I’m a sucker for conspiracies.
I’m not one of those types who offhandedly dismiss any and all ‘they did it’ plots as fanciful tales people think up because they can’t deal with reality. I know that conspiracies can and do happen. I don’t know who shot Kennedy, but I know if there’s a good tale to tell about who did, I’m so willing to listen.
Which is why I am completely perplexed by the recent to-do about 9/11.
I know that there are a lot of theories out there about what happened and why. Some I think are worth looking at, others I think are the fanciful tales of people who not only have a difficulty facing reality, but probably have a equally difficult time leaving their homes. I am the first to admit that I don’t know much, but I am willing to admit this one thing that I know for absolutely certain: If you want to discredit any theory you take seriously, trot out Charlie Sheen to champion your cause.
Ok. I enjoyed Platoon. I even liked Hot Shots. But really, if the “truther” movement wants to establish any credibility at all, they had better go with someone who carries a little more… well… I mean, look at the guy. He was a pretty hard-core drug user, and we all know that we have a hard time (collectively) trusting people who use. Any of us who has had first-hand experience living with a user knows that trust (for those who sue) isn’t at the top of our lists. Let’s not forget the gambling and the recreational use of whores. I don’t want to throw stones here (although I am), but I think if Charlie Sheen’s film career included more movies like Platoon and less like Men At Work, people would have an easier time taking him seriously. I mean, if Sir Kenneth Brannagh announced that we should look into 9/11, I think that some people would pay attention.
Look, I’m not knocking his effort. I think that there are some things about the events of that day (and after) that do need looking into. Why did it take so long to get fighter jets up after the first plane hit the tower?Why was a private Saudi jet allowed to pick up members of the bin Laden family and shuttle them out of the United States (this after all air travel had been prohibited by the US gov’t)? Was Flight 93 shot down? Why did President Bush say that he was no longer interested in finding bin Laden after he had announced that bin Laden was “wanted dead or alive”? What’s with PNAC, and why did we have a “new pearl harbor” nine months after the Bush Administration took office?
There are a whole grip of questions that are worth asking. But not asked by Charlie Sheen!!!
And really, it’s not as if President Obama hasn’t got his hands full with other issues. Not disincluding the recent resignation of his green jobs czar, Van Jones, because of Jones’ signing a petition demanding that the government look into 9/11. I think that Mr. Obama already has his hands full with another set of conspiracy nuts already — with the “birthers” n’ all.
I’ve said it before that I’m a fan of a good conspiracy. The problem is, is that although there are good conspiracy stories, there are very few good conspiracy arguments. I hear some of the people who believe that 9/11 was an inside job, or that President Obama isn’t an American citizen, or that H1N1 is a plot to forward the eugenicist agenda and usher in the New World Order, on the radio, trying to convince the mostly non-believer hosts that what they believe isn’t rubbish but warnings to be taken seriously.
The problem is, is that they never argue their points very well. They’re often shut down very quickly. They come off like hayseeds and yahoos who still 1) live with their parents, 2) lack a significant number of teeth and education, 3) are currently the product of or involved in a romantic relationship with a blood relative, or 4) all of the above.
The problem, unfortunately, comes down to the fact that most people don’t know how to argue well.
This is a real problem for conspiracy fans.
One tactic that they use is the scare tactic. This one is especially prevalent now (can you say death panels?). When someone uses a scare tactic as a method of argumentation, it’s called argumentum ad bacculum (and it has nothing to do with Scott Bakula).
An argumentum ad bacculum argument states if you don’t accept it, dire consequences will follow.
It goes a little something like this: the Satanic Illuminati has plans to rid the world of 80% of the world’s population and uses the media to manipulate the population of “sheeple” (this would be something like premises for my argument). After laying out the globalist’s agenda, I conclude by saying “If you don’t believe me, the eugenicists will shoot you up full of mercury-tainted vaccines and kill you“.
That’s pretty much the gist of the argument.
It’s believe me or die.
It doesn’t leave much room for a rebuttal.
Of course, for anyone who may be off-put by my insulting either Charlie Sheen or truthers or conspiracy theorists in general, I say this with my tongue firmly planted in cheek. Well, except for the Charlie Sheen and the credibility stuff.
