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Illuminati, The New World Order & Paranoid Conspiracy Theorists (PCTs)
What is at stake is more than one small country [Kuwait], it is a big idea - a new world order, where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind: peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law. Such is a world worthy of our struggle, and worthy of our children's future. --President George Bush in his state of the union address, January 16, 1991
The Illuminati was a secret society in Bavaria in the late 18th century. They had a political agenda that included republicanism and abolition of monarchies, which they tried to institute by means of subterfuge, secrecy, and conspiracy, including the infiltration of other organizations. They fancied themselves to be "enlightened" but they had little success and were destroyed within fifteen years of their origin (Pipes 1997).
Paranoid conspiracy theorists (PCTs) believe the Illuminati cabal still exists, either in its original form or as a paradigm for later cabals. Many PCTs believe "that large Jewish banking families have been orchestrating various political revolutions and machinations throughout Europe and America since the late eighteenth century, with the ultimate aim of bringing about a satanic New World Order."* What George Bush was talking about in his state of the union address in 1991 was no less than the establishment of a single world government with the anti-Christ (who some say is Bill Clinton (or is he a decoy?), but could be Pat Robertson or George W. Bush) at its head.
In the paranoid mind, the Illuminati succeeded in their goals, and have now infiltrated every government and every aspect of society. They are responsible for every evil and every unjust act that ever occurs anywhere; the fact that absolutely no evidence of their existence can be found only serves to make them stronger and more frightening. They are the demon in the closet, and will probably never disappear from the paranoid fantasy world of right-wing conspiracy theorists.
--New England Skeptical Society
There are several "sects" of PCTs. Among the more popular are the militant Christian fundamentalist branch and the UFO/alien branch. They each think the others are evil or nuts but their paranoia has the same focus: the end is near.
The Illuminati are hastening the coming of the anti-Christ and the end of the world.
For those of us who still accept the Bible as God's [sic] revealed will to man, it's a matter of great concern to see the increasing propaganda for, and emergence of, a New World Order.... both Old and New Testaments warned us that the culmination of history would be marked by the reunion of the nations of the old Roman Empire in Europe; the restoration of the state of Israel (and the increasing hostility of all nations toward her); the implementation of a one-world governmental system; the imposition of a world-wide cashless monetary system; the development of a synchretistic [sic] world religion, based upon man, and presided over by a false prophet; the rise to power of a benign world dictator, who (once firmly in control) would eliminate individual freedoms, demonstrate iron-willed ferocity and cruelty, and make himself the object of worship; and world-wide apostacy [sic], coupled with active persecution and execution of believing Jews and Christians.
Mr. Whitley is prepared for Armageddon, however. He sells Emergency Dehydrated Food Kits.
the major players
Here is a typical set of the PCT's notions, extolled in a review of an author who claims he has exposed the Illuminati:
Who really controls world events from behind-the-scene? Years of extensive research and investigation have gone into this massively documented work [Bloodlines of the Illuminati]. In almost 600 pages, Fritz Springmeier discloses mind-boggling facts and never before revealed truths about the top Illuminati dynasties. Discover the amazing role these bloodlines have played--and are now wielding--in human history, with family names such as Astor, DuPont, Kennedy, Onassis, Rockefeller, Rothschild, Russell, Van Duyn, and Krupp. You'll also learn of the secretive, Chinese Li family, which operates with impunity in the U.S.A. and around the world. Along the way you'll find out why President John F. Kennedy and actress Grace Kelly were killed; who created the United Nations; who controls the two major U.S. political parties; how the Rothschilds invented and control modern-day Israel; who secretly founded false religions such as the Jehovah Witnesses; and much, much more. A literal encyclopedia of rare, unbelievable information!*
The "information" is certainly unbelievable, but it is not rare enough. Another PCT "sect" holds that it is the aliens who rule the Illuminati who rule the world, etc.
David Icke, another pundit of the Illuminati, believes humans have been getting messages from alien "Illuminati-reptilians" for thousands of years. The reptiles explain such things as the Gregorian calendar.
