Stateside

Conspiracies

US blogger Jeff Jarvis has a go at media who he thinks are giving credibility to September 11 conspiracy theorists, including the Guardian over the Michael Meacher column.

There have always been conspiracy crackpots; nothing new there. They now have a new outlet in the Internet; saves them the cost of paper, crayons, and postage.
But what’s new here is that once-respectable media outlets are also giving them ink.
And don’t tell me that this is a matter of opinions and free speech. Crap.
I’ve worked in plenty of newspapers and had plenty of crazies walk in with insane theories about conspiracies and we did exactly what we should have done: We ignored them.

I tend to agree with Jeff on this (although I do wish he would stop those generalising comments about ‘Europeans’), but in the case of the Guardian I am not so sure.

Yes, in general there is a danger that publishing gives credibility to nonsense. However Michael Meacher is not some nutter who walked into Farringdon Road off the street. He may be lots of things but he is not a militiaman ranting on about new world order UN black helicopters abducting Texans. Until a few months ago he was a member of our government and he is a widely known Labour politician. He was writing not about some fringe matter but about the big issue of the day.

Of course his article was total nonsense (the blog Secular Blasphemy has gone to the trouble of fisking Meacher’s piece) but I am not sure that the Guardian are endorsing his views by publishing them. It is depressing however to read the letters page today with readers writing in broad agreement with Meacher.

Whatever the motives of the person who decided it was worth publishing Meacher’s ‘theories’ the undeniable result of the article appearing is that we have been given some valuable insight into the mindset of the MP and the article will surely have an impact on his credibility.

In a nutshell – don’t we have a right to know when senior politicians reveal themselves to be conspiracy theorists?

On a broader point – I remember a day or two after the attacks on the World Trade Center talking to an American friend who said that many people remained in denial about the event. The attack just seemed too fantastical – how could pen-knife wielding religious fanatics bring about such carnage? How could it be so apparently easy to attack the Pentagon?

Denial is a phrase Americans like to use a lot but it does seem rather appropriate for people who are trying to convince themselves that there aren’t Islamic terrorists in the world capable of breaching the defences of advanced western democracies.

Politics and life in general, would be far easier, especially for opponents of American hegemony, if it were the US government who were directly to blame and not a complex network of motivated killers who few in the western world appear to understand.

I’m wary of applying amateur psychology to politics but it is surely the case that the espousers of far-fetched conspiracies, convinced that they need to ‘open our eyes’, succeed only in giving us a window on their own insecurities.

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