Polish officers at Katyn) conspiracies here. In the New York Post, historian Arthur Herman suggests that "Others won't believe [the Russian account of the crash]—remembering that President Lech Kaczynski was a bitter foe of Russia's Vladimir Putin, and how Putin's dreaded FSB (the KGB's successor) was linked six years ago to a plot to poison Ukraine's president….We won't know the truth about this weekend's crash until the plane's "black box" flight recorder is safely out of Russian hands."
Just asking questions, naturally. But Herman should also point out that the Russian version of events is also accepted by Poland, who understand that the FSB might be devilishly clever but isn't likely to engineer bad weather in Smolensk or locate a Quisling Pole willing to act as the Mohammad Atta in a "new Katyn." Nor do I suspect the conspiracy-obsessed producers at Russia Today (RT) will give much airtime to this particular "alternative theory" of the crash. Not surprisingly, the paranoid schizophrenics and fatuous "investigative journalists" of the American conspiracy fringe, those likely to believe any tale of an impending fascist takeover of Washington, appear to have pledged a vow of silence on all things Putin.
In The Washington Post, Anne Applebaum, wife of Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, comments on the conspiracy loons, though I think she underestimates the tendency of such nonsense to metastasize and infect the debate. Indeed, a Polish MP, Arthur Gorski, has already suggested that Russia engineered the crash.
I reviewed David Aaronovitch's book on conspiracy theories here.