One of the perks of working in a library is that you get to see all the oddball crap that somehow manages to get through agents, editors, and publishers and still wind up on paper. This can range from the fairly mundane Ann Coulteresque baseless rants (like the gem I saw on the shelves the other day for the first time: “Women who make the world worse : and how their radical feminist assault is ruining our families, military, schools and sports.” Now there’s a page-turner), to the outright freaky (“Children of the matrix : how an interdimensional race has controlled the world for thousands of years– and still does.” I’m not making this up. ISBN 9780953881017).
The fact that this stuff gets published means there must be some sort of market for it, and the fact that the library owns it means either that people requested the title be added or one of our selectors noticed that it was getting sufficient notice in the press or the industry to warrant adding the book to the collection. I’m not sure who among our many customers reads this stuff, and I assure you that while we have our share of nutjobs in and out on a regular basis, I haven’t seen anyone capable of sitting down and reading a book who looks like they’re sufficiently off their rocker to believe this stuff. Which of course makes it even scarier: you can’t tell who they are!
Yesterday a fairly new book came across the desk that caught my eye: “Debunking 9/11 Myths” from the editors of Popular Mechanics. Intrigued, I read the blurb on the back.
Now, I’ve always known that there were some conspiracy theories around 9/11, but I never thought they got much beyond the sort of Pearl-Harbor-type theories: the idea that FDR knew that the Japanese were going to attack and so let it happen so that the U.S. would enter the war, so similarly that Bush knew that Al Qaeda was going to attack but let it happen so that he could let his buddies at Halliburton take over Iraq. The inevitable problem with these sorts of theories is that the government is so bloody incompetent and leaky that if they were the case, someone somewhere would have spilled his guts about it by now. I mean hell, they couldn’t even keep a hotel room break-in secret!
Which is why the level to which the 9/11 conspiracies has risen completely blows my mind. Apparently, there are people out there who sincerely believe (from the back cover):
- American air defenses were ordered to “stand down” on 9/11
- The south tower of the World Trade Center was struck by a military aircraft, not a commercial jet
- The World Trade Center buildings were professionally demolished
- A missile or miltary jet– not a Boeing 757– struck the Pentagon
- Flight 93 was hit by an air-to-air missile before it crashed in Pennsylvania
I started reading it right away, and it’s actually very enjoyable to watch scientists dealing with this sort of insanity in a thoroughly rational way while clearly trying not to spit their coffee across the room when they hear these things.
But the level some of these theories go to! That last one for example. Apparently the first three flights were forced to land at Harrisburg International Airport where the passengers and crew were all transferred to flight 93. The government then flew drone aircraft into the WTC and the Pentagon, and shot down flight 93 with an A10 Thunderbolt painted white to disguise its military origins (have you seen an A10? They don’t exactly look civilian…). The remaining three planes were then dumped over the Atlantic.
I guess that these sorts of things come from the human desire to impose order on a highly disorderly world. In some sort of twisted way, it’s more comforting to think that a vast and hidden conspiracy is responsible for something this awful rather than a mere 19 men who figured out where our weak spots were. Personally, I have always taken comfort in other parts of that day: F-16s flying close cover over D.C. after the Pentagon attack, firemen racing up flights of stairs on the off chance they might get one more person out, and a small group of people on a plane who just weren’t going to take it sitting down.