The planes that hit the World Trade Center were operated by remote control. That's the assertion of more than a few conspiracy Web sites, and gosh, it's possible, isn't it?
Crackpot, crank, and conspiracy Web sites are more popular than ever, and it's hard to know their immediate effect on society. As they gain in popularity, these sites will either turn the population into a horde of drooling morons ripe for a "loving" dictatorship or, perhaps, make people think more skeptically. I fear the former and can visualize Jerry Springer being the dictator.
The current in-vogue assertions found on the conspiracy sites are as follows:
1. The planes that hit the World Trade Center were controlled remotely. The reasons crackpots believe this vary, but the main argument seems to be—and this is rich—that the planes could be flown more accurately via remote control. The people controlling the planes were supposedly (choose one): the U.S. military working on behalf of oil companies interested in Afghan oil riches; terrorists who wanted better control of the flight paths; Jews, just to stir things up.
2. There was recorded UFO activity around the WTC during the bombing. Aliens may have had something to do with it. This site documents the sightings. Unfortunately for most readers, it's in Japanese!
3. The plane that crashed in Pennsylvania was shot down, possibly by a rocket-equipped Lear Jet, which apparently was in the neighborhood. There were no heroic passengers.
4. The bomb used in Oklahoma City was actually a high-tech daisy-cutter bomb or barometric superbomb. It takes an expert to make one. Somehow the government was involved. According to the Web sites, there were two explosions, and the daisy cutter is a compound bomb that goes off twice. Ipso facto! The sites say that only a daisy-cutter bomb could do this much damage. As part of this conspiracy theory, the fellow who invented the barometric bomb is supposed to be in jail for some unknown reason. Only rarely does a site appear that debunks the conspiracy notion.
These revelations follow on the heels of the never-ending debate over the cause of the Flight 800 crash. And we can't forget the classics, which cloud all debate. These include the basic loony UFO sites, the Area 51 sites, and the sites about mind control.
Area 51 has fascinated me. This is that spot outside of Las Vegas that is a secure government facility whose purpose seems to change over time. One group claims there is an alien spacecraft parked there under wraps. Another entirely different thread claims that Area 51 consists of various movie sound stages where we faked the moon landing. We're keeping it intact—rather than destroying the evidence—in case we want to go back to the moon. Exactly how they've kept all the military personnel who have worked there from 1969 to the present from blabbing about this is the biggest mystery, of course. I guess they kill you after your tour of duty. After all, have you ever met anyone who has worked there? (This is how these rumors start, by the way).
Is there something going on with these conspiracy sites, or is the public just plain stupid? I always like to cite Jay Leno's feature called Jaywalking, where he goes out on the street and finds people who apparently can't tell night from day. When asked who is the President, they say Lincoln. Many of the dopes are from local universities, too. A team of Canadians proved you can do this anywhere and went to Harvard to ask easy questions that nobody could answer.
I personally blame the media for all these problems, since I'm in the media and tend to be self-critical. Besides, I deplore seeing the release of a movie covered as hot breaking news. How is that news? Teachers probably blame the education system. I would think that perhaps a few high school courses in logic would improve people's ability to think. But logic isn't taught anymore. To me, the conspiracy sites are earmarked by a missing logic. Few of them address motives, and when they try, the logic falls apart. Things don't fall into place at all unless you assume there is some evil villain with a dastardly unexplained plot behind it all. The term "cover-up" covers all. The answers are all expected to be revealed at a later date, and then it will all make sense. Of course, that never happens.
Then there's the government itself. J. Edgar Hoover ran rampant and wore a dress for god's sake, and nobody noticed. Didn't anyone find that peculiar?
And let's not leave out Hollywood. Wag the Dog, Conspiracy Theory—movie after movie portrays the government and the military as dens full of creeps. Of course, the government and military do nothing but fan the image. I mean, exactly what is the point of all these black helicopters? I saw a slew of them flying around Washington D.C. one day. You see them here and there. They're creepy and give credence to the crackpots. Get rid of them. Paint them blue. What are you thinking?
The odd thing about conspiracy theorists is that you sometimes have to wonder how often someone who appears to be a whack-job is actually on to something. Do too many crackpots create a smoke screen for the truth? Is there a government plot to blow up the Aurora Borealis, just to see what happens? Was Princess Diana murdered? Who can tell? In fact, there is too much information out there.
So this week, I think it would be fun to let the readers throw up some interesting links. What great crackpot, crank, or conspiracy sites have you run into? I've put a few in my column, and I have more to contribute. What, for example, is the single best crackpot site on the Internet? That site deserves mentioning. (And don't link to the Republican National Committee or AOL).
BY JOHN C. DVORAK