A Climate of Conspiracy

We’re days away from the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. Slate has an excellent piece on the “Truthers” and how they are impervious to reason. Here’s a quote from Philip Zelikow (the 9/11 Commission’s executive director), who makes this observation about the 9/11 conspiracists:

“I play a very prominent part in their demonology of the world, but the people themselves don’t come across like raving lunatics,” Zelikow says. “They’re often people who in many respects seem quite sincere, very concerned, very patient. They just are fixated.” The obsessive nature of conspiracism makes it very difficult to discuss or debate issues with some of the more hardcore believers. “They’re not really able to listen to you,” Zelikow says. “It’s almost like you’ll say something and then the tape will just replay its loop again.”

Sound familiar?

24 Responses to “A Climate of Conspiracy”

  1. harrywr2 says:

    Of course they are impervious to reason.
    It’s very difficult for many people to process information that conflicts with their world view. Cognitive Dissonance is alive and well.
    Arabs = victims
    World Trade Center = Capitalist Pigs
    Pentagon = Imperialist Pigs
    How can one possibly conclude that the Capitalist and Imperialist Pigs are ‘victims’ of ‘victims’. Hence, 9/11 was a conspiracy among the capitalist and imperialist pigs to find a further justification to further victimize the victims of capitalist, imperialist pigs.
    It all makes perfect logical sense to me.
    People whose world view is rooted in being a powerless victim surely can not process that a powerless victim could rise up and give the victimizer’s a big back eye. It would mean that they are not powerless.
    No different really then the folks who believe that society can be run on solar panels and windmills believing that the reason society isn’t being run on solar panels and windmills is a giant conspiracy by big coal and big oil.
    ‘It’s a conspiracy’ is a convenient mental crutch for avoiding facts that disagree with ones world view.

  2. jeffn says:

    “”Thirty-five percent (35%) of Democrats believe (George Bush) did know (about the attacks in advance), 39% say he did not know, and 26% are not sure.” and “Republicans reject that view and, by a 7-to-1 margin, say the President did not know in advance about the attacks. Among those not affiliated with either major party, 18% believe the President knew and 57% take the opposite view.”

    I guess this is why we see all those stories about the anti-science Democrats and how their world-view impedes their ability to accept rational fact. Except we don’t see those stories, of course. Whenever I see this argument trotted out to blast skeptics as anti-science, I chuckle and remember the lefty fave Rosie O’Donnell announcing on national television that the WTC attack was “the first time that fire ever melted steel.”
    By the way, I’m a proud skeptic of the lefty political, anti-science arguments that George Bush blew up the WTC, windmills and solar panels can power modern industrial nations, only Republicans block the imposition of a carbon tax/fee large enough to cause an 80% drop in CO2 emissions, the climate is well enough understood to blame all bad weather events on cars.

  3. Jarmo says:

    Conspiracies abound:

    One issue about the infamous Spencer and Braswell (incidentally, who is Braswell? Everyone is ignoring him, is he a nonentity? ) is, of course, who were the referees? The suspicion voiced in various places is that Spencer managed to wangle skeptics in as his referees; indeed, Wagner in his resignation letter says “The managing editor of Remote Sensing selected three senior scientists from
    renowned US universities… the editorial team unintentionally selected three reviewers who probably share some climate sceptic notions of the authors” (note the slight contradiction in there: first off, it was the managing editor; then it was the editorial team). Now it is not possible to believe that you could, given the pool of climatologists, “unintentionally” select three skeptics: there are just too few of them. It could only be deliberate: either by choice of the managing editor, at Spencer’s private urging, or because Spencer supplied a list of suggested referees (this is commonplace) and the editor just used those. 


  4. Keith Kloor says:

    On a related note, here’s an editorial in today’s NYT.

    Jeff N:

    Yes, Republicans and conservatives aren’t the only ones to embrace conspiracy theories.  And there have been plenty of stories about the political tilt that is found among the conspiracists.

  5. Sashka says:

    But it’s only the Republicans who deserve to be considred lunatics?

  6. Keith Kloor says:

    Absolutely not. It’s just that only seemingly Republican readers take offense when I point out the anti-science tendencies of Republican leaders.

    And when I write posts spotlighting the anti-science tendencies of Democrats/liberals (on nuclear power and GMO’s for example), I’m met with mostly silence from presumably liberal-leaning readers.