The whole senario [sic] was planned centuries ago because the reptilians, operating from the lower fourth dimension, and indeed whatever force controls them, have a very different version of "time" than we have, hence they can see and plan down the three-dimensional "time"-line in a way that those in three-dimensional form cannot.*
Icke fancies himself "The most controversial author and speaker in the world."* For him, the origin of the Illuminati is extraterrestrial. He knows this because he is sure we have been contacted regularly with messages from beyond by the alien lizards. He explains it all in several books, especially The Biggest Secret: The Book That Will Change the World.*
Another expositor on these hidden agendas and worldwide conspiracies is Jim Keith, who died on September 7, 1999, during surgery to repair a leg he injured at the Burning Man Festival. Keith, a former executive Scientologist and author of nine conspiracy books (including Saucers of the Illuminati) could see things the rest of us don't. Was this because he was better at seeing or because his imagination ran wild? He watches a Coke ad and sees fellatio and anal penetration.* You can imagine what he sees or hears when he gives his attention to world history.
Ken Adachi has a fine conspiracy page. He leaves no event unaccounted for as part of the plot to take over the world and hasten the Apocalypse. The Illuminati, however, is only one aspect of the occult cabal. He has transmogrified the New World Order into a cabal itself. According to Mr. Adachi
An extremely powerful civilian dominated cabal, the New World Order, includes Majesty [sic] Twelve [MJ-12], The Illuminati, Order of the Quest, The Bilderberg Group, The Trilateral Commission, The Executive Committee of The Council on Foreign Relations, The PI-40 Committee, The Jason Group [sic], The Club of Rome, The Group, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, The Open Friendly Secret Society [the Vatican], The Rosicrucians, The Brotherhood of the Dragon (or Snake), The Russell Trust, The Black Families (of Europe), Skull & Bones, the Scroll & Key, The Knights of Malta, the Illuminati arm of The Freemasons, and many, many other secretive groups.
What is most amusing about Mr. Adachi's page is that even though the end is near, he still asks us to please support his sponsor, an organization that can help with debt consolidation or a home loan. What is not so amusing is his identification of the Freemasons as a subversive cabal. This idea is popular among PCTs, especially with those on the religious right like Pat Robertson, who are also prone to be anti-Semitic.
Mr. Adachi may have a fine conspiracy WWW page but he seems to have borrowed everything from Mr. Fagan, who undertook to explain all of world history as a plot of the Illuminati to establish the New World Order. Waterloo, Diamond Jim Brady, the French Revolution, any war you care to name, homosexuals in the State Department, JFK, the United Nations, the ACLU, Jewish bankers, the Communist conspiracy to control Hollywood and make films that would hasten the arrival of the New World Order, etc. ad nauseam. Fagan's audiotape, "The Illuminati," is available online with transcript.
Fagan, born ca. 1888, was a playwright, director, producer, editor and public relations director for Charles Evans Hughes, Republican candidate for president in 1916. In 1930, Fagan came to Hollywood and worked as a writer and director. In 1945, he says he saw some secret documents which led him to write Red Rainbow and Thieves Paradise. The former portrays Roosevelt, Stalin and others at Yalta plotting to deliver the Balkans, Eastern Europe and Berlin to Stalin. The latter portrays the same group plotting to create the United Nations as a Communist front for one world government. Until his death, Fagan relentlessly uncovered plots for almost every historical event of any note. Fagan is the archetype for the PCT.
Both David Icke and Myron Fagan were influenced by William Guy Carr, a Canadian naval officer and conspiracy monger who prophesized that World War III would be started by the satanically influenced Illuminati.
Cooper was a leader of the Arizona militia movement until his death in a shootout with a sheriff's deputy. Cooper opened fire on the deputy when he tried to issue a warrant for assaulting his neighbor. Cooper wrote The Secret Government: a Covenant with Death - The Origin, Identity, and Purpose of MJ-12, a paper given in Las Vegas at a MUFON meeting in 1989 focusing essentially on his belief of a cover-up of an alien crash at Roswell. He also wrote Secret Societies/ New World Order. He claimed that he got his information "directly from, or as a result of my own research into the TOP SECRET/MAJIC material WHICH I SAW AND READ between the years 1970 and 1973 as a member of the Intelligence Briefing Team of the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet." (PCTs seem to like to use CAPS for EMPHASIS.) Cooper's veracity about his career in the Navy and his access to secret documents has been questioned publicly on alt.alien.visitor, as have other aspects of his personality. Cooper ran williamcooper.com, a site which promoted his many rants, including an autobiographical page that might be of interest to certain mental health professionals.
