Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ipswich and Diana: In Pursuit of the Surreal

Frank Furedi in The First Post says, 'Conspiracy theories save us the trouble of facing the confusions and uncertainties of our ever changing world.' Furedi observes that 30 per cent of the British public think there was some conspiracy behind Diana's death and 36 per cent of Americans think the same about 9/11. Leaving aside the truth or otherwise of these convictions, I think Furedi is missing something here. Look at the Ipswich murders. A man, as I write, is being questioned. The day before he was arrested he gave a bizarre interview to the Sunday Mirror and he had his own site on MySpace, now deleted. He was also interviewed about a disappearance before any body was found. The whole case has been investigated by hundreds of police watched by hundreds of journalists in a relatively small city. Conspiracy theories, I guarantee, will soon emerge. But they will not be inspired by a refusal to face 'confusions and uncertainties', quite the opposite. They will happen because of a yearning to make sense of the world we are offered. The truth is that massive coverage of both this kind of marginal story and of hyper-manipulated yarns like the Blair-Brown confrontation generates too much information and too little sense. News management, see my previous post, requires an excess of information to disguise its workings. Any possibility of a pattern must be concealed. And news management has been at work in Ipswich as much as in Westminster. The police, in such a climate, have no choice. The poor punters, meanwhile, are left with the vague conviction that all this stuff must mean something, but they don't know what. No wonder, then, that they resort to conspiracy theories, coherent narratives that rise above the chaos of mediated events. Conspiracy theories, in short, are an inevitable result of media saturation. The punters are pursuing the surreal, the meaning that lies just beyond and is systematically concealed by conventional 'reality'. Andre Breton would have made 'sense' of Ipswich.


  1. And now fugitive reality has been further confused by the arres of another man in Ipswich.

  2. In some cases conspiracy theories are the result of looking with an open-mind at the available evidence and coming to the most appropriate conclusion. I see film director David Lynch is the latest to come out strongly about 911.
    But in the words of Marshall McLuhan, "Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public

  3. There are those who instantly believe any suggestion of hanky panky and there are those who painstakingly build up evidence of something they suspect of being an anomaly. When someone just breezes in and dismisses this research as conspiracy theory [see how easily it trips off the tongue], I get annoyed. Are the police who break up criminal gangs 'conspiracy theorists'?

  4. Ipswich? A city? Is this some kind of conspiracy?

  5. Bryan, I think you are right. The truth often doesn't make "sense" in any kind of satisfying way. It is random, in the way that real life is random. The conspiracy theorists are attempted to make sense out of the confused logic of reality. Perhaps Andrew, who regularly supports these theories, is the truest story teller among us. He wants to make sense of chaos. (No offense, Andrew, but I have noticed this in your posts -- you want there to be a grand design behind every terrible thing that happens, especially the big terrible things like 9/11.)

  6. Very wise comments. Conspiracy theories appear to organise and simplify unbearably complex realities, while drawing on a long tradition of 'esoteric' knowledge- that the real answers are just hidden from view. In this case, the media-friendly police feed out information, to allay public fears or to gain public information/support, while obviously witholding information about the precise objects of their inquiries in order to arrest suspects. The resulting gap is filled by sundry psycho-babblers, retired detectives, and 'victim-side' call girls. A word of caution is that the climate calls for speedy arrests (so we can get on with Santa) so I wouldn't anticipate that the arrestees will even be charged.

  7. I have to disagree with the general tenor of posts, I'm afraid. I don't think it's about people looking to simplify complex reality, I think it's about people looking to make the simple more complex, the banal more interesting.
    Most of these murderers are non-entities, working out their emotional problems through violent articulation. Once you understand that, the murders become part of the 'banality of evil'. Jack the Ripper fascinates more than many far more prolific killers, precisely because he was never caught - people love the mystery, and if he were identified it would be destroyed.
    People love stories, they love to embroider, to mythologise, to lose themselves in a mystical yearning for greater truth, the delirium of abandonment to a mystery vaster than ourselves. Some seek that abandonment through booze or drugs, some find it in religion, others in JFK conspiracies or alien abduction, anything, in short, to escape the 'harsh' material interpretation of events which says that killers are just damaged individuals lashing out.
    These conspiracy theories are only about 'making sense' of things if by that phrase we mean 'coping' - they are coping strategies, not attempts at rational quantification, but the opposite, an embrace of the irrational in order to slip those rational bonds, because in order to stay sane we must surely embrace a little madness?
    I have no problem with mysticism per se, as long as it is tempered by reason.

    By the way, are you the Bryan Appleyard who is chairentity of the Buddhist Society?

  8. I have absolutely no problem with rationality, per se, as long as it is tempered by humour.

    By the way, are you the same Michael Smith who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for your fundamental contributions to the establishment of oligonucleotide-based, site-directed mutagenesis and its development for protein studies?

    Or are you the Michael Smith who does my drains every twelve months?

