Author Michael Shermer wrote a book that Amazon.com now says is out of print. The title is intriguing: Why People Believe Weird Things. Though Shermer deals with UFO's, allegations that NASA faked the moon landing, and the flat earth, reviewers have said his best chapter was about Holocaust Denial.
More recently and sadly, though, Shermer has ceased to be a skeptic. Last time I checked, Shermer was still touting the weirdest of many 'weird things' --the official conspiracy of 911! It is as if when the numbers nine, one and one are mentioned switches are turned 'off' inside the brains of millions: skeptics become devout followers of officialdom; scientists subscribe to voodoo; hard-nose lawyers forget the meaning of 'probable cause'! These people, and Shermer the one-time skeptic, have this much in common: they are victims of trauma and official blackmail! In a phrase: millions 'believe' the official conspiracy for the same reason Christians believe the scriptures: there is hell to pay if they don't!
The Official Conspiracy Theory is Weird
It is weird and completely unbelievable on its face, unsupported by physics and happenstance. The only explanation is that Shermer fell for it because it was official. Perhaps Shermer succumbed to the blackmail that was put on all of us! Perhaps the official conspiracy theory just made him 'feel good about himself' just as Ronald Reagan's 'economic policies' made Republicans feel good about being greedy, untruthful and self-absorbed. Indeed, it was at the GOP national convention in Houston in the earlly 90s that a Republican was recorded swooning of Reagan: "He made us feel good about ourselves!" But republicans ought never to feel good about themselves. And we have a responsibility to make sure they never do!
A mixed bag, Shermer managed to explore dark psychological reasons that people adhere to claptrap: prejudice. Holocaust Deniers are comparatively easy to spot. David Irving, a British Holocaust denier, sued American professor Deborah Lipstadt and her British publisher, Penguin Books, for libel in a 2000 London trial that made headlines around the world. A reading of the transcript of the court proceedings is clear enough it would seem: Irving was completely discredited.
Irving's long running campaign to exonerate Hitler and the Nazi regime consisted of fabrications, misrepresentations of fact, convenient omissions of evidence, and a consistent and convenient pattern of discounting as liars any eyewitness to any atrocity associated with the Holocaust. I predict that apologists for George W. Bush and the GOP as a whole will continue to wage a similar campaign of lies and propaganda on behalf of the utterly failed and wrong GOP!
Allow me to add a personal note. I have spoken in depth with a survivor of Auschwitz. There is no room to doubt this moving, personal history confirmed as it is by reams of documentary evidence, available independently of my source and in no way influenced by it.
What is conveniently forgotten is that Hitler's theory about Jews was, likewise, 'official'. The conclusion is inescapable: like Hitler's 'theory' re: the Jews of Europe, the official version of 911 is still widely believed because it makes people feel good about being prejudiced against Muslims. It makes people 'feel good' about being ignorant and/or stupid. Like Hitler's racial claptrap and GOP economic crap, the official theory of 911 makes people feel good about being rich and self-absorbed.
'Terrorists' just hate us, it is believed, because we are 'free'. Are we? Are we free when we are lied to? Are we free when we are so easily manipulated into 'believing' a load of clap trap for which there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever? Are we free when we are clearly trained not to question authority? Are we free when lies become the basis for foreign and domestic policies? Are we free when as a result of right wing policy just one percent of the U.S. populations owns more than the rest of us combined? No!
We are not free until we accept responsibility for our own beliefs!
There is, for example, absolutely no credible or verifiable evidence to support any part of the official conspiracy theory of 911. It is not my purpose here to repeat the numerous refutations of every part of the official theory. It has been thoroughly refuted and debunked and ridiculed and only idiots have not gotten the message: no part of it is true, no part of it is supported by either fact, logic, or admissible evidence. It is thoroughly refuted.