  7. Andy says:

    I read today that NASA, who is not only complicit in the AGW hoax, is peddling obviously photoshopped images of it’s more famous hoax – the moon landings.
    PS:  The previous sentence should not be taken seriously.

  8. Tom Scharf says:

    KK: “It’s just that only seemingly Republican readers take offense when I point out the anti-science tendencies of Republican leaders.”

    And what does this tell you?  People who object to being labelled anti-science are really anti-science, and liberal who are silent to these criticisms are in fact pro-science?

    I’m confused.  I’m pretty sure this should be taken on a case by case basis.  AGW, evolution, nuclear energy, GMO, 9/11, moon landings, birthers, WMD’s, should all be be judged on their individual merits.  Or should we stop thinking for ourselves and just tow the line of our elitist betters who can tell us what to believe?

    There seems to be an obsession with boxing in  Republicans here at the Huffington Post (oops I mean Collide-a-scape) as a bunch of anti-science dolts.  You can believe that if you want, but try taking a poll of your readers and find out instead.

    The political leanings of the candidates are fair game, but quite frankly these are minor issues in the grand scheme.  Try explaining the anti-science nuttiness of getting the debt under control and the pro-science logic of enormous deficit spending.  Which science views are “right”?  

  9. Stu says:

    These days people are only understood when they are left wing or right wing, and on message. Anything else is too confusing. 

  10. Ed Forbes says:

    “The obsessive nature of conspiracism makes it very difficult to discuss or debate issues with some of the more hardcore believers. “They’re not really able to listen to you,” Zelikow says…”
    He has that right.
    The number of posts that come back saying “I must be in the pay of Big Oil” when I quote Lamb on climate history is funny.

  11. Stu says:

    I once turned up at a blog and simply posted a link to an Argo graph. I was shouted down for ‘denialist lies’. 

    People just need to calm down and reflect. 


  12. Ian says:

    gawd, ya’ got that right stu…

    Judith Curry’s got a couple of posts on the Spencer, Brasswell/Wagner/Dessler/whoever else is involved brouhahah where the level of antagonism between combatants was through the roof. As a general rule, the louder and longer you scream the more you feel you have to lose. Perhaps 6 months in a Zen monastery… 

  13. harrywr2 says:

    Keith Kloor Says:
    September 7th, 2011 at 3:53 pm
     It’s just that only seemingly Republican readers take offense when I point out the anti-science tendencies of Republican leaders.

    IMHO As far as I can see you will criticize the anti-GMO crowd without mentioning their political affiliation. I.E You aren’t criticizing the liberal/Democratic tribe but a belief held by a subset within that tribe that you leave out.
    Just as you have done with the 9/11 truthers post above…by and large they are Democrats but you didn’t mention it as you probably feel that they are not representative of your tribe as a whole.
    When you write about the foible’s of members of the Republican tribe you tend to mention their political affiliation. I.E. They are representative of the republican tribe as a whole.

  14. Menth says:

    @13  is correct in my view.

  15. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    The comment @13 reminds me of a time I watched coverage of some congressional event (I forget which) on television.  As I listened to the hosts talk before the event, it was disconcerting to hear every Republican senator referred to as “Republican senator XX,” but Democrats were just “senator XX.”
    It’s a simple form of bias which is extremely obvious, yet crops up time and time again.

  16. thingsbreak says:

    @13, 14, 15
    The distinction is pretty clear. While there are some anti-science beliefs that find a home in left-leaning/Democratic/liberal constituencies, such views are not embraced by high-ranking members of the Democratic party and written into its platform. By contrast evolution denial and climate denial are practically litmus tests among the GOP’s presidential candidates. Huntsman had the temerity to place his marker with the scientific community, and gets wannabe intellectual George Will sneering at him for his troubles.
    9/11 Trutherism (which incidentally also has a healthy following in the libertarian/paleo-conservative facets of the right, just attend a Ron Paul rally), anti-GMO, anti-vaxx, etc. positions are just not similarly embraced at the highest levels of the Democratic party. Even anti-nuke positions (which aren’t themselves necessarily anti-science though they often turn out to be), which I would say are probably more common than any of those I just listed were not embraced as policy by top tier Democrats like Obama or Hillary Clinton.

