Part of the reason I’m doing The Odyssey is to prove that the world is a lot more open than people think. If I, an ordinary bod from Liverpool, can step foot into every country in the world overland using just my British passport and a winning smile, then I think we can proudly say that our battered bewildered planet is doing better than we are otherwise led to believe.
But that’s not to say I walk without trepidation. I would be a fool to suggest that visiting every country in the world is not without its risks, and Afghanistan is not a place to be taken lightly. I originally planned to pop into Masar-e-Sherif from Uzbekistan, but in the end, the safest and easiest (allowing for the bananas visa regulation around these parts) route seemed to be to hit Herat (I really wish my spellchecker would stop autocorrecting that to ‘Heart’) from Turkmenistan and then proceed forthwith to Iran. Easy.
So at first light I was already at the Afghan border, a good hour before the damn thing opened. After milling about for what seemed like an eternity, I was the first, and quite possibly only, backpacker over the border that day. At the Afghan side, the guy asked me if I was a tourist. I said yes. He flashed me a cheeky grin. Not a terrorist then?
No. Definitely a tourist.
Good. Then you are most welcome in Afghanistan.
At the chickenwire fence I spotted a poppy growing. I plucked it and slammed it shut in my Afghanistan Lonely Planet. My first souvenir of the day. Once over the border I found myself a shared taxi and waited for it to fill. Within two hours I was in Herat, one of the oldest cities in the world and one that has seen its fair share of trouble over the years, not least from Ghengis Khan, whose troops pretty much murdered everything that breathed (and a few things that didn’t) in his bloody rampage through Central Asia.
Herat wasn’t treated any kinder by Tamerlane, the hero of the Uzbeks (and scourge of everybody else) who also trashed the place and nicked all its treasures, it was kicked around during The Great Game between Britain and Russia in the 19th century and was again trashed by the Soviets when they turned up in the 1970s and proceeded to kick seven shades of crap out of the old fort. But Herat survived the Soviet invasion, it survived the brutal civil war of the 1990s, it survived the Taliban, it survived the 2001 invasion and here it is – still going strong, still doing what it does best – being the crossroads for trade for the whole of the Central Asian region.
I arrived before noon and set off to get a feel for the place. I went into a shop to buy a combat vest and asked the guy if I could leave my backpack for a few hours, save me having to lug it around. Sure, he said, but he did want to check there wasn’t anything untoward in it first. I guess a little paranoia is justifiable in Afghanistan.
I headed off to the Grand Mosque – a fantastic building, just down the road from the old (and now gloriously restored) fort. I chatted to a couple of coalition soldiers on the way. Everyone seemed amazingly relaxed, it was hard to imagine that I was in a country still at war with itself. It made me want to run down the street screaming ‘MY GOD WE’RE IN AFGHANISTAN AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!’ but I guess that wouldn’t have helped matters, or, in fact, been very true. I felt remarkably safe here in Herat, I wasn’t treated any differently to how I was treated in other middle eastern countries and everyone I spoke to seemed happy to see me.
In the Grand Mosque itself I slipped in through the side entrance, removing my shoes and looking about for somebody to ask me what I was doing – nobody did, I was pretty much left up to my own devices as I walked around the central courtyard in my socks, admiring (as I always do) the calligraphy and geometric patterns on the cool stone walls. I walked out of the front gate to the garden at the far end and there after taking this picture of me wearing my ‘Watch Out For Men With Beards’ T-shirt, I got utterly swamped by schoolkids.
The Mosque’s madrassa had just finished for the day. All the kids wanted their picture taken with me and one of the older lads who spoke a little English chatted with me – mostly inquisitive about why I was here. I asked if they get may tourists, and he said some but they wished there were more – he said that Herat was a peaceful peace with no trouble, and I agreed, but I said that not enough people know. He asked me to tell people, so I guess that’s what I’m doing now.
The sad thing is that while Herat might be putting a brave face on the situation, Afghanistan is still a dangerous place. I asked a guy from the UN I met last week at the Afghani embassy in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) if things were getting better. He said no, they weren’t. If anything, they were getting worse.
Years ago, before the Soviet Invasion, Afghanistan was famed for its vineyards, which produced raisins (and presumably wine). They were the stable, lucrative crop for this otherwise impoverished landlocked country. Sadly, those vineyards no longer exist and the only realistic cash crop that the Afghans have these days are poppies. But in the ridiculous world in which we live, the only people who make any kind of money out of these magical flowers of doom are the Taliban.
Now I know what you’re thinking – here goes Graham on one of his little rants about the billion reasons that drugs should be legalised. But I’ll spare you the sermonising – it doesn’t even need to be that groundbreaking a shift in policy to help Afghanistan. We could buy the poppies for medical purposes. We buy poppies off Turkey for legal medical uses, why not Afghanistan? The truth is I haven’t got a clue, but we don’t. So 100% of the poppies farmed here go to supply junkies with their heroin™, the overwhelming majority of them European.
So while farmers cannot sell their produce legally on the open market and while junkies like Pete Doherty continue to buy heroin off the Taliban (they are the only cartel in town) the kids you see in the picture above will never be free of the cycle of violence and aggression that has marred this country for the last thirty-odd years because the Taliban (like the right-wing guerrillas in Colombia) will always have a constant and lucrative source of income. But do you really think a self-serving arse like Pete Doherty gives a toss about the people who are murdered or maimed by the roadside bombs that his heroin™ paid for? No, but neither (it would seem) do the governments of the world. But that’s nothing new.
Later I returned to the shop where I had left my backpack, picking up an awesome souvenir on the way. I stopped at a money changer to swap some US dollars for Afghan Afghanis (yes the money is called Afghanis, which I love – imagine if our currency was called ‘Brits’, or ‘Euros’… oh…) and in his little glass box of money from all over the world, my eye caught sight of an old British pound note, something that I so vaguely remember from my childhood (we replaced them with coins in 1983) that I’m not sure whether I remember them from a dream or reality.
I generally keep some money from every country I visit during the Odyssey Expedition, but it would be a bit weird for me to keep some current British wodge, so this little addition will go down a treat for the framed money montage I’m going to make when I’m done. Bit of a weird souvenir to take from Afghanistan I know, but hell, I had my poppy and I like souvenirs that don’t weigh anything and fit neatly in my wallet.
Back in the shop, Jamal the owner wanted me to talk to his friend Ahmed who was learning English. I chatted with Ahmed about my travels and he seemed very keen and interested, but after a while he asked me what my religion was. The last thing I wanted was to get into a conversation about religion in Afghanistan of all places. I fudged it and talked about peace being my religion. Ahmed then explained that although us westerners bring with us amazing stuff like cars and televisions and mobile phones and DVDs, if we don’t read the Koran, we can never enter heaven.
This would have, in other circumstances, sparked off a discussion of the foundations of morality and whether it is more moral to be able to recite a book or live a good life of treating others how you would like to be treated. But, as if I hadn’t pointed this out enough already, I was in Afghanistan, and so I smiled, nodded, said I’d try to get myself a copy and made my excuses and left.
Over the road was where the shared taxis left for the Iranian border. I got ripped off by the guy who picked me up – he offered to take me for X amount, but then once we were outside of the city he told me I had to pay 4 times X amount. This is not a reflection of Afghanis, but rather a reflection of taxi drivers who I am more than fed up with on this hullaballoo of a journey.
