Friday, August 04, 2006

A useful antidote

Conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks have been festering almost since the awful day itself, helped along by college professors, Internet crackpots, and the likes of Michael Moore and Cynthia McKinney. Radio talkshow hosts are starting to give this fantasy-spinning even more exposure. The events of 9/11 threaten to become our generation's Kennedy assassination or Pearl Harbor -- conspiracy theories about those continue to be heard, in the latter case, more than 60 years later and the release and exhaustive study of all relevant, surviving documents by historians.

The 9/11 theories, like the others, thrive on ignorance and willful denial of facts and common sense. The 9/11 conspiracists -- like Kennedy assassination obsessives, McCarthyites, Pearl Harbor theorists, and so on -- manifest all the classic signs: the pseudo-skeptical pseudo-questioning style that actually consists of accusation-by-innuendo, lifting and garbling factoids out of their original context, and a complete failure to question their own rickety ideas in the light of evidence. It's timeless and fact-free blind credulity masquerading as skepticism.

Just in time comes a concise introduction to the debunking of 9/11 myths by the editors of Popular Mechanics. Since 2004, that reputable publication has enhanced its stature by studying the technical nature of the attacks. The editors decided to put together a selection of the most important theories and debunkings, with pointers to further information and a fine analysis of "conspiracism." Not that it will silence many of the loonies, but at least it will help everyone else stop listening to them. People open to reason should be able to figure this out for themselves, once they have real knowledge in hand. It's just been released in bookstores -- run out and get your copy.

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds and Instawife Helen Smith recently interviewed the authors for a podcast. See their MP3 archive.

POSTSCRIPT: Divine lawblogger Ann Althouse continues to follow the Barrett story at the U. of Wisconsin in her home town of Madison -- a repulsive intersection of 9/11 conspiracism and the accelerating rot of American undergraduate education. There's a topic for a few more postings and some hard questions about what students and parents are getting at such great expense.

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