Too good to be true
Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?
Certainly the most generic reason is mistrust. Mistrust in the government, that is, as conspiracy theories always include governmental actions (not by definition, but I have not seen any exception to this rule yet).
It also has a lot to do with “storytelling” and the desire of humans for plausibility. At the same time people are unaware (or ignorant) of the fact, that they do not have access to all the facts required for an objective and therefore realistic view on the overall context of events … still, they think they do! “We have all the facts … it was on TV!”
Any single event that stands out of this context creates a cognitive dissonance that we try to get rid of. If we cannot get rid of it by a logical explanation, the only other option is that the context of events is not what it appears to be. We start to ask ourselves if what we saw was real or just mise en scene: “Who does what to whom for which benefit?” But instead of accepting a possible (and probable) lack of completeness of all relevant facts, we prefer to believe in our “professional”assessment and re-adjust the context accordingly.
This self-assigned professionality is in large parts due our continuous exposure to narration – from the one-on-one at the garden fence to the 24/7 bombardment of media. We feel that we know everything, and by no means we like to belong to the unintelligent portion of the planet’s population. We always see the bigger picture – at least, we are longing to do so. It is exciting to be clever! The rush of hormones triggered by feeling superior is more satisfying than anything else. Watching the Magician is fascinating already; uncovering his tricks and techniques is thrilling though. Especially if you are faster than everyone else.
9/11 is a perfect example. So many things do not match up with what we know (or believe to know) about the habits of terrorism – habits, that we only learned about because of constant featuring in mass media (as far as I can see, without the existence of media, there is no real use in terrorism).
- Never before has a terror attack been executed so hollywood-like and so well timed in terms of media attention. And – surprisingly so – never after. No copycats! Why not?
- What was the benefit, the profit for the terrorists? And what for the US? Is – and I am not meaning to be cynical here! – the price of a few thousand civilians’ lives perhaps worth paying for a reason to engage in the Middle East? Especially because “collateral damage” as a term is so strongly associated with America?
- The purpose of terror used to be creating fear – not so much creating casualties. The threat that something might happen, that you and your family are no longer safe in their everyday life, that your final breath may be just around the corner … it is this threat that creates instability. The invisibility of the enemy to suggest his omnipresence. What’s the use of showing your identity to the world if you cannot walk freely for one single day as a consequence? What’s the use of making yourself a target for the rest of the world when walking freely and acting incognito would make your mission much easier to accomplish? And how come the face behind everything is a relative of a close friend to the American economy?
9/11 was the first “branded” terror attack. It had a face. It was “perfect”. And therefore just did not fit into what we knew (or thought to know) about the habits and phenotype of terrorism. I don’t believe that there was one single person in the world who was not suspicious of what they saw and being told about the circumstances afterwards.
How can this bundle of circumstantial facts not lead to a conspiracy theory?
Imagine, Jack Bauer had started to investigate his TV conspiracies ten years earlier – how would that have re-lit the scenery of 9/11?