I have a couple of things to say about David Ray Griffin’s work this afternoon. Then I have to get outside.
First, you should see how Griffin takes apart Cass Sunstein’s work on consipiracy theories in Cognitive Infiltration. Sunstein and Verveule’s paper, titled Conspiracy Theories, looks impressive when you first pick it up. It’s dressed up in academic language. It has the academy’s accouterments, too: abstract, footnotes, bibliography. It’s also shot through with academic hubris.
The article aims to discuss how we should respond to conspiracy theories. Because false conspiracy theories have pernicious effects, Sunstein says we can’t let them stand unchallenged. For instance, government should undermine accounts of 9/11 that suggest it was a false flag operation. We can’t let people believe in false theories that make the government look so bad, Sunstein suggests. Sunstein wrote the paper not long before President Obama hired Sunstein to help him make the government look good.
Now the interesting thing about this paper, eventually published in the Journal of Political Philosophy, is that Sunstein has nothing to say about how we tell whether or not a conspiracy theory is false. First, he acknowledges that some conspiracy theories are true. The government’s account of 9/11 is a conspiracy theory. Sunstein clearly believes it to be true. He believes other accounts of 9/11 – accounts that challenge the government’s conspiracy theory – to be false. He compares the other accounts to parents’ conspiracy theory about Santa Claus. The problems with this comparison are so numerous I won’t detail them here. For now, I’ll ask you to check out Griffin’s critique of Sunstein at Amazon, and hope we can return to the subject later.
Here are some links relevant to Cognitive Infiltration:
- Obama confidant’s spine-chilling proposal, by Glenn Greenwald in Salon.
- Cognitive Infiltration at News from Underground, with comments.
- Cognitive Infiltration at Amazon, with comments.
- Conspiracy Theories, by Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, downloadable PDF at Social Science Research Network.
The second thing I want to say about Griffin has to do with speculation that the 9/11 phone calls from the hijacked airliners were faked. I ran across some good discussion of this speculation online. Griffin indicates that the possibility of faked phone calls is just as high as the possibility of authentic ones. I agree with Griffin’s critics, that expressing a belief in faked phone calls is problematic, but I’m not sure Griffin actually believes they were faked. At many points in his books, it appears he does.
This issue bears more analysis, too, but not today!
New entries for the American Political Dictionary:
Washington weasels – government officials who never see a question they don’t want to evade.
Reporters – people who ask weasely questions.
Abandon TV said:
The subject of ‘conspiracy theories’ (and specifically how to define them) has been discussed a lot over the last few years, although not in the mainstream media of course.
People are finally starting to understand that the official conspiracy theory of 9/11 (19 bad guys with boxcutters) is by definition a conspiracy theory.
But no matter how enlightened the subject of conspiracy theories becomes the subject must remain within the realm of theory, by definition.
And so here we all are…. gathered round a small ‘buffet’ of competing theories (now including the official one). We can nibble at each and discuss and argue about which theory we find most agreeable (or disagreeable).
But that’s about as far as it can ever go.
A theory is a theory is a theory….. and a theory will never be enough to ‘stand up in a court of law’.
If you wanted to cover up the crimes committed on 9/11, one method you might choose would be to encourage everyone to get into the habit of discussing endless theories, rather than evidence.
If you were really clever you might even supply the masses with some dead end theories which seem (on the face of it at least) slightly more plausible than the official explanation. As long as the people promoting those bogus theories renounce the official theory they are likely to attract a considerable following.
People will likely think “Oh look, this group is calling the government a bunch of liars….. therefore it must be safe for me to hand my thinking over to them and join their group”.
A passionate (ie irrational) following who are deeply invested in their ‘truth movement’, will also tend to pounce on anyone asking challenging questions, or bringing up challenging evidence.
In this way the ‘9/11 truthers’ can actually be used to defend the lie from the truth (defend their movement’s bogus theories from the evidence).
It’s hardly a new tactic. From the moment we’re born we’re all encouraged to think that society must be organised via politics which leaves us no other alternative but accepting rule by a government.
And from the moment the Twin Towers were destroyed we were all encouraged to think 9/11 must be solved by coming up with a convincing sounding conspiracy theory, which left us no other alternative but engaging in a decade of arguing and bickering.
Political left – right is a false opposition. They’re both government rule.
This 9/11 theory vs that 9/11 theory is also a false opposition. All of the 9/11 theories disregard whatever evidence they need to in order to appear vaguelly plausible – ALL of them!
When the official 9/11 theory (boxcutters) becomes suspect a new theory is rolled out (controlled demolition)…. and when people start to doubt that one they bring out another one for the masses to chew on and argue over (mini nukes)…. or another (video fakery) ….. the point is to train us to think that 9/11 can only ever be about our opinions, rather than being about hard facts (evidence).
Deep breath….. clear the mind…. and let’s start all over, starting with the EVIDENCE
Further valuable context provided here.
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