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Conspiracy-A-Go-Go: Bill Maher and the 9/11 Truthers

For all of Bill Maher's dull by-the-numbers Hollywood-style liberalism (less Locke and Mill, more food-nazi-obsessed-with-global-warming-and-kneejerk-Bush-bashing), he sometimes does get it right. Last week, when a group of 9/11 Truthers infiltrated his audience and disrupted the broadcast (see video below), he … Read More

By / October 26, 2007

For all of Bill Maher's dull by-the-numbers Hollywood-style liberalism (less Locke and Mill, more food-nazi-obsessed-with-global-warming-and-kneejerk-Bush-bashing), he sometimes does get it right. Last week, when a group of 9/11 Truthers infiltrated his audience and disrupted the broadcast (see video below), he got as aggro as I've ever seen him, and that's saying quite a bit for a fellow not unknown for his propensity to get hot under his (generally hideously colored and striped) collar.

It's really about time more people took his approach to the 9/11 Truth movement. The name itself is testament to its dishonest nature–9/11 Truth is as concerned with truth as FOX News is with being "fair and balanced." Truth to them is whatever fits the desired end–given the rather sinister nature of that desired end (to prove that the American government plotted a controlled demolition of the WTC) one might call it wish-thinking for the paranoiac. When Popular Mechanics published a few 9/11 truths of their own, one can be sure that few Truther arguments underwent any meaningful overhaul. But then again, therapy isn't instantaneous for these kinds of disorders. Richard Linkater's seminal indie film Slacker may contain one of the most spot-on portrayals (video below as well) of the conspiracy theorist–a fellow who hasn't much better to do and who is also under the very mistaken impression that the rest of the world cares to hear the latest ingenious theory. He's also a guy who, when it comes down to it, would probably do less theorizing if the blonde former classmate he accosted with Ruby and Oswald theories would actually sleep with him. A chicken and egg dilemma hatches: is he into this because he can't get laid, or can he not get laid because he talks so much boring nonsense? As with most such questions it's unmistakably a cycle. This character appears in a film that perfectly sketched the contours of the post Cold War, postmodern generation. While Linklater's JFK-obsessed slacker was preoccupied with a past event, his problem can be seen as absolutely contemporary. It's hard to 9/11 Truth movement as apart from the age in which it arose–one where the most basic notions of truth assessment are widely misunderstood, or worse, completely unknown. The Truthers' basic argument–that planes didn't bring down the towers alone, but a far more elaborate schema was in place, eschews entirely the notion of parsimony. If Carl Sagan were here today, he might say as he did in his famous Cosmos commentary on religion, 'Why not save a step?' Big, fuel-filled airplanes crash into tall buildings. Fire burns hot. Why pile on all the extra? (Perhaps its time for an Occam Education Movement aimed at the classroom…) French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan thought of paranoia as the disorder that originally lead humans to seek knowledge. At its heart, he said, it is the need to ascribe order to a traumatic situation. In the process, the paranoiac imagines forces acting that aren't there, envisions actors acting that don't exist. But whether 9/11 Truth types are paranoiacs, products of postmodernism, or just a crowd of socially inept folks with too much time on their hands (or a combination of the three), the Bill Maher approach is the best approach. Asskicking may not be precisely the way, but a fervent and vociferous rebuke is desirable. The likening of their groans to cattle moos was more spot-on than I think Maher thought at the time. Once people start imagining their neighbors as enemies, their enemies as inconsequential, and the truth as whatever they want it to be, they may as well be off to the slaughterhouse.
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