the official site of Michael Shermer

top navigation:
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…

topics in this column: , , , , , , , , ,

130 Comments to “Paranoia Strikes Deep”

  1. Sue Says:

    Thank you. I wish I had this article in staff meeting today when one of my coworkers informed us that the H1N1 vaccine is a gov’t conspiracy.

  2. Mark Says:

    The H1N1 vaccine IS a government “conspiracy”. They’ve “conspired” with scientists and pharmaceutical companies to develop and to distribute the vaccine in an effort to defeat the virus ;-)

  3. JPass Says:

    So
    Maybe it is true that we have incompetent bureaucrats in Washington. I bet you have a hard time finding someone to argue that point.

    But it’s neither here nor there when it comes the attacks on 9/11/2001 and who conspired against the United States that day.

    You are suggesting that because of incompetent bureaucrats, it MUST have been Al Quaeda that conspired against the United States on 9/11/2001. One does not equal the other.

    What’s more likely is that our incompetent bureaucrats allowed a foreign government to conspire against the United States from within. The incompetent bureaucrats have been more then willing participate in a frame-up of Muslims rather then being exposed for incompetency that would lead to the 9/11/2001 attacks.

  4. dtg86 Says:

    Is paranoia the SCIENTIFIC explanation as to how WTC7 fell 105 feet at free fall acceleration?

    http://wtc.nist.gov/NCSTAR1/NCSTAR1Aindex.htm; pg 45

    Or is paranoia the reason NIST left this change out of their report change documentation?

    http://wtc.nist.gov/NCSTAR1/Jan2009TextChanges.pdf

    Maybe Scientific American can explain how a 105 ft free fall is consistant with a fire induced, progressive collapse? That would be nice seeing as how NIST won’t.

  5. Bob Says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYUx5zJ3yss&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Famericanbuddhist.net%2Fnode&feature=player_embedded

  6. SnowCrash Says:

    Who sent the Anthrax letters, Michael? Who was first blamed for it? What did senator Leahy say about that to FBI directory Robert Mueller? Who told the White House to start taking ciprofloxacin on 9/11? Where did this person work? Who were his friends?

    Who tried to make money with insider trading? Why was the 9/11 commission, in the words of Thomas Keane “set up to fail”? How did active nano-thermitic material end up in WTC dust? How can a building such as WTC 7 accelerate at the rate of freefall for at least 2.25 seconds, through what should have been the path of most resistance? Why is Sibel Edmunds saying the United States government worked with Al Qaeda up to 9/11? Why were there so many war games and terror drills going on on 9/11? Why was almost the entire command structure AWOL? I’m just scratching the surface.

    What happened in the 2000 and 2004 elections? What happened to Valerie Plame? What happened with Iraq? Torture? Wiretapping? Rendition? Secret prisons? Assassination squads? EPA lies?

    When Kennedy was shot, how did a bullet from the back throw his head violently to the back, splattering brains on police officers to the back and left of him? Why did Jack Ruby confirm in a public interview that “people in high places” were involved? Why did the Secret Service withdraw from Kennedy’s car after arrival in Dallas? Because they like putting the president in danger?

    I’m sure we can all rationalize it away. Unless an event involved Nazi Germany, China or Russia of course. Then it’s clearly a government conspiracy. Because the Germans, the Chinese and the Russians are capable of mass murdering their own citizens, not Americans. What a sick, culturally biased joke.

    Who do you think you are kidding? You don’t properly study these subjects. You’re deliriously holding on to idyllic fantasies. You’re no skeptic. You’re a rampant denialist, and an Orwellian revisionist of history, who celebrates straw man arguments, guilt by association and various other logical fallacies and rhetorical tactics as helpful “insights”.

    Needless to say, the victim’s families and first responders who doubt the official narrative disagree with you. But you would have us believe they are mentally deranged conspiracy theorists. Good job Michael, you awesome skeptical thinker.

  7. Tellstruth Says:

    People believe in conspiracies because some in fact are real.

    Niels Harrit and 8 other international scientists found Unexploded nano-thermite in the dust from the World Trade Center.

    He is interviewed on danish TV2 News.

    People can see a full transcript, news, forum and the video in high quality here:
    http://agenda911.dk/article.php?story

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_tf25lx_3o

  8. willyloman Says:

    The funny thing about conspiracy theories Michael, is that sometimes they have a tendency to become “yesterday’s news”.

    There was a time not too long ago when those of us who claimed that members of Bush administration were lying to us to justify an illegal war, were thought of as “conspiracy theorists”.

    But then along came the Downing Street memos and the truth about the forged “Nigerian Yellow Cake” document, and now… it’s “old hat”, isn’t it?

    There was a time when some claimed that the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened, that it was just a false-flag operation to justify stepping up the war in Vietnam. Those people were called “conspiracy theorists” too, Michael. What do we know now?

    Used to be that you had to be a “conspiracy theorist” to believe that the CIA was operating covert/illegal weapons deals in other nations like Iran and Nicaragua. What do we know about that now?

    And for a more recent example, many of us who warned that Obama was going to be just an extension of the Bush/Cheney neoliberal policies prior to the election of 2008 were dismissed and shouted down by status-quo backing “progressives”. Well, how did that work out Michael?

    Fact is Michael, it’s only a “conspiracy theory” till enough evidence is discovered… and then REPORTED by courageous reporters who put their careers and sometimes even their lives on the line.

    The truth is, with the evidence that is out there right now, with all the reports of high ranking officials who have stated for the record that the 911 Commission was lied to repeatedly, the fact that at one time members of the Commission wanted to bring OBSTRUCTION charges against NORAD and the PENTAGON (but were talked out of it by Zelikow), and add to all that the fact we NOW KNOW that the head of the 911 Commission not only showed up on the first day with an outline of the report already written but he was also in CONSTANT secretive communication with Carl Rove at the White House…

    … you put all that together Michael, and you can’t help but feel a little skeptical about the Official Conspiracy Theory of 911. The things I have mentioned above aren’t “paranoia” anymore Mr. Shermer, they are now… fact.

    Perhaps one of these days, Mr. Shermer, you will be on record for getting out ahead of the curve on something, on anything, rather than just parroting the status quo. Til that day, maybe you should leave the critical thinking to those of us more qualified. Those of us who aren’t afraid to step a little outside the lines to tell the facts of the case that people NEED to know.

    Look up Daniel Ellsburg and the Pentagon Papers. In historical hindsight, it’s called “courage” Michael, and it is the stuff that journalistic heroes are made of. “Paranoia” is what it’s called by other, less courageous writers, til it’s “safe” to call it “history”.

  9. James Corbett Says:

    Mr. Shermer, I run an independent news and information site at CorbettReport.com. My listeners are erudite, educated and informed. I know they are interested in this topic and I would be extremely interested in finding out more about the scientific backing for your argument, assuming that you do have one. Something along the lines of Dr. John Gartner, I presume?

    At any rate, you are cordially (and publicly) invited to be a guest on my program any time, at your convenience. I would certainly understand if the answer is no, all I ask is to be told (via this comment board) that you would not be available to discuss this subject. That way the other commenters will be able to gauge how interested you are in actually backing up these comments and engaging in fair, open and public debate on these important issues.

  10. willyloman Says:

    Mr. Corbett:

    Somehow I get the feeling that our “brave” skeptic may not respond to your comment. Mine either, for that matter. Perhaps he is not clear who Dr. Gartner is. I wrote this in response to Gartner’s Psychology Today propaganda. I hope you enjoy it.

    ” …It is understandable that Psychology Today would do their best to tow the line for the criminal cabal of the imperialist agenda; psychologists have been doing it for decades.

    Mr. Gartner should take a moment to read the work of people like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Naomi Klein if he wants to understand the level of service to the throne that psychologists have provided in the past 3/4 of a century.

    He could read the work of Edward Bernays (the man who admitted that he turned the word “propaganda” into “Public Relations”) the “Father of Public Relations” and nephew of Sigmund Freud. These are but a few things that Mr. Gartner could do to bring himself up to date on some of the REAL dangers posed to the people of this country, were he inclined to actually sound the warning alarm for his fellow countrymen. Because you see, the conspiracy theorists have served our country well for the most part these past few decades while scores and scores of psychologists have lined their pockets helping with some of the darkest chapters of recent American history. Take torture as an example… below is an article that exposes psychologists helping to torture people in the name of fighting “terrorism”. Just another proud moment in the history of the American psychology industry”

    http://willyloman.wordpress.com/2009/09/04/cia-doctors-psychologists-participated-in-torture-of-prisoners/

    Anyway, please drop by my website in the off chance that our “skeptic” friend develops the courage to put his mouth where is money is and take you up on your offer. I venture to say, that would be a rather interesting and enlightening interview.

  11. A. S. Marques Says:

    Says Shermer, the well-known skeptic: “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.”

    So how about the great “Holocaust” conspiracy?

    You know, the vast German plan to secretly exterminate an entire race in the hope future historians would be at a loss to determine what had happened to it, allegedly resulting in 6 million murdered Jews, with no procedural plan, no written orders at any level, no assigned method of mass murder or bureaucratic control, leaving it to the imagination of a whole bunch of telepathic improvisers who came up with mass execution by such methods as steam, electrocution, non-toxic Diesel exhaust and Zyklon B pesticide. And, of course, not leaving the slightest vestige of such a carnage accessible to forensic examination in any of its precisely located alleged sites…

    Some skeptic indeed.

  12. Chris LeBeouf Says:

    @A. S. Marques

    Wow. A truther AND a holocaust denier. That is some track record you got going. Who wants to start a bet on how he feels about the moon landing?

  13. A. S. Marques Says:

    @Chris LeBeouf

    Oh, don’t worry, I’d bet he probably accepts it, as indeed we both and any sane person should.

    The only gigantic conspiracy Michael Shermer likes to peddle around is the “Holocaust”, you know, the vast German plan to secretly… etc.

    ;^)

  14. liberal white boy Says:

    A letter to the editor of Scientific American

    Gentlemen or Ladies:

    Why Do People Believe In Conspiracies

    Perhaps I would have found Mr. Shermer’s article in the Scientific American more credible if he hadn’t used 9-11 or chided a 9-11 skeptic as an example. I invite your readers for example to calculate the following probabilities:

    Solve the following problem:

    1. On or before 9/11 there are approximately 200 Mossad Spies/terrorists in the United States. Some are Israeli Art Student Spies/terrorists. Some are Israeli Urban Moving Company Spies/terrorists.

