Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Effortless Belief

A friend of mine is a believer that the attacks on the World Trade Center in September of 2001 were perpetrated by the United States government. While members of the "9/11 Truth Movement" in general tend to worry me with their anger/contempt towards unbelievers, this friend of mine is a smart, funny and genuinely nice guy, whose real concern is that the government of the United States has become subverted by a group of power-hungry crazies who think nothing of the indescriminate slaughter of thousands of people in the pursuit of securing their own control over things.

I, for my part, don't believe that the evidence is really there. But then again, I haven't made the effort to really pick apart the clues that people point to. I've watched a couple of documentaries, and checked out people's videos and done a limited amount of reading. I suspect, however, that the experts on both sides of the issue could keep me very busy looking at the facts for a very long time. And I have to go to work in the morning, on top of it.

I'm going to admit that I started from a position that the official line, while not 100% accurate (since complete honesty would require the rolling of heads in high places, and be an admission of weakness) is, ahem, close enough for government work. And I'm going to also admit that I do have some resistance to believing the whole "September 11th was an inside job," line. I, and I suspect that I'm not alone in this, have an aversion to being murdered. So it makes little sense to live in a nation where the government is controlled by people who would casually use mass murder as a political tool. Therefore, as soon as I accept that September 11th was the work of the United States Government, I have a fair amount of work on my hands. Moving to a different country is no small task. Outside of the logistical challenges of packing up my entire life and moving it somewhere else, determining just where that somewhere else should be isn't going to be easy. After all, it would do me little good to flee a murderous cabal in the United States, only to wind up someplace with its own bunch of killer bureaucrats.

This is not to say that I've joined the ranks of the pseudo-skeptics - people whose alleged "skepticism" actually cloaks a steadfast refusal to believe anything that might shake their worldview - because I'm afraid of a little work. After all, I've wanted to live abroad for some time now, and am likely going to take a shot at it, as soon as a reasonable opportunity presents itself. But I'd like to proceed at a more leisurely pace than someone fleeing for their life. But in the meantime, deciding that I'm not being placed in an unacceptable position by my own government lowers my workload.

I bring all of this up, because it's something that I've started to notice in the world around me - that sometimes, you can point to people who claim to believe things that seem more than a little suspect, and it turns out that they've taken the path of least work, if not necessarily the path of least resistance. It has been speculated that Mitt Romney was given a boost in the polls in Michigan because John McCain came out and told people that many auto industry jobs were gone for good, and people were going to have to get used to the idea of job retraining and career changes. Despite the fact that smart money says that McCain is right on the mark, people credit Romney's pledge to somehow revive the Detroit auto industry with winning him the state. McCain - "you're going to have to buckle down and train for a new career" - versus Romney - "the Federal government will bring your old jobs back to you, with no effort on your part outside of voting for me." Some people have cast Romney's message as more hopeful (as things utterly disconnected from harsh realities can usually be), but I also think that the fact that it calls for little to no sacrifice on the part of voters had something to do with it.

Bob Sullivan touched on a similar point when stumping for his new book ("Gotcha Capitalism") on NPR. When Intercontinental Hotels offered Up-Front pricing, with no hidden fees, the public went with those hotels that advertised lower prices - and then gouged them by tacking a host of little fees and charges, despite the fact that Intercontinental was responding to public discontent over the constant hidden fees. But faced with a choice of researching a price that seemed too good to be true, or taking it and crossing their fingers, people chose to take the bait and switch, even though they surely suspected it was just that. It's the same everywhere. Businesses jack up the fees and hidden costs because they understand that it's more profitable - since even when they're caught lying about their prices, people are seldom willing to do the work (or take the hit) to make a change.

This isn't to say that all alleged conviction hides a core of laziness - or that people are being intentionally work-adverse. But our national tendency to seek the "solutions" that offer the least work, even if they're going to have a larger cost later on, is going to come back and bite us eventually. Consider the economic package that Congress and the President are working on. The tens of billions of dollars that they're talking about spending have to come from somewhere. And that somewhere is likely going to be foreign banks. One day those dollars are going to have to go back - with interest. No problem, says the White House. There's no need to tolerate lower levels of service or higher taxes - some future spectacular economic growth with automagically generate enough of a surplus for a long enough time to get us out of debt. No work required.


ben said...

If I had to decide, right now, I'd say that Cheney and his friends (not necessarily the government) were involved in 9/11...

But, since I don't need to decided right now, I'm firmly in the camp of "the government is hiding a ton of information citing national security" and, until they answer some basic questions I don't think there's a reason in the world to believe anything they say.

This would be like Charles Manson claiming national security during his trial and only answering questions he felt like.

Black Flag ops have a pretty long history in our government (Gulf of Tonken being the most well known). So - I wouldn't put it past them. And they're pretty far from building a convincing explanation that doesn't involve them.

Thomas Paine said...

On one level, I have no difficulty in believing Cheney, Rumsfeld et al could have had some involvement in 9/11. It certainly would not be their morals or other scruples that would prevent them from doing so, in any case.

What I do find hard to believe, from any of the conspiracy versions I have seen, is that they would have been anywhere near to having the competence to pull off such a deal. I have not seen anything that suggests they could organize a piss-up in a brewery, let alone pull off something like this, that would have so many people in in the scam, without some major element going tits up and with nobody leaking anything.

Now, maybe I could see them deliberately ignoring intelligence and letting something like this happen to make a good excuse for war, but that would be about the most I could see them pulling off.