Cooper's "investigations" uncovered the usual conspiracies, although he also included some of the new ones such as the conspiracy to use AIDS to thin out the population of blacks, Hispanics and homosexuals, a notion he put forth in a book called Behold a Pale Horse. What Cooper lacked in hard evidence he oversupplied in detail and imagination.
Ross is owner of Ross International Enterprises (RIE) and is the author of nine books in progress. RIE is "a private company chartered to do anything that is legal, ethical and moral, anywhere in the world." Ross started RIE when he couldn't find a publisher for his manuscript, Who's Who of the Elite, an expose of the elite. Says Ross, after you visit his site
you will have been exposed to the REAL TRUTH about the conspiracy behind the Bilderbergs; Council on Foreign Relations; Trilateral Commission; Skull & Bones Society; Bohemian Grove and Bohemian Club; the CIA's involvement in trauma based mind control, drug smuggling and money laundering; where are the Wealthiest in the World; who really owns the Federal Reserve System; and the more accurate theories found in "Logical Physics" [by Cecil Ross].
Robert Gaylon Ross's unique twist is to relate the "alternative physics" of Cecil Ross to the world of conspiracies.
To enter the world of the PCTs is to enter Bedlam. It would be pointless here to examine, much less attempt to refute, the delusions of people who think they have been turned into assassins by mind-control techniques so that they can carry out the will of inbred dynasties, that aliens are controlling the world, that none of the laws of science are actual, that the imagination and the thought of what is possible are better guides than the "physically manifested world," etc. A rational person might think many of the PCTs are joking. There are Internet sites that seem to be parody sites but it is difficult to tell, since there seems to be no belief, however inane or absurd, that the PCTs can't fit into their bizarre worldview. A rational person who never heard of Pat Robertson might well read his New World Order (Word Books, 1994) and think it must be a joke. Could anyone actually believe his rambling paranoia regarding Jewish bankers, Freemasons, Muslims, homosexuals, foreigners, etc.? Apparently so. Still, one wonders why PCTs exist and their numbers seem to be growing.
Of course, governments and some of the very rich have conspired to rule the world in one form or another. There are enough real conspiracies to satisfy even the greatest Pollyanna that one's government and the extremely rich and powerful don't play by the same rules, if they play by any rules at all, as decent folk. Those of us who have watched the U.S. government support one fascist dictator after another because he was "anti-communist" are uncomfortable to find that there are people who are so far to the right of the right-wing that they too want to expose the cover-ups. It is of no use to point out to the PCTs that our government led coups of democratically elected governments, assassinated leaders of nations and provided military and financial aid to thugs and murderers around the world, in a misguided belief that they were saving the world from communism, as well as opening up new markets for capitalist expansion. Many of the leaders and top agents in our government are and were evil and incompetent, but, as inept as they tend to be, even they would recognize the limits of their ambitions.
But, it is pointless to argue here because the PCTs are expert pseudohistorians: contradictory evidence is used to support rather than refute their notions. Does the U.S. Government go after the world's richest man, Bill Gates? Hah! It's a charade, aimed at getting us off the scent. Wasn't Hitler the one who thought he could rule the world and didn't the Allies stop him? Hitler was a dupe, used to advance the sinister plot to rule the world by the Illuminati.
One can only speculate as to why PCTs exist. It is easy to explain their proliferation: modern mass communications has made it possible for anyone to become his or her own press and propaganda machine. But why PCTs in the first place? The only other experience I've had with such thinking was when I had to get involved with some mentally ill people. I am not joking here. A relative had a "psychotic break" and severe paranoia. We (a group of relatives) were all targets of assassination by some unknown evil people. They could be partially identified by their license plate numbers. If the number started with a "5" then they were evil. No amount of logic or reasoning as to the preposterousness of the notion that anyone would want to kill a person of absolutely no political significance was of any use. No amount of reasoning as to how license plate numbers are assigned was of any use. Phone calls could only be made from "secure" lines, which involved either going to the fire department or talking your way up through a series of supervisors until you got a "good one." Through my ill relative I met others who were also afflicted with delusions and incredibly faulty judgment. They did not lose their ability to reason--in fact, my relative seemed even more intelligent in some ways when manic--but their assumptions were taken from sources inaccessible to the ordinary mind. They put vast faith in their intuitions and thought their ideas were brilliant insights when they were little more than the fancies of diseased brains. When I compare reading the literature of the PCTs to entering Bedlam, I mean to be taken literally.
