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Stop Shooting Conspiracy Theory Messengers

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In the days of old, the king would kill someone who told him something he did not want to hear. But few people today would even contemplate that.

And bad news is all around us. We have wars that have dragged on for years, we have an economy that is sputtering at best and we are constantly reminded that many of our leaders have moral shortcomings.

No one shoots the messenger over anything like this.

But when the subject concerns facts about government involvement in criminal activities, the reaction of much of the public and the media is perhaps even worse: the messenger gets ridiculed.

Recently, Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Nation brought 9/11 Commission member John Farmer on his show to discuss his new book. Right away, Colbert asked in a facetious tone whether there are any conspiracy theories in the book, like "Dick Cheney as a flight attendant." Predictably, Farmer assured Colbert that there were no such theories.

Oliver Stone's 1991 movie JFK, which supports conspiracy theory in the John Kennedy assassination, was attacked by media critics before it even came out. This response contrasts sharply with the admiration the media gave the Warren Report and its support of the official lone gunman theory. Many of the critics did not actually read the report.

When I discuss the assassination of Robert Kennedy, I frequently mention facts such as an audiotape of the event that indicates that thirteen shots were fired, five more than the number of bullets in convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan's gun. I also point out that Sirhan was never seen within two feet of Kennedy, whereas the coroner said the fatal shot was fired at point-blank range. Eyes start to roll and I am called a "conspiracy nut."

The typical response I get in giving factual support for conspiracy theory is for people to give the benefit of every possible doubt to the official (non-conspiracy) theory. "Sure, I hear what you say, but the audiotape and eyewitnesses could have been wrong."

There is nothing wrong with speculation and exploring alternate hypothesis. This is frequently how theories get started. But those who use speculation (such as thirteen mistaken eyewitnesses) to prove a theory only succeed in keeping their view viable in their own minds. If people could be convicted of crimes based on this way of thinking, we'd all be in jail!

Does anyone believe our government never does anything wrong? I doubt it. The blind eye that many turn as to the facts of events like 9/11 likely stems from the refusal to confront the horror of something that has power over us.

As one who supports certain conspiracy theories, I never recommend forming any conclusion until one has accounted for all relevant facts. And therein lies the problem: critics of anything that smacks of conspiracy decline to consider or counter the message. They shoot the messenger (and any chance of a reasonable discussion) instead.



Dean Hartwell's book, "Planes without Passengers: the Faked Hijackings of 9/11," reached the top of Amazon's charts for large print books on history. He has authored three others: "Facts Talk but the Guilty Walk:the 9/11 No Hijacker Theory and Its (more...)

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may I please share part of a comment made years ag... by Your Friend Fairpay on Friday, Jan 29, 2010 at 8:11:05 AM
For me, this is an interesting coincidence. I foun... by MikeZimmer on Friday, Jan 29, 2010 at 1:47:17 PM
See: Towards a critical meta-theory of conspiracy ... by MikeZimmer on Friday, Jan 29, 2010 at 2:26:32 PM
Glad to learn this guy has a blog of his own! (i'... by Your Friend Fairpay on Monday, Feb 1, 2010 at 6:40:52 AM
Bush openly lied. Reagan lied. Clinton lied. Nixon... by Starla Immak on Friday, Jan 29, 2010 at 10:35:14 AM
There would be no current wars ofoccupation, world... by Steven G. Erickson on Monday, Feb 1, 2010 at 10:10:55 AM
I think our own internal security forces don't thi... by Steven G. Erickson on Friday, Jan 29, 2010 at 11:21:24 PM
Some people get mad because conspiracy theories of... by Perry Logan on Saturday, Jan 30, 2010 at 6:12:48 AM
It strikes me that the difference between a critic... by Stefan Thiesen on Sunday, Jan 31, 2010 at 5:53:39 AM
The Washington Post covered this "Osama Isn't Want... by Patrick Curley on Sunday, Jan 31, 2010 at 2:29:29 PM
The intellectual basis for exposing obvious politi... by Richard Lee on Sunday, Jan 31, 2010 at 6:58:46 PM
The intellectual basis for exposing obvious politi... by Richard Lee on Sunday, Jan 31, 2010 at 6:58:47 PM
Woops! So angry I must have punched it twice? Be s... by Richard Lee on Sunday, Jan 31, 2010 at 7:23:32 PM