A friend asked me the other day whether I believe that Antonin Scalia was murdered.
I said we’ll never know but I don’t think so. What I should have said is that “I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that he was.”
I am an apatheist. I don’t dwell on questions of faith, on issues that we cannot possibly find an answer to.
I have the same attitude toward conspiracy theories. I could say that I am an apatheorist when it comes to conspiracies.
Which does not mean, of course, that they don’t deserve attention. Not for what they say, but for what they represent.
Like anything else, the moment we take a closer look at it, it turns out to be not that simple. The general attitude toward conspiracy theories is ridicule and dismissal. Very often by the same people who are indicated in the conspiracy.
It is fascinating to read about all the conspiracy theories that were proven to be true later on, which fact still does not mean that we should change our attitudes toward the yet unproven ones.
The question about a conspiracy theory is not whether it is true or whether it is provable.
It is not whether it can actually happen, whether the theory is coherent in its explanation of the motivation and the logistics behind it.
The only question that really matters in a conspiracy theory is whether we can believe that the people supposedly behind it are capable of doing the bad things the theories usually imply.
For now, let’s just pick five of the recent ones to illustrate my point that their significance lies in what they tell us about the zeitgeist.
Do you believe:
Now let me ask the same questions in a different way
Could you believe:
- That an aspiring politician would be capable of lying about some insignificant detail of his past to gain power?
- That a politician would be willing to do anything to keep inconvenient facts about his past hidden from public scrutiny?
- That a president would be willing to resort to political murder to keep his secrets hidden?
- That a president would be willing to kill to protect his ‘legacy’ (whatever that may be)?
- That a president would be willing to initiate covert action that would give him an excuse to start a war? That he would be willing to lie to start a war?
The answer to the first set of questions is that I have no way of knowing.
The answer to the second set is a resounding YES for every single one of them.
And that is the point. That is the zeitgeist. Not whether these theories are true or not, but whether we believe that they may be. Whether we can imagine our politicians to be so morally corrupt as being capable of such a degree of abuse of power. So callously disregarding the rules and the value of human lives. Whether we would be surprised if the theories turned out to be true. I don’t know about you, but I know that I wouldn’t.
The first theory got a lot of air time because the leftist media got a lot of mileage out of it bashing conservatives making an issue out of it. As Mark Steyn pointed out here, the issue is just a distraction from Obama’s disastrous record as a president. The true conspiracy theory here would be that the leftist media was fanning the flames of this issue precisely to divert attention from the real problems.
The second theory is a no-brainer to me. It isn’t even a conspiracy theory. Speculations about the reason for sure are, but not the fact itself. If Obama had nothing to hide, political science majors would be writing dissertations about his achievements as a young scholar.
The third theory is a serious one, but its allegation is not unprecedented. Obama, after all, did order the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. Is there a difference in his mind between Bin Laden and Breitbart? Although in different ways, they were both his enemies.
It is not unprecedented in history either. Breitbart and Clancy would not be the first victims of political assassination. It may be difficult for some to believe that America is that corrupt already, but not for everybody.
The fourth theory is a desperate long-shot, but again, it is not unprecedented. Must have gotten its inspiration from “The Pelican Brief.” Did you find The Pelican Brief plausible? Believable?
The 9/11 conspiracy theory has by far the thickest file. One could spend days just watching Youtube videos about it. The French produced a best selling book on it. It has been translated to 28 languages within four years. The questions raised by the theorists are about as vexing as their suggestions are preposterous. Then again, that is not the question.
Pulling it off in the ways suggested is difficult to imagine, but let me suggest some things that can be imagined:
Can you imagine that Bush had a desire to finish his daddy’s unfinished work in Iraq?
Can you believe that as an oil-man, he had financial interest in the game as well?
Can you picture him saying something to the effect that if those bastards would try something he would show it to them unlike that wuss Clinton in 1993? Can you imagine someone hinting something to someone or someone else not doing something to stop something from happening?
When I watched Fahrenheit 9/11, what impressed me most was the expression on Bush’s face in that daycare centre where they broke the news to him. What the expression was telling me was: “This is not what I meant. This is not what I wished for.”
Then again, for the last time, it does not matter what Bush did, said, thought or wished for.
What matters is how much faith we have in the decency, morality and integrity of our politicians.
What matters is what we can imagine that they would be capable of doing.
Because in the end, that is what conspiracy theories are all about.