  9. I love that image of Bryan as a Buddhist -- the "chairentity" of the Buddhist Society, no less. I can just picture him meditating, sitting with legs crossed, palms up and on knees, Enlightenment dropping slowly from the blue, blue sky.

    Yeah, I kinda like the picture. Whaddya think, Bry? Change of career in order?

    PS: I saw "Happy Feet" with young niece & nephew. It was profound! I think a Buddhist wrote it.

  10. Neil, I am impressed that you get your drains done once a year. Very wise.
    Susan, my slightly unusual name means that I am often assumed to be that Buddhist guy. There was also,as a recall, a Bryan Appleyard who was secretary of the Llandudno Yacht Club. In my earlier post, Bryan, Where Are You?, I seemed to discover there was just one of me in the US. We are thinly scattered but worth seeking out. In fact, come to think of it, I'm not sure I NEED to be a Buddhist.

  11. I have a theory about the drains guy. He goes up that ladder and does shite-all and charges me for the pleasure. I also have a window cleaner who comes every two weeks, whether the windows need doing or not. I've never actually seen him clean my windows, as I'm always at work, he just arrives in the evening for payment. My windows always look clean so it's hard to tell what he's done each time or hasn't done. I think I may be a bit of a sucker. He's a nice guy, you see, and I don't have the heart to tell not to come so often. He might have 10 starving children to feed for all I know and needs the money more than I do. By the way, how often do your need your drains done?

  12. Susan, my opinions regarding 911 don't spring from thin air. I've looked alot into this issue and the amount of evidence undermining the official view is staggering. People like David Lynch aren't putting their heads on the line over nothing. The amount of damning footage and information is virtually endless, and the only thing preventing people realising this is the firm embedding of heads in sand. Also just ask yourself who gained most from 911? Could it by any chance be those interested in undermining civil liberties in the name of a War on Terror, and those interesed in justifications for war-mongering elsewhere? We're just after a century in which people's governments around the world managed to kill hundreds of millions of their own people, and people still find th idea of conspiracy theories daft. In the words of that wonderful Nazi doctor Jpsef Mengele, "The more we do to you, the less you seem to realise we are doing it."
    The following some of the points regarding 911.

    The impact of the planes cannot have caused enough damage to bring the buildings down, since the buildings were designed to withstand them (as Frank DeMartini, the project manager, has observed), the planes that hit were very similar to those they were designed to withstand, and they continued to stand after those impacts with negligible effects.

    The melting point of steel at 2,800*F is about 1,000*F higher than the maximum burning temperature of jet-fuel-based fires, which do not exceed 1,800*F under optimal conditions, so the fires cannot have caused the steel to melt, which means that melting steel did not bring the buildings down.

    UL certified the steel in the buildings up to 2,000*F for three or four hours before it would even significantly weaken, where these fires burned too low and too briefly at an average temperature of around 500*F--about one hour in the South Tower and one and a half in the North--to have even caused the steel to weaken, much less melt.

    If the steel had melted or weakened, the affected floors would have displayed completely different behavior, with some asymmetrical sagging and tilting, which would have been gradual and slow, not the complete, abrupt, and total demolition that was observed.

    William Rodriguez, the senior custodian in the North Tower and the last man to leave the building, has reported massive explosions in the subbasements that effected extensive destruction, including the demolition of a 50-ton hydraulic press and ripping the skin off a fellow worker, a report corroborated by the testimony of around three dozen other custodians.

    Willie reported that the explosion occurred prior to the airplane's impact, a claim that has now been substantiated in a new study by Craig Furlong and Gordon Ross, "Seismic Proof: 9/11 was an Inside Job", which demonstrates that these explosions actually took place as much as 14 and 17 seconds prior to the airplanes impacts.

    Heavy steel construction buildings like the Twin Towers, built with more than 100,000 tons of steel, are not even capable of "pancake collapse", which normally only occurs with concrete structures of "lift slab" construction and could not occur in "redundant" welded-steel buildings, such as the towers, unless every supporting column were removed at the same time, as Charles Pegelow has pointed out to me.

    The destruction of the South Tower in 10 seconds and of the North in 9 is even faster than free fall with only air resistance, which would have taken at least 12 seconds, which, as Judy Wood has emphasized, is an astounding result that would have been impossible without extremely powerful explosives.

    The towers are exploding from the top, not collapsing to the ground, where the floors do not move, a phenomenon that Judy Wood has likened to two gigantic trees turning to sawdust from the top down, which, like the pulverization of the concrete, the official account cannot possibly explain.

    Pools of molten metal were found at the subbasement levels three, four, and five weeks later, an effect that could not have been produced by the plane-impact/jet-fuel-fire/pancake collapse scenario, which, of course, implies that it was not produced by such a cause.

    WTC-7 came down in a classic controlled demolition at 5:20 PM/ET after Larry Silverstein suggested the best thing to do might be to "pull it", displaying all the characteristics of classic controlled demolitions, including a complete, abrupt, and total collapse into its own footprint, where the floors are all falling at the same time, and so forth, an event so embarrassing to the official account that it is not even mentioned in THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT.