So we argued all the way to the border and then we argued at the border, and then a guy came to help me cross the border and told the taxi driver to stop being a gigantic arse. That said, the driver still pursued me up until the point were got stamped out but his lack of an Iranian visa (I presume) stopped him from chasing me any further.
The Afghan border guards were as friendly as ever, as (surprisingly) were the Iranian guards, who went so far as to make me a cup of tea.
Once over the border it was straight into negotiations for a shared taxi to the city of Mashhad. I had the front seat and we seemed to be making good time. I was praying there was an overnight train to Tehran, as I was planning on picking up an Indian visa quick smart once I arrived.
You see, we had found a cruise ship that was leaving from Cochin in India on the 21st April and (according to my calculations) if I was the luckiest badger that ever lived, I could just make it there by the skin of my teeth – but it would require getting visas for Pakistan and India in double smart quick quick time. It’s the last cruise of the season, so it’s imperative that I hurtle that way as quick as I can. I’ll worry about the Arabian Peninsular later.
Unfortunately for me, a police checkpoint singled me out because I was packing heat. No, not guns, or drugs, or bombs – but camcorder tapes. The same thing I got snaggletoothed for in Congo (which resulted in six days spent in a fetid jail cell) and I wasn’t going to let the same thing happen again, so best foot forward and into full-on bumbling Englishman mode. I laughed and joked at let them run through as many tapes as they liked with a huge goofy do-no-harm grin on my face. The police guy seemed most keen on any footage that involved women of any shape or form, but none of it was as racy as he (or I) hoped.
The whole lets-see-what’s-on-your-tapes shenanigans lasted a good hour and by then my taxi had long disappeared into the setting sun. The police guys were satisfied that my footage was boring enough to not constitute a threat to peace and stability in the region. It cracks me up that police get so upset about a handful of camcorder tapes but blissfully ignore my 2Tb of WD Passport hard drives that hold about 200 hours of saved footage from the road.
It didn’t take long for me to find another shared taxi and a wonderful Afghan guy called Seyed who was travelling to Mashhad with his son made space for me in their cab. Seyed worked in Iran and Afghanistan and spoke very good English. He was a lot more positive about Afghanistan’s future than the guy I spoke to from the UN and he made good on his promise to help me get on the overnight train (it existed! Woo!) to Tehran, going so far as to accompany me to the station and then over the expressway to the ticket office (why it wasn’t in the station is anybody’s guess). He also managed to sweet talk the ticketing guys to let me pay using my dollars (the bureau de changes were closed and the Iranian ATMs do not like the taste of foreign plastic). Thanking Seyed profusely and marvelling at my own good fortune (which included the fact that dinner was included in the price of the ticket – I was starvin’, Marvin) I made my way on board the Tehran express.
I love trains. Best way to travel by a mile. Funny – before I started The Odyssey I used to hate them, well, the British ones anyway. Now I still hate the British ones (unfriendly, overpriced, vomit comets that they are) but from Canada to Cameroon, from India to Iran – they’re just brilliant. After a yummy rice and mystery meat dinner, I pulled down my bunk bed and let the rhythmic swaying of the train rock me to sleep, proud that I had managed to tick two countries off in just one day. Mark my words… there won’t be too many more days like this on the road ahead.
The train pulled into Tehran central at around 9am. I fannied about for a while trying to find somewhere that would change my US dollars before heading off to the Indian embassy.
Some of you might remember a few months ago we ran the story about Mr. Samaddar, the chap from India who holds the current world record for visiting every country in the world. He did it flying, though, so I’m not treading on his toes with my record attempt. Mr. Samaddar got in touch with me not long afterwards and invited me for dinner when I arrive in Dubai were he lives, and asked if I needed any help with visas and stuff. I asked him if there was any way to get an Indian visa double-quick smart while on the road (it usually takes 10 working days). He suggested I talk to the embassy’s consul, so that’s what I attempted to do.
While in the queue attempting to make an appointment to speak with the consul I got chatting with a wonderfully friendly Iranian guy called Arash. I told him about my travels and he offered to show me where I could get some wi-fi action. After I had made my appointment, we headed out on the streets of Tehran – a remarkably cool city with a cracking backdrop of soaring mountains in the distance – reminded me of Santiago in Chile.
Eventually we found an internet café and we made arrangements to meet up later. While online I learnt two things – one was that I was now the OFFICIAL GUINNESS WORLD RECORD HOLDER for the most countries visited in one year without flying….
Kudos to Mandy and Lorna from Lonely Planet for sifting through all the evidence on my behalf.
The second thing I learnt was that this cruise from India to Sri Lanka and the Maldives was nothing but a mere apparition. It didn’t actually exist. Panic over, I could get my Indian visa all in good time. But still I headed back to the Indian embassy – no harm in at least trying – if I could pick up the visa on Sunday, it would be worth the wait. Otherwise, I’d press on to Kuwait and do the Arabian peninsular countries that I still had to visit.
But alas, it was a big no-no. The consul was friendly enough, but it was the old no exceptions rule (yes, we all know there are exceptions, but be nice). It looked like I’d be getting the overnight coach down south. I headed out of the embassy and met up with Arash again, who introduced me to his mate Arsi – a big fan of Radiohead and Maggie Gyllenhaal (who isn’t?). Arash then invited me back to his place for a bit of an impromptu party. Awesome!
First we went out for the obligatory kebab, walking back in the rain through the streets of Tehran with us all belting out a rendition of ‘Creep’ at the top of our lungs. We could have been walking back from the Krazy House. When we got back to Arash’s flat he copied all 3,000 of my kick-ass iPod tracks off my hard-drive along with my copy of Secretary, which Arsi was incredibly excited about – he had never seen it thanks to Iran’s draconian censorship laws. Then Arash pulled out the piece de resistance – a bottle of wine that he’d smuggled into the country and was saving for a good excuse.
After Arash invited a couple of his female friends around I marvelled at just how many of the stupid Iranian laws we were currently breaking. But, you know, we’re not children in a 1950s boarding school. Rules against alcohol, having girls round for dinner, covering your hair, all that kind of jazz… I mean, seriously… every chick in Iran (and, I’ve got to say, Persian chicks have GOT IT GOING ON!!) wears the little back hoodie uniform prescribed by the gruesome bearded old virgins who run the show, but they’re damned if they’re going to wear an inch of it more than they have to. As a consequence, the skirts are wonderfully short (jeans and sneakers underneath) and the hoods are worn as far back as they can get away with – what’s the point of going to the hairdressers if nobody can see your damn hair?
I hear you sister!
At first Arash was planning to join me on my trip down to Shiraz, but he changed his mind after the girls turned up (I don’t blame him) and so at 11pm I was bundled into a taxi and sent on my merry way. What top chaps! I’m beginning to really, really like Iran… I wonder what other treats it has in store?
Last night’s taxi took me to the coach station and within minutes, I was hurtling down through the good night towards Shiraz near the Gulf. When I arrived in the morning, I knew that there were defo no boats to Kuwait, but I was having trouble working out from the ferry company website when the boat did actually leave. It took me a couple of hours and a few phone calls to find out that the boat left from a place on the Shat-al-Arab waterway called Khorammshahr tomorrow morning.
I booked a ticket for the overnight bus to Khorammshahr and elected to spend my afternoon wisely by visiting the nearby ancient Zoroastrian site of Persepolis.
