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...a sweatshop of moxie

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Truther Douchebaggery Entering Our Homes Soon

I rarely watch any television that is not PBS, cable news, Sundance, foreign channels, or the triumverate of Discovery-History Channel-Travel Channel, and perhaps I see why now.

Despite hearing that America is going through a second "Golden Age of Television" exactly 50 years after its first, if segments like this on FX's "Rescue Me" are anything to go by, I am not missing a thing.

A coming episode of the acclaimed FX drama “Rescue Me” will tackle what may sound like a far-fetched plot line: that the attacks of Sept. 11 were an “inside job.” The actor who espouses the theories on camera, it turns out, also subscribes to them in real life.

Claims that Al Qaeda terrorists were not solely responsible for the attacks have a lively following on the Internet, including on YouTube, but the second episode of “Rescue Me’s” fifth season, starting in April, may represent the first fictional presentation of 9/11 conspiracy theories by a mainstream media company (FX is operated by the News Corporation).

“They’re not discussed a lot in the press,” Daniel Sunjata, the actor who plays Franco Rivera on “Rescue Me,” told reporters at a television press tour last month. He predicted that the episode would be “socio-politically provocative.”

Ugh. I wonder if "Rescue Me" would ever tackle the Holocaust suggesting it never happened. Of course not (thank God). And why? Because there are some conspiracy theories more acceptable than others.

As for the topic, let me reiterate that there is nothing, and I do mean nothing, that makes my hair stand on end more than people who believe in conspiracy theories. It alters my entire view of a person's intelligence. This actually affected my enjoyment of Marion Cotillard's wonderful performance as Edith Piaf, in last year's "La Vie En Rose".

Yep, she's a Truther, too.

Cotillard: I have a tendency to often share the point of view of the conspiracy theory. [...]

Coluche, 9/11, all that. We can watch on the Internet all the films that, well…about 9/11, about — about the conspiracy theory. It's fascinating. It's even addictive after a while.

Paris Première: Let's take 9/11, for example. What did disturb [sic] you more concretely?

Cotillard: You are shown that other towers of the same kind that were hit by planes, that burnt — there is a tower, I think that it's in Spain, that burnt for twenty-four hours.

Paris Première: Before collapsing…?

Cotillard: It never collapsed! None of these towers collapsed. And, over there, in a few minutes, the thing collapses. And, then, after that, we'll talk lengthily about it because there was — because the thing was filled with gold, the towers from 9/11. And then it was a money-sucker because they were finished, it seems to me, in '73, and to update all that, to modernize all the technology and everything, it was much more expensive to have work done, etc., than destroying them. Did man walk on the moon? I've seen quite a lot of documentaries about it, and I ask myself. But, in any case, I don’t believe everything that I'm told, that's for sure.

I've already spoken at length about conspiracy theories. Though upon reading this excerpt by Cotillard (who later apologised for her remarks, saying they were taken out of context), I am again jolted back into the theory I have about why certain people believe in them.

It's not a logic thing. It's also not that there has never been a single conspiratorial act in the history of mankind, and therefore, they're all bunk.

It's that conspiracy theories are twisted creatures of the human ego.

Listen to what conspiracists always, always say when justifying their beliefs.

But, in any case, I don’t believe everything that I'm told, that's for sure.

Commit that sentence to memory. It is used by every person who has ever wanted to explain how the world works according to their world view.

What they are really saying is this:

The whole world might be made of gullible morons who believe in everything they are told, BUT! I! AM! SMARTER! THAN! THEY! ARE!

"They" - another they - cannot pull the wool over MY eyes!

... whomever "they" think it is, though I suspect the they is more The System than an actual cadre of people.

Having said that, I think it goes again to my theory of the ego being stimulated by such thoughts. It is very easy for people to imagine that there is a puppetmaster inside a smoke-filled room pulling the strings of our world, sending his minions to do his evil bidding.

Never mind that the total sum of our world's actions cannot be conceived by any single human being, let alone one person or select group being able to control such an organic growth as an open society. In their hearts, they are comforted by their view of how the world works, at the same time continuing to be appalled by misanthropic visions, which is the root of their attitude.

