Sunday, November 4, 2012

Conspiracies: The Puppet Master vs The Naked Ape

             For me, “Conspiracy” will always be the name of a King Diamond album. For others, it’s a world-view.

Not this one. . .

            I was uncomfortably reminded of this the other day at a friend’s house as he regaled me with tales of the inner machinations of the Rothchild clan, and their orchestration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Unable to accept that such an earth shattering event could have been perpetrated by “six retards with box cutters”, my friend prefers a vast shadowy infrastructure of practically omnipotent puppet masters pulling strings behind the scenes.

            I had to sigh. I have to confess that this is not an issue I’ve invested a great deal of time or energy in, so I was not always able to explain why all the gold was removed from beneath the WTC, or why all the bigwigs were moved from one side of the pentagon to the other (were they?) or how they came up with the Patriot Act so damn quickly (possibly because it was stitched together from already existing laws? Possibly because lawmakers are very good at coming up with laws?). I am not an engineer, so I could not explain why the towers collapsed the way they did, and I’ve never belonged to an air force, so I could not explain why US fighter jets were unable to intercept the flights. I had no answers on hand, because up until then it hadn’t been my responsibility to provide them. But all the same, I was not, and have never been, convinced.

            The thing you’ve got to remember when faced with any claim, is that it’s not your responsibility to disprove it: it is the claimant’s responsibility to prove it. And the more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the evidence has to be. Conjecture, hypothetical scenarios and lists of strange coincidences, do not constitute evidence. If gold was removed, that in itself proves nothing. If W. Bush took advantage of the situation to push through pieces of legislation, that does not mean he (or his puppet masters) caused it to happen. At most, these are anomalies that could have any number of explanations. None of this constitutes evidence.

            What would such evidence look like? Solid documents, eluding to the event before it happened. Transcripts of meetings where it was discussed. Recordings, footage, memos, credible testimony that could be independently verified. A record, somewhere, anywhere, of someone saying “this is what we plan to do”.  Short of that, it’s all just speculation. (And that goes for any claim).
            But it’s not just the lack of evidence though that fails to convince me (though it should be enough). It’s the sheer scale of it. For something like this to work, it would require such a vast umbrella of participants – the government and its bureaucrats, the military and its underlings, the banks, the New York City Fire Department, the media, both print and television, of not just the US but every country in the world, - there’s hardly anyone not involved. It requires an almost Truman Show scenario in which one’s entire environment is a construct. That’s not a theory: that’s paranoia.

            And here’s the funny thing: twenty years ago, I just might have bought into it.

            I was all over conspiracy theories in my adolescence. They were fun, they were exciting. They implied that the world was not so mundane as the adults insisted it was. My imagination was fertile ground, fertilized by early childhood fears of losing one’s parents, later to solipsistic nightmares of one’s entire world proving imaginary and vanishing at any moment. I was thrilled by stories of subliminal messages hidden in advertising, devoured the paranoia of the X-Files and later, the Prisoner, and relished the thought of puppet masters behind every curtain. It was all quite thrilling to think I had discovered their secret, and could maybe cut their strings.

            I even wrote a screenplay with this in mind, in which all of history turns out to have been carefully micromanaged steps toward a grand (undisclosed) goal. I’m still rather proud of it: my English teacher called it “gripping”.

            It all ended when I went out into the real world, and actually saw how it worked. Things like getting a student loan (and paying the damn thing back!) and getting a job, and seeing friends get jobs in banks and insurance companies, getting a criminal records check, or getting a driver’s license in the UK. Seeing how the wheels of civilization actually turned, how the mechanisms of society worked. As a student journalist, going into City Hall, Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill and seeing legislation actually passed, not via the smooth machinations of shadowy puppet masters but loud, clumsy human beings yelling at each other. The Machine was not a well oiled mechanism but a clunky rust-bucket sputtering forth in fits and starts. Its pilots were not captains of fate or puppet masters, but idiots every bit as flawed as me.  

            I read history and realized how little control human beings have over events. Wars weren’t the products of grand design but a long series of fuckups. Science, just lots of accidental discoveries with unforeseen and unintended consequences.  The human race does not control history; we naked apes just muddle through as best we can.

            The conspiracy theorists find our ultimate powerlessness unbelievable and intolerable. They need reasons; they need purpose and meaning. They cannot accept that some things have neither purpose, nor meaning. Thus, even the most ridiculously convoluted conspiracy is more plausible than civilization failing in the face of six retards with box-cutters.

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