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Scientific American

Paranoia Strikes Deep

published September 2009 | comments (130)
Why people believe in conspiracies
magazine cover

After a public lecture in 2005, I was buttonholed by a documentary filmmaker with Michael Moore-ish ambitions of exposing the conspiracy behind 9/11. “You mean the conspiracy by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to attack the United States?” I asked rhetorically, knowing what was to come.

“That’s what they want you to believe,” he said. “Who is they?” I queried. “The government,” he whispered, as if “they” might be listening at that very moment. “But didn’t Osama and some members of al Qaeda not only say they did it,” I reminded him, “they gloated about what a glorious triumph it was?”

“Oh, you’re talking about that video of Osama,” he rejoined knowingly. “That was faked by the CIA and leaked to the American press to mislead us. There has been a disinformation campaign going on ever since 9/11.”

Conspiracies do happen, of course. Abraham Lincoln was the victim of an assassination conspiracy, as was Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand, gunned down by the Serbian secret society called Black Hand. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a Japanese conspiracy (although some conspiracists think Franklin Roosevelt was in on it). Watergate was a conspiracy (that Richard Nixon was in on). How can we tell the difference between information and disinformation? As Kurt Cobain, the rocker star of Nirvana, once growled in his grunge lyrics shortly before his death from a self-inflicted (or was it?) gunshot to the head, “Just because you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not after you.”

But as former Nixon aide G. Gordon Liddy once told me (and he should know!), the problem with government conspiracies is that bureaucrats are incompetent and people can’t keep their mouths shut. Complex conspiracies are difficult to pull off, and so many people want their quarter hour of fame that even the Men in Black couldn’t squelch the squealers from spilling the beans. So there’s a good chance that the more elaborate a conspiracy theory is, and the more people that would need to be involved, the less likely it is true.

Why do people believe in highly improbable conspiracies? In previous columns I have provided partial answers, citing patternicity (the tendency to find meaningful patterns in random noise) and agenticity (the bent to believe the world is controlled by invisible intentional agents). Conspiracy theories connect the dots of random events into meaningful patterns and then infuse those patterns with intentional agency. Add to those propensities the confirmation bias (which seeks and finds confirmatory evidence for what we already believe) and the hindsight bias (which tailors after- the-fact explanations to what we already know happened), and we have the foundation for conspiratorial cognition.

Examples of these processes can be found in journalist Arthur Goldwag’s marvelous new book, Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies (Vintage, 2009), which covers everything from the Freemasons, the Illuminati and the Bilderberg Group to black helicopters and the New World Order. “When something momentous happens, everything leading up to and away from the event seems momentous, too. Even the most trivial detail seems to glow with significance,” Goldwag explains, noting the JFK assassination as a prime example. “Knowing what we know now … film footage of Dealey Plaza from November 22, 1963, seems pregnant with enigmas and ironies — from the oddly expectant expressions on the faces of the onlookers on the grassy knoll in the instants before the shots were fired (What were they thinking?) to the play of shadows in the background (Could that flash up there on the overpass have been a gun barrel gleaming in the sun?). Each odd excrescence, every random lump in the visual texture seems suspicious.” Add to these factors how compellingly a good narrative story can tie it all together — think of Oliver Stone’s JFK or Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, both equally fictional.

What should we believe? Transcendentalists tend to believe that everything is interconnected and that all events happen for a reason. Empiricists tend to think that randomness and coincidence interact with the causal net of our world and that belief should depend on evidence for each individual claim. The problem for skepticism is that transcendentalism is intuitive; empiricism is not. Or as folk rock group Buffalo Springfield once intoned: Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep…

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130 Comments to “Paranoia Strikes Deep”

  1. Nathan Phillips Says:

    @A.S. Marques

    It isn’t hard for me to see someone searching and fighting for historical accuracy for its own sake. However, it is hard for me to imagine believing that I have some special knowledge of a vast conspiracy to which the majority are completely blind. As far as I can tell, there is more support for revisionist notion that Jesus was historical fabrication than there is for the holocaust of the Jews to be false. It may be difficult for us to communicate because we do have extremely different world-views. As I gathered from the posts to which you linked, you view science as belief plus reason. That is not a scientist’s definition and it does not represent science well. Perhaps the holocaust didn’t happen exactly as some sources indicate, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. There are multiple sources of data that converge on approximately six million people of Jewish descent dissappearing from the globe during World War II. I would be interested in seeing what possible evidence there is against this, but I think that it is more likely that the Jews secretly had a space program than it is that the holocaust was faked.