Zoroastrianism was the religion of Persia before the Arabs turned up and ruined everything (much in the way the Italians and spoilt all our Pagan-y fun in Blighty). The Zoroastrian god was (still is!) Ahura Mazda, and as such remains the only deity to have a car manufacturer named after him.
Now you’ve seen 300, right? This is Sparta and all that jazz? Good. Well you know that freaky guy who looked (and sounded) like Purple Acky and had all that metal in his face? That was Xerxes, son of Darius of X-Factor fame. Persepolis was their capital until it was mercilessly vandalised by the Greeks under a certain Alexander The Great. The great big nancy.
The site is awesome – even though much of it has been destroyed, what remains is enough to keep you occupied for hours. For a history buff like me, it doesn’t get any better than this: ancient ruins, intricately carved murals, mysterious engravings (cuneiform!), mighty tombs carved out of a rockface… it’s like the best of Greece, Egypt, Armenia and Petra all rolled into one.
After getting my fill of touristy-goodness, I headed back to Shiraz to hop on that bus for Khorammshahr. On the way I met a guy from Belgium named Maxim. He had been in Iran for a month, travelling about, and had fallen in love with the place. He wasn’t CouchSurfing, but over the last 30 nights, he had only spent one of them in a hotel. The Persians are that friendly that pretty much every night he had been here he had been invited to stay with a family.
Persia, man – I take my hat off to you. You are the friendliest bunch on the planet (and I should know!). Once I finish The Odyssey, I’ll be back here in a FLASH.
In what has to be the most touching thing that’s happened to me in the last 16 months of traversing the globe, last night on the bus from Shiraz, the little old lady (she must have been in her nineties) sitting in front of me who didn’t speak a word of English, turned around and offered me her phone, gesturing for me to listen to it. I put the phone to my ear and the voice on the other end introduced himself as Hossein. He explained that he was an English teacher in Khorramshahr and that I was sitting behind his grandmother.
“She’s concerned that the bus is going to get into Khorramshahr very early – at 5am, and that you’re not going to have any breakfast. She wants you to come to her home so she can make you something to eat. Would that be okay?”
If you want any more proof that the Iranians are the most beautiful people on the planet, I humbly suggest you visit the place yourself. Iran has gone straight into my top ten countries in the world, above Australia and above the US. I gratefully accepted Granny’s offer and after a short night’s kip on the bus we were picked up from the drop-off point by Hossein himself.
Hossein took his grandmother and me to her place where she laid out a Persian breakfast fit for a king – bread, eggs, jam, honey, yummy stuff I didn’t catch the name of, and more sweet sweet tea than even I could drink. Granny’s gaff was perfect for a energetic little old lady – filled to the brim with souvenirs, nick-nacks, ornaments, flowers, photographs and memories.
After breakfast, I said my heartfelt goodbyes to Granny – she said that I should come back to see her as soon as I’m able and that I should bring my mum because she really wanted to meet my mum. A dearer old lady I doubt I’ll ever meet. Hossein then took me to the port so I could buy my ticket to Nation 155 – Kuwait. After Hossein sorted out all my passport formalities, and while we were waiting for the ferry to arrive, we went for a walk along the Shat-al-Arab waterway.
This narrow river forms the southern border between Iran and Iraq. In 1980 Saddam Hussein (of Saddam Hussein fame) decided that Iraq should have full control of the waterway and began one of the longest, bloodiest and most pointless wars of the 20th century (and, let’s face it, there are many to choose from). Over one million people died in a ten year war that saw trench warfare and gas attacks used for the first time since World War I.
The West, which was still pissed at Iran over the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when the Shah (the King) was deposed by a bunch of religious zealots seemingly hell-bent on dragging Iran back to the 14th century, officially supported Iraq in this patently unfair landgrab. Unofficially, the West supplied both sides with weapons, prolonging the war and keeping the Islamic forces fighting amongst themselves in good old fashioned divide-and-conquer style.
So did Hossein hold any ill-will towards the Iraqis? Surprisingly, no. He has friends and family in Basra. Again, I’m reminded of what my Algerian friend said to me – that politicians are very good at making enemies of people. Houssein remembers the war, though – being evacuated from his home in the night and the fear of not knowing what (or why) these things where happening. As a consequence of the war, taking pictures of the port or of the waterway is strictly forbidden and I was made to erase some footage that Hossein and I shot in the parking lot.
By 10am, the boat was ready to leave. I said my goodbyes and great thanks to Hossein and shuffled onto the ferry that would take me to my next nation.
The journey was fun – it was a mega-fast catamaran. I was given free cups of tea (of course!) and once we were out of the Shat-al-Arab I went out on deck and felt the wind on my face as the hazy grey skyscrapers of Kuwait loomed in the far distance.
I was so happy. I had come so far in the last month – through some of the trickiest countries in the world to get into overland with a British passport – Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Iran… and now, at last, I would be stepping into the Arabian peninsular. I have already been to Saudi, and in my mind, getting around the six other nations – Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman and Yemen, would be a piece of cake with no advance visa required for any of them.
By 2pm, we were in dock in Kuwait City. Being the only westerner on board I had to go through a bit of a rigmarole to get my visa (they weren’t expecting me!) but sure enough it came through and – even better – it was free! The customs guy welcomed me with a cup of tea (It’s as though cups of tea are mandatory for all crazy travelling guys) and then asked if I was a tourist. I said I was, and he disagreed. “No, you are not a tourist… you are a traveller!”
This worried me a bit – did I need a traveller visa? Would he pop me back on the boat to Iran for being – you know – scruffy-lookin’?
“Tourists wear fancy clothes and stay at fancy hotels and do not see the world – you, my friend, you see the world.”
Phew – it was okay.
“Of course it is okay – you are British – you are most most welcome in Kuwait. You know Margaret Thatcher?”
I smiled and gave an uncertain nod. Maggie Thatcher ain’t too popular a character around my neck of the woods. I didn’t know where he was going with this…
“She is the Mother of Kuwait! – when Iraq invaded, she was the first to say no and the first to come to our defence. We in Kuwait will always be very grateful!”
I should explain that the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 by the Iraqis is still a bitter subject around here. During the aforementioned Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait (and Saudi) supported Iraq on the grounds that Iraq was mostly made up of Sunni Muslims whereas Iran was overwhelming Shi’ite. And what thanks did Kuwait get for this assistance? No sooner had the war against Iran finished, Saddam turned on little old Kuwait and attacked it with such venom, such ferocity it still has the power to shock twenty years on – men were dragged out into the streets and beaten to death, women were raped, the Kuwaiti towers used for target practice, millions of tons of oil were dumped into the Gulf and over seven hundred oil-wells were set on fire, turning day into night.
Whatever you may feel about the 2003 invasion of Iraq, know two things – first up that the first Gulf War was completely justified (and legal) as the international community has a duty to step in when one sovereign nation is invaded by another (which is why civil conflicts are so difficult to tackle) and secondly, Saddam was an utter ba****d – and don’t let any snivelling apologists like the ghastly George Galloway persuade you otherwise.
