"People want to believe a simple version, a radically simplified, actually imbecilic version of complex and largely incomprehensible reality."We probably all know somebody who revels in conspiracy theories. Someone who isn't happy unless they're deconstructing a largely well documented and relatively recent historical event and blaming it all on Them.William Gibson
The identity of Them does vary, but most of the time it is drawn to the strange attractor of the US Government or perhaps a shadowy cabal of super-rich multinational-owning American neo-cons. For some reason They have a lot of time on their hands and spend most of it trying to confuse the issue on a global scale. But despite their near limitless resources and frightening ruthlessness, they always seem to get caught out by a weirdo living in his mum's basement (let's face it, they're usually male). A weirdo who, despite the fact that he nearly has a panic attack when he tries to talk to the girl who works in the corner shop, seems to be capable of toppling governments.
In his head at least.
Why do I think these conspiracies are unlikely? If Basement Weirdo is right, perhaps I'm just being closed-minded and accepting the line fed to me by Them...
I'm not though. If They actually exist then about the only thing I think They are capable of doing is feeding me a line. A government or any similar organisation, shadowy or not, is just a bureaucracy, and anyone who's worked in a bureaucracy will know that they're 99% incompetent. I just don't think that US Government would have the co-ordination or cojones to have secretly masterminded 9/11. Bear in mind that this was a Government with a President who less than two years earlier, when asked who the Pakistani leader was, gave the answer:
"General. I can name the general. General."
In many ways governments are just like spammers. They can spread misinformation and lies because that costs nothing, but are incapable of doing anything that requires an effort. Belief in conspiracy theories of this kind is the equivalent of believing that online pharmacies are putting something in the water to cause impotence in order to sell more viagra.
So why are these crackpot theories so attractive to some people? I think it's because a belief in Them is a more attractive prospect than attempting to understand, say, the motivation of Al-Qaeda. The shadowy cabal of men in suits meeting in a darkened boardroom and sending their minions to bump off an investigative journalist in an underground car park is familiar from countless TV shows and movies, in some ways it's a far more comforting idea than the thought that someone somewhere in the Middle East wants to kill you because you don't believe in their god.
And like any addiction, once you've started, it's very difficult to stop. Far easier to believe that They faked the Moon landings than to get your head round the incredible technological achievement of the Apollo program.
And then it starts getting silly and you end up with the idea that Morrissey somehow knew that Princess Diana was going to die years in advance of the event.
In my opinion there are far more interesting things to think about.