They do not trust their fellow human beings, especially those who they disagree with politically.

The other way would actually entail putting away their half-gassed fabrications; to approach the world as a mature, mentally healthy adult -- and some people die of old age believing in Machiavellian blueprints.

Look, conspiracy theories exist only because we have doubts. The doubts are legitimate, but the conclusions are a panacea for ignorance.

RELATED LINK: Pithy and always intellectually stimulating Blake of The Bit Maelstom coincidentally touches on the very topic of conspiracy theories, of which he was working on posting for a while.

He writes about the current and past crops of conspiracies, from the moon landing (debunked by Adam and Jamie, thanks be to God -- I'm only being half-facetious when saying that) to the JFK assassination to Obama's "mysterious" birthplace.

Blake's gambit is to try to shame the conspiracists for the inane quality of recent theories.

The 9/11 Truthers have instead constructed an elaborate explanation for the towers' collapse which insults everyone who saw the planes hit.

Worse, they do so in the face of an actual conspiracy: Of anti-American hard-line Muslim terrorists who left massive paper trails, who had ties all over the world, who had many co-conspirators, and who had a boss willing to take credit for it.

On a lighter note, another dumb conspiracy making the rounds is the "Obama wasn't born in America" theory. This requires us to believe that the State of Hawaii is hiding something (apparently in a many-decade anticipation of Obama's eventual Presidential bid) and that there's not a single Republican or Hillary supporter able to sneak that evidence out.

Really, it's just not up to snuff.

I hope to see better in the future from everyone.


I only wish I could be this light-hearted about the topic, tweaking their noses like Blake does.

Unfortunately, it really cheeses my left non-existent nut to have to speak about such things. I think it is the educator and the Historian in me, which balks at the grains of truth being used to insinuate concrete fact.

We have the French Revolution to blame for every cockamamie conspiracy that has been flung out since the world exploded into modernity in the late 1700s. People who didn't know how to explain how the world suddenly looked back at them, needed to find reasons in the form of groups (the Jews, the Jacobins, the Jesuits, the Masons) to make sense of a topsy-turvy era.

The world has never really recovered since.

SUGGESTED VIEWING: If you haven't already done so, check out Fritz Lang's silent film, "Spies" (Spione).

It's a treasure trove of insinuations about how the world works, down to the creepy banker (so obviously intended to suggest "a grasping, devious Jew" with his neurotic Lenin goatee and Dr. Evil sidekick cat) who masterminds a spy ring.

I always wondered about this film, which despite the love of intrigue and sense of helplessness Lang loved to show in his films, was uncharacteristically lazy intellectually.

Then I remembered that Thea von Harbou, Lang's then wife, was later one of the top artist prizes secured by a grateful Hitler to show the world that, hey, intellectuals were amenable to National Socialism.

To quote the outraged Headmistress in another Weimar classic, "Mädchen in Uniform", ein Skandal.

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  • Oh, now, one shouldn't believe everything one's told. Heh.

    I was actually working on a conspiracy post myself when I saw you had written this.

    My angle is more that these are really bad conspiracy theories.

    By Blogger blake, at Tue Feb 03, 05:06:00 am GMT-5  

  • Both you, Vicks and Eli, ignore the crux of conspiracy theory debunking - it is not enough to show a reasonable doubt about the conspiracy - you rather must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the conspiracy did not take place. Not only is that difficult, in principle, but in some cases it really casts doubts upon the conspiracy debunkers' position. Let's look at the 9/11 theories. If you have any knowledge of engineering and physics, as I do, and spend the effort to look at the twin towers' specifications, it becomes abundantly clear that the official version about their collapse is a lot of tosh. Even if that official version is correct about the fire weakening the ceiling trusses, it cannot account for the collapse of the central core, whose mention is curiously missing from most official accounts, and which is much more massive than these accounts would let you believe. How can such an omission but fuel any suspicions (quite grounded, by the way, no matter what you think in your new-fangled merkin enthusiasm) in the sincerity and truthity of the Cheney administration?
    The only half-believable arguments I've heard against conspiracy is that, if it were real, there would certainly be someone to spill the beans. Guess what, they're wrong. Look at history - the only times when conspiracies were exposed, is when they were unsuccessful.