    2. On or before 9/11 there are approximately 20 future hijackers/terrorists in the United States. Bonus Clue…One is slightly retarded and is likely to miss any scheduled appointment.

    3. There are approximately 3,700,000 square miles of land mass in the United States.

    4. There are 27,878,400 square foot per square mile.

    Problem 1:

    Under an assumption that Israeli treachery is perfectly random and can be applied equally to all geographical areas of the United States, compute the probability that one of the Mossad spies out of 200 would select a residence within 90 yards of a mail drop box established by the hijackers at 3389 Sheridan Street in Hollywood Florida.

    Problem 2:

    Compute the probability that 28 Mossadspies/terrorists would have residences within a 100 mile radius of 8 future hijackers located near Hollywood Florida.

    Problem 3:

    Compute the probability that 7 Mossadspies/terrorists would have residences within an 8 mile radius of 7 future hijackers living in New Jersey.

    What? The probabilities are not that great. Maybe this has more to due with the conspiracy theories Mr. Shermer speaks of concerning 9-11.

    Best Regards,
    Liberal White Boy

  15. R.A. Widmann Says:

    With regard to the Holocaust, the official Holocaust story is a grand conspiracy tale. Those who buy it say the Nazi government orchestrated a plan to exterminate the entire Jewish people. Hitler knew about — and even ordered it. There was a grand conspiracy to cover the whole thing up. In fact, one SS officer was even given the horrific job in the final months of the Third Reich to march a small band all around Europe and cover up the Nazi crimes by exhuming all the victims and destroying the evidence on makeshift pyres, with explosive devices, and even through the use of “bone-crushing machines.”

    The official Holocaust story is a much bigger conspiracy tale than the 9-11 conspiracy tale. The conspiracy didn’t last for a morning but rather would have had to be kept up for years.

  16. Chip Smith Says:

    In his book, “Voodoo Histories,” David Aaronovitch usefully attributes the form of “conspiracy theory” to “the unnecessary assumption of conspiracy when other explanations are more probable.” In the case of 9/11, the more likely explanation is that a small group of Islamist terrorists hijacked planes and flew them into buildings. While there is ample evidence for this straightforward interpretation of events, the claims of Truthers are built on lurid speculation about the implausibly secret machinations of a sinister power elite that remains unseen. The idea that 9/11 was an inside job is preposterous on its surface.

    But so is the idea that the Nazi regime, in the midst of total war, could have hatched and implemented a secret plot to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe. The systematic destruction of millions of human beings by poison gas in designated killing centers probably could not have been carried out under cover of secrecy as the story goes. And if such a vast conspiracy had been put in play, we should be left with volumes of unambiguous documentary and forensic evidence to corroborate its form at every step. Instead, we are left with increasingly minimalist speculation over “traces” — traces not unlike those the Truthers keep poring over.

    Both conspiracies fail the BS test.

  17. liberal white boy Says:

    How is this for minimalist speculation Chip?

    Members of Israeli Groups and Future Hijackers
    and FBI Suspects in Key Towns and Areas

    FLORIDA

    Hollywood
    Israeli DEA Hijackers and
    Groups1 FBI Suspects2

    Hanan Serfaty Mohamed Atta
    Akyuz Sagiv Marwan al Shehhi3
    Eli Cohen Khaled al Mihdhar
    Sarah Sassoon Ziad Jarrah
    Oshirt Zaguri Abdulaziz al Omari
    Sussie Oshra Mohand al Shehri
    Keren Matatia Waleed al Shehri
    Livnat Sella Wail al Shehri
    Rachel Kendel Ahmed al Nami
    Gilad Lifshitz4 Satam al Suqami

    Hollywood Area5

    Lior Barram Nawaf al Hazmi
    Peer Segalovitz Salem al Hazmi
    Legum Yochai Fayez Banihammad
    Yaron Shmuel6 Ahmed al Ghamdi(continued)

  18. Greg Bacon Says:

    Tell me, Mr. Shermer, do you still believe the Warren Commission Report that stated that Oswald was the lone gunman even though computerized enhancement of the Zapruder film detected at least two different guns firing?

    If you don’t, does that make you a ‘conspiracy theorist?’

    And senior execs staffing the CIA, FBI and the NSA are clueless, bureraucratic bumblers who couldn’t bypass NORAD but 19 Arabs, led by a dying man in an Afghan cave could?

  19. Chip Smith Says:

    LWG,

    Two questions before I respond:

    1) What’s your theory?
    2) What’s your source?

  20. Chip Smith Says:

    Correction: “LWG” should read “LWB”.

  21. liberal white boy Says:

    Here you go Chip:

    Another Open Letter To The Attorney General Of The United States

    Mr. Eric Holder
    Attorney General
    U.S. Department of Justice
    950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20530-0001

    Dear Attorney General Holder:

    I was recently heartened to hear that our Department Of Justice once again regards torture as a crime.

    This letter is to advise you however of a another crime or crimes committed against the United States Of America and its citizens that have gone unpunished. I am sure you will want to pursue these crimes in the interest of justice. The crimes involve the complicity of a foreign government in the attacks on 9/11 and the probable obstruction of justice by a member or members of the past Presidential Administration. I’m sure you will want to appoint a special prosecutor to see that these crimes are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The fact that the 9/11 attacks caused the deaths of almost 3,000 Americans and has provided the justification for war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the threat of war in Iran, make these crimes all the more heinous. These crimes were originally reported in the Forward Magazine, Salon an Internet Magazine, A Fox News Investigative Series that eventually vanished from their archives and Counterpunch. The more recent article by Christopher Ketcham in Counterpunch would be a good place to start your investigation because it ties most of this reporting of the criminal matter together.

    You will probably want to obtain a report from the DEA in connection with hundreds of alleged Israeli Art Students, spying in the U.S. in the months before the 9/11 attacks. If they won’t give it to you, it is available on the Internet. This report will show that the movement and addresses of the Mossad spies parallel those of the Hijackers responsible for the attacks. This was neatly documented, but ignored, in a memorandum submitted to the 9/11 Commission by Gerald Shea, a retired Attorney at Law. A copy of the Fox News investigative report will also tell you how the Israeli spies were able to track the movement of the hijackers with the assistance of Israeli Telecommunication Companies. Some of the fraudulent art students had military intelligence backgrounds and or were employed by the Israeli Telecommunication Companies assisting in the spying. They therefore had the means to listen to the hijackers as they communicated in their apartments, and to know in advance what they were planning and when. This is of course why a second group of Mossad spies allegedly working for Urban Moving Systems in New York was waiting for the 9/11 fireworks to begin, with video cameras in hand at Liberty Park across the river from the Towers. The Bergen County Police who arrested them later in the day, stated that maps in the possession of the spies indicated a foreknowledge of the attacks. Even though our former Administration denied that the Israeli’s were involved in the attack, the videotape of the Israeli’s high fiving and flicking their Bics in front of the burning towers is now classified. If you want to learn who obstructed justice in the Bush Administration, as suggested in the Ketcham article, maybe you should start with asking who told the FBI to stop their investigation and who was responsible for classifying those tapes.

    I thank you in advance for diligently pursuing this criminal matter.

    Very Truly Yours,

    Liberal White Boy

    But you don’t have to worry about Scientific American publishing my letter to the editor above or Mr. Shermer challenging these facts. It would be a career ender for him. He knows it just like Scientific American know its Zionist scientists would be outraged by publishing the truth about the apartheid State.

  22. Fz Says:

    @Truthers and Holocaust denial fans:

    People, you have to be happy that you live in a country that was not so touched by the WW2 and what Nazis did with Jews. I lived for 6 years in Germany. I visited a concentration camp around Berlin. I have a close friend of mine whose grandfather was a prisoner in Dachau… I mean.. COME ON! You have to be a real idiot to believe that the Holocaust did not happen! And nothing compared to the vast evidence from it is available to support the 9/11 Truth theory!

  23. Chip Smith Says:

    Liberal White Boy,

    OK, if I understand correctly, your claim is that embedded Mossad operatives posing as “art students” had foreknowledge of the attacks on 9/11, and were therefore complicit in what went down.

    It is probably well to distinguish this more narrow claim from the more commonly encountered raft of 9/11 conspiracy theories purporting to show that the attacks were simply an inside job. There is nothing inherently preposterous about what you are suggesting here. I followed the “art student” angle for a time back when Justin Raimondo was on the beat, and at the time it struck me that there might be something to it. A kernel of truth, perhaps. Espionage happens. And it seemed plausible that Israeli covert ops may have been in a better position to sniff out an Islamic terrorist plot than our guys. Nothing about this would require a giant conspiracy. On the other hand, there was nothing to indicate what — if any — intelligence had been gathered by these alleged spies relative to the impending attacks. Raimondo’s coverage, intriguing as it was, remained speculative. It seemed premature to connect the dots. Still, I thought it was interesting. Something worth looking into. I chalked it up as a “maybe.”

    But now that some time has passed and more information has come to light, it seems increasingly likely that the “art students” about whom there has been so much cloak & dagger speculation were more likely participants in a shady business scheme, which may have been fraudulent, but not nefarious. I think you are assuming unproven conclusions as fact and that you fail to address evidence that runs contrary to your preferred interpretation of known facts.

    For example, you claim that the DEA report, “show[s] that the movement and addresses of the Mossad spies parallel those of the Hijackers responsible for the attacks.” There are two problems with this statement. The first problem is that it has not been demonstrated that the people in question were indeed Mossad spies, as you assume; again, available evidence is consistent with the DEA’s view that they were likely engaged in a fairly large scale scam run out of Texas. If this more prosaic interpretation is not credible, you have not shown why it is not credible. The second problem concerns the claim that the movements and addresses of the named individuals, whoever they were, “parallel” those of the hijackers. This argument from coincidence might carry some abductive weight, except that it appears, upon closer examination, to be at best tenuous and probably just illusory, which is to say, false.