For example, many PCTs consider the Great Seal of the United States and the motto Novus Ordo Seclorum (new order of the ages) to be Masonic and to mean New World Order. These "facts" are considered evidence in the argument to prove the vast conspiracy of the Illuminati. It is useless to argue against these "facts" with PCTs. They consider us dupes who would note that the Latin is usually translated as New Order of the Ages and that the symbol of the eye in the pyramid relates to a poem in the Egyptian Book of the Dead.* Even granting that the Great Seal of the United States and the symbols on our dollar bill are Masonic (which they are not) and that novus ordo seclorum means New World Order (which it does not), nothing significant follows, certainly not that there is a vast conspiracy to take over the world.
I think it is likely that many PCTs in the West are initiated into their peculiar way of thinking by their religious training, in particular by their study of the Bible. They have been taught or they assume that everything happens for a purpose and that some god ultimately has a reason for every event occurring just as it does. As it becomes more and more difficult to see this world as designed for anything, the theories get more and more preposterous to keep the teleological delusion alive. The war on evolution and homosexuality--encouraging the abandonment of science and stimulating murderous assaults--so obviously disproportionate by any rational standard, is difficult to explain without seeing the militant fundamentalists as beyond the last stages of desperation. The intense campaigns to expose possible alien abductions, UFOs, and mind-control is likewise preposterously disproportionate to any rational standard. It is becoming nearly impossible to account for the events on this planet with the assumption of a Divine Creator who has a plan and a rationale for everything. The systems of thought that must be created in order to maintain Divine Providence get more insane by the minute. (Explain Hitler, Slobodan Milosovich, or Ishii Shiro. Or, for that matter, explain Waco, Gulf War Syndrome, or any of a number of actual conspiracies engaged in by businessmen such as Bill Gates or political leaders such as Oliver North and his "neat" idea of a government within the government answerable to nobody, or Richard Nixon and the Watergate conspirators, or our formerly secret biological warfare programs.) There is, in fact, a New World Order emerging: the world of Alternative History, Alternative Physics, Alternative Medicine and, ultimately, Alternative Reality.
It is a very natural trait to try to make sense out of the world. The PCTs are trying desperately to make sense out of a world they can no longer relate to. The world is too complicated, too mean, too cold, too unsatisfying for them. In the real world, they are considered nothing and despair of ever being anything but on the outside looking in. They see science as telling them they are an accident and their lives are without meaning. In their alternative world, they rule and are hopeful. Everything is in its place or will be put in its place. There is order and meaning. Life is significant.
the end is near
The actual mechanisms by which PCTs arrive at their weird notions are not that difficult to ascertain. As long as one is selective in which facts to focus on or invent, even the dimmest bulb in the panel can confirm his bias. Witness Jenny McCarthy, a model with no medical background, becoming the leader of the pack in the Big Pharma/AMA vaccination conspiracy. The mentally ill people I came to know couched their paranoid fears in terms of the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. They had no communal reinforcement of their delusions, however. No talk show host or publisher invited them to share their delusions with the world. They are under treatment, have been hospitalized, arrested, etc. They know that those around them will not accept their delusions. This is not true of religious or UFO groups. They reinforce each other and strengthen each other's resolve. They encourage each other to accept possibility as equal to probability, material experience as inferior to dreams, hallucinations, and out-of-body experiences, etc. They have no watchdog equivalent to I. F. Stone, and the mass media is too busy chasing tabloid rumors and celebrities to serve as a watchdog of anything. Since the PCTs function almost completely outside of the normal arenas where they would be challenged and forced to produce evidence in place of speculation, they flourish relatively unscathed and await their next appearance on the Art Bell or George Noory or Pat Robertson show, seemingly oblivious to the absurdity of such behavior during the final days of planet Earth. When the PCTs do bring their conspiracy theories to the public in forums where they can be challenged, they are masters at evading contrary evidence and challenging opponents to explain this or that, which, when explained, is quickly ignored in favor of a new this or that that needs to be explained, ad nauseam. PCTs, like those who think the Apollo moon mission was staged in a movie studio, are unimpressed by the commonsense notion that the more government bureaucrats that must be involved in a conspiracy, the less likely it is true.