    "Treason doth never prosper - what's the reason?
    For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

    By Blogger El Kot, at Tue Feb 03, 05:52:00 am GMT-5  

  • Elko, with regret, I think it's time for you to rethink why you come here.

    Your vast knowledge of ceiling trusses does not account for why you also believe Palin is not the mother of her own child.

    It has nothing to do with intelligence. You have a need to believe the worst of people whose politics you do not agree with.

    And that may one day include me. I cannot and will not tolerate a person like that around me.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Feb 03, 06:21:00 am GMT-5  

  • Oh no! Say it ain't so! Tell me this a publicity stunt. Tell me Franco has a roof collapse on him or acquires a new drug problem that causes some sort of brain damage. Denis Leary's dealt with 9/11 in a mostly apolitical, and at times even hilarious, way on "Rescue Me". I have a hard time believing that they're actually going to promote Trutherism.

    Victoria, I'd go one step farther with your conclusion about Truthers' motives. They do get a sense of superiority from being the Keepers of the Sacred Truth but they're also (more fundamentally) fetishists. In their heads, they live in a fantasy world where they get off on their theories. The real world is too mundane in their minds so they need to create a fantasy world which is more interesting and satisfying to them. I'd go as far as to say there's a sexual element to their fantasies. It's all very adolescent.

    [At this point, I have to pre-emptively ask your forgiveness, Victoria, because I'm going to be extremely impolite to El Kot.]

    El Kot, grow the f*ck up. Your arguments are reductive and idiotic.

    Proving a negative is impossible. When you assert a theory, its on you to prove it, its not on us to disprove it. Doubly so when your claims are extraordinary. [See Occam's Razor.] Using logical fallacies doesn't make you clever, it doesn't make the physical world conform to your fantasy, it just makes you dishonest. So kindly stop being a lying liar who lies through your lying face.

    If the reason you believe the terrorist attacks of 11/9/01 were an "inside job" is because Bu$Hitler, Inc. is evil, stick to that reason, don't try to use "science" to prove your point. It's insulting.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 03, 10:19:00 am GMT-5  

  • El Kot: I'm afraid that the burden of proof has not shifted. The hypothesis is that the Towers came down through their own structural weaknesses, exploited by circumstance. The evidence is largely prior attempt by related individuals, who learned from their mistakes.

    Too bad this isn’t a chemical matter, or I could take you on on the merits. I have a layman’s understanding of structural engineering. Did however, used to date someone whose father was a civil engineer on the building of the Twin Towers. I’m certain I would have heard something from that corner had there been any truth to what you ask us to believe here. In due course, I’m going to ask that source more pointedly about your assertions matters. In the meantime, it helped enormously that Victoria so quickly pointed out your history of commentary here.

    @Victoria: thanks for the movie tip. I love silents.—especially the old German ones. Ron already gave me a list on an earlier thread here. I’ll add this to it.

    By Blogger chickenlittle, at Tue Feb 03, 10:52:00 am GMT-5  

  • When you assert a theory, its on you to prove it, its not on us to disprove it. Doubly so when your claims are extraordinary. [See Occam's Razor.]

    @anon: That's exactly backwards from what I learned and practiced. See for example John Platt's classic article, Strong Inference in Science (1964). For the non-scientist, think Mythbusters. Conspiracy theories and other rumors die by experimentation.
    Occam's razor is best invoked when two competing hypotheses remain standing; the lesson is simple: choose the simpler one.

    By Blogger chickenlittle, at Tue Feb 03, 11:53:00 am GMT-5  

  • @chicken

    (I'm "Starless", BTW.)

    My invocation of Occam has to do with the Truther assertion that there are two competing theories: 1) religious nuts ran 'planes into the WTC or 2) the towers were brought down by a massive and complicated conspiracy perpetrated by the US and/or Israeli gov'ts. Of those two theories, which is more likely?