Most recently the very existence of the alleged flights had been debunked with the government's own data! There is no wreckage traceable to Flights 93 or 77; the government's own data --BTS --indicates that Flights 11 and 77 had been mothballed! There was no wreckage traceable to any airliner found at the Pentagon. No hijackers appeared on the official autopsy report of Pentagon victims --the only official shred of evidence relative to the Pentagon. There were no airline passengers or 'hijackers' buried at Arlington National Cemetery. There is absolutely nothing to support anything said by Bush, the 911 Report or the many media minions who parroted this outrageous and absurd conspiracy theory.
Yet --it is believed but only because it was 'official' and espoused by a sitting 'President'. But it was a 'president' who stole his office. We believed it because we were blackmailed not because it was either true or support by facts. Bush's 'warning' was an overt threat! We were told that 'outrageous conspiracy theories' would not be tolerated! We were told that anyone daring to question the official conspiracy theory was a traitor, was un-American, or, less belligerently, they were just stupid!
It was the common 'argument from authority' fallacy turned into a decree. Anyone daring to question the Bush version of events was called a 'traitor'. Bush himself said: “If you are not with us you are for the terrorists” --a fallacy and a threat! Skepticism was made a crime by decree. This is --in fact --a defining characteristic of the police state.
As the trial of David Irving makes abundantly clear: people are prepared to believe anything that makes them "feel good about themselves," and the illogic that this leads to is not confined to the poorly educated. Consider the following from a distinguished economist, Milton Friedman, who became the "conservative's" intellectual when that movement was desperately in need of one:
The 1980s have been no kinder to the earlier Keynesian models. In the U.S., inflation was brought down drastically, accompanied by a temporary increase in unemployment to a peak of nearly 11 percent—-a short-term reaction to unanticipated disinflation along Phillips curve lines.Has Friedman forgotten that Reagan's policies were not premised on Keynesian principles? Moreover, Keynesian economics worked just fine for Kennedy and Carter when job and economic growth is clearly documented to have exceeded the same figures under Reagan, Bush and Bush. The truth is that any Democratic president since World War II has presided over greater growth of both GDP and jobs than has any Republican president! There must be a psychological explanation for the fact that millions will look at the documented statistics and refuse to believe them.
The rising unemployment rate throughout the 1980's is a good example. It is similarly documented at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is puzzling to me that an esteemed economist would cite this as evidence refuting the Keynesian model. That job creation fell and unemployment rose during the Reagan years does not indict Keynes--but Friedman.
Reagan's policies were not based upon the Keynesian model; they were based rather on Friedman himself and Arthur Laffer of "trickle down" fame. It was Laffer who, legend has it, drew a curve on a napkin and called it 'economics'. It was, rather, a convenient but plausible rationalization for the GOPs desire to enrich its base with tax cuts, a payoff for their support. It was not only the nation's tax revenues which paid them --it was the jobs and futures of everyone else not benefiting.
In fact, unemployment began to rise almost immediately upon Reagan's tax cut--not a "Keynesian" expenditure aimed at stimulating the economy but, rather, a "Laffer-curve tax-cut" premised upon the discredited notion that by cutting taxes for the upper classes, the wealth would "trickle down." It never has but GOP-types would feel good about it! It was intended to make GOP-types feel good about being greedy and dishonest with themselves. Friedman's passage glosses over the realities of that period:
It is not merely that Friedman cites the 80's as an indictment of the wrong economists; it is his off-hand characterization as "temporary" the unemployment rate of some 11 percent that he calls a peak. Unemployment was high throughout the Reagan administration as was homelessness. In fact, half of the total number of jobs created under Reagan were in the public sector. Otherwise, his record--poor compared to any Democratic president and especially those who practiced Keynesian economics--would have been even worse. Finally, I submit to Mr. Friedman that a diminishing inflation rate is of similarly diminishing interest to someone who doesn't have a job.
- First, Laffer's supply-side ideas are premised upon the idea that tax revenues at various tax rates may be graphed as a "curve." At some point on that curve, a lower tax rate may actually increase tax revenues. The problem with that is simply this: no one knows what that point is. The curve--on paper--is theoretical and depends on how you draw the curve. What, in fact, happened is that Reagan ran up huge deficits and tripled the national debt by budgeting monies that the theoretical curve had predicted but which never materialized. I hardly call this "conservative." The Bush budget has done the same thing.