If one looks only for what confirms one's beliefs, the Bush/Cheney circus of errors is a gift from the gods to those who maintain that 9/11 was planned by our government. The Cheney/Bush administration acted remarkably like an administration whose goal is world dominance. It posed as pious while invading countries to make war on them. It allowed torture* and spying* on its own citizens in the name of patriotism and defense of liberty. It's abstinence only policies seem to have been aimed at increasing America's population so that it's armies might stay large and its markets keep expanding. It did little of positive value to stop a worldwide economic collapse. It practiced many human rights abuses that it condemned in its enemies. The appointment of Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank seems too good to be true if one is looking for support of this hypothesis.
Stop throwing the Constitution in my face! It's just a goddamned piece of paper! --George W. Bush???, November 2005*
It seems impossible that such bright guys went to war because of bad intelligence, which is what Bush now claims. To some it must seem as if the Cheney/Bush regime tried to encourage terrorism rather than stop it. The more fear they could arouse the longer they could continue their aggression in the name of defense. Even so, there is little evidence that they were part of a global conspiracy. Yet, it's not surprising to see conspiracy websites like that of Alex Jones, who thinks the U.S. has become a police state. (If we were truly a police state Mr. Jones wouldn't have his website or his films.) It also will not be surprising to see a great increase in the number of people who believe in the Cheney/Bush illuminati cabal.
See also alien abduction, Apollo Moon hoax hoax, Area 51, creationism, Freemason, mind control, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Roswell, UFO, and "9/11 conspiracies: the war on truth" by Robert T. Carroll.
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books and articles
Goertzel, Ted. 2011. The Conspiracy Meme. Skeptical Inquirer. Jan/Feb. The ninety-two conspiracy theories described in a recent handbook (McConnachie and Tudge 2008) range in topic from Tutankhamen and the curse of the pharaoh, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and satanic ritual abuse to the alleged scheming of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and the British royal family. Other theories involve religious cults, alien abductions, or terrorist plots. Some are merely amusing, but others have fueled wars, inquisitions, and genocides in which millions of people died.
Goldwag, Arthur. 2009. Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies:The Straight Scoop on Freemasons, The Illuminati, Skull and Bones, Black Helicopters, The New World Order, and many, many more.Vintage.
Hofstadter, Richard. 1964. The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Harper’s Magazine, November. Some things never change. Forty-five years ago, the paranoid right planted the seeds that continue to produce a parade of parrots.
The Illuminati by Edward L. King
"Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia: Notes from a Mind-Control Conference" by Evan Harrington
Freemason -- from the 700 Club to Art Bell, an Object of Conspiracy Thinking by Conrad Goeringer
Journal of The Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York -parody by Michael Shermer (to find Shermer's piece, do a search for 'illuminati')
Are the MJ-12 documents for real? About.com
Conspiracy Theories in Aerospace History A Lesson in Critical Thinking for the Internet Age "You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. How do you evaluate the reliability of online information? Check out the conference archives from this National Air and Space Museum interactive online conference developed especially for teachers and secondary students. Historians and educators from the Museum, and guests from the Department of the Navy and National History Day, demonstrate critical thinking skills they use to evaluate information. They discuss four major events in aerospace history that have captured people’s imagination and given rise to speculation and conspiracy theories: Thinking Critically About the Apollo Moon Landings; Thinking Critically About Amelia Earhart’s Disappearance; Thinking Critically About UFOs; Thinking Critically About the Attack on Pearl Harbor."
