In the last three years, more and more conspiracy theories have sprung up around the events of 11 September 2001, lending much fuel to the Radical Left. I personally find that, while skepticism is healthy, there is such a thing as paranoia. There are such things as conspiracies, but in a country where freedom of speech is so highly valued and so openly exercised, and given the human predilection for gossip, I don't believe that a highly complex conspiracy can long be maintained. It's great for Hollywood movies and mystery thrillers, but to date, the most successful conspiracy was probably the hijackings of 9/11, and that was carried out pretty much by just nineteen men. Add in the architect of the plan, and you have twenty. Add in a few more who were apprehended in the nick of time, or who chickened out, and in total there are still less than fifty. All of these men are from repressive societies where there is no cusome of speaking out.
Three and a half years later, not everyone is convinced we know the truth. Go to Google.com, type in the search phrase "World Trade Center conspiracy" and you'll get links to an estimated 628,000 Web sites. More than 3000 books on 9/11 have been published; many of them reject the official consensus that hijackers associated with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda flew passenger planes into U.S. landmarks.In many ways, this is like our generation's version of the assassinations of the Kennedys and of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a profound event that led us to face the uneasy truth that evil exists in the world. In our time, it is no longer an evil that seeks to turn back time with a single gun, but one that desires nothing less than the utter destruction of Western civilization. Thus it is of utmost importance that we confront these myths, apply a bit of common sense to the evidence, and see what we come up with. Thanks to the guys at Popular Mechanics for doing so. Read the whole thing.
Healthy skepticism, it seems, has curdled into paranoia. Wild conspiracy tales are peddled daily on the Internet, talk radio and in other media. Blurry photos, quotes taken out of context and sketchy eyewitness accounts have inspired a slew of elaborate theories: The Pentagon was struck by a missile; the World Trade Center was razed by demolition-style bombs; Flight 93 was shot down by a mysterious white jet. As outlandish as these claims may sound, they are increasingly accepted abroad and among extremists here in the United States.
To investigate 16 of the most prevalent claims made by conspiracy theorists, POPULAR MECHANICS assembled a team of nine researchers and reporters who, together with PM editors, consulted more than 70 professionals in fields that form the core content of this magazine, including aviation, engineering and the military.
In the end, we were able to debunk each of these assertions with hard evidence and a healthy dose of common sense. We learned that a few theories are based on something as innocent as a reporting error on that chaotic day. Others are the byproducts of cynical imaginations that aim to inject suspicion and animosity into public debate. Only by confronting such poisonous claims with irrefutable facts can we understand what really happened on a day that is forever seared into world history.
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]