If the UN had any teeth (or balls for that matter) then leaders like Saddam, Mugabe, Kaddafi, Kim Jong-Il, Idi Amin, Pol Pot and Pinochet would have been arrested the minute they stepped foot outside their own country and thrown in jail where they belong. But no, they get given diplomatic immunity like Josh Ackland in Lethal Weapon II. A very warm welcome to the United Nations, don’t forget to pick up your freedom to murder with impunity card on the way out…
I jumped a taxi (which ripped me off) to the Kuwaiti towers. There I met with Michael, my couchsurf host from the Philippines. After dropping my bags off at his place we set off to the marina to scout out boats going to Bahrain.
To my dismay, there weren’t any. The guidebook was wrong. The ferry had stopped two years ago and nobody – really, nobody – was interested in going to Bahrain for a myriad of reasons. This was the start of my downfall. As the ground began to give way beneath my feet, a neon sign flashed up EPIC FAIL in my head.
I was a kid in the eighties. I grew up with the distinct possibility that at any moment the Russians might take a dislike to the latest Madness single or something and destroy the entire world. Films like Red Dawn and When The Wind Blows didn’t help. My brother Alex and I would waste entire summers digging fallout shelters (which invariably ended up as two foot deep puddles of mud) and learning to fend for ourselves in the field across the road, seeing if we could live off ‘rations’ of sugar and ketchup sachets stolen from Little Chef, you know: just in case.
And then one night, suddenly and unexpectedly, the Berlin Wall collapsed. All that fear, all the paranoia and all the neuroses that the Cold War had instilled in my and my parents’ generation had gone. The sword of Damocles that had dangled menacingly above my head throughout my formative years vanished. Whoosh, kaput, hooray.
Soon afterwards I turned 11 years old. The nineties had begun. From then until the age of 22 I lived life free of that horrible feeling, the feeling that everything and everyone I know and love might be taken away at any time with the push of a button. The feeling that somebody who I don’t know, who doesn’t know me, might well murder me and my family for no other reason than madness, utter madness.
All I needed to be is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Life rarely gives many certainties, except death and taxes, but as the IRA dwindled away, the possibility of me being senselessly blown to Smithereens by a faceless menace seemed to diminish as the years went on.
From November 1989 to September 2001, things got better and better. The more I learned about history and politics the more I became convinced that, in the words of Bill and Ted, the best place to be is here… and the best time to be is now.
Compared with the adolescence of anyone born before 1900 (why are all 14 of my siblings dead?), anyone during WWI (why are all my friends dead?), anyone during WWII (why are all my people dead?), any one of the Baby Boomers (why is every living thing on the planet dead?) or any of the Generation X-ers (imagine being a teenager in the eighties – ack! The humanity!).
Compared to that lot, my (MTV) generation had it made: great music, great films, great video games, satellite TV, the INTERNET… we were still some distance from World Peace Day, but for me, getting drunk and annoying girls in Liverpool, everything was peachy.
And then 19 psychos, armed only with airline tickets and box cutters, changed the world.
Like millions of others, I had stood on the roof of the World Trade Centre before it was destroyed. But unlike millions of others, I was in Ahmedabad just days before the 2002 massacre. When I visited Bali later that same year, I spent every night in the Sari Club. A few months later it was gone. As was the Casa de España in Casablanca, a place that me and my friend Dan frequented on our trip to that city.
I had been to the wrong places, just not at the wrong time.
I travel a lot, it’s statistically highly likely that stuff like this is going to happen, but what really bothered me was that same creeping dread I experienced as a child – the faceless horror that could take everything from me – was returning… and then the bombings in Madrid and London brought it home that, like in the 1980s, nowhere was safe.
Anybody who has been following my progress over the last couple of years can imagine my response to that feeling. I, like the good people of NY who swept the streets after 9/11 and the noble Londoners who continued taking the tube to work after 7/7, refuse to be terrorised. I refuse to retreat back into childhood, start jumping at shadows or freaking out every time I see an Arab with a backpack. In a battle of wills between me and Osama Bin Laden, you know what? I won. He and his group of murderous idiots and psychopathic zealots didn’t stop me travelling the world. They didn’t even stop me visiting Afghanistan.
But there are people out there who are suitably terrorised and freaked out. For the last ten years they’ve been fighting a losing battle against the forces of reason, attempting to push a square peg into a round hole, getting the hammer out because the pieces of the jigsaw don’t fit. Like the mother watching her son in the parade and wondering why everybody else is marching out of step with her Johnny, they suffer from tunnel vision, only see what they want to see and ignore all the evidence to the contrary.
They are the 9/11 conspiracy theorists.
I find them an annoyance, but not a particularly dangerous one: unlike climate change conspiracy theorists who are doing real-world damage to my only planet. So I’ve not really talked about the 9/11 ‘truthers’ or their crazy notions on my blog. I didn’t really want to give their lunatic views a public airing, not least because they’ve got the entire internet to write up their crackpot theories (mysterious how nobody stops them eh?) and I can’t be bothered vetting all the abusive comments I would (not doubt) receive.
But sometimes people bring the fight to you, and you know I’m more than happy to defend my corner.
So, grab your popcorn and adjust your reading specs, here we go…
On the 25th August 2011, “Joe” wrote:
For the most part you’re spot on, but how do you deny the 9/11 truthers? Buildings don’t pancake unless they are demolished with explosives, building 7 didn’t get hit but it dropped perfectly into it’s own footprint. There was NO plane in the pentagon or on the ground in the Virginia field. You do understand the first law of thermodynamics right? Planes don’t vanish on impact. America went to Afghanistan within a month, no trial, no discussion, nothing. Since when does anyone KNOW who committed a crime with no ACTUAL evidence. The invasion of Iraq was completely based on lies, and no one denies it. We have been fighting a boogie man for over 10 years now, for what?? Do you really believe this al-queda (which is a known CIA asset, as well as bin Laden) outfit is so powerful that EVERY rich and powerful nation on earth can’t stop them in a DECADE! It only took four years to stop Hitler! We find bin laden, the very REASON we have blown trillions of dollars and ended hundreds of thousands of lives, and we KILL him without questioning him!!? Then show NO proof and within a day throw him into the FUCKING ocean!! What kind of protocol is that!? I think you are a very smart and experienced person, so how could you possibly believe any of this? You admit that the powers that be lie all the time in your blogs, so why would you believe any of this crap when it’s so blatantly obvious?
To which I replied:
I “deny” the 9/11 truthers for the same reason I “deny” mother goose: because it’s absolute hogwash!!
The world is run by inept, ignorant and barely-qualified politicians… NOT moustache-twiddling James Bond-villain-esque criminal masterminds. Then again, I don’t know which proposition is scarier…!
Which stirred up the hornet’s nest. Joe wrote:
So you think a ballsy gang of ubermuslims are the real supervillians? outwitting the world, always a step ahead of the intelligence agencies, able to run a commercial airliner into the pentagon (the most heavily fortified building on earth with the capability of shooting rockets out of the sky) and make it vanish upon impact. These James Bomb esque baddies are so well organized they don’t even need banks or money (the CIA is capable of freezing anyone on earth’s assets, something they have done to many a dictator and despot) , they must communicate telepathically as well (considering the coalition of the willing basically has a monopoly on transmitted communication and has been intercepting com since pre WW2) and i guess they have a clone army of super soldiers considering they have withstood the 200,000+ man strong force of America Inc and her lapdogs and mercenaries (the most expensive, powerful, and technologically advanced fighting force in the history of mankind) for over 10 years.
that makes more sense to you than some VERY powerful men who control the oil industry, the banks, the military industrial complex, and world business wanting to grab more power?