It’s a Plot! No, It’s Not: A Debunking by Michiko Kakutani -
review of Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory
in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch (Riverhead,
"Aaronovitch uses Occam’s razor to eviscerate the many conspiracy theories that have percolated through politics and popular culture over the last century, from those that assert that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were actually a United States government plot to those that claim that Diana, Princess of Wales, was murdered at the direction of the royal family or British intelligence.
"In most cases, Mr. Aaronovitch notes, conspiracy theorists would rather tie themselves into complicated knots and postulate all sorts of improbable secret connections than accept a simple, more obvious explanation....
"He not only notes the appeal of narrative and causality in a frighteningly random world...but also argues that overarching theories tend to be 'formulated by the politically defeated and taken up by the socially defeated.'
"[Conspiracy fanatics are the] losers 'left behind by modernity.'"
Hoax Site Distressing for Victims of Shooting "Some conspiracy Web sites are claiming that the shootings that nearly killed Representative Gabrielle Giffords and did end the lives of a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl and four others never actually took place. One particularly bizarre site, run by a Texas man, says it was all a government hoax that used actors."
The bizarre Texas man calls himself Ed Chiarini. He says his work is a Dallasgoldbug production. He will pass on, via his website, any conspiracy notion, no matter how flimsy or potentially harmful to victims of tragedies, claiming that he is an "investigator" interested only in the truth and keeping the public from being duped by its government. If someone writes a conspiracy story, he'll pass it on. Here's an outline of what counts as sufficient evidence to warrant an investigation: I don't understand something. Therefore, we should investigate it to see if it's a government conspiracy.
Poor thinkers should remember the adage: if you hear hoofbeats, don't think unicorns.
The Latest Anti-Obama Conspiracy Theory According to Avi Lipkin, "The Moslem world is saying that President Obama wants amnesty for the current Hispanic 12 million illegal immigrants in the US in order to pave the way for the next wave of tens of millions of illegals from the Middle East to the United States, leading to 50 to 100 million Muslims living in the US. before the end of Obama's second term, which will be brought forth by these new U.S. citizens voting for their savior, Obama."
Glenn Beck's hysterical rants about Egypt (11 Feb 2011) Beck forecasts a wave of Muslim extremism sweeping from Egypt to the rest of the Mideast. He says this "caliphate," or at least its revolutionary soul, could well darken Europe, if not our own shores. So, while the rest of us this week saw young people joyously dancing in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria because they felt the world opening before them [as Hosni Mubarak resigned], Beck viewed the same pictures as the first steps toward a New World Disorder....[Beck] asserted that this would be just the first "domino" in a series that would bring the entire region under the control of radical Islam.
Secret camps and guillotines? Groups make birthers look sane ....retired FBI agent Ted Gunderson says the government has prepared 1,000 camps for its own citizens. He also says the government has stored 30,000 guillotines to murder its critics, and has stashed 500,000 caskets in Georgia and Montana for the remains.
Jerome Corsi, the author of "The Obama Nation," an anti-Obama book, says that a proposal in Congress "appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany."
Another Web site, Americanfreepress.net, says the proposal "would create a Guantanamo-style setting after martial law is declared." There's no evidence of such a plan. In truth, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., has proposed a bill that would order the Homeland Security Department to prepare national emergency centers — to provide temporary housing and medical facilities in national emergencies such as hurricanes.
Paranoia paradise - By Chris Horrie BBC News Online What makes a good conspiracy theory? What is it about some stories that, however unlikely, convince people that they are true?
new Conspiracy Thinking by Steven Novella, Neurologica "To a conspiracy theorist, McCain scratched his nose, therefore he is in on a 45 year old plot to assassinate JFK, and the world is run by a shadow government of incredible reach, power, and just enough stupidity (or hubris) so that the conspiracy theorists themselves can see through it all." [/new]
review by Richard Morrock
(First published in eSkeptic, a free, public newsletter published (almost) weekly by the Skeptics Society. Contents are Copyright © 2006 Michael Shermer, the Skeptics Society, and the authors and artists. Permission is granted to print, distribute, and post with proper citation and acknowledgment. Contact the Skeptics Society at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
David Ray Griffin’s fanciful tale of Bush administration complicity in the 9/11 terrorist attack is a perfect example of the kind of conspiratorial thinking discussed by George Case in Skeptic Vol. 11 No. 4. There isn’t much to be learned about the fateful events from Griffin’s silly book, but he gives us some useful insight into the origins of paranoia.