  2. A. S. Marques Says:

    @ Nathan Phillips:

    It isn’t hard for me to see someone searching and fighting for historical accuracy for its own sake.

    Why then did you affirm that I had “a world-view behind this search, and that world view [had] cards that [I wasn’t] showing”? What’s the purpose of attacking the bearer of the message rather than its contents?

    However, it is hard for me to imagine believing that I have some special knowledge of a vast conspiracy to which the majority are completely blind.

    And possibly with good cause, if you feel inclined to remain in comfortable ignorance of the actual issues, the invisible debates, the reasons for outlawing honest investigation etc.

    As far as I can tell, there is more support for revisionist notion that Jesus was historical fabrication than there is for the holocaust of the Jews to be false.

    The degree of subservience people subject themselves to vis-à-vis a corrupted Orwellian word, thanks to the deluge of propaganda they are daily fed, is the first thing they should struggle to free themselves from.

    If you want to discuss the relative support for denying each of those two so-called “historical facts” you should start by clearly pin-pointing the meaning of each:

    1) By the “historical existence of Jesus” we mean simply the allegation that Christianity owed its existence and modeled the image of its messiah on a real Jesus individual.

    2) By “the Holocaust” we mean the allegation that the Germans attempted to exterminate the Jews and chain-murdered approximately 6 million of them, a large part in homicidal gas chambers.

    I suggest each time you feel the temptation to write the H word, you immediately pin your own mind down to its obligations by momentarily de-conditioning yourself, and forcing yourself to write the meaning instead of the word. That way we will be able to actually discuss a meaningful concept instead of an empty noise.

    So, if you agree, I will rephrase your phrase before replying to it:

    — Nathan Phillips (in translation): “As far as I can tell, there is more support for [the] revisionist notion that Jesus was [a] historical fabrication than there is for the German attempt to exterminate the Jews and chain-murder approximately 6 million of them, a large part in homicidal gas chambers, to be false.”

    — My reply: I believe you’re wrong. Altough it’s naturally difficult to comparatively weigh convincing abstract arguments in a very precise fashion, I would feel the evidence to reject both those so-called “historical facts” is overwhelming in each case. So, I would not hesitate to relegate both to the dustbin of pseudo-history where they belong.

    It may be difficult for us to communicate because we do have extremely different world-views. As I gathered from the posts to which you linked, you view science as belief plus reason. That is not a scientist’s definition and it does not represent science well.

    On the contrary, it is the most accurate short definition of science (in the modern sense of the word) you can possibly devise. Of course, by the short formula “belief + reason” what is meant is “belief through or alongsisde reason”, as opposed to the “belief against or in spite of reason” of religious fantasies.

    Perhaps the holocaust didn’t happen exactly as some sources indicate, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.

    Okay, let the silly game proceed. I’ll help you with the translation of what you are saying, and will only then reply:

    — Nathan Phillips (in translation): “Perhaps the German attempt to exterminate the Jews and their chain-murder of approximately 6 million of them, a large part in homicidal gas chambers, didn’t happen exactly as some sources indicate, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.”

    — My reply: Oh? So how do you think the German attempt to exterminate the Jews and their chain-murder of approximately 6 million of them, a large part in homicidal gas chambers, did happen? And even more to the point what’s the difference between the mandatory narrative and yours?

    There are multiple sources of data that converge on approximately six million people of Jewish descent dissappearing from the globe during World War II.

