Lack of common sense and distorted perception of reality serve as a tidy segue to Darren, another of my fellow students in American Government. I’ve mentioned him before, but I feel inspired to go more in-depth today. Darren might be the most interesting person in the whole class. He’s short and somewhat fat with a Santa beard, brings a briefcase with him to class. I disagree with a lot of what he says (he suggested lack of prayer in school and the absence of the Ten Commandments as contributing factors to the recent school shootings, for instance), but the first impression he gives is of an intelligent and reasonable guy. He has a bumper sticker affixed to his briefcase. “InfoWars.com,” it reads. Yesterday Justin, who sits behind Darren, asked him what Info Wars was. I don’t think Darren answered him, but I wish he had. I would have been interested to hear.
What is Info Wars? It’s a website run by Alex Jones. Who is Alex Jones? Well, he’s a radio host/author/filmmaker, but that’s an incomplete answer. Jones is a conspiracy theorist. No, allow me to correct myself: Jones is a Conspiracy Theorist. He’s been writing and talking on his internet radio show for years about an international cartel of Zionists who secretly run the world by controlling the banks and the media, but he’s gained notoriety recently as one of the leaders of the so-called 9/11 Truth Movement. Jones believes that the government is not telling us the truth about what happened on 9/11. Big shocker there. But he and his fellow Info Warriors(?) take skepticism of government to a whole different level, claiming that the United States government was directly responsible for the terrorist attacks on 9/11, that the tragedy was, as Alex Jones like to say, a “self-inflicted wound.”
Alex Jones is not alone. One of the most downloaded videos on the internet is a film entitled Loose Change, which alleges, among other things, that the planes which smashed into the World Trade Center were flown by remote control, that the towers collapsed due to a pre-arranged controlled demolition, that the Pentagon was not hit by a plane but by a missile, and that United Flight 93 never crashed at all but instead landed safely in Cleveland. Loose Change is a pseudo-documentary made by three ex-film students in their 20s with no relevant expertise, whose research methods are highly suspect, and whose assertions are overwhelmingly contradicted by the facts, but to conspiracy theorists it contains the irrefutable truth. Darren burns copies of Loose Change and passes them out like candy on Halloween. My first impression was obviously not entirely correct.
The punchline came yesterday, when Professor Ward brought up the possibility of someone doing a project related to Al Gore’s global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Darren didn’t say anything, but at the mention of An Inconvenient Truth he got this smug little smirk on his face, as if Al Gore’s pathetic little movie was just absolutely beneath him. He scoffs at a film that describes an observable environmental phenomenon that is confirmed by hundreds of qualified scientists all over the world, yet Loose Change, produced by a trio of immensely uninformed amateurs, claiming that the cell phone calls from hijacked passengers and the December 2001 video where Osama bin Laden claims responsibility for the attacks were both somehow faked, is gospel. My first impression was obviously way off.
Darren is still a likable guy. I’m sure if I knew him outside of school, we could get along fine. I’d probably find his conspiratorial leanings more amusing than anything else. If his life is so boring and unfulfilling that he needs to believe 9/11, global warming, and gun control are all part of a clandestine global plot to deprive America of its sovereignty and bring about the New World Order, more power to him. He’s a nut, but he has every right to be a nut. When I worked at Pilot there was a guy, a drifter who would come around a few times a year. He was in his 40s, always dressed shabbily in worn sweats and an old black overcoat, long hair pulled into a stringy ponytail. I gleaned from one conversation with him that his last name was Bridges. He had the inside dope on 9/11, too. It was an inside job, all right. “I feel sorry for those poor bastards on the planes and in those buildings,” he told me. “They were just extras.” As proof he pulled out a page he’d torn out of a magazine – he called it “a script.” It was a story from Newsweek or some similar publication and it dealt with the military somehow – I wish I could remember the specifics. Bridges had taken a red pen and arbitrarily circled various words out of context, forming phrases like “World War 3” or “next great enemy.” It was totally random and made absolutely no sense, but I smiled and nodded along. Bridges was a lunatic, but I liked him. I looked forward to his visits. How different the world must look to him.
I’m content to blame the government for all the horrible things we know they have done, and are still doing: genocide of the American Indians, wartime internment of undesirable ethic groups, putting thousands of troops in danger for an arbitrary war, exploiting the poor not only in this country but around the world. Concocting wild-eyed alternate explanations for 9/11 implicating the government seems not only preposterous, but completely redundant.
Not as scattershot as I thought it would be.