Most writers on a subject do what is called research on the material, which means reading books, conducting interviews, and tracking down documents. This consumes far too much time and effort for conspiracy buffs like Griffin. His approach consists of asking disturbing questions, ignoring the actual evidence, speculating about the possible answers, assuming the worst-case scenario, and then drawing up his indictment of the administration based on his assumptions, even where they are in flagrant contradiction to widely-known facts.
Starting with the dubious “who benefits argument?”, Griffin concludes that since President George W. Bush profited in terms of political capital from the 9/11 attacks, he had to be behind them. Given that premise, he argues that the U.S. government masterminded the whole catastrophe from beginning to end, with the al-Qaeda hijackers being either innocent bystanders or U.S. secret agents. The planes that hit the World Trade Center — Flights 11 and 175 — were actually piloted by remote control, with their command center at No. 7 WTC, the 45-story office building across a narrow side street from the North Tower. In addition, the impact of the planes did not cause the buildings to collapse; that was the work of controlled explosions set off inside the Towers. As for the Pentagon, it was a guided missile or, no, maybe a military plane that hit the building, with Flight 77 disappearing inside the smoke and flames. And Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, PA, was actually shot down by the U.S. military because the passengers were on the brink of taking it over. The Bush administration didn’t want the hijackers taken alive, Griffin insists, because they presumably could have proven their innocence. How strange that 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui should have been kept alive after the 9/11 events, not to mention the mastermind of the affair, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, captured in Pakistan and now in U.S. custody.
One of the points Griffin raises is why the South Tower collapsed half an hour before the North Tower, although it was struck 15 minutes later. From this alleged discrepancy in the official story, Griffin concludes that the government had planted explosives in the WTC the previous weekend, using a power blackout as cover, and had dynamited the buildings. He never considers the other explanation: the South Tower collapsed faster because the plane impacted on a lower floor, and more floors were therefore set on fire. Any glance at the photograph of the second impact will show this.
He fails to explain why the government would have waited nearly an hour to explode its bombs in the South Tower, which would have allowed many people to escape; the North Tower didn’t collapse for one and 3/4 hours, and nearly all of the WTC workers who died were in the impacted floors or above. Did Bush’s remote control have a low battery?
Griffin actually does claim that No. 7 WTC, which collapsed at 5:20 pm, was blown up by explosives, and this is taken as proof that Washington was behind it. But what would the motive be? Blowing up an already-evacuated office building after thousands had died in the Twin Towers would seem like a waste of dynamite, not to mention office space. Did Bush think that public opinion had not been sufficiently inflamed by the 3,000 deaths? Do most Americans even know that a third office building, far smaller than the Towers, was also lost on that day? Griffin never explores that possibility that No. 7 was demolished because it had been contaminated by the white dust from the nearby North Tower. Explosives were used because, at 45 stories, No. 7 was too tall for a wrecking crane.
Jet fuel is kerosene, argues Griffin. Kerosene could not have caused a fire hot enough to melt steel, which happened at the Twin Towers. Perhaps Griffin has never attended a barbecue, where kerosene is used to ignite charcoal briquettes, and the charcoal fire then cooks the food. Something similar happened at the Twin Towers, where the jet fuel ignited carpets, furniture, books and papers, which then produced enough heat to bring down the burning floors; their impact on the floors below produced the force that led to the Towers’ collapse.
There is the question of what Bush knew on the morning of 9/11 and when he knew it. Some have claimed that Bush was lying when he said he saw the first impact on the Twin Towers, since there had been no live coverage of that attack; the second impact, about 15 minutes later, was covered by cameramen photographing the fire from the first. It would seem likely that when Bush watched the second crash on TV, as he waited to enter the 2nd-grade classroom in Florida where he was planning to read My Pet Goat, he mistakenly thought he was watching the first. Not until about 20 minutes later was he informed that there were two crashes, indicating a terrorist attack rather than an accident, and at that point he started to look worried. About six or seven minutes later, he left the school.
