Americans love a good conspiracy theory. JFK, Roswell and CIA “black ops” have become a unique part of our culture, spawning countless movies and books that straddle various degrees of reality. They are the guilty pleasures of our country; dust gathering in the corner of the room that, for several reasons, we refuse to sweep.
However, there is one theory that is not so innocuous. It has become so controversial and taboo that we have created a new cliche to deal with it.
There are now three things you don’t speak about at the dinner table: religion, politics and 9/11.
One can scarcely find a subject that causes more screaming matches than “direct-to-Internet” movies like “9/11 Mysteries”, “Loose Change” and “Painful Deceptions”. The directors of these films are occasionally spotlighted on major news networks, and often find themselves under intense scrutiny or denounced as unpatriotic fools. President Bush, himself, accused conspiracy theorists of creating “malicious lies that attempt to shift the blame away from the terrorist themselves; away from the guilty.”
So what keeps these “nut jobs” going? How do these independent documentaries continue to appear?
Quite simply, because they speak to a rather large audience. According to a Zogby poll from May 2007, 42 percent of Americans believe the government took part in some kind of cover up involving the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Considering the president’s dramatically low job approval rating, and the previously mentioned documentary “Loose Change” having been downloaded more than 10 million times, it’s clear whom the U.S. is listening to.
How, then, are we to interpret this? What cultural and political factors have led to nearly half of us believing the federal government is sponsoring acts of terrorism against its own citizens? The answers are, just as anything else in this world, incredibly complex.
And that is what has been forgotten. We have been too quick to our individual conclusions, ignoring what we know to be true: theories about 9/11 and other tragedies occur because of one, and every reason conceivable.
Are Americans who believe or make these films searching for a fantasy to escape this reality? Of course they are.
Has the government ever planned an attack against U.S. citizens in order to bolster support for a war? Yes. A 1962 proposal from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was presented to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and President John F. Kennedy suggesting the CIA, in order to blame Cuban nationalists and initiate conflict, start “terror campaigns” in Washington D.C. and Miami.
Will conspiracy theorists ever be completely satisfied with any explanation of Sept. 11? No, but when such a large percentage of Americans believe internet banter over their government, needless to say we have bigger problems to worry about. Particularly the lack of faith in our elected representatives, and their blatant incompetence – factors that largely contribute to a national mood that nurtures conspiracy theories against its own government.
The late John Roberts, an Oxford historian, suggested that during periods of rapid social and economic change, it is comforting to ascribe complicated issues to hidden forces bent on disrupting the status quo. To an extent, this is completely and disturbingly true.
However, with so many Americans unsure about their government’s involvement in 9/11, it is not healthy for us to ignore millions of people who believe these heavy allegations.Tweet
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