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Non-Conspiracy Theories

When I first heard about the Nicholas Berg thing, I admit, I was not outraged. This is no reflection on the atrocity involved, but rather on my brain--I've reached and exceeded my capacity for outrage so far as Iraq is concerned, and whatever horrors come out, on either side, no longer much surprise me. There's a limit to how impressed I can be by the capacity of people to inflict misery on one another, and we're way over the limit and appear to be picking up speed.

Doubtless some of my readers are outraged by my lack of outrage, and would like to yell at me for my callousness. Let's short circuit this right away--you're a better person than I am, you have more empathy, I suck and should be ashamed. I have no problems with that. My lack of an infinite supply of moral outrage is a wretched character flaw, yes, but we all play the cards we're dealt. If you still have to yell, go ahead, but don't expect much response on my part.

What DID happen, however, was that the old, cold voice in the back of my brain said "Well...that's certainly...odd." And the more I read about the whole thing, the more it nagged. It's...odd. There's something about it that doesn't sit right. I couldn't even begin to tell you what--there are lots of little things that can all be easily dismissed, but somehow it doesn't ring true to my understanding, limited though it is, of how people are. Either we aren't getting a few key bits of information, or somebody's lying about something, or there some other bit that's been misreported or misremembered or I don't know what, but there is something...fishy...ahout the whole thing.

That's not the point of this, however.

The point was that we have somehow come to a point where if you say "I dunno, there's something weird about it all," people point at you and scream "CONSPIRACY THEORIST!" or "SICK!" and I, for one, am left going "Huh?"

I know what a conspiracy theory is. A conspiracy theory is when you claim the Bavarian Illuminati are controlling U.S. politics, having gotten their claws into Bush during his tenure in Skull & Bones, (and getting Kerry as a candidate so he won't interfere, also being a Skull & Bonesite) precipitated the 9-11 attacks via the modern incarnations of the Assassins of Alamut, and sent the U.S. into Iraq so that, in all the confusion, nobody would notice that they were raiding the museums to get the key artifact Hammurabi concealed in code on the back of one of the tablets so that they can summon Elder Gods, ia, ia, cthulhu ftaghn! and then handed the whole mess over to the Men in Black so that they can raze Iraq and soften it up for an alien invasion, since greys like Muslim ovaries better.

THAT is a conspiracy theory. Please make a note of it.

A conspiracy theory involves an explanation of events. It may be far-fetched, but it's an explanation.

Saying "I dunno, there's something WEIRD going on, and I have a lot of questions," is not a conspiracy theory. Saying "So how come the guy was in U.S. custody but they claimed he wasn't?" is a question, not a theory. There is nothing wrong with asking questions. If somebody says "The whole thing strikes me as weird and awfully convenient, and I don't quite buy the official version of events," please do not point at them screaming about conspiracy theories unless they begin talking about the Illuminati.

The other method seems to be to point and yell "You're sick to even think such a thing! I am horribly offended that you would imply that!" This one is also annoying.

1. It is not about you. Trying to make it about you by proclaiming your offendedness is just tedious. There are many other ways to get attention on the internet, even without a webcam.

2. I realize that claiming offense is a quick way to get people to backpedal and apologize for ever having questioned anything, since many of us really hate to give offense, but a backpedal to avoid hurting someone's feelings is not the same as saying "Okay, my fears have been put to rest, way to go."

3. What is with "sick"? I mean, what's sick about asking questions? I realize people like to claim it's somehow capitalizing on someone's death, but Christ, if I was dead, I would want people figuring out EXACTLY how it happened!

The whole thing reminds me of religion, really. If you genuinely, deeply, truly, utterly believed in something, you welcome questions. Testing makes you happy. I believe in carbon dating, and I am delighted to see it tested, because there is not a doubt in my mind that it'll stand up. The Dalai Lama, whom I admire greatly, has asked that various artifacts supposedly belonging to the Buddha be tested so that we'll know what was and what wasn't. That's faith. The Catholic Church obviously doesn't have that kind of faith in the Shroud of Turin because they dithered for so long, and have cried and kicked their feet about the results, but that's neither here nor there.