    No, there are not. The exact opposite is true. Here are some references:

    1) DATA OF JEWISH ORIGIN:

    Whenever it’s possible to peek into the Kadosh Hakadashim without having to pass by the censoring high and not-so-high priests, since no other real data exists:

    http://vho.org/aaargh/fran/revu/TI97/TI971122.html
    [Scroll further down after the Israeli estimate to the commentaries by Faurisson and Nordling.]

    2) DEMOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS:

    Here are the very few book studies you’ll be able to find:

    — The only meticulous book-length study from the viewpoint of population statistics ever done is The Dissolution of Eastern European Jewry by Walter Sanning (1983). Sanning uses Jewish originated data and estimates at 3.500.000 the total number of Jews in the German sphere of influence for the duration of the War, and at 2.400.000 the number of Jews alive at the end of the War in the countries previously occupied by Germany (with the exclusion of the USSR). His conclusions are confirmed by Carl Nordling — a Finnish demographer, applying statistical inference to samples of known individual histories — who places the total of Jewish victims of the concentration camps at between 300.000 and 600.000 (see articles by Nordling below).

    — For your reference, an anthology titled Dimension des Völkermords was edited in 1991 for the Institut für Zeitgeschichte by Wolfgang Benz, obviously as an attempt to fill the obvious vacuum. It’s a weak pot-pourri of recycled extermination allegations with no connecting rationale other than the 6 million necessary figure (even though Benz denies this).

    — You’ll find an interesting comparison of those two books by Germar Rudolf, who doesn’t exactly follow either of them, here (Rudolf was deported from the United States where he had taken refuge, and jailed in Germany for crimethought):

    http://vho.org/GB/Books/dth/fndstats.html

    — I also found Richard Korherr and his Reports by Stephen Challen (1993) quite convincing. It’s a translation of, and commentary on, the secret reports sent by Richard Korherr (who had the post of “Inspector of Statistics for the Reichsfuehrer-SS”) to Himmler on the Jewish deportations. Challen reaches the following figures: 1.200.000 Jews dead for the whole of Europe during the War, 450.000 of them in parts of European Russia not occupied by the Germans, and 750.000 in the area of German direct or indirect responsibility. According to him, out of 2.300.000 deported Jews, 360.000 died, and a total of 200.000 of those died in the concentration camps. He considers the Jewish losses “heavy”, but in proportion to the German or Soviet ones, and no more than about 20 % of what is usually believed.

    A few more references that you may find useful follow. I don’t give you as many URLs because their number would get the post automatically blocked, but you’ll find them easily by Googling the title of each article:

    — ‘The Dissolution of Eastern European Jewry’: An Exchange (W. D. Rubinstein, Walter N. Sanning, Arthur R. Butz)

    — Critique of John S. Conway’s Review of Walter Sanning’s Dissolution of Eastern European Jewry, From The International History Review, August, 1985 (Dan Desjardins)

    — History, Hitler, and the Holocaust (John S. Conway’s review previously criticised)

    — How Many Jews Were Eliminated by the Nazis? A Preliminary Survey Of The Question (Frank H. Hankins)

    3) STATISTICAL INFERENCE BASED ON RELEVANT SAMPLES:

    — The Jewish Establishment under Nazi-Threat and Domination 1938-1945 (Carl O. Nordling)

    — How Many Jews Died in the German Concentration Camps? (Carl O. Nordling)

    I would be interested in seeing what possible evidence there is against this, but I think that it is more likely that the Jews secretly had a space program than it is that the holocaust was faked.

    You mean the Dimona complex and its ancillary secret installations were not established for the peaceful study of nuclear space propulsion systems…?! :^O

    Okay, it has been an interesting discussion, I appreciate your constructive attitude, and I’ll be on my way now. I advise you to explore the revisionist sites such as CODOH by yourself. A good start would be these short leaflets, in fact a powerful introduction to the theme:

    http://www.ihr.org/main/leaflets.shtml

    My thanks to Michael Shermer for his hospitality, in spite of his wrong-headedness on the greatest piece of irrational superstitious pollution modern history has seen.

  3. john galt Says:

    Joe… time for your medication.