    Problems with the presumptively conspicuous overlaps of time and place are detailed in this 911Myths article, with which I’m sure you are familiar:

    http://www.911myths.com/index.php/Israeli_Art_Students

    Beyond pointing out serious factual inconsistencies with the assumed timeline and proximital overlap that you seem to find compelling, the article notes that the DEA report itself describes the “Israeli art student” fraud as being rather inconveniently widespread, with locations and activities documented in many cities and states across the US, making the identification of “coincidences” after the fact all but inevitable. At best, you’re left with what appears to be a “clustering illusion” — the same sort of phenomenon that explains many common statistical fallacies, especially in epidemiology. See for example:

    http://www.skepdic.com/clustering.html

    In your letter, you seem to assume the strong conclusion that the “art students” were covert spies shadowing the future hijackers, and further, that their presumed intelligence-gathering activities make their complicity in the events of 9/11 somewhat obvious. I am not saying that either of these these claims is necessarily false. However, I am quite sure that neither claim has been proven, just as I am sure that you are ignoring credible evidence that would support a more innocuous — and I believe, more parsimonious — explanation. I would have no objection to the public investigation that you call for. However, I suspect such an inquiry would only reveal what seems most likely — that the Israeli art students were small time scamsters whose shady business was simply confused for something truly sinister. I could be wrong, but not on the basis of the evidence that you have presented. If there’s a smoking gun, please brandish it.

    Of course, my original point in entering this thread was to affirm the notion that the traditional history of the Holocaust is confounded by the same problems of conspiratorial speculation that are so apparent in other contexts. I stand by this. And I think the analogy poses a real problem for Michael Shermer, who correctly discerns the psychology of paranoia in many instances while dismissing its explanatory relevance in this one truly inconvenient particular. The claim that the Nazi bureaucracy sought to physically exterminate an entire population of people and sent millions — or perhaps hundreds of thousands — to their deaths in gas chambers while simultaneously managing military campaigns of unprecedented scale on numerous fronts is, by any reasonable definition, “extraordinary.” Yet the gassing-extermination claims are sustained not by clear-cut contemporaneous physical and documentary evidence (to say nothing of “extraordinary” evidence) as one might expect — but by a purported “convergence” of sundry traces for which innocuous explanations remain plausible. The idea that a crime of such vast scale and unconscionable enormity could have been committed under the cover of state secrecy should invite skepticism for precisely the same reasons that 9/11 conspiracy theories invite skepticism.

    Those who persist in believing the straw man version of Holocaust revisionism (i.e., that they simply “say it didn’t happen”) would be well advised to take Samuel Crowell’s “The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes” for a spin before sealing your verdict. Here is an archive of Crowell’s work where the full text of Sherlock is available:

    http://www.codoh.com/author/crowell.html

  24. I1 Says:

    Mr. Shermer,

    I understand through your Wiki profile that at one time you were a somewhat religious person. Someone or something changed your psyche, and you’ve become a secular humanist. Perhaps secular humanists recognize the need for some sort of world government in order to more efficiently deal with the coming population catastrophe. Fair enough. The problem is that the method of using a catastrophic event such as 9-11 to mold public consciousness carries too much risk. In the words of Bob Mcllvaine, “they f*cked up”.

    Peer reviewed scientific evidence of thermetic incendiaries in dust from around ground zero, is pretty much a nail in the coffin of the official story. You should be responding to the Harrit paper

  25. Patrick McNally Says:

    > I have a close friend of mine whose grandfather was a prisoner in Dachau

    It is ackonwledged within orthodox history that Dachau was not a death camp and no revisionist has any cause to dispute this. If the charges made about the Third Reich were merely that human rights abuses went on in prison camps like Dachau then there wouldn’t be as much for revisionists to fuss about. The problem is that it is commonly claimed that camps in the east, such as Auschwitz, were much more than just another prison camp like Dachau. It is asserted that these eastern camps were death factories, and the claims which make up this assertion are a pack of lies.

  26. liberal white boy Says:

    Mr. Smith,

    You have convinced me of one thing. If ever I am accused of a crime, I want you sitting on my jury. I would like to provide you with the smoking gun you are looking for, but you see it is now under lock and key under the auspices of national security. It is now classified and cannot be obtained though a freedom of information request. Our government has told us on the one hand that the Mossad movers had no involvement in 9/11, but it will not share the video tapes the urban movers took of themselves that would reveal whether the cameras were rolling on first impact. Neither will they share the maps their arresting police officer stated indicated a foreknowledge of the attacks.

  27. Loughlin Tatem Says:

    The thing about conspiracy is that works perfectly everytime. Darned, we’re good!

  28. brett hooper Says:

    i was brought up to hate germans.I was taught they were so depraved and evil that they would melt down jews and make soap with their body fat.We treated our german schoolmates badly,how inhuman their type was.Later in life i looked into this story and found the evidence.I found references in books on W.W.1 about false stories of soap-making and other over-the-top propoganda tales.In the 1990s famed nazi-hunter Simon Weisenthal decried these stories as false and helpful to revisionists.To this day,these lies are being are being taught in colleges;its no wonder people dought the authenticity of holocaust tales

  29. William Patrick Haines Says:

    The 911 tradegy like the entire Bush adminstration was an example of gross negliance and incompotance .They had warnings from just about every inteligence agenacy in existence and put their heads in the sand like some ostrich like wise they also had warnings the leavies would not hold in New Orleans as well the current finacial crisis .FDR heard all kinds of warnings but unlike GWB made preperations for the oncoming disaster and handled well when when tradgic events transspired .

    You can not expect some inarticulate bumbling fantasy prone space cadet George worth less Shrub and bumbling Boss Hogg aka Dick , Cheney and some Fire Marshall Bill aka Donald Rums field to handle a problem in a compotent adult manner .I happen to think Mr Barack Ohbama was given a burden from the previous adminstration that rivals Atlas .At least it was not McCain and Palin to handle the disaster .Also I think bigger conspearacy is the libeling of the current adminstration acting his speach was somehow UnAmerican . If the highly unlikely events of Independance Day were to transpire Barack Ohbama would be the one needed in the white house not mccain or GwB or heaven forbid Sarah Palin !!

  30. William Patrick Haines Says:

    Someone said because Mr Shermer was a secular humanist he thus believed in an one world republic . Well he is a primarily a libertarian if any one actually read his idealistic aint the business community great utopeian rants he does not even believe in the US government let alone the one world boggey man !!

  31. Bill Morgan Says:

    It’s a well known fact that the CIA has deep cover agents in the news media (Google Carl Bernstein’s articles as one example). This article by Michael Shermer leaves little doubt he is a media asset for the CIA/Mossad. He only argues from a high level general perspective and will not discuss specific details about the free fall collapse of the WTC Towers, Bldg. 7, what hit the Pentagon and what crashed in PA. Shame on Shermer, Scientific American and the Skeptic Society.

  32. Bitsy Haywood Says:

    Mr. Shermer, in reference to the overwhelming majority of responses to your article, I’d like to share this observation with you. If you’re gonna kick the baseboards, you’re gonna see the bedbugs come boiling out of the woodwork.
    Now all of them want to challenge you to prove their obsessions to you. If they could convince you, they could accomplish something significant in the advancing of their theories, they now believe. So proving their theories to you will become a part of their obsession. You’re in for a mess.

  33. slingword Says:

    Thanks again Michael for fighting the good fight, and helping people see more clearly. (Not always successfully as witnessed above….)

    I especially love your quote above by Liddy, and is an argument that I use frequently (but not so eloquently).

    Regarding the 911 theories, I got into this at some depth with a friend, whom I was eventually successful in convincing it was not a conspiracy.
    My favorite web site (which explains all “unexplainable” aspects of the event) is:
    http://www.debunking911.com/

    Regardless of how difficult it is to convince those who cling desperately to fiction (such as the religious and conspiracy lovers)I would like you to know that you are appreciated.

    Slingword

  34. Henk van der Gaast Says:

    OKOKOK… if you give me a new identity and a real nice house in south cronulla..1megadollar per year… I will confess to all… you read the conspiracy charges and I will tell you my version of the events.. I am a short fat hairy dude so I must be believable…

    So You all know I am bonafide…I will give you one to take on board: acupunture needles have been deliberately made with cancer causing chromium in the alloy.
    You may ask me why…. well that’s $64,000 by next monday please… Silicates in homeopathic solutions will cost you lot of scoffers a hell of a lot more

  35. Bill Morgan Says:

    http://www.debunking911.com/

    This is a CIA/Mossad sponsored web site. One does not have to be very smart to figure this out.

  36. Jeannette Hope Says:

    1. I have always assumed that most readers of Michael Shermer’s columns are sceptics. So if the comments above reflect the belief in conspiracies by sceptics, what does that say about the rest of the American population? Unless there’s a deeper conspiracy at work here and the comments above are in fact a plot to make Americans look really paranoid? Who would want to do that?
    2. Re the concentration of Mossad spies/ terrorists in Florida: you’re a foreigner in the US – obviously the place to go is a tourist destination so you won’t stand out; you’re a terrorist expecting a short life, well, a few pleasant days in the Florida before you go might be attractive.

  37. Chris Dykes Says:

    Thanks Michael for being a lonely voice of reason in a world of chaotic noise.

  38. William Patrick Haines Says:

    Well the cia Completely Incompotent Agenacy was able to pull off 911 when they routinely get the platnum medal for ineptitude and make the keystone cops look like the A team . There is one conspearcy I would to see examined http://www.sacredcow.com/index.php?pg=projects&pid=959

  39. Bill Morgan Says:

    Look closely at this web site.

    http://www.debunking911.com/

    Debunking articles are by unknown authors. No names. No contact address. No information about who sponsors the web site. All anonymous. Very strange indeed.

  40. stillsane Says:

    Where did all the usual reasonable commentators go?

    Thanks for the article Michael. Always a pleasure to read.

  41. Chris Says:

    Yes Stillsane, where did all the reasonable commentators go? We always have good debate, with plenty of disagreement, but never so venomous. Liberal White Boy and others, your anger betrays any shred of credibility you bring to the table. I wonder if your attacks are part of a orchestrated conspiracy to discredit Shermer. Well tell your sponsors it has achieved quite the opposite.