    The hit point at the Pentagon was too small to accommodate a 100-ton airliner with a 125-foot wingspan and a tail that stands 44 feet above the ground; the kind and quantity of debris was wrong for a Boeing 757: no wings, no fuselage, no seats, no bodies, no luggage, no tail! Which means that the building was not hit by a Boeing 757!

    The Pentagon's own videotape does not show a Boeing 757 hitting the building, as even Bill O'Reilly admitted when it was shown on "The Factor"; but at 155 feet, the plane was more than twice as long as the 71-foot Pentagon is high and should have been present and visible; it was not, which means that the building was not hit by a Boeing 757!

    The aerodynamics of flight would have made the official trajectory--flying at high speed barely above ground level--physically impossible; and if it had come it at an angle instead, it would have created a massive crater; but there is no crater and the government has no way out, which means that the building was not hit by a Boeing 757!

    If Flight 93 had come down as advertised, then there would have been a debris field of about a city block in size, but in fact the debris is distributed over an area of about eight square miles, which would be explainable if the plane had been shot down in the air but not if it had crashed as required by the government's official scenario.

    There are more, especially about the alleged hijackers, including that they were not competent to fly the planes; their names were not on any passenger manifest; they were not subject to any autopsy; several have turned up alive and well; the cell phone calls appear to have been impossible; on and on. The evidence may be found at st911.org.

  13. Andrew, what you say has a certain verisimilitude, that's for sure. If indeed 9/11 was a set-up, it scares the crap out of me what the consequences might be if this could be proved. Quite frankly, I'm more comfortable with offical version of events. The USA has been the great experiment in democracy. For its government to be found out to have attacked its own people in such way, might result in that experiment falling apart in a more dramatic way and dangerous way than the collapse of the USSR. Am I losing the run of myself?

  14. "Verisimilitude" means "similar to the truth," but not "the truth." I know many people who *lived* through 9/11 in NYC and not one of them believes in this conspiracy theory. They were there -- saw the planes strike, ran from the buildings, etc. And the architect of the towers did indeed explain why they fell: They had never been built to withstand being struck by jets whose fuel tanks would then explode.

    David Lynch makes some pretty weird films ("Blue Velvet," "Twin Peaks") which are full of conspiracy theories and elusive, half-hidden truths. He foments such beliefs, so is hardly credible as someone giving evidence on "the truth" of 9/11.

    I'm sorry Andrew. To me, the hatred is so much more random and the terrorists had a stroke of good luck when they commandeered those planes and our foolhardy CIA got caught napping because different units did not share their information. That is all out, too, though you won't be quoting it because you want there to be a different, bigger, better story. Sadly, there isn't.

  15. Like yourself, Neil, until about last April I firmly believed in the official version of 911 for no reason other than this was the version we were presented with. The collapse of WTC7 which was a 47 storey building is especially damning, it not having been hit by any plane and only enduring a couple of minor fires. It collapsed at a rate of freefall ie the only impedence in the rate of its collapse was air. The pancake theory which is the official line for the Twin Towers involves each floor collapsing on the one beneath itself, and so would take far longer than the approximately freefall rate of all three buildings. As said, the collapse of WTC7, which housed the CIA by the way, was not even mentioned in the 911 Commission Report! There is so much one could go into, but remember if you believe the official version, you believe that what got the authorities onto the trail of the hijackers' identities was the discovery of one of the terrorits' passports on the street below the point of collision. The following a good site.
    Here a short video of Dr Robert Bowman, former head of advanced space programs for the Department of Defense. He holds a Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Nuclear Engineering from the California Institute of Technology. He describes the official version as proven to be "patently false... a bunch of hogwash, it's impossible."
    There's a hell of alot of videos one could refer to. The following the one David Lynch used
    And this very good on the Pentagon in particular

  16. Can a statement, some evidence, a story that has the appearance of truth, turn out to be, in actual fact, true? I am not coming down on either side of this one; how can one be sure of anything these days outside one's own small sphere. I am a sceptic almost by nature, by instinct, and I think that is a healthy way to be. Except, that is, when it comes to world politics. My scepiticism is then heightened to the point of paralysis. It's all so shady and inscrutable. However,I admire your diligence, Andrew. Quite frankly, I would be so disheartened by the maddeningly complex nature of these things that I would just give up.

  17. It seems like everyone disbelieves the 9/11 story these days. It's getting harder and harder for people to keep their heads in the sand. Most people who doubt the conspiracy theorists though, actually have just as an irrational belief in the truth as they think the conspiracy theorists do.
    I know workmates,family members, taxi drivers who disbelieve the media's version and can mention many of the anomalies and inconsistencies that seem so frighteningly blatant.
    Yet the people who doubt the conspiracy theorists haven't even bothered to look one iota beyond the official version. They don't even know the number of buildings that fell down. Yet they consider themselves more rational?
    It's a strange paradox.