President Obama is supposed to address the nation tonight about “health care reform”. I cannot say quickly enough that I do not care. I used to be all jazzed up for the prez. I used to be for the Democrats in general, as I was and still am an unapologetic Liberal. I started to not care right around the time that Al Franken was finally seated as the senator from Minnesota. I think if I hadn’t been in a state of I-don’t-care-dom, I would have been more upset when Senator Kennedy passed away (you know what’s kind of odd? Kennedy was in the senate longer than any of his brothers had lived. Food for thought). The Dems have the White House (which has made watching Glenn Beck all the more interesting), and both houses of congress. They say that there are more registered Democrats than Republicans nationwide. So why do I feel like I’m part of a loser party? I’ve noticed that even when the Republicans lose, they win. Even when they’ve been soundly trounced, they absolutely will not admit defeat. It’s kind of like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He’s there, with his arms and legs cut off, but he’s still talkin’ smack to Arthur. He won’t admit that he’s been defeated, even when it’s clear that he can’t fight. He believes that he can win — and in a way, he does. The idea being that so long as you don’t admit that you’ve lost, you haven’t. Kind of like our strategy in Afghanistan. The strategy of non-admission is also a Repbllican strategy — and an effective one at that. The idea to being successful, politically, even when you’re on the losing end of the debate, is to “frame” the argument. You may have the lousiest argumen, but as long as it’s taken up on your terms, you’re halfway to winning the debate. Framing sets the tone. It says what language that we’re going to use and how. Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, (and author of Propaganda!, Crystalizing Public Opinion, and The Engineering of Consent), said, “You have to know your public and figure out how to make it respond”. Everything, Bernays and his brethren believed, is a matter of public relations, whether the poor folk out there know it or not. Bernays and his PR buddies invented the miracle of spin. Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, used his uncle’s methods of psychoanalysis (that all human action was governed by unconscious desires) to sway the public’s tastes and opinions. Here’s a little on how Bernays thought: He believed that the public was a “herd to be led”, and that “those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country”. Bernays believed that the crowd (that’s you and me) isn’t ruled by reason, but by the spinal cord. People, Bernays believed, are moved by appeals to the emotions, and not by rational arguments. Bernays believed that people were like herds of animals and therefore most responsive to leadership (that leadership, of course, that specializes in manipulation of the people’s emotions). A perfect example of Bernaysian thinking is “The Mindmaker Song” from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. No Kidding. Of course, the most successful spin artist never admits that he is spinning (which is why Bill O’Reilly calls his show a “No spin zone”). A true bullshitter calls himself a straight-talker, who is going to tell it like it is, because he knows that his audience will stand for nothing less than the truth. The Republicans have become especially good at pulling this off. Strangely, the Democrats have not. Democrats, unfortunately, seem to come off as a bunch of Barton Finks when they attempt this strategy. That is, they come off as fakers. Although Obama won the election and the Democrats have both houses, when polled, this country tends to trend to the center, if not towards the Right. We’re a fairly conservative people. They say that Reagan appealed to Democrats during the 1980 presidential campaign by appealing to values instead of issues. That is, Reagan used appeals to the spinal cord rather than to the intellect to win against Jimmy Carter. Reagan appealed to the hard-workin’ everyman, the blue-collar workers and the regular housewives of America. These people were the “silent majority” that Nixon courted when he was president. The majority of Americans who were plain folk who believed in down-home values and the simple life. They weren’t a part of the, as the Conservative Club for Growth said of Howard Dean in 2004, “tax-hiking, government expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show”. Reagan’s Democrats were the people forced to accept Affirmative Action giving their jobs away. They were forced to pay for welfare queens, and to support gay rights, and white, heterosexual, male-hating feminists who wanted to promote abortion and an anti-Christian agenda. They were forced to accept God-hating atheists, tree huggers, bleeding-heart liberals, freedom-hating socialists of all stripes, activist judges, bureaucrats, overpaid government workers, illegal aliens, and unions. See how I framed that? How can you possibly carry on a sensible debate with anyone who says you’re a man-hating anti-American socialist, who wants to open the borders and let anyone from anywhere come in and destroy this great land, what’s left of America? It doesn’t matter if you have a sensible plan for actually solving any problem ( a weak economy, rising crime, illiteracy, etc), if you lack the proper values, your argument is dead in the water. Values matter most. Reagan, and every Republican since, is a warrior in the “culture war”. It’s those who love God and country against all who wish to destroy this great union. They must defend family values (which are never quite defined — I suppose for fear that many Republicans will be descovered as having violated them) against the culture-destroying influences of multiculturalism, diversity, and political correctness. The issues don’t matter because no matter the issue, people who lack American values will always undermine liberty and democracy. Try as they might to stick to the issues, Democrats will always lose out. First, these issues are boring when you discuss them in terms of numbers and formal, logically sound arguments. Second, Republicans are not at all squeemish about wringing the arms of anyone who strays from the party line. They will betray their own. The Democrats, because they do things like thinking, are often subject to things like forgiveness and the ‘let’s give the guy a chance’ way of thinking (which explains why Dems have been so nice about Joe Libermann).To get a good hear of what I mean, listen to Democracy Now!, then listen to Laura Ingraham. It won’t take long to tell the difference. It seems that the Democrats have perfected a losing strategy. And this is the strategy: Democrats try to give reasons for what and why they believe. By reasons, I mean they attempt to give legitimate, rational, perhaps logically valid reasons for taking up or rejecting any position or point of view. This fatal flaw is rooted in the philosophy of the Enlightenment. Back in the 18th century or so, some dudes thought it would be really nifty to drop all that medieval thinking and actually use reason to discover things like truth and such. Kant said that the motto of the age should be “dare to know”. This is the beginning of the problem — knowing things, and encouraging other people to “know” things. All that knowing requires (all the epistemologists speak up) Truth. Truth is a necessary condition for knowledge. This is what the Dems do, they appeal to truth. The idea is, that given the right education (information or methodology for finding knowledge), a person would “arrive” at truth. They will decide wisely because they are thinking rationally. This is where they screwed up major. Allow me to demonstrate: the enlightened Liberal comes up with an argument somewhat like this: there are some premises, one of which will say something like, ” people are reasonable”. This will lead to a conclusion which will say something like, “therefore, people will make good judgments”. But there’s something wrong with this argument. Run the reductio! The problem premise is the mone I just named, that is, the assumption that people are reasonable. People aren’t. In fact,people tend to be highly irrational (it’s true, I looked it up). People often rationalize what they are doing, but are often highly irrational in what they do. By running the reductio, we’re supposed to find the bad premise that forces us to doubt, if not throw out whether our argument is true. The bad premise leads us to conclude something that isn’t true. But the Republicans don’t even go that far. They don’t bother with the argument at all. That’s why the Republicans win. They know that relying on something like reason is impossible, so they go straight for the emotions. They know that if they scare the bejezus out of you (like telling you that your African-born president wants to indoctrinate your children to do his bidding) , that you will react in a certain way. You can construct all the pretty arguments you want, they’d say, but as Freud observed, anatomy is destiny. Preying on the public’s psychological disposition will always yield the more sure-fire result. So what are the Democrats to do, ’cause what they’ve been doing isn’t working. I’m sure that Obama will lay out some very good reasons for supporting whatever plan he lays out. But as long as he’s competing with an opposition that merely yell “death panels” to win their side of the argument, he will never win. And winning is the point, isn’t it? So what should they do? Whenever the Dems try to act like Republicans, they come off wrong. It always backfires. When they’re sincere, they’re bullshitting, and when they lie, it just makes things worse. Actually, I do have a solution. But to reveal it would peg me as an operative of the New World Order. No, I’m joking about that. Here’s what I think, the Democrats should be doing. They should use the Republicans’ favorite guy against them. If the Reps love capitalism so much, then we Dems should get into using their favorite dude, Adam Smith. Smith said in Wealth of Nations, ” he will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favor, and show them that it is for his own advantage to do for him what he requires of them… it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages”.