  42. Sympneology Says:

    Like Michael, I am a sceptic, and I greatly admire his work in exposing the lies of religionists, homeopaths, climate change denialists and ufologists, etc.

    This is why it puzzles me that his BS detector so completely fails him when it comes to such obvious conspiracies as JFK, RFK and 9/11.

    Why is it being paranoid to be sceptical of the “official” conspiracy theories of these events when there is so much evidence of lies and cover-up activities behind them, and of the foreknowledge of the events by members of the security agencies?

    I would consider it my duty as a sceptic critically to examine these theories with as much rigour as I would the stories of the Bible or the Koran or the pseudo-science of Prof. Ian Plimer and the Heartland Institute. Why is Michael directing his critical faculties only at the unofficial theories, and not the official ones?

  43. john galt Says:

    Wow… that’s all I can say… wow!!

    The good news is… the encouraging news is, the very impressionable (super gullible?) people who believe that the attack on our country on Sept. 11, 2001 was not an orchestrated, radical-Moslem lead, act of terrorism – are few and far between. Thank Christ.

    I have to say though, the fantastic comments made here, are incredibly entertaining. Please keep them coming.

    Credible evidence be damned… bring on the free thinking Truthers !!

  44. Equipollent Agent Says:

    Jan Mukarovsky writes in “The Significance of Aesthetics” (Structure, Sign, and Function, Yale University, 1977) “the magico-religious attitude [is one in which] every reality which enters the range of the attitude becomes a sign of a special kind.”

    The article is meant not to debate specifics about any event but to make a point that there is a current proliferation of conspiracy theories (note to WPH: this is how *conspiracy* is spelled) in this late modern era as a result of this magico-religious thinking.

    Thanks, Michael, for making us pause to think about how we think. Your articles are great.

  45. Sympneology Says:

    How can someone who says, “Thank Christ” have the hide to call sceptics of the Bush administration’s version of 9/11 “super gullible”?

    Equally, accusing these same 9/11 sceptics of “magico-religious thinking” is simply argumentum ad hominem. As an atheist disciple of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchins, Daniel C. Dennett and Phillip Adams I resent that aspersion.

    Michael may not have been debating specifics of any event, but to put the movie “JFK” in the same class of fiction as Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons” is simply wrong. The movie may have been a dramatised reconstruction of the Garrison investigation, but it was based solidly on facts. Continued investigations following Jim Garrison’s death have shown that he was correct in his claim that Shaw/Bertrand, Ferrie, Bannister, Ruby, Oswald and others were connected with the security services and were involved in the assassination of Kennedy. This was a real conspiracy, not fiction, not “magico-religious thinking”, not paranoia, but hard, uncomfortable fact.

  46. Michael Says:

    I like to read Michael Shermer’s thoughts. But, wow, there are some seriously deranged responses.
    Let’s see, reading the above I could deduce that the Bush administration was corrupt, incompetent, untrustworthy, power hungry, Machiavellian, ran a sophisticated wide ranging conspiracy that is still opaque, planted sophisticated explosives with the express purpose of killing Americans, had some sort of weird need to destroy WTC7 even after cratering most of the neighborhood, and on it goes.
    And the holocaust is not supported by the facts??? Wow. That sounds reasonable.
    Should I wait for the Freemasons down the street to institute their New World Order?
    I suppose man didn’t walk on the moon.
    And extraterrestrials built the pyramids.
    Area 51.
    Create a list of the conspiracies and see which ones seem least plausible.
    The wheel is spinning, but the hamster’s dead.

  47. Bill Morgan Says:

    The CIA/Mossad agents are well at work in these responses and are trying to defend the government’s lies about 9/11, JFK, etc. They have failed. Shermer is Mossad. Those of you who don’t know how the Mossad has penetrated with deep cover assets within traditional organizations have not done their homework. Read Michael Collins Piper’s books and you will learn who is who in the Mossad.

  48. Mel Says:

    There is an old Irish saying: “Empty barrels make the most noise”…

  49. Tim Says:

    What is with these conspiracy nuts and their hatred for the Jews? They deny the Holocaust, they accuse Israel of holocaust, they say that secret jew agents with their jew money and jew connections with their jew banks managed to stage 9/11 for the purpose of…well because they are jews. These Israeli zionistic jews are hiding in the shadows plotting against America through the Federal Reserve which their jew banks control to make us serve their jewish agenda. Is it because jews don’t proselytize? Does that make them appear secretive? Is that also why they go after free masons? Is this really the product of our education system?

    I guess all you can do is to continue being rational, presenting evidence, rationally refuting their claims while they go on looking for subatomic particles for the super secret jew conspiracy and hope that eventually they come around. If they don’t, oh well.

  50. Bill Morgan Says:

    Tim,

    No one on this Forum has said any such thing as you claim in your post! We are talking about Mossad Deep Cover Agents and not any of the garbage you have mentioned in your post which none of the 9/11 Truth people believe.

    So Tim, which disinformation agency do you really work for?

  51. liberal white boy Says:

    Come on Tim I think you are over reacting. We of course are not critical of all Jews, just those involved and complicit in the mass murder of 3,000 Americans. Alright, I will further admit I have been somewhat critical of the murderous actions of the Apartheid Israeli Jews who for 60 years have stolen the land from and oppressed the indigenous people of Palestine, while fraudulently maintaining that they have some historical right to the place. The modern Jew has no more right to Palestine than the man on the moon or any other Eastern European. These guys were still worshiping their penises on Russian Steppes over 800 years after Jesus walked the West Bank of Palestine and before their religious conversion. Which of course explains why almost half of the Bolshevik leadership presiding over the mass extermination of millions of Ukrainians were Jewish. I have been critical of those folks too. But other than that Tim most of us love the Jews, just like we are supposed to.

  52. CJG Says:

    Another great article Michael, man the truthers really get off reading your articles :) The best parts are the comments between ‘liberal white boy’ and ‘chip’ – they are both clearly truthers but even THEY can’t get their ‘whodunits’ straight! Too funny :)

  53. Chip Smith Says:

    CJG,

    Where do you get the idea that I am “obviously” a truther? I’m emphatically not, and there is nothing in my comments –or in anything I’ve written elsewhere — to support your claim.

    Chip

  54. Chip Smith Says:

    CJG,

    Correction: “obviously” should have been “clearly.” In either case, I ain’t one.

    Chip

  55. Sympneology Says:

    “Create a list of the conspiracies and see which ones seem least plausible.”

    1. Osama bin Laden, a former CIA asset, arranged from his cave in Afghanistan for 20 operatives to enter (and leave) the US freely over a number of years while attending flying schools, then board aeroplanes and hijack them to fly them into buildings. He also arranged for NORAD to fly interceptor aircraft to parts of the country where they would be unable to intercept the hijacked planes. He very cleverly arranged the attacks on WTC1 and WTC2 so that they fell in such a way as to bring down WTC7 without the aid of aircraft and without touching it. That is the official conspiracy theory.

    2. The hijackers were not agents of bin Laden at all but secret operatives of Mossad trying to provoke the US government into solving some of Israel’s problems by resuming the war on Iraq, which would somehow make the Palestinians go away. This is the antisemitic theory.

    3. The same security organisations who arranged for the overthrow of Allende in Chile, and the assassination of other heads of state like Lumumba, Roldós, and Torrijos, not to mention JFK, had the resources, skills and connections to arrange a covert operation which would serve the purposes of a cabal of neo-cons desiring to gain control of the worlds oil supply. The Muslims supplied by bin Laden were allowed to come and go without hindrance because they were the designated scapegoats for the operation. The security services, having ensured that this second attempt on the World Trade Centre would succeed by planting explosives, completed the cover-up by the controlled demolition of the building containing the offices from which the operation was organised. They then concealed information from, and lied to, the commission reluctantly set up by the Bush administration to provide the pre-arranged report on the investigation. This was the real conspiracy.

  56. Michael Says:

    Indigenous people of Palestine? Now there’s a joke. Are you trying to be obtuse? The etymology of the term Palestine is the land of the Philistines.
    Which of the following indigenous people are you referring to:
    The Ottomans who ruled for almost 400 years before the British arrived?
    The Mamluks who arrived in the 13th century?
    The Christians who conquered the area in the 11th century?
    The Islamic who arrived during the 7th century?
    The Byzantines who arrived in the 4th century?
    The Romans who arrived in the first century?
    The Macedonians who arrived during the 4th century BC.
    The Persians who arrived in the 6th century BC.
    Or the Israelites who were there 3000 years ago?
    Or the Philistines, who the land was named for, or the Canaanites who were there before that?
    Or are you referring to Homo Erectus who arrived there 1.5-million years ago?
    I guess they’re all dead and gone, but they must have some ancestors who might be able to make a claim.
    The military might of the Jews allows them to to make the historical claim genuine (versus “fraudulent” – nobody is being defrauded). Just as people can genuinely own property in the United States that was once inhabited by (and taken from) the indigenous people.

  57. Robbie Says:

    Note how some of the “Conspiracy Theorists” can’t spell.
    Reminds us of the old hellfire and brimstone preachers who couldn’t use correct grammar.Both are or were sincere but nonetheless more ignorant than enlightened.There’s a link between these people,what can it be? Insecurity?

  58. Michael Says:

    “The real conspiracy.”
    Oh. I feel so silly. I thought it was the evil guy who came up with Classic Coke.
    Each of *your* conspiracies makes assumptions that are either unnecessary, or are unfounded.
    Intentional malfeasance is not necessary to explain things that you do not understand.

  59. sproutlore Says:

    Conspiracies are accomplished by “magical, invisible, uncatchable beings” who are everywhere and nowhere. As long as we believe in God, rising from the dead etc., conspiracies are not only believable, but almost rational in comparison. Curiously, I can’t get enough of them. They make life a lot more entertaining.

  60. john galt Says:

    I gotta meet the talented crew that wired the towers for controlled demolition – so secretive were they that only the sharp-eyed Truthers could detect their handiwork (after the fact). They were good all right, not one person noticed the two 110 story buildings being wired & rigged – had to be a day & night effort that went on for days… weeks? Have any of you TruthKooks ID’d these skilled characters? …didn’t think so.

