The link between UFOs and 9/11: Conspiracy Theories, pseudo-science and the need to believe. January 20, 2007Posted by WorldbyStorm in 9/11, Culture, Pseudo-Science, Television Shows, Terrorism, United States, US Media, US Politics.
Following recent threads on Politics.ie it’s struck me that in a way the conspiracy theory has managed to slide effortlessly into the spot held by UFO’s throughout the 1990s. Actually it goes a bit deeper than that. The two are so closely entwined that while not entirely the same they remain very very similar indeed.Now, first off I have to declare yet again my love of and absolute lack of belief in all things pseudoscientific. I’ve already referenced some of the more interesting pseudoscientific beliefs but they’re dying in the face of different belief systems.
I spent the 1990s hugely entertained by the X-Files (although most of the monster and horror episodes were fairly silly), Dark Skies (a lost classic – sort of) and various other cheap knock offs. The idea that there was a global conspiracy to suppress information about contact with aliens is on the one hand extremely intriguing. On the other. let’s be honest here, it’s a pile of rubbish. Those sort of secrets simply couldn’t be kept across decades let alone over half a century.
But the concept of the government as this arbiter between the uncanny and the mundane, that in some ways it was corrupted has of course fueled probably hundreds of thousands of earnest student theses since the time of Watergate (leaving out the uncanny bit needless to say). And what could be more corrupted than human alien hybrid experimentation? Overseen by the government. A government that would stop at nothing to implement it’s own New World Order. That for the selfish motivation of it’s members (politicians and civil servants) would seek to create deals with forces that sought to carry out unspeakable acts upon the human race.
Actually, back in the day, and initially, the X-Files really annoyed me. No, it wasn’t the Canadian locations pretending to be the US (series 2 onwards if I recall correctly), or the pathos of the Sully Mulder on-off relationship (even the names sound dated at this remove). But instead it was the conspiracies themselves. In a way I thought at the time, and even argued with people about it, that it fed into an anti-statist, militia type mentality. I think the truth is that it reflected that mentality rather than engendering it. On the other hand it also placed the mythos of the Greys front and centre in our culture.
These days I’m somewhat more relaxed about such things. And indeed it’s telling that the more recent incarnations of X-Files wannabe’s, such as the truly execrable Threshold, have portrayed a remarkably different relationship between the US government and those organisations attempting to combat alien incursions (indeed there’s an argument that TV such as 24 – and probably West Wing – has in some respects rehabilitated the idea of US President as noble character, consider the life of David Palmer or Jed Bartlett).
But the idea took root, or extended, a sort of rightist alienation from the state in the early 1990s merging with leftist disaffection from the military industrial complex towards the latter part of that decade and broadening again under Bush in a perfect storm of disbelief at everything we’re told. Trust no one. Fight the future. What’s not to like?
And it’s remarkably telling that sighting of UFOs have declined precipitously since the 1990s. An interesting article in the Guardian from 2005 talks of a massive drop in sightings and the closure of UFO related magazines and groups . Why wouldn’t they? The reality of an Al-Queda willing to bomb randomly and with no regard for civilian casualties is at least as chilling as the idea that the Greys are going to alight on your roof and using their advanced technological prowess (otherwise known as magic) somehow dope you and carry you bodily through walls and ceilings to their spaceship where they will bypass all electronic and non-invasive medical examination methods in favour of curiously shaped probes.
But as one belief system crashes another rises from it’s ashes phoenix-like to reclaim that particular territory of the human psyche.
And what have we got instead? A broad confluence of beliefs that centre on the idea that 9/11 was in some sense a great lie, a sort of souped up border incident for the early 21st century where either the US military industrial complex, or the neo-cons, or the Zionist lobby, or whoever – delete as applicable – decided that a surprise attack on the US would be the perfect cover or excuse to sell more arms, invade Iraq, support Israel or whatever.
Of course logically one could ask as per any of those end goals, surely lesser means would have resulted in similar ends? But, hold on, it’s not so simple. It’s not that the planes were necessarily not hijacked, according to the disbelievers, although they think they probably weren’t. It’s that charges were placed in the WTC in order to collapse it (Incidentally, I once worked in a sneakers store in the basement shopping plaza under the WTC, way back when in 1989. The idea that charges could be placed in the towers themselves, knowing the security that was in place at that time – even prior to the early 1990s bombing – is simply laughable. The idea that it could have been done unnoticed utterly so).
Call me small minded and unimaginative. But for my money the images of the aircraft hitting the towers were quite sufficient. I didn’t think at that point in time that they’d fall, but then I didn’t think much of anything at all on September 11. If they hadn’t fallen, if the flames had simply consumed the floors above the impact sites I think that alone would have been a remarkable and chilling image. Perhaps more so, with the smouldering wreckage still barely standing, than the great physical and conceptual abyss that was Ground Zero.
And here’s the thing. In a way the suspension of critical faculties involved in 9/11 conspiracy theories is even greater than that with UFOs. After all, it’s one thing to say “I saw a shining light above Old Man Potters Barn”, but it’s a completely different class of self-delusion to say “I, and thousands of others on the spot, saw two aircraft impact the Twin Towers in rapid succession but I don’t believe that’s what brought the buildings down, actually it was shaped charges placed throughout the two buildings by the US military industrial complex/the neo-cons/the Zionist lobby”.
The beauty of this is that the arguments can rage beyond the purview of anything so dull as expert opinion. The logical thought that if the collapse of the Twin Towers is so damn odd why aren’t engineers across the world up in arms about it is met by the proposition that only some are in on the truth, or the cover-up is global (and for those who are really interested in such things the debates about whether the towers fell at freefall or not is a good place to start – I commend you to the ever excellent James Randi’s site).
But let’s not get too exercised about this (although somehow there is something a lot more distasteful about the sort of almost prurient self-regard of those who propound these ‘theories’ as against those who were proponents of UFOlogy, at least to my mind). Some people want to believe that? Let them. It’s the times we live in. In some ways, bizarrely, perhaps for some people it’s more comforting to think that the US would do this than networks of Islamists. Perhaps it’s always more comforting to engage in a sort of mental displacement activity where one continually slides away from engagement with the grim reality behind an event in favour of a more esoteric explanation.
Lights in the skies? UFO’s rather than airliners. Missing time? Greys about their unfathomable business rather than tiredness or boredom. WTC collapses? A malign US government that most of the time at least does what one expects rather than a tiny tiny group of individuals willing to wreak mass destruction for politico-religious ends which most of us have little understanding of or interest in.
Now, tell me again which of these is really scary.