Well, why wasn’t he, or his staff, concerned about his being targeted by the terrorists? Doesn’t that prove, as Griffin indicates, that Bush was aware he was in no danger, and therefore involved in the attack? Not necessarily, given that both attacks were in New York, a thousand miles from Florida, and the attack on the Pentagon hadn’t happened yet. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the hijackers could have singled out the Sarasota elementary school; all of their targets were highly visible landmarks which could be identified from many miles away, whereas urban areas have numerous indistinguishable schools.
Why wasn’t the Air Force ordered to shoot down Flight 77 as it streaked through the sky on its way to hit the Pentagon? The official 9/11 Commission story is that planes were sent north to intercept Flight 11, with the White House and Pentagon unaware that it had already crashed in New York, and that the threat was coming from another plane, heading in from the west. Griffin believes that Vice President Dick Cheney, in charge of the situation in Washington while Bush was flying to Nebraska in Air Force One, deliberately avoided intercepting Flight 77 so that the Pentagon would be struck. One wonders what Donald Rumsfeld, still in his office at the Pentagon, might have had to say about that! Griffin asks why the Pentagon wasn’t evacuated, but never considers the fact that the government had no idea which target in the Washington area had been selected by the terrorists. Nor does he concern himself with the political fallout if an enemy attack on United States soil had been followed by our military leadership fleeing in panic from their still-intact offices.
Then there is the matter of the disappearing wreckage at the Pentagon, of which conspiracy buffs have made much. Photographs taken in the immediate aftermath of the impact show no sign of airplane debris. That must mean that it was a missile that hit the Pentagon, implicating our diabolical government once again. Official accounts indicate that Flight 77 smashed through several of the concentric rings that make up the Pentagon, so that the wreckage all came to rest well inside the building.
Flight 93, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania as the passengers attempted to wrest it back from the hijackers, may actually represent the one instance where Griffin does cast some light on the matter. The original official story had it that the passengers made their way into the cockpit, but that the plane crashed during the brief struggle. Later, it was announced that the passengers never made it through the door, and the government speculated that the pilot, Ziad Jarrah, downed the plane as the desperate fight broke out in the passenger compartment. Of course, given the fact that Jarrah planned to sacrifice his life for this mission, it doesn’t seem likely that he would have aborted it while there was still some chance of success. Griffin indicates that open cell phone lines recorded two explosions during the fight, followed by the sound of rushing wind; he reports an eyewitness saying that the plane disintegrated in the air, and mentions that one engine was found a mile and a half from the rest of the debris.
This is proof to Griffin that the Air Force downed Flight 93 with a missile, making the government responsible for the deaths of the heroic passengers who nearly foiled the fourth hijacking. He backs up this improbable claim by mentioning that someone saw a white military plane in the sky near the hijacked flight, overlooking the detail that military planes on such a mission would travel in formations of two or more, and that they are rarely white.
Griffin also mentions that the Flight 93 hijackers declared that they had a bomb when they took over the plane, but that the passengers regarded this as a bluff. He never considers the possibility that the hijackers were not bluffing, and that they set off the bomb (more likely two) when they were rushed by the passengers. This would account for the explosions, the sound of the wind on the cell phones, the crash of the plane, the engine landing more than a mile from the fuselage, and the peculiar path of the flight in the last few minutes before it crashed. In the map in the 9/11 report, Flight 93 makes a U-turn in northern Ohio after being hijacked, and then heads southeast, in a straight line, aiming directly for Washington. While over western Pennsylvania, it veers to the left and then makes a clockwise semi-circle, as if Jarrah has suddenly found it impossible to steer. Was this the result of a missile, a fight in the passenger compartment, or the desperate hijackers setting off their bombs?
The 9/11 attacks made Americans feel helpless, even more so than our defeat in Vietnam. Theories of administration complicity in 9/11, based on total denial of even the most self-evident facts, serve as a defense against these admittedly uncomfortable feelings, and allow us to feel omnipotent once again. Our government is all-powerful and all-knowing; a bunch of Middle Eastern fanatics couldn’t possibly take us by surprise, could they? Better a government that’s totally evil than one which leaves us helpless in the face of foreign terrorists.