Oh bugger it, methinks, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. He might yet be sane… So I replied:
Since I don’t live in the Marvel comic universe, I don’t believe in supervillians. The very concept is as laughable as Dr. Evil’s sharks “with frikkin laser beams on their heads!”.
‘Always’ one step ahead? Once was enough my friend, once. 9/11 was a pretty low-fi operation.
The Pentagon can shoot rockets out of the sky? Really?! I thought they retired Reagan’s Star Wars project. But still, rockets and planes are two rather different things (rockets, being packed with explosives, tend to blow up when you hit them, planes don’t).
Magic! The plane vanished did it? Where you there? Did you sift through the debris? Are you an air-crash investigator? And where, pray tell, are the people who were on board? Would you mind explaining to me (or even better – their families) where they are? I’m sure they’d like to know…!
The CIA can freeze anybody’s assets can they? That’s news to the bankers in Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and Nigeria. I better tell them.
If the Americans have the monopoly on communication, why on Earth did they invent the internet? Shot themselves in the foot there, methinks. You better watch what you say on this site, ‘they’ might come and get ya! Like ‘they’ came for the makers of ‘Loose Change’. Oh, hang on… no, no ‘they’ didn’t. Silly ‘they’. Missed a trick there, like not being able to assassinate Castro… when he was in a coma(!).
Not sure what you’re getting at with the ‘clone army’ malarkey, but if you’re talking about Al Qaeda, well, they’re not exactly Darth Sidious are they? Last time they tried to blow up something in the UK, they ended up getting their car bomb towed and setting themselves on fire. As for the Afghans, they’ve been kicking the arse of empires since 1841. They even chopped off Sean Connery’s head, which is more than Blofeld ever did.
Yes, there ARE some very powerful men out there. The remarkable thing is that they are ALL utterly rubbish at keeping all the horrible things they do a secret… but they are incredibly good at getting away with it. Why? Well, I don’t know, Joe… maybe it’s because people are too busy wasting their time pursuing mad conspiracies that make no sense. We have NO EVIDENCE that 9/11 was an inside job other than hearsay and conjecture… don’t forget: we’d only need ONE piece of concrete evidence to bring a court case against Bush and his cronies, one whistleblower, one disgruntled employee, one payslip, one receipt, one unambiguous photo, one little piece of CCTV footage…
One little thing to bring down the entire Republican party, Halliburton, Lockheed Martin… and oh what a joy that would be. Sadly, that one little thing doesn’t exist. There’s nothing, even after 10 years. Not a dicky bird. This is the same government that couldn’t even get away with stealing a few bits of paper from the Watergate hotel. And while people’s attention is focussed on this garbage, the REAL conspirators get away with in BROAD DAYLIGHT!!
Honestly: you can look their activities up on Wikipedia and everything!
Some homework for ya:
Union Carbide. Bhopal. Investigate.
Find out where the $60,000,000,000+ worth of Iraqi ‘rebuilding’ contracts went. The Iraqis would love to know.
Coca-Cola. Colombia. Murders. Nasty. Get them to pay compensation to the widows.
Find out why on Earth some ex-Nazi rocket engineers were paid by tobacco companies in the 70s to manufacture doubt in the popular imagination that smoking leads to lung cancer (Hint: they did such a good job, their arguments are STILL being used to cast doubt on the otherwise irrefutable science of climate change).
BHP Biliton, War in Zaire (DR Congo), copper prices. TELL PEOPLE!
Find out Who Killed The Electric Car. Hate them forever.
What links Agent Orange with the American farming industry?
So when did Donald Rumsfeld exactly leave the board of Halliburton, it being a blatant conflict of interest, of course…
Which American politician (and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, bizarrely enough) flew out of Jakarta mere days before Indonesia invaded East Timor?
Talking of East Timor, what was it that Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer said when people were being massacred on the streets and Jose Ramos-Horta pleaded for help?
Find out how ONE MAN reduced the value of the British pound by 25% IN A DAY.
Give me a rough estimate of how much money the Nigerian government has stolen (by its own admission) from its own people since 1967.
Find out who gave Ethiopia the bombers to destroy Massawa in Eritrea… and why.
Tell me some of the high-jinks the Portuguese got up to before leaving Mozambique.
Exactly how much of Italy’s media is owned by its Prime Minister?
That’ll do for a start. I have more.
I thought that would be the end of it, but then I haven’t been frequenting too many conspiracy forums recently… I kinda forgot that you can’t reason people out of a position they haven’t reasoned themselves into. Joe wrote:
You must believe in supervillians if you think a rag tag gang of afghans with a budget of about 1/100000th that of the US and her allies is capable of holding the whole damn world hostage
Not once, 5 times that day (supposedly) and then for 10 straight years. Do you really believe a few arabs with box cutters could really subdue 5 airplanes? the 100s of people on those planes sat aside and just let that happen? Come on, you can’t even get into a cockpit on a commercial plane, never would’ve happened
I didn’t say from space, but of course america and especially the pentagon itself has anti missile defense systems. A plane is much larger and moves much slower than a missile, therefore they shouldn’t have had any problem whatsoever taking that plane down well before it maneuvered (while flying over Washington, DC) to street level and crashed into a relatively short building. a basically impossible feat
Do yourself a favor by looking at a photo of the perfectly round hole in the pentagon and the “wreckage” that was in the field. Then type “plane crash” into google photo to see what an actual plane crash looks like. I don’t have to be an aircrash investigator, the only qualification you need is sight to know that there ISN’T a plane in the pentagon or on that field. As for the families, they were probably killed, just like the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis.
Yes, the CIA def can freeze assets. They recently froze syrian president Assads’, Gaddafi’s, gbagbo’s (ivory coast), mubaraks, Saddams, the list goes on. They do it whenever they want to. There is no telling what their real agenda is or what kinds of backroom deals they make with various world leaders but there is no doubt that if they deem it necessary they can and will
I know you’ve been to Egypt, Turkey, and China, three places (among many) that have restricted the internet (in Egypt’s case completely shut it down, which fueled the revolution). The internet isn’t exactly the free speech untouchable force it’s played up as. Governments shut down websites all the time.
I mentioned the clone army because only an infinite clone army would have the manpower to force a 10+ year war with the entire G20. We aren’t fighting Afghanistan by the way, they are actually our “ally” in this endeavor, our “enemy” is some faceless ghost army of terrorists that can be everywhere at once and have endless supply lines the world over
There is an absolute MOUNTAIN of evidence. 1000s of structural engineers, physicists, first responders, eyewitnesses, military insiders, computer simulations, the entire history of steel buildings (never has a steel building fallen because of fire, NEVER), common sense (why did building 7 fall? why no planes? why would the building fall perfectly into it’s footprint? (something ONLY possible with a controlled demolition) who had the most to gain? (Dick Cheney (as you must know) was the CEO of Halliburton the day before he swore into office. Of course i don’t have to tell you Halliburtons role in all this is. You’ve seen loose change, you know about the pipelines across afganistans and how the taliban didn’t want to play ball, i know you understand the abhorrent greed of mankind and the insatiable drive for more, more power, more money, more oil, more control. Why wouldn’t these top tier assholes want to consolidate all the power they could?