    The fuck-ups, missteps, and overall presidential incompetence that culminated in the sad events of 9/11/01 occurred on the watch of Mr. Clinton, the bureaucratic communication problems between the FBI & CIA notwithstanding.

    Can’t wait for our military to unveil it’s secret UFO weaponry… a bevy of ray guns, photon torpedos & traction beams no doubt. Are you serious???

    The JFK shooting brings out the very worst in all conspiracy nuts – “fudged data”? Tell me Joe, what data was fudged, who fudged it and why? Was JFK taken out by UFO weaponry?

    You advise: “try to find a reasonable explanation for why they (the government) are lying” – we can safely assume that any half-baked scheme would seem reasonable to you. Here’s a crazy idea for you, how ’bout using a little rational thought in reaching your conclusions? Pretend that you simply can’t make stuff up and call it real, you’ll be much better off.

  4. Favardin Says:

    Thank you for explaining why people love conspiracies. Very good work, I would like to know what would you advise to bring into disrepute a conspiracy. I may have to face a lot of people in the near future with outlandish theories and I must be able to shift them out of the way for the real issues.

  5. Who are these people? Says:

    Michael really attracts a high quality audience.

    I’ve been watching this slow degradation of the Skeptic community into a quasi-Libertarian, conspiracy plagued cesspool for quite some time.

    It’s been a sad decline.

    But hey, Michale asked for it.

  6. Margo Says:

    Michael Shermer forgot the political dimension of conspiracy theories. Note how the villains are consistently the Jews (Hello Protocols of Zion) America, Big Business and of course Republicans! A big part of conspiracy theories is a desire to disguise actual conflicts by pinning the blame of more controllable or disposable agents.

  7. Chris Howard Says:

    I can’t remember who said this, but I think it goes like this “Anti-semitism is the father of all conspiracy theories.” I’ve got friends who spend huge amounts of time “uncovering” “conspiracies” and I suffer through their self-righteous tone of voice as they look at me with disdain, because after all I’m a “sheep” who just doesn’t understand because of obvious “brainwashing.” I guess people need to feel special some how? Ultimately, I don’t see how any of this magical thinking gets us anywhere. What are we to do? I have heard the more “wingnut” fringe pop off with “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Well, if that’s the ultimate solution, then all I can say is you first. People who glorify armed revolt probably don’t have any clue what that entails and if they did they wouldn’t be so cavalier with others lives. This denialism is a dangerous element and should be treated as such. Thoughts help to form belief and belief inspires action. We do not have the right to do anything we want, therefore we shouldn’t have the right to believe anything we want, either. Ultimately one has to have the ego integrity to admit that they have been wrong in the past, will be wrong in the future and question how they could be wrong in the here and now. Open mindedness doesn’t exist with out skepticism, and the ability to admit when you’re wrong. This is a necessary condition to discovering the truth, which is what it should be about as opposed to ones desire to be “right.”
    I see my friends consumed with anger and outrage, they are on the cusp of violence directed towards “the other” and they feel justified. Shouldn’t they actively attempt to falsify their beliefs? After all, if we’re going to start a revolution that involves the letting of other peoples blood shoudn’t we make sure that we’re right in our assumptions? Are there other options, rather than making the “suckers choice” of armed conflict? Maybe the government is funding Alex Jones and Art Bell to turn out a whole army of passive, self-absorbed, uncritical thinking, bloggers that are so apathetic, yet enraged that they are fooled into thinking that what they’re doing actually matters.
    End of the day, there are battered women who need help, homeless people, malnourished children, people living in extreme poverty etc., get off the bloggosphere and get out and make a real contribution, as opposed to a hysterical rant. It’s not the Jews fault that you didn’t finish college. It’s not an army of black helicopters that keeps you slavishly obedient to Mr. Jones’s need for attention and hawking of his products. The illuminati are not the reason that you don’t have a girlfriend, and the Masons aren’t the ones bringing your community down. The real culprit is the apathetic “True Believer” i.e., the person who bends the facts to support their belief, because their ego’s too big to allow for the possibility that they may be wrong. So it is my challenge to you to go out and actually do something constructive (getting up from the computer for five minutes to get your microwave burrito doesn’t count, even if it is “The best burrito, ever!”) maybe something selfless, you know, that doesn’t bring attention to yourself… if you put down Ayn Rand long enough you’ll find it in the dictionary under “altruism.”
    For all our sakes, I hope you shake free of your delusions, soon, because if your madness takes hold and we do faction off to fight a revolution it will all be for your vanity, your pride and your unhealthy bloodlust.

