If you look at all the evidence
There’s only one conclusion:
A government conspiracy
And not just mass confusion.
The seeming contradictions are
Quite easy to condemn;
You say that they’re convincing? Why,
You must be one of them.
Podblack just sent me a link to a series of stories on Slate on 9/11 conspiracy theorists (“Truthers”). I find these people fascinating–I know a handful of them personally–and a wonderful example of belief perseverance in the wild. The linked story is quite unusual (but see below*) in that it reports, in part, on truthers who have come to doubt the consipiracies they have long supported.
More after the jump:
Interestingly, neither came to doubt based on the physical evidence. One had a change of heart after meeting with some of the people who, if the conspiracy was true, would have to have been part of it.
“After meeting all of these alleged conspirators that were supposed to be in on it, I realized they were normal family men,” Veitch said. “There wasn’t anything conspiratorial about them.” It was when he questioned a demolitions expert atop the rebuilt World Trade Center 7 that he finally changed his mind about 9/11.
In a sense, this is perfectly consistent; the physical evidence was always consistent with the NIST story, and was never enough to convince truthers, some of whom simply wanted to believe that Bush was evil. Well, he was, but not this way. The real basis for their beliefs was based on personalities, and only later justified by a selective interpretation of cherry-picked portions of the physical evidence (keep what fits, deny what does not).
The other truther also backed away for interpersonal reasons. Reading between the lines, it looks like he started seeing his fellow truthers as others had–as wild-eyed lunatics–and decided he did not want to be associated with them.
The reasons for their changes of heart show just how ephemeral the “evidence” for conspiracy really was. If they really believed the physical evidence, finding out that one of the conspiracists was a nice guy should not have budged their belief. Finding out that a serial killer is a charming conversationalist should not make you dismiss what he has done. But here, the airtight case (“it’s all so clear to me now! Just open your eyes!”) evaporates in the face of fairly innocuous social pressures.
* Ah, yes–the story itself is unusual, but there is nothing unusual about the comments to the story. Write a story about 9/11, and truthers will flock to the comments section with questions that have been answered hundreds of times, but never to their satisfaction. With accusations involving technology that has not yet been demonstrated to exist. With mutually exclusive theories, believed because they both blame Bush. With dismissal of strongly supported evidence for the flimsiest of reasons, and simultaneous acceptance of flimsy evidence that could not meet the stringent standards they require of the former.
If you can stomach it, naturalistic observation of Truthers in the wild is fascinating.