My point is that if you genuinely believe something to be true, you don't scream when people question it, you don't point at them shrieking "SICK! SICK!" or anything like that. It's only when, deep down in your heart of hearts, you're pretty sure it ISN'T true that you fight questions of any sort and claim that faith is more imporantant. (At least, such is my experience with people, having been on both sides of the equation.) And so it seems to me that those who freak when people asks questions about weird shit like the Nicholas Berg tragedy must not have very much faith in the official version of events, or else they wouldn't be getting so defensive when people question it, would they?

By way of goodluckfox comes this bizarre twist that should fire up the alt.conspiracy people to a fever pitch.

I give up on this one Usula, I just can't figure it out and it all just makes me want to take my ball home and hide under the bed...

It is not about you & faith &ct...

Amen and 'nuff said there!


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Will you just allow me to tell you how wonderful I think these ideas are, particularly the bit about questioning? I'm sick to death (whoops, there's that word!) of seeing "But you have to have faith!" and "I'm offended!" used to make people shut up. I'd much prefer calm, rational questioning and thinking and debate over the endless screaming that blind belief always seems to lead to.

Your lack of an infinite supply of moral outrage is healthier than the perpetual tizzy of "catastrophe mavens". I also think your analysis of the reasons behind the outrage of some people is dead on.

As for conspiracy theories... history is nothing but a long list of conspiracies! Do you think the Roman senators just happened to show up (conveniently carrying knives) on the capitol steps at the same time as Julius Caesar and decided, oh, what the heck, let's stab this dude? "Conspiracy Theorist" is just a convenient label to slap on someone to instantly and easily discredit them... like "bigot", "terrorist", "communist", or "feminist".

The whole situation is bizarre and puzzling.

Its hard for me to think of a time where asking a question is a bad thing. Of course with current events there are a lot of people doing just that. How DARE you question the motives of our leaders. Don't ask WHY someone may dislike us, we have the acceptable answers. In fact if you ask the wrong question there's plenty of folks ready and willing to assume all sorts of terrible things.

What I think happens with some folks is that they wrap themselves tightly up in one answer or reason for certain things/events. They devise or find an explanation that works for them and makes sense of everything. A question or alternate theory that challenges that becomes a challenge of THEM or their reasoning. Sometimes the more probing or problematic the question the angrier they get.

On your two last paragraphs:
To paraphrase a former religion/sex ed teacher (yes, multitasking...) of mine, "If your faith rests upon alleged miracles, then it's better not to have any faith at all. If the only way you can keep your faith is by consistently avoiding a serious, rational, sometimes even vicious critical, analytical scrutiny of it, by never asking yourselves any questions about things, then, what a cheap sort of faith you must have!"

Keep your mind open... but not so open that your brain falls out.

As said by Teresa Nielsen-Hayden, I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist.

Lots of nodding in silent agreement, here.

I was "surprised" about the event, and the ashen faced reactions and descriptions by the newscasters of the bits they could NOT show on television. Outrage? well I am still mad about 9-11. this was just another log on a smoldering pile.

Politically I probably differ from most of the folks that read your list.

As to religion? some folks think that any test means that they don't have faith if they must use "Reason's Tools" to make them "belivers". Faith and reason are anti-ethical to some when it comes to religion.

I have ready many articles on cyclic theory of history and there are some well thought out and evidenced articles not only in books by Strauss and Howe, but also a series of articles in Analog, about what practical applications of Asimov's psycho History might look like. What was fascinsting, is that these articles all sort of predicted what the outcomes of near history up to a point would be. 1.) the low, low intensity conflict we are in will continue probably for another 10 years. but we are about time for another technological breakthrough that will drive another economic boom in 15 to 20 years. (Sort of how the moon landings miniaturization of computers, brought us the personal computer 7-8 years later, and the convergance of them and ARPANET going public in the late 80's gave us the dot com boom.