I think you have a bit of a fairy tale idea of real world justice. The 9/11 commission posted it’s results within a month, accepted no independent investigations, and closed the folder forever. Why wasn’t anyone at BP charged with a crime after the gulf of mexico spill that killed 11 people and still ravages the south coast of America? Why wasn’t bin laden brought to the Hague or DC and put on trial for his crimes? why wasn’t a single banker indicted after the 2008 economic collapse after it became common knowledge that they were engaged in a plethora of illegal business practices (in fact they were rewarded to the tune of trillions of dollars of no interest loans)? Why? because the system is rigged to favor the elite, by the elite. If you don’t believe the elite are looking out for themselves then you must be delusional. Would you help you’re family out if they were in trouble? Do you take care of your friends if you can?
Your list of atrocities only proves my point, those in power will ALWAYS take advantage of that power and do whatever they can to keep it. Morals be damned. Just look at the entire history of mankind, its a running theme. To say that the corporate/banking elite are all just a bunch of idiots, bumbling around with theie combined trillions of dollars, tripping over their own feet, is patently ridiculous. Politicians? Yea, for the most part they probably are pretty dumb, but those guys aren’t making real decisions, they are lackeys, henchmen, PR spokemen, actors (Ronald Reagan was literally an actor before he became president).
Every year the top echelon of elites meets as a group called the Bilderbergs, (as you may know), behind closed doors, with no media coverage. What do you think they are talking about? How they can make the world a better place? If so, they are doing a pretty shit job at it
Well, I really couldn’t be bothered refuting each point separately, so I thought I’d just target the most nonsensical part of the whole silly conspiracy theory: the idea that not a single person who was involved in this cover-up would say anything to anyone, even after ten years. So I wrote:
STOP STOP STOP. PLEASE. THINK about it. Just THINK.
If 9/11 was an inside job… how many people would have to be in one it? Give me a rough figure. 1,000? 10,000? 100,000? These people would have to ALL be utterly amoral psychopaths whose motive was what… power? The iron law of oligarchy states that powerful people don’t share power… so then money? Okay… let’s say money. There’s a lot of them, but lets say they just escaped en masse from Arkham Asylum.
Now if ONE of these people talks the whole thing is shot to shit, and everybody goes to jail… for the rest of their lives. We’re not talking corrupt bankers here, or Bono cooking the books so he pays no income tax, we’re talking the wilful murder of 3,000 AMERICAN CIVILIANS. This is death penalty level crime we’re talking about.
Now work out how much it would cost to keep every single one of those people quiet for 10 years. How much would it cost to keep YOU quiet about the biggest conspiracy the world has ever seen? $1,000,000? Damn you’re cheap! There are businessmen and politicians involved in this who earn that amount A DAY. So how much do you pay them? $1,000,000,000? Sound fair? Let’s say they demand a cool billion every year. Let’s say there are 1,000 of them in on it (a modest figure, I’m sure you’ll agree, given the scale of this thing)… that’s a TRILLION DOLLARS A YEAR for TEN YEARS just to keep people quiet… because any one of them could AT ANY TIME grow a conscience (or need more money) and blow the whistle.
TEN TRILLION DOLLARS… for WHAT? So they could invade IRAQ? Even though Iraq had NOTHING to do with 9/11? Even though the combined worth of Iraq comes to… wait for it… $117 BILLION a year… hang on, what about Afghanistan?? Well (being one of the poorest countries in the world AND HAVING NO OIL) it’s worth a good $14 BILLION a year, so shall we call it $130 BILLION all up…
…and we’re spending $1,000 BILLION a year on BRIBES??
That’s the conservative figure… how much does it cost to keep Wikileaks quiet? I’d love to know.
IT. MAKES. NO. SENSE. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You can’t grasp how ridiculous the ‘truthers’ proposition sounds to somebody who has a degree in Poltics and Modern History and has travelled as extensively as I have. You might as well be arguing that the world is flat or that an eclipse is a dragon eating the sun. IF there is ANY truth in what the ‘truthers’ claim, why doesn’t one of the more wealthy ‘truthers’ make a civil case against the US government? Anyone with a bit of wonga can do it. But they don’t, do they? Why is that Joe?
Maybe because it would require REAL EVIDENCE and a ACTUAL MOTIVE for the US govt to be behind it… and, as yet, NOBODY has provided me (or any of the millions like yourself who obsess over 9/11) with either.
It may make you sleep easier at night to believe that you live in a universe in which everything happens for a logical reason, but that doesn’t make it the case. The 9/11 hijackers had the motive, the opportunity and the ruthlessness to go through with one of the most spectacular terrorist attacks the world has ever seen – and hopefully will ever see. All they needed was a few flying lessons, nineteen plane tickets and some box cutters. Scary eh? Tough. That’s the way the world is: shit happens… it doesn’t necessarily follow that the shit was put there by the Men In Black to enslave humanity and feed us to the space lizards.
As I tried to get across in my last reply, there are REAL messed-up things that politicians, governments, corporations and businessmen have done and are still getting away with. As I travel, I meet people who want to talk about how every major event or every famous person’s death is a conspiracy (JFK! Diana! Elvis! Evolution! The Moon Landings! Climate Change!), but very few who want to talk about what the Sudanese government has done in Darfur in the full view of an indifferent and apathetic world.
Hell, maybe you and the 9/11 ‘truthers’ are part of a conspiracy to distract people from talking about what’s REALLY going on…
Go on, it’s the space lizards, isn’t it?
I KNEW IT!!!!!!!
To which Joe wrote:
Well Graham, I guess there’s just no convincing you. Usually i dont bother trying to convince anyone because i figure if you believe the “official” story then your just a believe what your told kind of person. I think your stuck on the disbelief that people would be evil or careless enough to do it, but just look at your list of “real” atrocities. Every single day people in power take horrible advantage of people, genocides are very real, slavery is very real, the oil industry really has decimated the Nigerian Delta, the Fed Reserve really did give (print out of thin air) over 1 trillion dollars to the same banks that wrecked the worlds economy. These aren’t even denied and no one does anything. How much convincing do you think it takes to get a soldier to fire bullets into a crowd of protesters in Syria? Mindless people do what they are told, against their own beliefs and morals, every single day, every day of history even. They don’t have to be “paid off” they just want to maintain their status quo, get their paycheck, not ruffle any feathers. As an independent person (remember that i also took a 2+ year epic journey around the globe) you dont get it, but most people want to be part of a “gang”, be told what to do and do whatever it takes to fit into it. Also i think your stuck on “it’s the government”. The real powers that be are the international bankers and corporations, that are above any one countries jurisdiction. If you think those assholes have ANY morals whatsoever then your just lying to yourself.
If you think killing 2000 Americans is some major line that had to be crossed, consider the fact that over 6000 have died in the wars so far. 3 times more have died than the original attack. How about the 100,000s of Iraqis and Afghanis (innocent bystanders many of them) that have died. Nothing is “better” in either country in 10 years. What the hell are we doing there? Obviously nothing good. (Even you admit 60 billion dollars of the “rebuilding” money vanished) It’s all a farce. But i will just stop, because if you can’t see the nose on your face then who am i to show you a mirror. No offence.
