Gullibility

So this morning I saw this amusing tweet from Runet Echo’s Aric Toler.

Indeed. Maybe there are MH17 “truthers” who don’t believe 9/11 was an “inside job,” but vice versa? I doubt it. But there’s something that makes MH17 trutherism even dumber than 9/11 trutherism. What is it exactly?

Well first of all, 9/11 involved a lot of things which ordinary people never think about. Many of us are not familiar with the science of architecture, piloting aircraft, and dozens of other complex fields of study that come into play when investigating a terrorist attack of that nature. For many people, the simple politics of it were overwhelming. One major problem with 9/11 is that it was so unprecedented and complex that many people missed or confused the basic facts of the case. More often than not it seems like this lack of basic knowledge left many people vulnerable to conspiracy mongers. For example, how many times have you heard someone talking about how fire from jet fuel couldn’t have melted the steel beams in the World Trade Center? Problem is, nobody ever said that’s why the towers collapsed. It’s not part of the “official story” and never was. Because of its unprecedented, extraordinary, and incredibly complex nature, one can at least understand how these conspiracy theories got started.

Another aspect of the 9/11 theories is that while they often tend to assert phony “evidence” like the aforementioned claims about jet fuel, each purveyor of a 9/11 theory, at least each one with a book to sell, has his or her own explanation. One guy says it’s “micronukes,” another says “death ray with no planes,” another says remote control planes, and so on. My experience has been that the audience for these claims is rarely picky- they’ll cheerfully talk with adherents of other, contradictory hypotheses all the time. If you’re selling a book or trying to become an internet celebrity, however, you need at least a superficially consistent story, and that is why, for example, there are three versions of Loose Change, with major revisions.

MH17 is another matter though. First of all, you had a plane flying over a war zone and it got shot down. It’s not complicated at all, really. Civilian airliners aren’t equipped to deal with any sort of anti-aircraft weaponry, thus if they get targeted and hit, they’re going to suffer catastrophic consequences. So the “plane got shot down” side of the equation is pretty straightforward.

The problem is that unlike the 9/11 truth community, whose con men authors attempt to build and popularize their own proprietary hypotheses, MH17 conspiracy theories basically come from one source, or I should say sources all controlled by one government, and yet they are as rapidly changing as they are contradictory. Within days we already had a theory that it was Ukrainian ground fire aimed at shooting down president Putin’s plane, then an SU-25 based on the story of a non-existent Spanish air traffic controller, then Russia’s ministry of defense pinned it on both Buks and SU-25s at the same time, then there was the infamous satellite photo, and so on. This parody blog tells the “real story” of MH17 while detailing almost every Russian-produced conspiracy theory on the topic to date.Even when independent pro-Kremlin bloggers write their “analysis,” you can rest assured they’re working off of RT and other Russian sources. None of those people ever go outside the house and actually investigate something, nor do they bother calling anyone.

So if you’re looking at the two sides of the debate, here’s what it looks like with 9/11 and MH17. For 9/11 I picked a sample truther theory, in this case Dr. Stephen E. Jones. I chose him because he is one of the few who actually attempted to make a coherent alternative hypotheses (ridiculous though it is, if you know anything about thermate), and he tried to give his theories and air of academic quality.

9/11 “official story” : 19 hijackers, after years of planning, managed to take control of four aircraft taking advantage of FAA training which instructed flight crews to comply with all demands in case of a hijacking. They crashed their planes into the WTC towers, the Pentagon, and the fourth plane crashed into a field after passengers tried to storm the cockpit. The WTC towers collapsed due to structural damage to their load-bearing cores, and their steel beams were weakened and sagged under the weight of the upper floors. This led to a pancake collapse.

9/11 Stephen Jones edition: The buildings were brought down by controlled demolition, there were precursors of thermate in the rubble. (PROTIP: Thermite and thermate are very simple compounds and their ingredients are used in dozens of products you might find in a home or office building.)

Obviously Jones had more to say and you can read all about it on his Wiki page, but basically you have two explanations, both of which are complicated and are likely to get into fields which the reader might not have any experience in. Now let’s look at MH17. Note that unlike with 9/11, all alternative stories can be traced back to the Kremlin via its state-owned media and other organizations.

MH17: Ukrainian, German, Dutch, American “official story”: Rebels, who had shot down several Ukrainian planes before, mistook MH17 for a Ukrainian military plane and shot it down with a Buk SAM system. There has been some confusion about whether the particular Buk system in question came from Russia or whether it had been captured from a Ukrainian army depot or base. Keep in mind Russia claims the rebels got all their weapons from Ukrainian depots, bases, and arsenals.

Russia’s version…er…versions: The Ukrainian army fired at MH17 from the ground because they thought it was Putin’s plane. No wait! This Spanish air traffic controlled who will later turn out not to exist monitored an SU-25 following MH17. No wait! Look our ministry of defense has shown how it could have been SU-25s or Buks, but Ukrainian Buks, of course! No wait, an anonymous eyewitness serving at a Ukrainian airbase in Dnepropetrovsk somehow managed to witness the whole thing, and says a pilot named Captain Voloshin shot the plane down. Not that we’re going to look into this Voloshin guy any more, of course. No wait! An engineer from MIT who doesn’t exist sent us a satellite image from a random foreign satellite that managed to capture the whole thing on film! Turns out it was a Ukrainian SU-27, not the SU-25 that looks totally different. No wait! A Dutch investigator said a fragment from a Buk missile used only in Russia was found in the wreckage? Nonsense! That fragment is from a Buk missile that Ukraine uses! It’s a Buk again! Oh wait! Zakharchenko says he say two SU-25s shooting at MH17 as it was over 30,000 feet in the sky! It’s planes again! No wait, it’s a Buk again! Goddammit can’t you see it’s anybody but us?

Obviously the purveyors of 9/11 truth claims often change their stories in ways that are sometimes contradictory, but as I said before, they try to maintain their overall hypothesis because it’s theirs. There have been particularly amusing examples of fights within the 9/11 Truther community between con men scholars with competing theories, often resulting in opposing sides accusing each other of being shills, disinformation agents, and so on. If Stephen Jones kept changing his 9/11 hypothesis on an almost weekly, occasionally daily basis, even people inclined to believing in conspiracy theories would probably pass him up for someone who seems more consistent.

Not so with Russia’s MH17 story. The Kremlin’s propaganda strategy isn’t concerned with credibility, only confusion. Put simply- If you believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories, you should probably examine your critical thinking and read all the evidence again, making sure you actually know what the “official story” says. If you buy into MH17 conspiracy theories well, there’s just no good way to put this so I’ll just keep silent.

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One thought on “Gullibility

  1. Asehpe

    So you don’t really get Russians/Russophiles who do pick their favorite theory (personally, I am partial to the one about the passengers having been dead all along — it makes me nostalgic for Romero zombie movies) and defend it against the partisans of other theories? This sounds as if they just shared the feeling that ‘something is going on’ but couldn’t quite put their fingers on what it was, so we change to the theory dujour because maybe that’s the winning lottery ticket?

    Reply

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