I read this article sometime in the mid nineties. and also read Strauss & Howe's first book "Generations: The History of America's Future from 1580 to 2066. both articles, and book predicted the economic bust though occuring in 2002. Which is why I was agressively saving money having money automatically deducted from my paycheck while at 3do. (If I didn't see the money I wouldn't spend it. :-)) SO I was oddly enough fairly wellprepared for a year's unemployment.

The unfortunate cyclical things in the ANALOG articles were a massive world war possibly in the 2060's with a moderate reduction in the worldwide population. The Strauss and Howe books and analog agreed that the late 2020's, early 2030's will be a nice time, and the excess money and energy will probably be when the next big push into space will be.

What does this have to do with the premise? Well simply that what may be thought of as a conspiracy may just me a convergence of many cyclical influences, possibly knowingly or unknowingly worked on by a few powerfull individuals, as well as the reactions of the masses primed by the cycles of their upbringing and their peers. There are patterns, but perhaps not concious patterns caused by powerful cabals of vested interests. Governments and corporations are just organization of fairly normal people doing their jobs.


"...moderate reduction in the worldwide population..." What a nice way to say lots and lots of corpses!

"There are patterns, but perhaps not concious patterns caused by powerful cabals of vested interests. Governments and corporations are just organization of fairly normal people doing their jobs."

Good point. Even when it seems like a group of powerful people has conspired to achieve a certain goal, it is just as likely that they have independently chosen the most effective way to reach that goal and only appear to be working in concert. But, that said, there are conspiracies going on all the time... just ask any District Attorney.

Something I just read that bears on your heathy lack of outrage:

"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If all you have is a narrow media-saturated tragedy-thick anger-ravaged abuse-drenched worldview, everything looks like a crime against the spirit and everything is something meant to induce peril and everything is something that will completely piss you off, somehow."
-Mark Morford

The whole article is here: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2004/05/14/notes051404.DTL&nl=fix

There's nothing wrong with a good conspiracy theory. I've even got a couple of my own (and they have nothing to do with the Illuminati, btw).

It's only when people start mistaking their theory for fact that they'll get in trouble (just like any other theory).

As a fellow self-defined "conspiracy theorist" myself, Amen to that, I say!
Even if only to keep our leaders on their toes so they won't walk all over us...

You know, I've been thinking about the same thing and you're the first person I've seen that's said anything. You're absolutely right. There's something that we're not being told about the Berg killing.

When it comes to stuff like this, I never take anything at face value and I always question what the media is feeding me. With life in general, I've learned that whenever your head hurts trying to figure something out that doesn't make any sense... then either you're not being told the whole story or one of the so called "facts" is utterly and completely wrong. Sometimes it's a matter of both being the case. With this Berg thing, I can just look at the video and I have a gut feeling that there's something more to this than just how it's being presented to us.

With every new news report that comes traipsing across the oceans at us, I find that I'm more outraged at the outrage than at the acts themselves.

I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Conspiracy theories are the ongoing hope that someone, somewhere, is in control of the situation. That speaks for itself.

However, on the odd side, the remarkable lack of blood during the decapitation kind of weirded me. Arterial spray is messy, as you might know if you'd ever cleaned a felled deer or cut a man's throat. Er. Anyway, that was a very bloodless beheading, making me think Berg had been killed earlier and merely butchered for the video.

Secondly, Berg was kidnapped a full two weeks before the Abu Gharib news hit the wide media, making me think it was more an opportunistic application of "hey, we have this guy, what can we do with him?" The timeline feels weird there.

Thirdly, Berg's father is a very, very vocal member of ANSWER, which has been quite agitated from the beginning. Some of their releases border on supporting the terrorists in murdering US forces in the region. One doesn't really know what Berg's politics himself were, and one might be disinclined to believe his father on the matter.

Ultimately, yes, I have to say there's something here. I don't know what it is, but my mystery-sensing nose smells oddity.

Its not just you.

There was, apparently, an 11 hour gap between the speech and the beheading, according to the changed timestamp on the videotape. That struck me as peculiar as well, but ties into to your comment.

Yes, ANSWER makes you wonder what the hell the question was.

===|==============/ Level Head