  17. Dean says:

    Not all conspiracies involve being anti-science. The 9/11 conspiracy involves some level of technological / materials analysis, but it is not rooted in science the way that AGW is.
    As to a lot of us lefties here not complaining about posts about lefty conspiracies – maybe it is because we don’t believe in them, so we aren’t personally being referred to, whereas many of the conservatives who post here do hold to the belief that AGW is some form of conspiracy or hoax.
    Name me one prominent elected Democrat who supports the 9/11 conspiracies. While 9/11 believers tend to be lefties, they get no support from establishment Democrats. Quite the opposite with climate issues, where disbelief in the science is now a litmus test for Republicans. They have chosen to make this conspiracy their issue.

  18. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    @16, thingsbreak, I don’t see why you directed that response (in part) at me.  The bias I mentioned isn’t discussed in your comment at all.

  19. Stu says:

    “As to a lot of us lefties here not complaining about posts about lefty conspiracies ““ maybe it is because we don’t believe in them”

    I think the difference is that Keith isn’t forcing the issue by making multiple posts in order to get people on the left of he AGW issue to denounce something they don’t believe in. If he started posting that 9/11 truthers represented AGW folks then I’m sure there’d be many more cries of protest. 

  20. lou says:

    I don’t hold much faith in the polls identifying more democrats as 9/11 truthers.

    But I do believe that many more democrats than republicans rightly criticized GW Bush for ignoring and not acting on the red flashing lights warning of an impending attack by Bin Laden.  The right has very effectively used the media to disarm legitimate partisan attacks by lumping them with the fringe elements, truthers in this case.  

    And Dean, @17, you got it.  

    And as for GMOs my skepticism is not anti science — I have concerns about the sustainability of the technology itself, part of a deeper skepticism about the sustainability of agriculture and of our civilization in general.  

  21. jeffn says:

    Obama appointed a truther to what ABC News termed a “top environmental position” – head of green jobs at the White House. How’s that for a two-fer of party prominence and greenie silliness: truther/enviromentalist in the White House. (google van jones abc news)
    This loss of perspective is a consequence of really bad journalism. Consider #20’s toss-away line- “rightly criticized GW Bush for ignoring and not acting on the red flashing lights warning of an impending attack by Bin Laden.”
    Sir, there is no world where “warning of impending attack by Bin Laden” became apparent only after the inauguration of Bush in January of 2001- 8 months before the attack on the WTC and Pentagon and 14 months after the attack was planned. Your fantasy world doesn’t exist – it’s a construct of partisans. The threat from Bin Laden was well-known from the early 1990s and all those “flashing lights” were at their brightest in 1998 when Bin Laden netted over 5,000 casualties (including 258 dead) in an attack on US embassies in Africa and promised more to come. He delivered in Oct. 2000, bombing the USS Cole a month before George Bush was elected president. The denial of this – the requirement that you never, ever mention Clinton in that sentence – is a talking point designed for political convenience.
    Here’s the danger in that- there are really good lessons to learn from critically examining both Bush and Clinton’s handling of the Bin Laden threat, but we can’t have that discussion if half of the electorate is in La-la land, insisting that Bin Laden popped up out of nowhere in the summer of 2001. It’s like the idiots who say Bush “lied” about Saddam Husseign’s WMD. If he did, he was in good company- Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry….

  22. Tom Scharf says:

    @18, In Tampa our local paper is the St. Pete. Times, which is actually a very good paper, but leans left and can’t be trusted on political issues for a balanced viewpoint.

    Over the years, I have noticed with almost 100% accuracy that if a Democrat congressman is in a scandal, he will be referred to as a “Congressman” or “Senator” until the article branches off the front page.

    If the offender is a Republican, it will be identified as such in the first 3 lines of the article.   I don’t even think it is intentional.

    KK is the same with this latest barrage of Republican bashing anti-science posts.  Hopefully one day he will point that all knowing psychological measurement device he uses to analyze other people’s incorrect critical thinking at himself and see what he finds.
    Understanding other people’s mental “flaws” and biases does not equate to understanding your own. 


  23. lou says:

    jeffn:  “you can leave, you have covered your ass”  GWBush 

  24. Eric Adler says:

    Van Jones’ name was found on a petition. He claimed he signed by accident.
    Van Jones was not an elected representative of the Democratic Party.
    It that is the best you can do to find a prominent Democrat who espouses any kind of conspiracy theory, it shows that thingsbreak @16 was right on in his comments about the difference between Republican and Democratic political leaders as far a crazy conspiracy theories are concerned. No important Democratic leaders subscribe to the conspiracy theories favored by the left.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *