The final word on conspiracy theorists

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The final word on conspiracy theorists

Whilst reading the followng great blog I came across a decisive insightful analysis on the internal working of the garden variety conspircay theorist.

Well worth reading


Back around 1989 or so, I had just moved to LA and was working the night shift as a limousine driver. I had a miserable little apartment in North Hollywood. I had heard of a book that had published the autopsy pictures of President Kennedy, and how it contained compelling evidence of a conspiracy. It was called Best Evidence and I bought it.

It doesn’t rain often in Los Angeles, but it rained the night I read that book. Its author, David Lifton, claimed that Kennedy was shot from the front, but then the body was secretly taken from Air Force One to Walter Reed Army Hospital where extensive surgery “reversed” the trajectory of the wounds to make it look like poor patsy Oswald was the real assassin.

When I finally got to the payoff a shot of electricity went through me. I realized that I was now in possession of such history-changing information that I distinctly recall getting up, opening the door and peering out into the rain to see if I was being watched. I felt, truly, for one half-hour that my life might be in danger. I wish I could say I am making this up.

That sense of uncovering deep layers of ancient cover-ups is what drove the sales of The DaVinci Code. There, too, a web of truths, half-truths and outright fabrication spun a story that left the reader with a palpable sense of awe. It made you feel important, like you knew something absolutely essential that very few others ever were privileged to know.

Now most normal people do not look at life from within a pit of failure and despair. Our lives are measured by small successes -- like raising children, serving in the military, doing volunteer work at your church – or just doing the right thing in a thousand small but important ways, like returning money if someone makes you too much change.

These are simply the small, ordinary milestones of a life of value. They give you a sense of identity.

But if I didn’t have that sense of identity rooted in my own small achievements, I wonder how likely it would have been for me to grab onto that sense of sudden empowerment, of being an initiate in some arcane club of hidden wisdom. I wonder what might have happened to me if being the Holder of Secret Knowledge had been my only source of self-esteem… the one redeeming landmark in a life of isolation and failure. Indeed, I wonder what power such a worldview would have over me if I could believe that behind the scenes lurked vast and unknowable dark forces – forces that could topple a president and perhaps even explain why a person of my deep, vast and bountiful talents was not doing a whole lot better in life?

I wonder what might have happened to me then.

Because I did not need to believe in Giant Wheels of Conspiracy grinding John F. Kennedy to dust, I was relieved and not a little embarrassed when I finally read Case Closed. It was – quite vividly – like opening a window in a musty, cluttered, book-filled room and feeling the cool breeze of reason and logic air out the mind.

This is not the place for me to debate whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin that day. That would take an entire book, exhaustively researched, with extensive footnoting and reference to primary sources. There is such a book, it is called Case Closed, and as I said, it performs its function better than any book I have ever read.

I am more interested in the psychology of someone who believes in these conspiracy theories. I exempt people who have only heard one side of the story, as I did. Sadly, skepticism doesn’t sell as well as hysteria. With regards to The View, ABC and Disney would rather count their ad money than waste potential revenues placing the truth for sale. If this offends you as much as it does me, you may make your purchases and plan your vacations accordingly.

Intellectually honest people, people without a deep, vested emotional need to believe the worst, are usually relieved to hear the facts that demolish superstitions like the Bermuda Triangle and the Loch Ness Monster. While there may be disappointment at the loss of an unseen world, people who have chosen to live in reality find comfort in the fact that reality is, in fact, made up of the real and not the wished for.

No, what fascinates me is the emotional motive of people who, presented with overwhelming evidence that the events that transpired on November 22nd, 1963 or September 11th, 2001 really happened exactly the way it appeared, continue to spin ever more elaborate webs in order to get to a place they need to be emotionally. Who are you going to believe: them or your own lying eyes?

All of this conspiracy nonsense comes after the fact. What we saw on those days was clear and vital and unmistakably obvious. In the case of the Kennedy assassination we are asked to believe – against all physical evidence to the contrary – what a few professional witnesses recall for pay ten or twenty or thirty years after the fact. Some guy who claims to see a puff of smoke on the grassy knoll is now a world-wide celebrity and not just some dude with time on his hands on a November afternoon. (And don't be deterred by the fact that a musket firing black powder was the last firearm that emitted "a puff of smoke;" perhaps Kennedy was murdered by a re-animated Stonewall Jackson. Prove it didn't happen!)

I’ve met a number of these people. I know this is harsh, but I’m sick of watching the damage they are doing to this civilization: these people are, to a man, complete losers. Losers. They are desperate and sad people who need to believe in some dark secret to give meaning to their lives.

In Case Closed Gerald Posner points out one thing that all the Kennedy conspiracy books have in common: a complete disregard for the main actor on that day, namely Lee Harvey Oswald. In all of Lifton’s theories about stolen corpses and secret autopsies, he only devotes a page or two to Oswald. He is a peripheral player. A patsy. Some make him out to be a hero who was framed.

Posner, by contrast, devotes almost half his book to Oswald. This is the heart of it, because once you fully appreciate what a pathetic loser Oswald was, the entire day makes crystalline sense.

Who in the general public knows that Oswald tried to defect to the Soviet Union, was rejected, and slit his wrists in a Soviet hotel when he learned he was to be thrown out of the country? Who knows that the Russians reluctantly granted him asylum, shipped him to the boonies, gave him an obscure factory job making television sets, and that when his fifteen minutes of novelty were up, he desperately lied and cajoled the Soviets into letting him return to the US? Who can read about his disappointment at the lack of press coverage upon his return to America, or his desperate attempts at attention with Fair Play for Cuba, or his self-documented assassination attempt on Texas anti-communist General Edwin Walker, without seeing a pathological narcissistic loser just waiting to show the world how exceptional he really was?

Once you know Lee Harvey Oswald, you realize that he would have pulled the trigger on Cantinflas or Bozo the Clown if either one of them had been parading beneath his window that November day.

It is so obvious, so straightforward, so simple… so inevitable.

But no. Instead we have to have teams of assassins, and the purchased cooperation of dozens, if not hundreds of people, all to commit a ghastly crime and pull one over on an entire nation. Posner posits at the end of his book – and I agree completely – that what drives the conspiracy idea is the intolerable belief that a lone wacko can change history. On one side of the scale, writes Posner, you have the handsome, charismatic, Leader of the Free World, and on the other side a scrawny, pathetic loser. The mind wants to add weight to Oswald’s side, to give the horror some meaning. But it just isn’t so. And the lie you create to meet this emotional need is more damaging to the country than the assassination of a beloved President could ever be.

I’ll tell you something. These conspiracy theorists that ignore that miserable, pathetic, self-aggrandizing egomaniac named Lee Harvey Oswald, or glorify him as a patsy and a hero, do so because deep down inside they realize something unpleasant about Lee Harvey Oswald and themselves.

They are Oswald.
By netchicken: posted on 19-4-2007

Well it was a long and good read for me. Maybe most of the ats groupies should have a read
Of the article, it might make ats more enjoyable...but then again it would not be ats then would it?
By Shan: posted on 28-4-2007

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