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Seeing what you want to see in major events

What people say about 9/11 and its implications tells you much about how they see the world.

11 September 2016

Earlier today I gave my 31st "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester.

Normally I only manage to think of a subject when the deadline for submitting my "Thought" (the Friday before delivery) is imminent, concentrating the mind. However given the date, I decided many weeks ago that I would say something about it being the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

90 seconds only allows you to get over one main point. I decided to explain how people see in 9/11 what they want to see. For more about "9/11 denial" I suggest reading my review of "Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground."

As well as the examples given in my text below, if I had more time I would have covered those people who believe in the inevitability of a "Clash of Civilisations" who, of course, see 9/11 as an integral part of such a clash.

Thought for the Week

Today’s date is the 11’th of September. In American parlance, 9/11.

Exactly 15 years ago, terrorists hijacked four jet aeroplanes and used them to commit mass murder.

With events like 9/11, you never forget where you were when you heard about them. I was at work and heard the news from a colleague.

I knew the World Trade Centre because I had been there on my first visit to New York in 1990. I was utterly horrified by the news because I knew that about 25,000 people worked in those buildings.

Today, more than anything else, we should remember the nearly 3,000 people, Americans, Britons and other nationalities who were killed on that day. People of many religions.

Over the 15 years since then, I have learned something. What people say about 9/11 reveals a great deal about how they see the world.

At the most extreme end are those Americans who totally distrust their own government. So much that they believe that it staged 9/11 for its own evil purposes.

Similarly, there are antisemites who believe that Israel secretly organised the 9/11 attacks to discredit Arabs and other Muslims.

Sadly, many people are not very good at thinking critically. That makes them easy suckers for people peddling conspiracy theories. There are two simple questions which can help to immunise you against the conspiracy theory virus.

When you hear a conspiracy theory, ask yourself how many people would need to be involved in the conspiracy.

Then ask yourself how likely it is that not a single one of them would spill the beans, either before or after the conspired event.


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