Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Holocaust and 9/11 Deniers

I faced an uncomfortable juxtaposition within myself tonight at a debate on the War on Terror. After an interesting evening of "mainstream" discussion on the Country's response to 9/11 a questioner alluded to the "growing" understanding that 9/11 (here I'm paraphrasing) "may not have happened as we are let to understand." A couple lonely fellow spectators clapped loudly after this question was asked in the way that zealots usually expose themselves. One of the debaters then pointed-out, and very briefly dismissed, what the question was hinting at: that 9/11 was not part of an Al Qaeda plot but orchestrated by the Bush Administration.

After the debate concluded I couldn't help but thinking of how amazingly and totally wrong this idea is, but also how it is similar to other amazingly and totally wrong ideas, such as that Jews actually wrote the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that Bill Clinton ordered extra-judicial killings while governor of Arkansas, and, yes, that the Holocaust never happened.

Now, Holocaust denial is a much bigger example of will-over-reality than believing George Bush ordered planes to fly into the World Trade Center, but they seem to me to be closely connected. Both involve a denial of information that is not debated as to its veracity (such as with, for example, whether tax cuts increase economic growth, or whether global warming will cause mass starvation) but is undeniable without a conspiracy theory so devious as to be unfalsifiable. There simply is overwhelming evidence on each issue (1) that millions of Jews were exterminated in Central and Eastern Europe in WWII, and (2) that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by roughly 19 foreign men who were closely connected with Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan, who carried out the attacks with no coordination with the U.S. government, and whose leader admitted to all of this on videotape. Unfalsifiable conspiracy theories can get around all of this, but if that's the case I've got one proving my real name is Robert Maxwell.

This really wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for polls demonstrating that large minorities of Americans believe this kind of thing. The person who asked the question at the debate tonight looked like a clever-looking professional, except that he exposed himself to be part of the Maoist-fringe of political discourse. I really don't have a solution to this lack of critical thinking (or is it too much critical thinking?) except to say one's two cents when reality fails to smack those who should know better in the face.

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