So i’ll just leave it be at this point. I highly recommend you do some more research, all of the answers are out there, very easy to find if you want to
There’s a point at which your eyes are rolling so far to the back of your head there’s a good chance you might detach your retinas. I was rapidly approaching this point. With the ad hominem attack of me being a “believe what you’re told” type of person ringing in my ears, it was no more Mr. Nice Badger…
At the end of the day, I’m asking you to provide me with solid evidence and you’re asking me – in true conspiracy theorist-style – to take your word for it based on no evidence whatsoever other than opinion, conjecture and idle speculation.
And then you sign off with ‘the answers are out there’ like its an episode of the X-Files, yeah…. so’s Russell’s Celestial Teapot, but I’m not going to waste my life looking for it.
Sorry my friend, but as Christopher Hitchens quite rightly points out, claims that can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
And that’s where this conversation (which, quite frankly, I tire of having) ends.
But Joe didn’t want to leave it at that. Funnily enough, he found it hard (impossible, maybe?) to explain the exact mechanisms for keeping all those people quiet, and herded me instead to watch a bunch of 37 second YouTube clips: essentially adverts for the 9/11 truther’s “product”. Which seems to be… bullshit. Joe wrote:
I assumed that you were capable of doing your own research (and would trust what you found more wholly) but if you want some actual evidence then I can provide you that.
It seems like you made up your mind a long time ago about this issue, maybe there are some new bits of information that you are unaware of.
The reality is the history of mankind reads as one endless power struggle between the elites. Ghengis Kahn rode across the Central Asian steppe slashing and burning his way to Europe? Alexander the Great convinced his country to march into Turkey and lay siege to its cities on the way to Egypt and India. The Caesars murdered everyday during their reign, as did the Goths, the Ottamans, the Moors, the Franks, the Germans (did Hitler have to pay off all of the Germans to be convinced the extermination of the Jews was ok?) the Brits, all of Western Europe raped, murdered, and stole their way through the Americas, and today corporations and governments economically pillage the world (I’m sure you’ve heard about all of the help the IMF and the World Bank has brought to the developing world). Why? Because its the very nature of mankind, it’s how it’s always been, and most likely always will be.
That’s got to be the non sequitur to end all non sequiturs. I couldn’t resist. I wrote:
Jesus Christ: The planes had no windows! They weren’t even in the air!
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Oh, gimme a break!
As you keep re-iterating time and time and time and time again, your argument boils down to this:
a) governments did bad things in the past (go on about ancient Rome)
b) governments continue to do bad things today (go on about American foreign policy)
Therefore… (drum roll please)
c) the US govt masterminded the 9/11 attacks
What? Eh? Hang on… erm? WHAT? You even sign off with “its the very nature of mankind” as if that’s going to convince me that it’s why no journalist IN THE WORLD fancies winning themselves the Pulitzer Prize by exposing the BIGGEST CONSPIRACY THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN!! Wooowowowowoooo!
You might as well say:
a) pirates did bad things in the past (go on about Blackbeard etc)
b) pirates continue to do bad things today (go on about Somalia)
Therefore… (drum roll please)
c) pirates cause global warming!!!
You’re so immersed in this fantastical world that makes Battlefield Earth seem logical and you just can’t see how utterly bonkers it all sounds.
And you send me links (WordPress don’t likey too many linkys – maybe they’re in on it toooooooo!) to websites stacked full of (again) biased opinion, conjecture (it COULDN’T have happened that way… I don’t think!), hearsay (this guy, right, he’s an engineer and even HE SAID IT – explain THAT, Poindexter!) and a really annoying habit of ignoring any evidence that doesn’t fit the conspiracy theorist narrative.
The ‘forty reasons’ link is hilarious! Thanks for that! Here’s an example of how utterly invalid the points are…
6) Did cell phones work at 30,000 feet in 2001? Maybe not, but the PHONES IN THE BACKS OF THE CHAIRS DID.
The longstanding relationship between US intelligence networks and radical Islamists, including the network surrounding Osama Bin Ladin. Oh look, they’re talking about the CIA assistance to the Afghan Muhajideen in the 1980s – BEFORE BIN LADEN EVEN ARRIVED IN THE COUNTRY. Hey, Stalin was our ALLY in WWII, and then the Cold War happens… ha ha, look at the stoopid sheeple believing in the Cold War!! Tsk! It was all smoke and mirrors!
In short, IT IS NOT EVIDENCE – none of it is. It would NEVER STAND UP IN A COURT OF LAW, it would NEVER BE PUBLISHED IN A PEER-REVIEWED SCIENTIFIC PAPER.
The best you can hope for is the National Inquirer and a few paranoid, tinfoil-hat wearing fruit-loops on the internet who BY GOD I never want on my jury… unless I’m guilty of cause
Again you’ve failed to adequately explain a motive (they’re just EVIL! They don’t need a motive!), where all the money went, why there’s no paper trail, why they didn’t just “make” AT LEAST ONE of the hijackers Iraqi or how on earth the US govt keeps this under wraps when you and I both know that two people can only keep a secret when one of them is dead.
Not ONE of the intercepted 9/11 pager messages published on Wikileaks said “Phase One Complete. Plan for invasion of landlocked resource-poor Central Asian basketcase on schedule!” Maybe the governmentals use that telepathy what they learnt from them Aliens in Roswell, eh?!!
The arguments you use are exactly the same as climate change deniers and the young Earth creationists. I can sit a climate change denier down with a Nobel-prize winning scientist who can show them all the evidence in the world that climate change is real, man made, happening right now and something we should be damn worried about – and it STILL won’t change their mind. I can take a young-Earth creationist to the Natural History Museum and show them fossils from millions of years ago and they’ll STILL think the world is 6,000 years old.
Like them, NOTHING I or ANYBODY can say or do will persuade you otherwise.
However, you could persuade me: all I’m asking for… is evidence.
Why can’t I persuade these people? Because that’s what you and they WANT to believe. Climate Change is scary. Evolution is demeaning. Better to just stick your fingers in your ears and go lalalalalalalalalalalalalala.
9/11 truthers like yourself are exactly the same mindset. You WANT to live in a dystopian world in which rich Western governments oversee the wholesale slaughter of 3,000 civilians LIVE ON TELEVISION and get away with it. So long as you get to feel like you’ve got the magic powers, the vision, the intellectual vigour to know what’s really going on, and you can badger people online and in the pub with the old “everything you know is wrong!” fallacy. And WHY do you find the “9/11 was the govt” theory so appealing? Well, according to psychologists, because it’s what you would do.
Yep, conspiracy theorists seem to score higher on Machiavellian mindset tests than people like me. But it’s not like I don’t have any Machiavellian thoughts (we all do), it’s that I’m humble enough to know there would be absolutely NO WAY I could get away with it. The sad thing is, conspiracy theorists are the ones who think they could get away with it, an arrogant inflation of their own (and by extention, others) abilities to pull off the most horrifying acts of violence and walk away scot-free.
From your own comments on this site, you appear not to think much of humanity: you talk about human nature being essentially evil and you say (perhaps sarcastically, who knows?) that 2000 Americans “is a drop in the bucket”. (I’ll assume you mean ocean… it could be a small bucket).
These are the opinions of a psychopath. And while you subconsciously project your murderous desires onto a terrorist attack like 9/11: the REALLY scary thing is you consciously believe that you could get away with it, therefore it follows (in your mind) that the government could.
That’s worrisome. You should really get some help with that.
You started this discussion by asking me how I can ‘deny’ the 9/11 conspiracy nuts. Maybe I should explain.