    I’m unclear on the fate of WTC 7? It just fell out the sky… by itself? …or, did the boys who rigged WTC1 & 2 work their magic here as well? And why wait for all to get out before the demo? A compassionate Cheney? …or was it Bush?

    Funny though… it was too difficult for these guys (good as they must have been) to wire the Pentagon & the White House? What up with that?

    If controlled demolition, why go through all the trouble of hijacking airliners, why such an elaborate cover? Why not simply push the plunger and blame Al-Qaeda for the explosions ? Certainly the death toll is higher as nobody gets out and the result is the same, America goes… no wait, Bush & Cheney, go to war with Iraq… for oil… which we never got.

    The contortions one must go through to make your imaginative scenarios “work” are too strenuous for most sensible thinkers.

  61. Cory Barnes Says:

    We are all a part of a conspiracy of world domination. We allow our government to do horrible things to people all over the world in the interest of expanding markets and profits. We conspire with dictators to gain access to resources and we destabalize legitimate governments who do not share our world view. We demonize people for engaging in behaviour that we ourselves built our history on. The whole time we continue to believe that we are “the good guys” and that we are doing it for the good of the world.
    The conspiracy involves so many people doing so many very little things to contribute to it that there can be no whistle blower. No one person plays a big enough role to know that they are even part of it.
    It took centuries to morph tribal conquest into the institutionalized war machine that now exists. The conspirators don’t even know they are conspiring and none of it is hidden.

  62. john galt Says:

    If we are to believe that the conspirators don’t know they’re conspiring, it would therefore be logical to conclude that, the dictators aren’t aware that they are dictating.

    If no one person plays a big enough role to be noticed in the conspiracies of the world, then the same must be true for the world dominators… yes??

    Cory… see how silly you sound.

  63. Nathan Phillips Says:

    In relation to a previous statement by Greg Bacon: One need not believe any preposterous fabrication in order to disbelieve another. I need not be a Buddhist simply because I am not a Christian. Even if one does not believe a complex conspiracy theory about the death of JFK, one can accept evidence that is contrary to some other accepted history. One piece of evidence does not prove a conspiracy. To paraphrase Sagan, great conspiracies need great evidence.

  64. Equipollent Agent Says:

    One doesn’t have to be a believer in a god to have a magico-religious epistemology. One can evict god from one’s mind but if one doesn’t throw out the “system” of thinking, then one is still doomed to repeat the patterns by which one gathers and processes information about the world.
    You have to knock down all the dominoes to get to the source.

  65. Bill Morgan Says:

    The government apologists posting here present no facts for their case. Only strident remarks about the Truth Seekers. We know you are disinformation specialists working for the Intelligence Agencies. You do a poor job of hiding it.

  66. Damon Says:

    So to get the a flock of lunatics to crawl out from under their rocks and leave responses on this blog all Shermer had to do was mention 9/11 (or JFK or the Holocaust, etc.) in his article. Unbelievable. No…wait…totally believable. I learned along time ago that people will believe any lie, no matter how implausible it is, either because they want it to be true or they are afraid that it is true. Michael, write your next essay on Revelations. I’d really enjoy seeing the responses to that.

  67. epicurus Says:

    I’m a Nirvana fan so I say to all conspiracy theorists here “just because you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not after you!”

  68. Bill Morgan Says:

    Very few Americans believe the lies from our government or the disinformation specialists working for the CIA/Mossad who are posting on this site and telling us to believe the government. No one should believe our government which constantly lies. Only fools from Heehaw City believe our government tells us the truth. The Repbulicans and Democrats are controlled by the Wall Street Banksters and the Israel Lobby and Shermer works for Mossad. It’s not difficult to figure this out unless you live in Heehaw City.

  69. Davros Says:

    @Bill Morgan

    Keep going!

    I think your on something there mate.

    >So Tim, which disinformation agency do you really work for?

    >Very few Americans believe the lies from our government or the disinformation specialists working for the CIA/Mossad who are posting on this site and telling us to believe the government.

    >Shermer is Mossad.

    >[About debunking 911 website] This is a CIA/Mossad sponsored web site. One does not have to be very smart to figure this out.

    I mustn’t be very smart as I see no evidence for your assertion.

    >The government apologists posting here present no facts for their case. Only strident remarks about the Truth Seekers. We know you are disinformation specialists working for the Intelligence Agencies. You do a poor job of hiding it.

    And where are your facts? You don’t even attempt to build a credible argument just throw around some paranoid nonsense about a CIA/Mossad conspiracy.

    Just saying something don’t make it so…

    I suppose I work for Mossad as well?

    Bizarre – re-read your posts and try to understand why skeptics might find your assertions a little, how shall I put it, lacking in substance.

    Have a nice day, now!

  70. Turbo Says:

    Wow, now I know how al Qaeda gets volunteers.
    They have the same type of conspiracy believers.
    Just get them so worked up they are willing to lay down their lives.

  71. john galt Says:

    I get it now… see, I thought you Truthers were for real, I thought you actually believed your delusional rants. But, after I read that all who challange these fairy tales are most surely agents of the CIA or the Mossad, I realize that you argue in jest. I have to say it’s very funny stuff but,
    I thought you were serious… my bad.

  72. Chip Smith Says:

    For anyone who cares, I would like to clarify my original point on the relevance of conspiracy theory to the Holocaust issue.

    I can’t speak for others, but I certainly do not claim that there is “no evidence for the Holocaust,” as one commenter put it. Rather, I am saying that when you look closely at wartime documentary and forensic evidence cited to support the specific claim that the Nazis carried out a program of ethnic extermination using homicidal gas chambers, such evidence is largely ambiguous and is consistently open to differing interpretations.

    What has come to be known as the “revisionist” or “negationist” or “denialist” interpretation largely proceeds from a prima facie, i.e. non-conspiratorial, reading of extant records and documents indicating that the Nazi policy toward Jews and other proscribed groups was one of forced internment and deportation, which, it should be understood, entailed catastrophic consequences for the families and communities affected.

    The standard or consensus interpretation is that the “Final Solution” really referred to a systematic program of ethnic genocide, and that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Jews and others were sent to death in gas chambers at various eastern camps. While eyewitness testimony and postwar confessions are frequently cited to support of this widely accepted view, the presumed genocidal policy is not clearly corroborated by contemporaneous evidence. In the absence of clear-cut, unambiguous evidence for an intentional program of genocide, historians have attempted to fill in the blanks by assuming that the officials and bureaucrats who oversaw this mass genocide via gas poisoning did so by dint of an elaborate system of euphemistic terminology, secret bookkeeping, and through the careful destruction of incriminating evidence.

    In other words, the standard account of the gassing/genocide claim really can be understood as a giant conspiracy theory. And if you don’t believe me, go to the reputable sources. The idea of Nazi conspiracy runs through the major works of many respected Holocaust historians, from Hilberg to Dawidowicz to Mayer to Laqueur. This is the situation that leads modern critics to go on about “convergence” and “criminal traces” and to engage in esoteric readings of blueprints, supply orders and the like. If it turns out that most of the Zyklon-B was used to kill lice, you still have to make it fit. That’s how conspiracy theories work.

    With few exceptions, skeptics who have broached the Holocaust controversy seem to have traded a sensible epistemological stance that regards claims of vast conspiracy with suspicion for an exceptional deference to scholarly consensus as a measure of probability (or near certainty) that historically unprecedented and truly extraordinary events took place more or less according to the received historical narrative. This approach is perhaps enabled by the fact that such a strong stigma — to say nothing of the very real onus of prosecution outside the US — attaches to those who question foundational claims concerning the Holocaust, but I don’t believe it is easily justified on rational or empirical grounds. This is my point. I think the skeptics have gotten off to a bad start on this troublesome subject. And I think the reasons are pregnant with irony, as Shermer’s column — with which I happen to agree — demonstrates.

    While I think Shermer’s approach to this issue is inconsistent (and he is not alone), I still think it somewhat understandable given the bellicosity and bad faith evinced by many who glibly dismiss the history of the Holocaust as a “pack of lies.” Beyond its inflamatory tone, the problem with such crude denialist rhetoric is apparent in the quick resort to revanchist counter-conspiratorial claims that are neither plausible nor necessary to explain how the gassing/genocide narrative might have been generated without being literally true.

    The more rational, if seldom-engaged, counter-thesis is not that “the Holocaust was a hoax,” but that dark rumors of gassing and factory line extermination, based in legitimate fear and arising in a specific cultural context, came to be widely believed through sociogenic processes well understood in other contexts. Under this view (which, again, is most clearly developed by Samuel Crowell in his monograph, “The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes”), Allied propaganda may have played a role down the line, much they way that misguided prosecutors and therapists helped to fuel the daycare abuse hysteria a couple of decades ago; but the germ of the story, as with any conspiracy theory, would have been rooted in culture-bound fear.

    Finally, since arguments by association and ad hominem attacks seem to have become ever more prevalent in the present context, I want to close by stating that I am neither a “birther” nor a “truther” nor any such kook-branded type of “er” in the contemporary lexicon (though I do think Sarah Palin probably faked a pregnancy). I am more than convinced that that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, that astronauts walked on the moon, and that the official account of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is in every important respect accurate. I think the USS Liberty thing was most likely a fog-of-war accident, and I don’t have any strong views about Israelis and Palestinians. Or about Jews, whose company I prefer. I am an atheist, a positivist, and a skeptic, Just like the author of the column that started this thread. And like Michael Shermer, I have little patience with conspiracy theories.

    Q.E.D.

  73. A. S. Marques Says:

    If you really think Shermer’s inconsistency is “somewhat understandable given the bellicosity and bad faith evinced by many who glibly dismiss the history of the Holocaust as a ‘pack of lies’”, shouldn’t you yourself show a little more consistency towards: 1) the meaning of the word “Holocaust”, a well established historical allegation, not a cloud of commiseration over a tiny fraction of the war’s victims; and 2) the bellicosity and indeed good faith of those who claim that persistence in the promotion of clear falsehoods does amount to reduce history to a pack of lies?

  74. A. S. Marques Says:

    @ Chip Smith:

    You say you certainly do not claim that there is “no evidence for the Holocaust” (as one commenter put it).

