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Disturbing 911 skeptics no longer nutty fridge { August 5 2006 }

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Disturbing trend of 9/11 skeptics
No longer the nutty fringe

August 5, 2006

Conspiracy theorists are never satisfied with the most straightforward explanation for a tragedy. They demand layer upon layer of complexity to feed their fantasy that world events are manipulated by small groups of utterly amoral insiders.

Still, it is striking that a new poll finds more than a third - 36 percent of Americans - believe it is probable that the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were an "inside job," that U.S. government officials either abetted the attacks or did nothing to stop them. It is one thing when a nutty fringe refuses to accept the official version of an event that has been the subject of exhaustive investigation. But one-third of the nation subscribing to such nonsense? It's enough to give those of us still anchored in reality a case of the chills.

Scripps Howard News Service reporter Tom Hargrove attributes the widespread credence given to 9/11 conspiracy theories to anger and resentment toward the federal government. Perhaps after the White House misstatements leading up to the war in Iraq, many Americans are disinclined to believe anything the government says.

Those who believe the U.S. government was somehow behind 9/11, or gave it the green light, often told pollsters that federal officials carried out this act of treachery "because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East," the Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll found. To accept this thesis, of course, you must believe U.S. officials are as evil as the al-Qaida terrorists who hijacked the planes.

Or more evil, come to think of it, since they were willing to sacrifice thousands of their own citizens.

The 9/11 fantasists are firmly in a rich if disturbing American tradition: President Roosevelt allowed Pearl Harbor to happen to get us into World War II; President Wilson allowed the Lusitania to be torpedoed to get us into World War I; and the battleship Maine was deliberately blown up in Havana harbor to get us into a war with Spain.

Conspiracy theories in this country are as old as the Salem witch trials and continue through the whispered plots of Freemasons, Catholics, Jews, Illuminati, Trilateral Commission, right up to the black helicopter crowd and the imminent takeover of the U.S. by the United Nations.

The Internet, so rich in useful information, has unfortunately become the great marketplace of conspiracy theories. As the poll found, the people must likely to believe those theories got most of their information off the Internet and the people least likely to believe relied more on the reviled "mainstream media."

No matter how thoroughly conspiracies are debunked - and the 9/11 Commission investigation fingered the usual culprits of incompetence and inattention on the U.S. side, not deliberate collusion- the true believers will remain unconvinced. To them, every piece of contradictory evidence is only further proof of the sinister subtlety of the conspiracy.

We'd hate to say a third of America has become unhinged, so let's just put it this way: This poll is the most disturbing sign we've seen to date of what is clearly an ugly national mood.

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