I don’t have a religious/spiritual/faith bone in my body. I really don’t. That’s not to say I am a nihilist, I most definitely am not. I just find it incredibly difficult (more like impossible) to believe anything I’m told unless it passes a quick and easy mental test:
1) Does it sound plausible?
2) Is there any solid, unbiased evidence to support the proposition?
Needless to say, for me, the 9/11 truthers fall at the first hurdle. It sounds as plausible as Elvis working in a KFC on the moon. As for the second extremely reasonable question, the evidence is painfully flimsy, all based on bad science and conjecture… and almost comically biased.
But I think everybody runs through that same mental test, and you know what? For some people it must sound plausible, for some people the evidence presented on hysterical websites is all the evidence they need: hell, it fits their bleak, paranoid world-view that we’re all cogs in a vast machine – a vast machine that wants to sell us Coca-Cola or something.
But my brain will never be wired that way… I dunno… possibly because I’m not a psychopath?
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The 9/11 wingnuts don’t even have ordinaryevidence, even after a decade of obsessing over every last element of that dreadful day in September. All they got is a one-way ticket to Palookaville.
You’ve had your say and I’ve allowed you to post your utterly bonkers links which users of this site may click on if they wish. Unless you have something new to add to this conversation – (and I’m talking something that could win you a Pulitzer), I won’t be approving your next reply.
You see, I have the power to approve people’s replies on this site, since I pay for it and maintain it myself. I can also edit people’s replies. And then Joe surprised everybody by writing:
You know, after reading your solid rebuttal I do admit it DOES all sound a bit silly. Maybe I’m just a little naive, you know, and the habit of stuff like ‘Loose Change’ to ignore the inconvenient facts, cherry-pick evidence that suits its (for-profit) agenda and take quotes out of context is really starting to make me question my entire opinion on the matter.
The ‘Machiavellian mindset’ thing you posted was very interesting, and I have to admit I do have a tenancy to think the worst of people and that everyone has a price. I guess I am a little paranoid and yeah, you’re right, I kinda wanted the government to have masterminded 9/11 – I don’t know why, possibly because it would confirm all the bad things I think about everybody who isn’t me.
I’m also concerned by something I noticed while surfing conspiracist websites… a definite anti-Semitic tone, one that has a tenancy to deny the holocaust (or say it ‘was no big deal’) and claim that a shadowy cabal of Jews are responsible for all of the world’s ills. It’s very similar to the rumours that led to the Pogroms in Russia and then the Holocaust itself, and that worries me, especially as my great-grandfather died fighting the Nazis and I’d hate to belittle his sacrifice by supporting the beliefs of right-wing fascists and racists – the very people he gave his life fighting against.
Anyway, I just wanted to say THANK YOU for setting me straight, I’ll try in future to have a little bit more trust in the inherent goodness of humanity (after all – we’ve made it this far haven’t we?) and a little less time badgering people to believe in stuff that is — I admit — pretty far-fetched. I’ve been reading up on some of those issues you mentioned in a previous reply and I honestly believe that my time would be better spent spreading the word about stuff we SHOULD be getting angry about, and — more importantly — bad things that are happening right this moment that together we CAN do something about.
Take care and safe travels,
PS. I did warn ya!
Oh, okay then… I wrote that last one myself. Joe’s real last reply was (predictably) more links to YouTube videos and websites that gnash their teeth and holler about global conspiracies, with (as always) nothing but conjecture, cherry-picked evidence and the conceit of the paranoid mind to back them up.
But before I go, I just want to ask you something.
Q: What links Nazis, holocaust deniers, Soviet apparatchiks, climate change deniers, corrupt policeman, tin-pot dictatorships and 9/11 ‘truthers’?
A: A determined and concerted effort to take things out of context to fit their twisted world-view.
Winston’s job in 1984 was an editor of history: he would physically black out facts in books and newspapers that were in contradiction to Big Brother’s narrative (one that, in the context of the novel, changed with political expediency).
It’s easy to do: I’m a professional video editor, I know what you mischief you can make with a clever snip here and there… you can change the true meaning or intent of just about anything. Imagine Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal taken in isolation from all of his other clearly satirical works: it would be the ravings of a madman – a homicidal, cannibalistic madman.
If the only song you knew by John Lennon was Happiness is a Warm Gun you would probably never guess that he was an avowed peace activist and that the song is either clearly ironic or a sexual (and possibly narcotic) metaphor. As far as I’m aware people shooting real stuff with real guns didn’t make John Lennon happy – in fact it made him dead.
If all you knew of Nelson Mandela was that he was sent to jail for attempting to blow up a train, and the context of apartheid South Africa was missing from your narrative, you’d possibly be wondering why he was ever let out of his cell. You’d crap your pants when you found out he was made President.
If the only clip of Star Wars Episode I you had seen was Darth Maul pulling out his double-ended lightsaber, you might be fooled into thinking Episode I was actually a good film. It wasn’t. Watch this re-edit of The Shining that makes the scariest movie of all time look like a heart-warming comedy. Clue: it’s not that difficult.
In short, context is everything. But for your local conspiracy-theorist (and the list of their fellow nasty badgers above), context is something to be suppressed, an irritation to be edited away – and there seem to be enough willing Winstons in the world happy to go along with it. Maybe the government attached a rat to their faces once.
Conspiracy-theorists want you to ignore all the evidence to the contrary and fixate on a select line that fits their pre-conceived narrative – and so we find ourselves at the mercy of the tyranny of soundbites. If you look at what the Nazis did with Nietzsche’s works, you’ll see how pernicious this practice is. Watch out for it.
In any conspiracy rebuttal piece or video, you will notice a very different tactic: they invariably fail to show you the full video, the full interview, the full set of photographs – making it impossible to take the material out of context. For every one photograph that the conspiracy nuts hold up as some sort of talisman of all truth and logic, the rebuttalists are more than happy to upload twenty that show what actually happened from all different angles.
This is important – it shows the conspiracy theorists for the deluded hypocrites they most certainly are. They accuse the government (or whoever) of ‘covering up the truth’ and then proceed to use the exact same tactics that a ministry of propaganda would use in order to get its nefarious message across.
We all need to draw a line in our minds between what is true and what we wish were true. Otherwise that line can become blurred; hence the number of people who go on X-Factor firmly believing that they can sing when even the deaf can see they cannot. In order to draw another person into your wish-fulfilling delusions, they need to share the same desire for it to be the case: so you’re probably not going to get very far with me.
I hold a fairly strong belief (backed by evidence, of course) that conspiracy theorists are all of a particular mindset. One that is generally paranoid, border-line psychopathic and Machiavellian to a greater extent than the general population. If nothing else travelling to over 180 countries around the world has re-affirmed that not everybody is out to get me – most people are inherently good, law-abiding citizens who will go out of their way to help a straggly wayfarer in distress.
And until some Earth-shattering revelation is made by Wikileaks, the BBC, the Independent newspaper or two renegade journalists working for the Washington Post, I will never seriously entertain the mere possibility that those people brutally murdered on September 11 2001 were killed for any other reason than nineteen paranoid, psychopathic and Machiavellian bastards bought their golden tickets to the ancient and hollow lie that is the Elysian Fields with the blood of 2,977 innocent lives.
The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true deserts. He ascribes all his failure to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity and damfoolishness, to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street, or some other such den of infamy.