Thursday, August 10, 2006

The world as conspiracy

The first conspiracy theories about the fall of the Twin Towers came, as might be expected, from abroad.

The Frenchman Thierry Meyssan's best-selling L'Effroyable Imposture, or "The Horrifying Fraud," suggested that the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were planned and executed by US government officials as part of a plot to justify military intervention in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

In Muslim countries it is still widely held that the airplane highjackings were planned and executed by Israel's Mossad secret service, and that thousands of Jews were pre-warned not to go to work in the towers on the day of the attacks.

Now it seems homegrown 9/11 conspiracy theories have taken hold in America.

Nothing new about any of this. Conspiracy theories spring up in the wake every major news event -- the assassination of JFK, the Apollo moon landings, the death of Princess Diana. Our predilection for conspiracies probably accounts for the fantastic popularity of The Da Vinci Code and a host of other best-selling books over the years touting everything from worlds in collision to alien abductions. We love to imagine that behind the course of extraordinary events there is a deeper hidden plot.

And, of course, from the dawn of time, the most prevalent conspiracy theory of all is that behind the exceptional events in each of our otherwise unexceptional lives -- an accident, a disease, a stroke of luck, a child that drowns, a child saved from drowning, a crop that flourishes, a crop that fails -- there is a controlling force or power that makes what might otherwise seems capricious or frivolous part of a grander, more purposeful plan.