I’m a sucker for conspiracy theories. I find them absolutely fascinating. Not that I am usually persuaded to believe them, but I am completely captivated by the sheer insane dedication to an idea and the endless amount of effort put into creating these wacko scenarios: NASA faked the moon landings. The Grassy Knoll. (I’ve seen that one worked all the way back to the Prophecies of Nostradamus.) The Philadelphia Experiment. Paul is dead. (How many people totally screwed up their treasured Beetle’s albums trying to prove THAT one?!)
What I find most intriguing about conspiracy theories is that there is almost certainly a germ of truth hidden somewhere in the midst of the often confusing, usually contradictory web of explanations. The strands of accurate, verifiable fact, of possibility and probability, and of total misinformation are woven into a whole that veers about 90 degrees north of reality.
And yet… Governments, including the government of the United States, have and do consistently lie, cheat, steal and intentionally harm their own citizenry, often labelling as Top Secret what should have been fully disseminated. Frequently this is done under the guise of “scientific research”. Doubt it? Read about the release of Top Secret documents (following a 1993 story broken by journalist Eilene Welsome, who later won the Pulitzer Prize) detailing the radiation experiments which America performed, without consent, on its own citizenry during the Cold War years from 1944 to 1974. It’s really not so great a leap from those verified atrocities to “SARS and H1N1 were created as bioterrorism weapons”.
Perhaps the conspiracy theories which most intrigue me are woven about the dreadful morning of 9/11. I’ve read the contradictory accounts of survivors and the statements of witnesses who claimed their lives were threatened if they revealed what they had really seen. I’ve watched video of experts tracing the path of the jets and proclaiming that events simply could not have happened as they were supposed to have done. I’ve seen the videos of British announcers broadcasting the bizarre collapse of the untouched Building 7 before it happened. I’ve listened to architects and engineers question why no forensic evidence was gathered–standard practice at the site of any disaster, yet one which was totally disregarded in this, the face of ultimate disaster–and heard these experts state unequivocally that the Trade Center buildings imploded in a planned detonation.
And I might have just savored the conjecture and speculation and then dismissed all of it, as I usually dismiss conspiracy theories, but for one thing.
On the afternoon of 9/11, arriving home to find my daughter and her friend sitting in front of the TV, weeping, I heard the commentator discussing the President’s whereabouts. As I listened, he explained that President Bush had been at an elementary school, reading to a group of 7-year-olds, when the attacks happened. And I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s surreal. That’s like something right out of a Hollywood script!”
Years later, reading the 9/11 conspiracy theories, I suddenly recalled my reaction as I learned of the President’s whereabouts at that fateful hour.
And I wondered.