- Secondly, Laffer's tax curve was cited to justify supply-side economics--a goose that never laid the golden egg. It laid an 'egg' but only in the 'Vaudeville/Show biz' sense of the temr. It was Reagan and the supply-siders who laid an egg and it was not golden. As with the projected increased tax revenues, the new jobs that were to be the mechanism by which wealth would trickle down just did not happen. Rather --the reverse! Jobs declined and Reagan's administration is forever associated with a depression of some two years.
- Finally, even if the tax base had increased, it does not follow from that wealth would in any way be redistributed downward; the public record clearly shows that it did not. One does not need an MBA or a PhD in economics in order to understand Census Bureau Statistics which clearly indicate that throughout the Reagan years, the upper 20 percent of income earners grew richer by a yearly average of some 20% while the lower 20 percent lost wealth at a similar rate. Friedman makes absolutely no mention of any of those facts in his paper on John Maynard Keynes. Several issues not addressed by Laffer's curve include how much wealth trickled, to whom, how, and when? The questions are moot, however. Nothing trickled down.
How are we to account for the fact that Republicans still adhere to a policy that even a cursory reading of real world stats thoroughly discredits? Shermer posits that false beliefs are based on prejudice, but that just puts a label on it; it does not explain prejudice itself. More to the point, I think, is a common refrain heard among preppies throughout the Reagan years: He (Reagan) made us feel good about ourselves. The same could have been said of Hitler who is indicted by his own words: "Against the Jews I fought open-eyed and in view of the whole world...I made it plain that they, this parasitic vermin in Europe, will be finally exterminated."
Thanks to Herr Hitler, millions began to 'feel better' about being bigots, psychopaths, i.e. Nazis and/or right wingers! Thanks to Ronald Reagan millions began to 'feel better' about being bigots, self-absorbed elites, and psychopaths! Under Hitler, millions felt felt better about themselves because they could blame Jews for their miserable, desperate lives in pre-war Germany. Under Reagan, millions felt better about living in suburbs that destroy the spirit of urban life, deplete the inner cities of revenues and consign all but the very, very rich to poor and declining schools and educational opportunities. Reagan made them feel good! He jerked off the right wing and screwed everyone else!
Bush and Perry have more recently jerked-off Texas. Millions of Texans clearly feel good enough about their state that they re-elected Bush Jr's successor --Rick Perry. Millions of Texans got hooked on the jerks who jerked them. As a result, Texas now trails the nation in high school graduations even as corporate owned prisons swell to over-flowing! But millions in Texas feel good about it! The corporate prisons are located where their presence is not obvious. The rich can pretend they don't exist. Likewise, the ultra-posh neighborhoods where the increasingly rich elite are housed are hidden away among pines, behind the moats, behind the security guards' little houses, behind the walls, the trees, and, symbolically, the 'bushes'. Under Bush/Perry, they could escape responsibility for the hell-hole Texas has become. They could escape a real world. They need never see it and Texas need never see them!
Hitler told the German people, in effect, you no longer have to be responsible for your own idiocy, your own prejudices! That message was repeated by Herrs Reagan, Bush and Bush and the entire GOP. In fact, there are no excuses for believing a lie and no reason to believe that good will come of it. It was Jacob Bronowski, a logical positivist, a scientist, a philosopher, who said: 'Behave in such a way that what is true may be verified to be so!” It was Jean-Paul Sartre, an existentialist, who said: "A man is nothing else but what he makes of himself!" It was Bertolt Brecht who said: "A man who does not know the truth is just an idiot but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook!" And it was a fashion photographer, Richard Avedon, who said: "you cannot expect another man to carry your shit!" He was right and in my opinion all of us have carried the GOP/right wing shit for too long now! Enough is enough!