    I don't agree that Trutherism is defeatable through experimentation because every time you knock one of their theories down, they bring up a new one. That's the whole point behind pseudo-science and conspiracy theorizing--"truth" isn't what's important, perpetuating the myth is.

    These days, I don't waste my energy arguing with them on their "facts" because there's no end to them.

    So I'll reiterate, the burden of proof doesn't lie with us, it lies with them and as long as their "proof" consists of inference based on bad science they haven't presented a convincing case.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 03, 01:34:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Unfortunately, it really cheeses my left non-existent nut to have to speak about such things.

    LOL. Vic, you really have a delightful sense of humor.

    By Blogger knox, at Tue Feb 03, 01:54:00 pm GMT-5  

  • You have a need to believe the worst of people whose politics you do not agree with.


    By Blogger knox, at Tue Feb 03, 01:55:00 pm GMT-5  

  • @Starless:

    Thanks for your clarification regarding Occam’s razor. In that context, yes it makes sense.

    I don't agree that Trutherism is defeatable through experimentation because every time you knock one of their theories down, they bring up a new one.

    I disagree. The cost of not defeating it would be terrible. In a sense, the futility you mention is the price we pay for the corruption of public support of science, which wasn’t always the case. The terms "corruption" and "public support" are two distinct topics themselves.

    By Blogger chickenlittle, at Tue Feb 03, 02:18:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I think the only way to defeat something like this is to starve it of oxygen: Put out the facts, then let it go.

    Stuff like "Rescue Me" fans the flames.

    Penn and Teller did a great show debunking all kinds of conspiracy theories. For JFK, they just personally demonstrated that it wasn't that hard to fire at the rate Oswald would have had to to have acted alone, and that it wasn't that difficult a shot. (Also, they showed the physics behind how shooting something could make it move forward.)

    I think they did five others in a half-hour show.

    By Blogger blake, at Tue Feb 03, 04:51:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Chicken:

    Lemme clarify a bit more because I don't think we're at cross-purposes here. I equate 9/11 Trutherism with Holocaust denial. That is to say, arguing with them point-by-point is an endless spiral into their fantasy world which not only confuses someone who might be swayed by their arguments but serves to fan the flames of the Truther's fantasy. The Truther and the Holocaust denier have already made up their minds and engaging them on their turf only serves to give them a platform to present their case.

    I'm not suggesting that we don't address the kind of damage they do, but that when addressing them directly, the only thing they deserve is scorn and derision. It's not as though they're just confused or misguided and only need to be shown the flaws in their argument to come to the right conclusion. As I said when I was channeling Corky St. Clair, they're lying liars who lie from their lying faces and they know that.

    I've dealt too many times with those types to kid myself into thinking that the velvet glove of debate is going to make any difference so now I just use the iron fist.

    Blake is right about starving them of oxygen.

    And Blake, I'm reserving judgment about "Rescue Me". The first three seasons were excellent in a watching-a-beautifully-choreographed-train-wreck sort of way. Fourth season was so-so. If FDNY firefighters are really debating this and the show has Tommy Gavin calling Franco an asshole for buying into it, maybe it will work. If they give the theory credence, then it will be shark-jumping time for them.

    Penn & Teller are a couple of the greatest debunkers out there. When you're talking about debunking JFK, moon landing, UFO conspiracy theories, those are subjects which you can really put your arms around. With something like 9/11, its so huge and its so glaringly obvious to anyone with greater than an eighth grade education that what they say happened, happened, that pandering to the Loose Change crowd is a waste of time and energy.

    FWIW :)


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 03, 07:09:00 pm GMT-5  

  • No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine.
    — William Blum

    By Blogger El Kot, at Thu Feb 05, 02:37:00 pm GMT-5  

  • No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine.

    The bloom is off that pose--or haven't you heard-- there was an election.

    By Blogger chickenlittle, at Thu Feb 05, 10:43:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Au contraire, Chicken. For the self-appointed Righteous, there is always a new battle to be fought, new conspiracies to discover and old ones that need continual polishing.

    By Anonymous Starless, at Fri Feb 06, 09:50:00 am GMT-5  

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