    Well, would you care to present your evidence for the events commonly known as the “Holocaust”, i.e. the common name given to the alleged extermination attempt, chain murder by gassing, and overall approximately 6 million murders?

    Or could it be that you simply like to play with the words?

  75. A. S. Marques Says:

    @ Chip Smith

    Still speaking of your intellectual “bellicosity” charge, shouldn’t you perhaps consider that those who appear to you as “bellicose” and in “bad faith” have been and continue to be censored, persecuted, fined and imprisoned, under the full gaze of and frequent vilification by peace-loving “skeptics” such as Michael Shermer?

    If you don’t believe me, try reading Shermer’s couple of books on revisionism — or rather his ignorant rantings on revisionists, since the debate of ideas is not among his strong points — and you’ll see what I mean.

  76. Chip Smith Says:

    A. S. Marques,

    Not quite sure how to respond. Honestly, I’m having difficulty parsing some of your points.

    I will say that I’ve read Shermer’s work on this subject. I think he’s wrong about a lot of stuff, and I think he tells a few fibs. In my view, the Holocaust is more complex than the cornered definition. And distinctions are important, especially when there is a failure of communication. I’m genuinely interested in advancing the debate on this subject, and this will not be accomplished without civility.

    I think there’s plenty of bad faith and bellicosity to go around. And the fact that so many people are in jail should matter more than it does. It matters very much to me, I assure you.

  77. A. S. Marques Says:

    @ Chip Smith:

    Not quite sure how to respond. Honestly, I’m having difficulty parsing some of your points.

    Well, the main point I’ve made to you is an extremely simple one: at a time when the very same people vilified by Michael Shermer in his sloppily researched books are being censored and persecuted all over the world for their efforts on behalf of the truth, presenting “Holocaust” debunking as the guilty “bellicose” party is a bit like accusing Palestinians of being “bellicose” towards their robbers and occupiers, isn’t it?

    I will say that I’ve read Shermer’s work on this subject. I think he’s wrong about a lot of stuff, and I think he tells a few fibs.

    Perhaps if you were the object of his rantings in a measure comparable to, say, those foreign revisionists he ignores practically everything about, and still defames, you would resent his “fibs” in a different way.

    In my view, the Holocaust is more complex than the cornered definition.

    Let me try to get that.

    A noun stripped of its meaning is more complex than the meaning of the noun?

    An alleged major historical event consisting in a monstrous racial extermination attempt, industrial chain murder by gassing and a host of unheard-of means the like of which the world had never seen either in dimension or sheer malevolence, and overall approximately 6 million resulting murders, should not be “cornered” on the grounds that it is not complex enough?

    The truth of alleged historical events is better ascertained when they are reduced to emotional buzzwords and floated to the cloudcuckooland of semantic nonsense?

    Couldn’t we — shouldn’t we — be a little more specific?

    And distinctions are important, especially when there is a failure of communication. I’m genuinely interested in advancing the debate on this subject, and this will not be accomplished without civility.

    Doesn’t it occur to you that failures of communication and the absence of civil debate are not necessarily attributable to the “bellicosity” of the persecuted ideas or their proponents?

  78. William Patrick Haines Says:

    While a healthy suspicion steaming from the incompotent berucractic and overall corrupt nature of government religious or corporate entities paranioa really serves no purpose. Yes bush was and he was incompotent neglagent beyond any measure or belief and if there were a mount rush more for the worst cheif excutives he would be on it but stating he had the ability to set up a scheme like 911 conspearcy crowd is quite a strecth !!!Yeah right an inarticulate fantasy prone space cadet who canbarely walk and talk at the same time

  79. Bill Morgan Says:

    Read the facts about Bldg. 7. Our government lies.

    The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7: Why the Final Official Report About 9/11 Is Unscientific and False (Olive Branch Press, 2009), by David Ray Griffin

    At 5:20 in the afternoon on 9/11, Building 7 of the World Trade Center collapsed, even though it had not been struck by a plane and had fires on only a few floors. The reason for its collapse was considered a mystery. In August 2008, NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) issued its report on WTC 7, declaring that “the reason for the collapse of World Trade Center 7 is no longer a mystery” and that “science is really behind what we have said.” Showing that neither of these claims is true, David Ray Griffin demonstrates that NIST is guilty of the most serious types of scientific fraud: fabricating, falsifying, and ignoring evidence. He also shows that NIST’s report left intact the central mystery: How could a building damaged by fire—not explosives—have come down in free fall?

  80. Stacy Bird Says:

    It’s easy to spend one’s time reading dry, unimpassioned and, dare I say, cold analyses of the holocaust, as if cherry-picking evidence will give you any sense of what transpired under the Nazi regime. If any of you holocaust deniers believe in the truth, you will have to force yourselves to read the first-hand accounts of survivors. I have two suggestions:

    - “Auschwtz: True Tales from a Grotesque land,” by Sara Nomberg-Przytyk
    - Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor E. Frankl

    Intellectual honesty requires reading all the evidence, including the emotionally wrenching and terrifying reports of victims. Would you refuse to read the first-hand accounts of survivors of 9-11?

    I would be interested in your opinions after you have invested six months of time to the many excellent works by survivors who, in spite of enormous differences in personality, religious conviction and political outlooks, tell painfully similar accounts of life in concentration camps.

    Give yourselves the time necessary to digest the horror.

  81. john galt Says:

    Bill –

    I understand that 911 Truthers get all worked up over the destruction of WTC 7, the claim I believe is: certain offices in the building contained reams of incriminating evidence, on all kinds of well connected, Bush-government-backed, war-mongering, oil-grubbing mystery men.

    So the question begs – with so much at stake in/at WTC 7, why the didn’t super-talented, super-secret, stealth bombers of WTC 1 & WTC 2 lend their demolition talents to WTC 7?? Why?

    Could it be that the bombers simply ran out of C4?

  82. Michael Says:

    Chip, It seems that you are actually discussing ontology and epistemology. What do we know and how do we know it. At what level do we accept something as true?
    Is the Holocaust actually a “conspiracy theory?” My understanding of the term differs from the dictionary definition of a “conspiracy.”
    The accepted history of the Holocaust is that the Nazis were involved in a conspiracy to kill perceived enemies of the German people. I will accept your assertion that the Holocaust is technically a theory. But in the same sense that natural selection is “merely” a theory. I feel free to dogmatically accept the general outlines of the Holocaust until someone produces extraordinary evidence to the contrary. This is understandably a paradox. But the onus is on the person making the audacious claim that millions of survivors were deluded by “culture-bound fear.”
    Your claim that the documentation could be interpreted differently, that the commonly accepted history is not rational, does not alter the eye witness accounts of the survivors.
    The term “conspiracy theory” is a pejorative used to dismiss claims that are deemed ridiculous, misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, or irrational. You may think that the sum of the evidence regarding the Holocaust is not convincing, but it clearly is not a “conspiracy theory.”

  83. A. S. Marques Says:

    @ Stacy Bird:

    It’s easy to spend one’s time reading dry, unimpassioned and, dare I say, cold analyses of the holocaust,

    No it isn’t. The sort of rigorous analyses that you mention are prohibited in most of the western world, and most difficult to get in bookshops or libraries, even in the United States.

    as if cherry-picking evidence will give you any sense of what transpired under the Nazi regime. If any of you holocaust deniers believe in the truth, you will have to force yourselves to read the first-hand accounts of survivors. I have two suggestions:

    - “Auschiwtz: True Tales from a Grotesque land,” by Sara Nomberg-Przytyk
    - “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor E. Frankl

    I don’t cherry-pick, but you clearly do. Still, I suggest that you give yourself the trouble of drying your tears for a while and try looking a little further into your own chosen witnesses.

    Starting suggestions:

    http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v07/v07p369_Okeefe.html
    http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v20/v20n5p10_frankl.html

    Intellectual honesty requires reading all the evidence, including the emotionally wrenching and terrifying reports of victims.

    Absolutely! All the evidence one can find, as you say. And, believe me, I’ve done that for decades. How about you?

    Would you refuse to read the first-hand accounts of survivors of 9-11?

    Certainly not. But I wouldn’t think that would be the only way of ascertaining the veracity of any kind of theory about the events themselves. Or that, 65 years after the events, the legal necessity of constant tears would improve one’s vision of the actual truth in any reasonable way.

    I would be interested in your opinions after you have invested six months of time to the many excellent works by survivors who, in spite of enormous differences in personality, religious conviction and political outlooks, tell painfully similar accounts of life in concentration camps.

    I’m afraid that explaining to you that 1) the similarity of the original myth-making accounts is itself a myth, and 2) the degree of similarity of many of the later narrative trends is simple to explain in well-known psychological terms, would require a lot more space that we can use here.

    I would recommend to you a visit to the CODOH revisionist forum, where a conversation on the theme you suggest would be welcome. Personally, I would be interested in your opinions after you have invested, say, a few weeks of your time to the many prohibited but excellent works by revisionist researchers who, in spite of enormous differences in personality, religious conviction and political outlooks, tell painfully similar accounts of the intellectual concentration camp we live in.

    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.

    Give yourselves the time necessary to digest the horror.

    I have. I suggest you also give yourself the time to use the little gray cells behind your lacrimal glands. Try “Debating the Holocaust: A New Look At Both Sides” by Thomas Dalton.

  84. A. S. Marques Says:

    Says Michael: “[Chip's] claim that [...] that the commonly accepted history is not rational, does not alter the eye witness accounts of the survivors.”

    Voilá. The “Holocaust” faith in a nutshell.

  85. A. S. Marques Says:

    @ Michael:

    The accepted history of the Holocaust is that the Nazis were involved in a conspiracy to kill perceived enemies of the German people.

    No. Sorry, but that’s not the “accepted history of the Holocaust.”

    The accepted history of the “Holocaust” — just in case you haven’t been living on this planet for the last half century or so — is there was a vast German plot to secretly exterminate an entire race, allegedly resulting in 6 million murdered Jews, by such wondrously conspiratorial mass murder means as steam, electrocution, non-toxic Diesel exhaust and Zyklon B pesticide.

    In other words, the accepted history of the “Holocaust” is not simply that of an attempt to kill perceived enemies of the German people, but that the unrivaled Mother of All Conspiracies was on against the Jews aiming at their secret extermination.