    “Men go crazy in congregations. They only get better one by one.”
    -Sting

    Veritas Sine Timore.

  8. Paul Booth Says:

    My usual response to conspiracy folk is, “I gave up on government conspiracies when the best the CIA had got busted by a rent-a-cop at the Watergate Hotel”. Usually very little is said after that.

  9. Guy of Perth Says:

    Bong away truthers.

    Bong away.

  10. Michael Gaspar Says:

    I believe that Shermer is far too sweeping in his dismissal of 9/11 skepticism. Nicholas Levis provides a useful taxonomy of the different forms these alternative conspiracy theories have taken in his article “What is your ‘hop’ level?”, found at summeroftruth.org/lihopmihopnohop.html.

    We can fairly accept that the truth movement has produced some pretty outrageous claims and that many of these have been successfully challenged (e.g. Popular Mechanics 3/05). Despite this, an honest observer ought to recognize that several of these proposed scenarios remain very plausible and consistent with the facts as presented by the Kean Commission.

    For example, the theory that the Twin Towers were razed in a controlled demolition of course strikes many skeptics as ridiculous. We are happy to concede Shermer’s argument that too many people would have had first-hand knowledge about it and that surely someone would have spilled the beans by now. But most of the scenarios described by Levis do not turn on the question of whether there was a controlled demolition. For many the whole debate about whether jet fuel burns at a high enough temperature to melt steel, whether the witnessed puffs of smoke and audible explosions could have been produced by secondary charges, etc etc are red herrings and an unwanted diversion from the questions that most concern them.

    While Shermer’s input is welcome insofar as it helps to narrow the field of possibilities, he seems to be painting everyone with the same brush. In so doing, He may be having an unhealthy effect on legitimate enquiry.

  11. deffine Says:

    Some 1 is mad,[on top] anyways conspiracy is just as much like a very weak prediction, but it is nice to have in back mind and open range of possiblites that may not be proven. And i beleive so stuff is better untold. come on no one has a little secreat to take at the grave. {sorry 4 the mistakes im not a computer that accepts vaild data} hahaha JK

  12. CD Says:

    Surely it begins with disillusionment, from the Santa claus (un)reality, to the dashing down of ethical governemental procedure taught in schools to the discovery of the often-rotten human reality of it all. Once one conspiracy is brought to light, a thinking person may be liable to consider many events in the light of “Is this truthful reporting?” and, “Are these all correct and factual points?”. For most of us, we will consider many sources of information and draw our own conclusions and move on, perhaps with intent to make things better in some way. But it seems perfectly understandable in terms of old information being dredged up of wartime plannings and philosophies that did not always take a perceived view of the wellbeing of the innocent, that they are disposable in terms of winning a war. Being alert to all factors is a personal responsibility for all. Letting it take over one’s life is not productive in any way of course.

  13. Jay Says:

    But Michael, your logic implies that the U.S. military cannot keep all that top secret information a secret. It implies that the CIA, the NSA, and all the other intelligence agencies can’t keep their ongoing operations a secret. But they do – quite effectively, I might add.
    Could this be a case of cherry picking the evidence? After all, the tuskeegee experiments and operations paper clip, PBSUCCESS, and AJAX were all quite successful and nobody found out until many years later. Even today, the average American does not believe the Iranian hostage crisis had any history behind it. The Government even conspired with the Contras for quite a few years before it became a political hot potato.

