A few days ago there was a great show on the BBC (it's still on iplayer if you want to catch it) called 9/11 Conspiracy Roadtrip, in which a B-list comedian took a bunch of 9/11 truthers (all British) to America and tested their beliefs by having them meet actual experts and people who'd been there. It was really interesting, and the people they chose to take with them ran the gamut from completely obsessed it-was-the-illuminati (I wish I was joking) to reasonable well-okay-but-what-about-this.
Each member of the team have to give their main objection to the official 9/11 story and the comedian would find facts and experts to refute it. It was done quite well, although the comedian really got up my nose. He seemed to be taking their questions really personally and instead of just presenting the facts and leaving it up to them to hang themselves with stupidity on camera, would directly argue and row with them over stupid issues. It's a sad show when the presenter looks more of a loser than some of the contesters (in particular, the die-hard bearded bloke who was still capable of questioning his beliefs, and the reasonable black nurse who seemed to have realised how stupid this all was after the first expert talked to them).
Anyway, the end result was that two came off as complete morons (particularly illuminati lady) one came off as undecided (although I read a post from her later on the 9/11 truther boards and she hadn't been convinced at all so hey, bad editing) and the two sane ones (bearded bloke and black nurse) realised how stupid this was and thanked the crew for having just sat down and explained it. I have a lot of respect for bearded bloke, who was a real 9/11 truther die-hard, but when presented with the evidence considered it and was willing to change his position. It's a brave thing to do and if I ever meet the guy I'll give him epic kudos.
Anyway it got me thinking too. I have some sympathy for Illuminati lady, she was in New York during 9/11 and it clearly shaped a lot of her life since. She's made the truther movement the core of her life and having the abandon it would be horrible. The closest comparison I could come up with is if tomorrow someone came up with utter, complete and incontestible evidence that the Holocaust never happened. I put this on the same level of unlikeliness as the sun turning blue tomorrow, but if it did happen, my life would be pretty wrecked. A lot of what I've worked on in the last few years would be rendered useless and it would be very hard to recover from that. I can understand why someone would want to deny the evidence and carry on believing in what gives meaning to their lives. That's the very concept of religion, after all.
Also, I started wondering about why I believe the official story of 9/11, just in case I meet some truthers myself. The main argument I came up with is that in a way I'm studying a real life conspiracy theory. Not in the whole 'holohoax' garbage, but that when the Holocaust was actually happening, it was a government conspiracy. The nazis, not being total idiots, realised it would be pretty bad PR and tried to cover up their murder of Jewish people and various others as best they could.
And believe me, they had all the means at their command. The controlled the media, which was far more restricted than nowadays (no internet, no tv, not much telephone), it was a state of war (in which people disappearing can be explained and most people have enough to worry about as it is), they were targetting minorities they'd run a very successful propaganda campaign against, the actual visible effects of the conspiracy (other than people disappearing) was taking place in the middle of complete nowhere (seriously, try and get to Belzec or Treblinka or Sobibor, even now), and finally, they ruled with an iron fist and anyone dessiminating information would be very likely to disappear as well.
And the result?
One of the biggest failures in history.
The Holocaust turned out to be impossible to cover up. Too many people were involved, too many people were disappearing, and by the time concrete information reached the allies and made it out on the BBC, let's face it, most people knew. Even in the ghettos, where the nazis were working the hardest to keep information away from the people there, they had a pretty good idea of what was happening when people were 'sent East'. And in the Reich itself, if you went up to someone in the street and told them 'Hey, you know how the Nazis are getting rid of the Jews? Well, they're being gassed in Poland.' I'd bet the person wouldn't be surprised. He'd probably tell you to shut up right quick before the gestapo heard you, but still. People might not have had all the facts, but they could make a pretty accurate guess. This is becoming especially clear now, when the 'ordinary Germans' are now very old and more willing to discuss what went on, with the protective veil of 60+ years behind them.
Now, it is possible for conspiracies to work. The main example was the British intelligence coup of Ultra (the decoding of the Enigma messages in WW2), which remained a secret until the files were revealed the 1970s. I think in fact, that Ultra is the text-book example of what a conspiracy needs to work:
1- It has to involve as few people as possible.
2 - These people have to have as little incentive as possible to reveal the conspiracy.
3- If possible, these people have to have a disincentive to reveal the conspiracy.
Ultra involved a few thousand people, most of whom had only bits and pieces of information. It was vitally important to the war effort and everyone knew it. Finally, if anyone had revealed it, they would have been in a lot of trouble if they were still in the UK, and the only way to profit from it would be to take it to the Germans, something which would be very difficult and was guarded against by careful background checks on those in Ultra.
9/11 Truthers have none of these. If their theories are to be believed, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people would have to have been in on the conspiracy. They have no disincentive against revealing the conspiracy, in fact they have in incentive. Can you imagine what would happen if someone went public with clear and obvious evidence that 9/11 was in inside job? Fame, fortune, book deal, you name it.
Another successful conspiracy which it can be compared to is the Manhatten project. Again, it fulfilled the three rules above. Very few people, no incentive, a disincentive (you'd get locked up if you breathed a word of it to anyone). However, when the Nuclear Bombs were used, the project was revealed. It couldn't not be. It was too obvious. Ultra remained a secret because it was part of an espionage project that few people knew about. It operated in shadows, affected shadows and the results (more dead U-boats, less dead merchant shipping) were not obvious to the average layperson. The Manhatten project's result were obvious, and if 9/11 had been a conspiracy, it would have been too.
So, basically, a long way of saying that you can't cover up something this big, particularly not in this day and age. Didn't work in 1944, definitely can't work now. I suppose this is why people turn to the illuminati explanation, you have to rewire the world to make it make sense.