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Saturday, July 15, 2006 

McNally and Conspiracy Theories

Joel McNally is one of my favorite people of all time. Seriously. If I am home on a Sunday morning, I tune in to Mark Belling's TV show hoping, pleading, praying that McNally is on the panel. Why? Because the most insane crap comes out of this guy's mouth. First, it was that the 2004 election eve tire slashers were really voting rights heroes. Now, it's 9-11 conspiracies.

You'd have to be under a rock to not know about the Kevin Barrett, UW-Madison, 9-11 thing, so I won't go into the details. I just want to get into this column by McNally, cause it's a doozy. On to the madness...
If you don't believe at least a few wild-eyed government conspiracies, you're not paying attention.
Okay, right off the bat we get a protest bumper sticker slogan turned into an introduction. Things can only get better...
Anyone who believes "official explanations" of world events provided by the government gets stuck with having to swallow stuff like President John F. Kennedy being assassinated by a lone gunman using a single "magic bullet" that passed through the president to wound Texas Gov. John Connally in the back, chest, wrist and thigh before being recovered in pristine condition.
Obviously, McNally has not spent time on Prof. John McAdams' website or read Case Closed by Gerald Posner. I would suggest that he take the time, but I doubt it would do any good.

Then McNally hits us with this anecdote and stunning logic...
My wife Kit and I were in Madrid on Sept. 11, 2001. That night, a few hours after a hotel clerk told us terrorists were attacking all over the United States and that troops were in the streets restoring order, we went out to dinner with a young economist who worked for the Spanish government.

Our dinner companion gave us more accurate information based on the reports he had been receiving all afternoon. He described the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

He also told us the U.S. government had shot down a hijacked passenger plane that was headed for the White House.
Brace for the conclusion that he draws. It's a doozy...
Since everything else he told us that night turned out to be true, I have never been able to accept the popular mythology about the heroic passengers of Flight 93 rising up to give their lives to thwart the hijackers for the red, white and blue.
Let me get this straight. Some clerk who has been riding a desk at a hotel gives you some fuzzy info early in the day on 9-11. The clerk gets some details wrong. Then some dude with an econ degree later in the evening tells you a more accurate description about some of the events. He also claims that the U.S. shot down Flight 93, which had been speculated about on the news coverage but never confirmed. You now take anything that this man said as the Bible truth of the day's events.


Look, we all (hotel clerks included) didn't exactly have a handle on what was happening on 9-11. As the day progressed, everyone started to understand the basics of what happened. That's sort of what one would expect in a crisis situation. The news coverage wasn't helpful most of the time. A lot of them had a very WTF? manner about them, which was totally understandable. There were a lot of ideas, theories, and unconfirmed reports of things happening. I also heard that Flight 93 might have been shot down. I heard lots of rumors. McNally is simply believing what he wants to believe in this instance.

Okay, a guy working for a government gives you some credible information about what happened. You have an inclination to believe what he says concerning this topic. But your intellectual search for the truth should not stop there. Shouldn't you want to check this out? Perhaps you could examine the numerous passenger phone calls and the black box recording that corroborated the official explanation for what happened on the plane. Perhaps you could page through the 9-11 Commission Report. Perhaps you could even view the Spaniard economist's information with a shred of skepticism since, you know, he was an ocean away and not on the plane. Just a thought.

In theory, McNally is right... almost. You should be skeptical. However, you should not just be a skeptic for the sake of being a skeptic. You also have to ask questions, do some research, and draw logical conclusions based on weighing the evidence that you find. He only made it to Step 1. He's happy with his "the government lies, man" mantra and his disbelief that a group of ordinary people could do something extraordinary when the moment called for it. That's pretty closed minded.

Why are so many people so willing to buy into conspiracy theories? My theory (there's that word again) is that it makes them feel better in some way. Hear me out... Let's take the Kennedy assassination. President Kennedy was admired by many people and considered a great man. He was a young president with a cute family (immediate family only; Teddy doesn't count) that captured the hearts of a nation. And he was murdered in broad daylight in the middle of a major U.S. city. Who or what could bring this great man down? Surely, it must've been a shadowy cabal made up of the Mafia, the CIA, the FBI, anti-Castro rebels, the military industrial complex, LBJ, and probably you too. It must've been a group with immense power and influence. There's no other way that such a great man, the President of the United States, could've been killed by anything else than these great forces. It's a scary thought to think that one guy, one total loser, with a rifle could do such a thing. In fact, it's absolutely frightening. But I also think that, based on all of the reading that I have done, it's absolutely true.

I hate to use a line from a fantasy/sword&sorcery novel to explain, but, in this case it's apt. In Terry Goodkind's "Wizards First Rule", he gives us the Wizards first rule. People are stupid. They'll believe something either because they're afraid it's true, or, because they want it to be true.

It's easier, if you're disposed to hate an administration, because you believe they stole an election, than to believe that there are people in the world that hate this country so much, that they'd do this horrible thing. This also applies to those Americans who, for some twisted reason, believe we deserved this. A person, singular, is reasonable, for the most part. People, on the other hand, are stupid. Most are herd creatures, suseptable to mob mentality. Most don't have the will to stand against the many when they have a differing opinion. How's that for an opinion at 5:42 in the morning?

People, like McNally, also look for the explanation that they want, regardless of the evidence. He believes the absolute worst about this country and many of the people who live here. He can't fathom that the crew and passangers of Flight 93 could have acted bravely. That would be too hokey. I honestly feel bad for him.

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  • I'm Steve
  • From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
  • "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke
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