    So tell us again how large govt. conspiracies are so unlikely…

  14. DudeWheresMyTree? Says:

    “Suggestion: start with Robert Faurisson’s blog. Look for his original works in French, if you can. They are the best awakening of the mind to the problems of the alleged “Holocaust” I know of.”

    Let’s make this clear if you’re going to read Faurisson, bear in mind that he is a convicted Holocaust Denier.

  15. verne bolton Says:

    What a bunch of stupid,no brain fucking idiots. All of you truthers need to fasten your mouths to an exhaust pipe and suck deeply. The rest of us that actually have a brain need the food, air, and space your sorry asses are using up.

  16. allan Says:

    Your theories assume that the media are free to televise or print any story they wish. Also, you are assuming that the media have some moral responsibility to tell us what is important to us.
    Both are false and if you believe otherwise then you have not got the big picture.

  17. John Doe Says:

    I remote viewed it. Everyone who has posted here is either on The Farm or in Ft. Meade. They drew straws, took up sides, and as an intellectual exercise opposed one another vehemently in order to make this debate exciting.

    Of course it’s not really exciting. The truth almost never is. Skepticism doesn’t make an interesting story line in fiction or in conspiracy-theory “reality.” But all you agents sure are entertaining! Keep up the good work!

    And I mean it this time

  18. John Lee Says:

    It takes a pharmaceutical company aprox. 100 million dollars to prove a drug is safe and to get it on the market ., Would it be wise for those companies to spend that money to prove a plant is beneficial that you can grow in your yard for free ? A little common sense surely helps science , it does not hinder it . Michael must believe everything that the government and media tells him to believe . It is not even POSSIBLE SCIENTIFICALLY that 9/11 happened the way we were told it had transpired , Same as the JFK murder ., The only conspiracy theories are what the GOVERNMENT peddles to us along with their CORPORATE OWNED NEWS MEDIA .

  19. Katarina Says:

    Reading these posts is a lot of fun. No. 1. My grandmother was married to a German SS officer. Before she died, she told us the truth about the death camps, and how her husband murdered hundreds of thousands of whole families of Jews. He committed suicide 10 years after the war ended because he couldn’t live with the guilt. No. 2. So freakin’ what if YOU think YOU know the truth about 9/11, Kennedy and Bigfoot. Covert plans, theories & truths have been around for a million years…grow up and get a life because YOU, little person, aren’t going to change ANYTHING. ~~silly humans~~

  20. John Lee Says:

    Katarina , Your Grandfather certainly was a busy guy murdering hundreds of thousands of whole families of Jews .In fact ,YOUR Grandpappy was perhaps the most successful murderer in history Congrats Mate !

  21. dan Says:

    I can’t help chuckling reading these comments. I’d say 90% of them are the perfect examples of conspiracist psychology. Unless you buy their either unverified, unprovable, or factual inaccurate hypotheses about JFK or 9/11, or you are just a “stupid sheep” or maybe- you’re “one of them”! I sent this e-mail around the office recently:

    “”I know that millions and millions of people in this country believe that there was a conspiracy. People want to believe that the world is not that random, that things are not that chaotic, that something larger, bigger was at stake here. Because I think that it’s very difficult for them to accept the idea that someone as inconsequential as Oswald could have killed someone as consequential as Kennedy.”
    -Robert Dallek

    “You can’t handle the truth. Because the truth is, I blew up the Murrah Building, and isn’t it kind of scary that one man could wreak this kind of hell?”
    -Timothy McVeigh

    People want to believe that there is something larger going on, something that explains so much apparently random violence and death. Conspiracies allow an escape from the harsh rigidity of facts. They want to know that something bigger is in charge, and sometimes it’s malevolent, and therefore to stop bad things from happening all we need to do is put the right people in charge of the puppet strings. The world doesn’t work like that. So all you obsessed conspiracy theorists stop spamming me with, as Penn and Teller would say, BULLSHIT!”

  22. John Scrivener Says:

    For anyone with a sound comprehension of classical mechanics, Newton’s theory of universal gravitation and the laws of motion, the official explanation for the disintegration of the World Trade Center is clearly fallacious.