    And if you doubt it, you’re an antisemite, even if you’re a semite.

  86. Michael Says:

    Oh sorry. I guess my time on Mars was poorly spent.

  87. Chip Smith Says:

    Michael,

    A few quick points regarding the eyewitness testimony:

    1. While there is a voluminous testamentary literature on the Holocaust, there are actually very few first-hand eyewitness accounts to homicidal gassings. Most of what is presented as eyewitness testimony for this crucial detail turns out upon examination to be hearsay, and I have come to believe that much of what remains can be understood as rumor-derived and culturally facilitated confabulation. Skeptics recognize such phenomena in other contexts, such as wrt alien abductions, past lives, satanic ritual abuse, recovered memories, etc., all of which find support in the words of sincere eyewitnesses.

    2. Eyewitness testimony exists for events that mainstream Holocaust historians do not believe happened. There are eyewitness accounts of gassings at Dachau, for example, where it is accepted that no such thing happened. And there are eyewitness accounts of people being killed by steam, in electrocution chambers, by pneumatic hammers, etc. (to say nothing of the lampshades and soap business). When you consider just how much testimony is excluded as incredible or implausible, the view that the remainder should be treated uncritically is tough to sustain. It reminds me of the MO that one discerns in apologetical accounts of Christ’s resurrection; if 90% of the scriptural references prove to be problematic, the apologist re-trains his focus on the remaining 10%, and finds his proof anew.

    3. Eyewitness testimony has low standing in historical research for good reason. People are prone to suggestion, to conflation, to various tricks of memory, and to common error. People borrow and recycle and garble stories, and sometimes they just make them up. If there is a prevailing cultural narrative to drive a particular line, as in the case of repressed memory syndrome and the alien abduction stuff, false memories can be socially constructed quite easily. Is it possible that cultural forces and confusion played a role in determining the weft and weave of many Holocaust testimonies? For reasons beyond the scope of this thread, I think it is more than possible. It doesn’t mean that anyone is lying. It does mean that corroboration is crucial. But … there’s a hole in the bucket.

    With these points in the background, I would question whether your distinction between the true conspiracy and the “conspiracy theory” is useful in the present context. I understand the concept here, but it might simply be that this is the allowance you make for the one “weird thing” you happen to believe. If you ever come to view the gassing-extermination narrative with skepticism, as I have, you may find that what you assumed to be a real conspiracy begins to look more like a “conspiracy theory.” And wouldn’t that be interesting?

  88. Chip Smith Says:

    A. S. Marques,

    My one-sided reference to the bellicosity of many (not all) H-skeptics was part of a broader attempt to shed light on a situation where it has become easier for dissident views to be consigned to the margins. I don’t agree that it’s bad form to criticize revisionist tactics simply because revisionists in other countries are being locked up. To the contrary, my sense is that the strident tone adopted by many outspoken revisionists probably does harm to the cause of decriminalizing historical inquiry. Ironically, as the speech prohibition scares away rational voices, the kooks and meanies are the ones who stick around. It isn’t helping.

    I think the term “Holocaust” memorializes the ordeal of European Jews under the praxis of a modern strain of anti-Semitic ideology. Even if revisionist theory stands to be vindicated in broad form, the reality will remain that Jewish communities were uprooted by force, that families were broken-up, and that at least hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in the scheme of a catastrophe for which human beings were responsible. That’s enough horror for me. To my mind the Holocaust remains salient as an account of destruction.

  89. A. S. Marques Says:

    @ Chip Smith:

    To the contrary, my sense is that the strident tone adopted by many outspoken revisionists probably does harm to the cause of decriminalizing historical inquiry. Ironically, as the speech prohibition scares away rational voices, the kooks and meanies are the ones who stick around. It isn’t helping.

    Okay. You sound fairly well informed. Would you give me a few examples of the respective whereabouts and achievements of the strident and the mild, sparing me, if at all possible, the Sermon on the Mount and the beatitudes to come?

    I think the term “Holocaust” memorializes the ordeal of European Jews under the praxis of a modern strain of anti-Semitic ideology.

    Yes, I can see that. And I think the term “Holocaust” is a first-rate propaganda instrument to bring about the ordeal of present and future wars. Not to speak of the continued spoliation of the innocent under the praxis of a modern strain of Jewish exclusivist ideology.

    Even if revisionist theory stands to be vindicated in broad form, the reality will remain that Jewish communities were uprooted by force, that families were broken-up, and that at least hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in the scheme of a catastrophe for which human beings were responsible. That’s enough horror for me.

    And why would that be a specially horrific situation in the presence of so many war victims? Why should the collective misfortunes of the Jews deserve so much more consideration than those of the Volga Germans, the Nissei ethnic Japanese, the Bengalis or indeed anybody else, including the German and Soviet populations?

    To my mind the Holocaust remains salient as an account of destruction.

    A salient account of destruction, you say, i.e. a description, a narrative, but still no pin-pointing of the account’s contents or of precisely what makes it so salient.

    Unimportant details? Perhaps to your mind the Jewish blood libel against the Germans and indeed the whole wide world, not to speak of the individual innocent nonagenarians still sacrificed to the golden calf on an almost weekly basis, is just another innocent “fib”…

  90. Chip Smith Says:

    Michael,

    You write:

    “I feel free to dogmatically accept the general outlines of the Holocaust until someone produces extraordinary evidence to the contrary. This is understandably a paradox. But the onus is on the person making the audacious claim that millions of survivors were deluded by ‘culture-bound fear’.”

    This neatly underscores your point about how the problem reduces to epistemology (I’m less sure as to where ontology fits, but my philosophy is rusty). When they look at the gassing/extermination critique, most skeptics begin with an appeal to consensus, i.e., with the assumption that since the revisionist theory runs counter to widely accepted evidence, it must be held to a higher standard. I think there are a few historical problems with this approach (where Darwin becomes relevant, along with Continental drift and germ theory), but it is possible to address your paradoxical bind another way.

    First, consider that massive population transfers are a fact of history, and especially of 20th century history, and that these events have often entailed a severe toll on life. Then, consider how the narrative of assembly line genocide stands apart.

    If you are familiar with the drift of Holocaust studies, if you have seen “Shoah,” or if you have read Hilberg’s magnum opus, you will recognize a common theme, or point of emphasis. Stated simply, the events described are said to defy credulity. The “Killing Center Operations” (Hilberg) are described as historically unique, as unimaginable, and as a singular metaphysical problem. It is no surprise that so much modern theodicical disputation centers on the Holocaust.

    My argument is that the ubiquitous framing of the Holocaust as something that stands “outside history” (however it’s phrased) should be enough to tweak skeptical synapses. The resonant mystique of the standard history suggests — or should suggest — the possibility that we are looking, in the first instance, at another brand of the “extraordinary claim” that skeptics are otherwise disposed to doubt.

    In “The Destruction of the European Jews,” Raul Hilberg tells us that by the end of it, people were being gassed at a rate of 20,000 per day at Auschwitz alone, while secrecy was strictly maintained. He tells us that the capacity for destruction had at some point approached the “point of being unlimited,” at the same time that a war was going on and disease was rampant. The story at Treblinka is that some 750,000 to 900,000 human beings were gassed using modified diesel exhaust engines, with the bodies being buried and later dug up and burned to avoid the prying eyes of history. Then there are the eyewitness accounts of pyres of babies, which recall the mood of witchcraft and Satanism and Sade.

    Are such claims believable? Is skepticism unwarranted? Or is it possible that we are confronted by an entrenched cultural taboo, a very special moral panic doing its thing? This is the skeptic’s epistemological dilemma in a nutshell.

    Broken record that I am, I want to recommend that you take “The Gas Chamber of Sherlock Holmes” for a read. I doubt that Crowell’s book will satisfy your “extraordinary” burden, but it may persuade you that an alternative account of the gassing narrative is at least plausible. And if it is plausible, it absolutely should matter that people are being imprisoned for publicly taking the “wrong” position.

  91. Chip Smith Says:

    A. S. Marques,

    You want a list of the naughty and nice? Frankly, I fail to see the purpose. But since I rather like your style, I will say that I’ve learned the most from Rudolf and Butz, and that I think Crowell’s work will stand the test of time. And I will say that much as I respect the scrupulous work of Faurisson (at least in the beginning) and Berg, I think their rhetoric increasingly invites a shrug from anyone outside the choir.

    I came to this issue through Bradley Smith and David Cole, back in the mid-90s, after the McMartin witchhunt made me wonder. Bradley’s sensibility mirrors my own in many ways, and Cole’s positivist approach still strikes me as sound. I am very sorry that David Irving was imprisoned for nothing, but I don’t really trust him as a scholar. The remainder of the “strident” and “bellicose” reside at the prickly edge of the webosphere. I get emails from these guys, and I always wonder if they would less combative if we were talking at a dive bar over a round of drinks. Maybe I’m just too sensitive.

    As to the rest of your response, let me say simply that atrocity-upmanship doesn’t interest me. I don’t doubt that the Holocaust has been erected beyond its historical significance, or that a subject has been deeply politicized, with consequences. I take the relativist points one at a time. And I still think what happened is awful.

    I sense that any sincere response I would offer to your assertions about the “blood libel” against Germans would be met with a snort or a sigh. Because, in truth, I think it’s complicated. The bombing of Dresden is a horror. The Gulag is a horror. Hiroshima and Nagasaki. None of it had to happen. I wish it hadn’t.

  92. A. S. Marques Says:

    @ Chip Smith:

    You want a list of the naughty and nice? Frankly, I fail to see the purpose.

    You condemn “the strident tone adopted by many outspoken revisionists” and their “bellicosity and bad faith” that makes Shermer’s inconsistency “somewhat understandable.” That makes me curious about the stealthy sort of revisionism you consider the most effective.

    But since I rather like your style, I will say that I’ve learned the most from Rudolf and Butz,

    Neither of them producers of outspoken stridencies? Even though one of them was kidnapped and jailed for years for his nice behavior and the other one is more often than not dismissed as a “Nazi”?

    and that I think Crowell’s work will stand the test of time.

