Conspiracy theories sometimes easier to swallow than truth

As I write this, the time is around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011. At this time, 10 years and nine hours ago, both the North and South towers of the World Trade Center would have all ready been reduced to smoldering heaps of steel, concrete and rebar, and I would have been one very confused 10 year old.

And yet, almost immediately, there were those who were shouting that the whole thing was a sham.

I have learned next to nothing about engineering, metallurgy or physics in the 10 years since 9/11. I am not here to debunk 9/11 conspiracists whose facts are based on hard evidence. I can’t tell you the melting point of steel, nor the wingspan of a Boeing 747 without the use of Google. The nuts and bolts of it all I will choose to leave to the experts (Popular Mechanics has already done a great job of this.) What I want to get at is just why people believe this so passionately? While I have learned very little about the science of destruction in these last 10 years, one thing I have learned about is the myths and how they propagated.

And before you ask, yes, I have seen “Loose Change.”

Conspiracies are the ultimate in self-fulfilling prophecy. The government was behind the whole thing. They want to control us. They want to control everything, sayeth the conspiratist. You disagree? It’s only because you’ve allowed them to control you. See a fault in logic here? It’s because of this that conspiracies grow at an alarming rate. The more attention they garner, the more people inevitably attempt to refute them, the more people get lumped in with the other “sheep.”

Furthermore, the manner in which these theories are formed is dubious. It is best described as being a reversed scientific method: conclusion first, followed by data. Any evidence to the contrary is either omitted, or its source is cast in doubt. When backed into a corner with overwhelming evidence, the conspiratist will resort to their old adage of calling their opponent a purposeful liar.

So why are so many people so apt to believe that our government purposefully killed its own people?

Because it’s easier than the truth.

We were not attacked by a nation or an enemy we could put a convenient label on. We were attacked by an idea. After all, we are fighting the War on Terror. We’ve fought the Nazis, the British and even ourselves throughout our history. But we’ve never before fought a war against fear itself. Its like throwing punches at smoke. If we choose to blame the government, at least we have something concrete. We have a real enemy that can be rebelled against, even overturned. But you can’t kill an idea.

For so long, we had felt invincible. Our country had never been invaded, and we’d never “officially” lost a war. We’ve gone nowhere but up since the end of WWII, and the good times looked like they were just going to keep on rolling. And then suddenly, out of a clear blue sky, we were dealt chaos. We felt violated, molested. It didn’t take a million man army to attack us; it took a handful of madmen in planes. There was a gap in our armor that we never thought existed. So sure are some people in the far-reaching power of our government, that they assume no one can attack us without first getting their written permission. But what’s more shocking, and what so many cannot accept, is that our government just couldn’t save us that day.