    The government’s theory defies long-established scientific laws, laws that laid the foundation for the industrial revolution and modern technological developments, from the motor car to sky scrapers and space travel.

    The government’s theory requires the suspension of these scientific laws, it requires a belief in magic and miracles.

    Belief in the government’s explanation for the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7 is no more rational today than belief in creationism, or a flat earth … it is in the province of faith and fanaticism.

  23. Bo Jangles Says:

    conspiracy theorists are all wrong; everything is only the was it appears it is- plane and simple

  24. Joseph Gregory Says:

    Dear Mr. Shermer,

    I am a college student, and, as much as I want to keep feelings out of this comment, I must say I am shock to say the least. I am impressed to find one of your articles criticizing people who are skeptical. I agree that there are possibly some forms of skepticism that cross the line, but the U.S. government has knowingly lied about so many things that your argument seems to have no valid foundation, I respectfully believe. It sounds more like an opinion that is based on your personal feelings about the government and the likelihood of something like this happening, and that is not scientific. Skepticism and evidence based arguments are good and should not be repressed. Best wishes – Joseph

  25. Jim Says:

    People want to believe that there is something larger going on, something that explains so much apparently random violence and death. Conspiracies allow an escape from the harsh rigidity of facts. They want to know that something bigger is in charge, and sometimes it’s malevolent, and therefore to stop bad things from happening all we need to do is put the right people in charge of the puppet strings. The world doesn’t work like that. So all you obsessed conspiracy theorists stop spamming me with, as Penn and Teller would say, BULLSHIT!”

    Timothy McVeigh was an asset. You are projecting your own ignorance of these subjects onto everyone else, believing that because you do not understand the logic of a particular argument, that it has none and is to be ridiculed in a childish way but it is you who loses out as you continue to talk about things you have no understanding of. If you can hold back on your fevered ego for five seconds, you might learn something for a change instead of being a tool in the destruction of your own nation.

    Believe it or not, I have more faith in honest ex-members of intelligence agencies from the UK, US, France, Italy, Germany to name a few than I have in the Bush Israeli administration, Penn and Teller or you.

    If you go to the FBI website, OBL is listed as one of the most wanted terrorist suspects by the FBI. In his list of crimes, 9-11 is not mentioned. When the question was posed to the FBI as to why OBL is not listed as being responsible for 9-11, their response was

    ” There is no proof linking OBL with 9-11. ”

    Sweet dreams.

  26. Jim Says:

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article13664.htm

  27. Infowa77ior Says:

    Yawn. It looks like the CIA continues to do a wonderful job with you, Micheal. As the dollar collapses and the ideals of a one world currency continue to form, you continue to ignore everything. As people like Alex Jones continues to expose the truth, people like you continue to defend the Establishment. You are not a libertarian, Micheal. As true patriots lead, you continue to hide.

  28. CanadianDude Says:

    Mr. Shermer,

    Many of us are reading your skeptically-minded material and understanding what you are saying, and we can follow the trail of skeptical evidence-based thinking to it’s most likely conclusion.

    But we don’t bother commenting because this comments section is a sad wasteland.

    Keep up the excellent work!

  29. Mark Says:

    If you look at quotes from our founding fathers I think you will find that they were indeed quite paranoid about all things corruption related. Looking at their words and the advice they gave us (Most of which we have failed to follow) and the constitution they gave us (Most of which we have destroyed) I think it becomes quite clear that our founding fathers understood quite well the risks of high level conspiracies/corruption, and did their best to protect us from and warn us about the possibility. Its too bad this pseudo intellectual doesn’t understand that…

  30. BarrysConspiracyWorld Says:

    Your claimed stance as a skeptic is not consistent with your fear of Muslims. You seem like a reasonable person. I find it difficult to believe that you could be so cognitively deficient in your views. You take a typical closed minded stance on UFOs and 9/11 of “Don’t bother me with the evidence.”

    Of course, those who wish to examine the evidence will find an excellent collection of resources at Barry’s Conspiracy World.