A couple weeks ago around sunset, I was walking through the Arb in Ann Arbor and I came across a couple of guys who didn’t know how to get back to the exit. As I walked back with them, we did what any college-aged kids do when they meet and exchange information as to our current schools and areas of study.
“So, like, what are you studying?”
I told them I was double-majoring in Film and Political Science, and I got the usual response.
“That’s cool… Do you want to write political movies or something?”
I then gave my usual response that they are not necessarily complementary and I’m not sure what exactly I’m going to end up doing blah blah blah, and he responded by asking,
“Have you ever seen the movie ‘Zeitgeist’”?
I told him I hadn’t and asked what it was about. He explained that it was a really intriguing documentary set up into three parts. The first part set out to expose major religion as a fraud, the second was an examination of “the truth behind 9/11”, and the third exposed an international banking conspiracy.
The second he said that, I knew where this conversation was going. The two seemed like cool cats, but I could tell that that they were stuck somewhere in the counter-culture to anarchist range. Maybe I was judging a book by its cover, but he was about to write the whole book for me (Read this whole paragraph in your head in the voice of Clark Gable).
“The part about 9/11 was really interesting…”
He then said. I immediately tried to head off the conversation before it started by explaining that I was very familiar with all of the various theories on the truth behind the 9/11 attacks, because several years ago I had watched I documentary called “Loose Change”. It would take pages to sum up the various claims and supporting evidence that the documentary makes, but the basic premise is that the U.S government had a hand in the attacks so to make the country rally around the war cause. If you are interested, the documentary can be watched on YouTube with a quick search.
Now don’t get me wrong – I love me a good conspiracy. I always try to seek the truth in cloudy situations and I hope the same of other people. And the story that the documentary puts forth is very convincing. In fact, when I first watched it, I was partly convinced too. I never entirely believed that our government had planned the attacks but my confidence in the version of the story told by the history books was shaken. I realized that the conspiracy theory was not only possible, by plausible.
But I soon realized the plausible was not enough. I was probably around 16 when I saw “Loose Change”, and guess what – it turns our that 16 year old’s aren’t the most rational thinkers.
Now back to the guys in the arb.
The reason I knew exactly where his argument was going was that for a short time I once believed and tried to convince people of the same thing.
“The tower’s wouldn’t have fallen like than, there had to have been controlled explosives. There aren’t wing-holes in the Pentagon. It was definitely hit by a Cruise Missile not a plane. The planes shouldn’t have disintegrated like that.”
It went on and on, and as he went on and on, it was hard for me to argue against it. Many of those things don’t add up.
But the thing about historical theories is that they are not falsifiable. While most theories can be re-tested and proven whenever necessary, theories relating to historical events can only be interpreted through records. Even if there is a historical record, someone could question its validity. How can you prove it either way?
So if we have to take a guess when it comes to history, why dismiss one plausible theory just to accept one that paints a more convenient picture of our society and its history? The world is filled with greed, backroom deals, and hidden motives, so why simply accept what the headlines say without investigating for yourself?
Because cynicism is not an excuse for over-complication.
While supporters of certain conspiracy theories will say that their theory seeks truth rather that cynicism, ask yourself a question.
When have you heard a conspiracy theory that is less sinister than the accepted historical version of an event?
To better explain this, we turn to the story of “The Umbrella Man”. Instead of explaining it, I’ll direct you to this fantastic 6-minute video that explains it much better than I could:
The story of The Umbrella Man (did you watch the video? Do it) teaches us that while sinister explanations are sexier, that is no reason to believe them if they are not clearly the most rational explanation. Life is full of unexplained phenomena, but to automatically assume that the answers lie in the evil intentions of man is contrary to the point of the theories themselves – to find the truth.