    Who? Ah, yes, I see what you mean: so quiet practically no one has heard of it, and he’ll have to bury it in a bottle for posterity à la Auschwitz.

    And I will say that much as I respect the scrupulous work of Faurisson (at least in the beginning) and Berg, I think their rhetoric increasingly invites a shrug from anyone outside the choir.

    Okay. Here come a couple of “stridents” then. So would you care, for the sake of an example, to compare the respective achievements of Faurisson and Crowell, in order to demonstrate the merits of the silent approach?

    I came to this issue through Bradley Smith and David Cole, back in the mid-90s, after the McMartin witchhunt made me wonder. Bradley’s sensibility mirrors my own in many ways, and Cole’s positivist approach still strikes me as sound. I am very sorry that David Irving was imprisoned for nothing, but I don’t really trust him as a scholar.

    No stridencies, I assume. Provocative advertisements and shocking movies devised to debunk the faked gas chambers are just exercises in Buddhist meditation.

    The remainder of the “strident” and “bellicose” reside at the prickly edge of the webosphere. I get emails from these guys, and I always wonder if they would [be] less combative if we were talking at a dive bar over a round of drinks. Maybe I’m just too sensitive.

    Yup, maybe you should keep the bottles for that test of time.

    As to the rest of your response, let me say simply that atrocity-upmanship doesn’t interest me.

    You’re the one conceding the meaningless terminology devised to make the “Holocaust” sound like a unique real occurrence and you make it sound as if I’m the one interested in atrocity-upmanship?!

    I don’t doubt that the Holocaust has been erected beyond its historical significance, or that a subject has been deeply politicized, with consequences. I take the relativist points one at a time. And I still think what happened is awful.

    Anything but attempting to pin down the earthly shadow of the platonic “Holocaust,” I suppose…

    I sense that any sincere response I would offer to your assertions about the “blood libel” against Germans would be met with a snort or a sigh. Because, in truth, I think it’s complicated. The bombing of Dresden is a horror. The Gulag is a horror. Hiroshima and Nagasaki. None of it had to happen. I wish it hadn’t.

    So what does that teach you about the Good War and the “Holocaust” humbuggery that props it up?

  93. A. S. Marques Says:

    @ Chip Smith

    That said, I don’t think we are in disagreement over the intrinsic value of the work by any of the revisionist authors you cite. Only about how best to promote it in the face of repression, abuse and sheer stupidity.

  94. Joe Says:

    Seems to me, most of these conspiracies can be attributed to people who fucked up trying to cover their asses.

    It’s no surprise that we were attacked on 9/11 despite warnings from nearly everyone during the watch of an imbecile like Bush. It is also no mystery that he and his neoconservative tribe (themselves no strangers to misinformation) put the powers they possessed to covering up and minimize their ineptitude.

    It is fairly obvious that there is a military conspiracy regarding UFOs. They have a vested interest in keeping secret whatever secret weapons they are working on.

    Regarding JFK, again it could be considered a supreme fuck-up to allow your president to be assassinated, not to mention an indication of weakness to our enemies. What’s more, worse than allowing one shooter to do it, would be to allow two, without even catching the second. No surprise they fudged this data.

    So to me, there is a third side to this argument – one that all skeptics should adopt. Never accept the government’s version because they probably are lying (I believe this assumption was made by Jefferson et al in the founding of the country), but try to find a reasonable explanation for why they are lying.

  95. Chip Smith Says:

    A. S. Marques,

    I didn’t “condemn” anything; I made an off-hand observation that seems to have struck a nerve with you. I think you are reading beyond my words, and making innacurate assumptions about my views.

    It seems that we are beyond the point of diminishing returns, so I would like to emphasize that I agree with your last point. You do your thing, and I’ll do mine.

    Vive la différence!

  96. A. S. Marques Says:

    @ Chip Smith

    I didn’t “condemn” anything; I made an off-hand observation that seems to have struck a nerve with you.

    Yes, you’re probably right. It’s the assumption that one must constantly be apologizing to narrow ignoramuses for telling them the truth that strikes a nerve.

    I think you are reading beyond my words, and making innacurate assumptions about my views.

    Re-reading what went before, I agree. In fact you may have committed the same mistake. :^)

    It seems that we are beyond the point of diminishing returns, so I would like to emphasize that I agree with your last point. You do your thing, and I’ll do mine.

    Mine is very modest. Actually it’s doing next to nothing (time flies!) and trying to get some amusement from watching the proceedings on our collective way to you know what.

    An odd argument for a place like this. I’ll be leaving now. Bye.

  97. A. S. Marques Says:

    An article I would strongly recommend to the anti-conspiratorial skeptics:
    http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2009/09/10/911-our-truth-and-theirs/

    Raimondo may be gullible “Holocaust”-wise, but he certainly gets high marks on 9/11. I wish he would also take a closer view of the JFK convenient assassination:
    http://www.amazon.com/Final-Judgment-Missing-Assassination-Conspiracy/dp/0974548405/

    Convenient to whom, you ask? Well, if you really have to, go back to square one. Maybe you’ll get a nice job at Scientific American.

  98. Tom Says:

    Michael,

    I was struck by your last question: What should we believe? Maybe since both transcendentalism and empiricism are inventions of human beings, maybe they are part of the same system of general experience to specific intelligence.

    What I mean to say is maybe intuition is necessary: our personality, our ability to adapt, improvise and innovate in context with our surroundings makes our higher heuristic functions possible.

    Along these lines, wouldn’t empiricism then be one probable result of the same root heuristic derivative or sequence thereof? In other words, couldn’t we make the argument that intuition is necessary precisely because as a root heuristic derivative, it gives our higher functions the shape of thought?

    I think this indeed may be the case, but I am not at all quite sure what any of this mean.

    I can guess, but I can’t be certain.

    Incidentally, I enjoyed your article.
    Thanks

    Tom

  99. Nathan Phillips Says:

    @A. S. Marques

    You try to give the impression that you have been somehow victimized by skeptics like Dr. Shermer. I can’t help but see parallels between this and homophobes who claim that homosexuals are trying to destroy the institution of marriage. If you are a victim due to your search for truth, you should be especially cognisant of anyone that you could be victimizing. There is a reason why people accuse holocaust denyers of being anti-Semitic. The claim that the holocaust is a conspiracy is the claim that there is a giant pro-Jewish conspiracy. The events of World War II are not evidence of a pro-Jewish conspiracy. There have been many real anti-Semitic conspiracies throughout history, and I have a hard time understanding for what truth you are fighting. Who’s rights are you trying to protect by denying the holocaust? Those who have found evidence for the holocaust are trying to make sure that such atrocities never happen again. We certainly can’t be fighting for Nazi rights. From what I have read on the issue, approximately 20 million Russians died in World War II. Nazis aren’t worth fighting for one way or another. Do you think that Israelis are unfairly privelidged? I personally do not see living in a war zone to be particularly wonderful. I have a hard time believing that you are only searching for truth. You have a world-view behind this search, and that world view has cards that you aren’t showing.

  100. A. S. Marques Says:

    @Nathan Phillips

    You try to give the impression that you have been somehow victimized by skeptics like Dr. Shermer.

    Me, personally? By Shermer? Where in heaven did you get that notion?

    I was on my way, but it seems you people never give up.

    There is a reason why people accuse holocaust denyers of being anti-Semitic.

    Of course there is. It’s a cheap accusation devised to protect Jews from criticism, by relegating the “anti-semite” and what he is saying to a dark region of naive 19th century pseudo-science and racialist bigotry, whereas “anti-Jewish” — even if not particularly accurate in all cases — would be a much better expression, no worse than “anti-Palestinian” or “anti-German.”

    The claim that the holocaust is a conspiracy is the claim that there is a giant pro-Jewish conspiracy.

    Absolutely. And you put it absolutely right: not exclusively a “Jewish conspiracy”, but, for a variety of reasons (the convenience of covering-up the true nature of the supposedly “Good War” among them), a pro-”Jewish conspiracy.”

    All you have to do to see this conspiracy in action is to pay attention to the way Jewish control is exercised over US policies and wars of agression in the Middle East.

    [Whose] rights are you trying to protect by denying the holocaust?

    Here is something that “Holocaust” peddlers will probably never understand: you don’t need any specific reasons to stand for the historical truth, other than an interest in history and the love of truth. Why is this so difficult to understand to people like you?

    Those who have found evidence for the holocaust are trying to make sure that such atrocities never happen again.

    Far from dissuading from war or tyranny, the “Holocaust” propaganda in the West is the most effective recruiter and all-purpose excuse for war, oppression and censorship ever devised. The scandal that is the current state of Palestine, the Israeli wars by US proxy in the Middle East, the international blackmail for power and profit conducted by the Jewish organizations, and the outreach of Israeli-sponsored universal censorship are its direct consequences.

    We certainly can’t be fighting for Nazi rights.

    Of course we can, and we should. It’s the rights of the defeated and defenseless that need the most to be defended, not the “rights” of the winners to lie, censor, steal and murder at will.

    You have a world-view behind this search, and that world view has cards that you aren’t showing.

    Absolutely irrelevant to the question of whether or not the Holocaust is a gigantic historical lie, but in order to satisfy your curiosity you may as well look for my general world-view in a couple of posts here:
    http://forum.codoh.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=5343&p=34955#p34955
    http://forum.codoh.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=5366&p=35080#p35080
    http://forum.codoh.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=5342&p=34862#p34862

    Let me recommend the following to you:
    http://robertfaurisson.blogspot.com/2001/10/imaginary-holocaust-may-lead-to-real.html

    On my way again (I hope)… :^)

  101. 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.

  102. 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.

  103. 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.

  104. 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.

  105. 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.

  106. 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.

  107. 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.

  108. 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.

  109. Guy of Perth Says:

    Bong away truthers.

    Bong away.

  110. 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.

  111. 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

  112. 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.

  113. 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…

  114. 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.

  115. 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.

  116. 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.

  117. 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

  118. 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 .

  119. 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~~

  120. 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 !

  121. 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!”

  122. 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.

  123. Bo Jangles Says:

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

  124. 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

  125. 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.

  126. Jim Says:

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

  127. 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.

  128. 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!

  129. 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…

  130. 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.

Leave a Comment