Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Conspiracies and Ron Paul

Ron Paul It is ironic that just when I find myself looking with pity at conspiracy theorists, my favorite presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), is in danger of becoming “the conspiracy theory candidate” in some people’s minds. But first, I should explain why conspiracy theories have been on my mind lately.

Conspiracy Theorists — They’re All Around Me!

In a single week earlier this month:

–I met a Phillips Foundation Fellow who’ll be writing (in a skeptical fashion, rest assured) about 9/11 conspiracy theorists — which probably made most of the other Phillips Fellows, a conservative bunch, think “It’s about time someone took a hard look at some of those oddballs” but made me wonder whether I should put that Fellow in touch with my friend Sander Hicks, who, when he’s not promoting Marxism, publishing books, seeking the Green Party nomination for Senate, or running the Vox Pop cafe/bookstore in Brooklyn, is also the author of a book called The Big Wedding, which argues not only that 9/11 was an inside job but that the scapegoat organization in the attacks, al Qaeda, doesn’t really exist and is basically a facade created by Swiss neo-Nazis. I know what you’re probably thinking: “What?! He runs a cafe?” It’s incredible but true.

–I met a libertarian who thinks fluoride in the water is making us sick (I don’t pretend to be a fluoride expert, but that scare does bare a strong resemblance to a lot of the exaggerated scares analyzed on the site I edit by day, HealthFactsAndFears.com — interestingly, it’s a scare that began on the right, as so beautifully parodied in Dr. Strangelove, but has become more popular with leftists and environmentalists).

–I saw my co-workers at the American Council on Science and Health dismayed by the realization that even the American Cancer Society is now passively repeating, without good evidence, the assumption that “chemicals in the environment” are giving us cancer.

–I learned (from a good friend who would probably rather not be mentioned in this context) that the Washington Post Magazine ran an astoundingly sympathetic article earlier this year about people who think they’ve been targeted by government mind-control rays — despite Dennis Kucinich making an effort to outlaw any such devices (making him the only candidate to address the issue so far, though I think Ron Paul would be with him in principle, and we’ll get to that below). It’s amazing that the Post was unfazed during the editing process by paragraphs such as the one that non-judgmentally describes how one member of the “Targeted Individual” community, once a successful author, now feels she is being followed and harassed by mysterious Jewish-looking individuals (and for goodness’ sake, if you are a member of the “TI community,” please, I beg you, do not even consider writing to me or posting on this blog, as I am not equipped to deal with your very special needs and will immediately delete your posts).

–I learned I am myself indirectly connected to a man who worries about government mind control rays (please don’t ask).

–All that inspired me to think of a great way one could rise to prominence within the “9/11 Truth” community (the movement that believes 9/11 was an inside job): by writing a book arguing that the World Trade Center is still standing. If the lies run as deep as the Truth folk say, don’t think the government couldn’t pull off this ultimate con job. The shocking book about it might start out something like this: Why do you think they don’t let anyone walk right up to the “footprints” of the two buildings? The Pentagon can create holograms as easy as pie — that’s common knowledge and requires nothing more than existing technology — but they couldn’t prevent people bumping into the buildings physically if they walked around down there willy-nilly. QED. The real question, then, is: What sinister activities are going on inside those buildings now that they are officially “disappeared”? Think Area 52, if you will

(Two asides:

1. After years of not being able to get a good look at the pit at Ground Zero, I only recently realized, returning from a visit to my girlfriend Koli, that if you take the PATH train from Jersey on the “World Trade Center” route, the train actually does a big loop around the inside walls of the pit, like a big, creepy Disney: The Ground Zero Experience ride. Worth checking out if you find yourself coming back from Jersey City or Hoboken for some reason [the 33rd St. train doesn't make the same stop], morbid as it may sound.

2. Speaking of, or rather alluding to, Area 51 [soon to be the subject of a movie written by my favorite comic book writer, Grant Morrison, fresh off his stint, coincidentally or not, on the comic series 52], much as I dislike paranormal claims in non-fiction material, I’m pretty pleased to hear that the rumored plot of the fourth Indiana Jones movie, due out next year, pits an aging Indy against 1950s Soviet agents out to steal “ancient astronaut” artifacts [possibly including a crystal skull] with ties to Area 51. If this kind of nonsense is rattling around in the popular culture anyway, I can think of few better uses to put it to than a new Indiana Jones movie. When I believed in that sort of stuff, as a child, I planned to make a crystal skull central to my own comic book scripts someday, so once more the culture dances to my tune — I’ll have to share the rest of the envisioned comic plots with you someday.)

Ominous Connections — to Celebrities!

In the highly unlikely event I ever do write a conspiracy theory book about 9/11 and thus join the Truth community, it might give me a chance to meet the new most-prominent spokesperson of that movement, departing View hostess Rosie O’Donnell (I once met Rachel Simon, whose mentally retarded sister O’Donnell played in the TV-movie Riding the Bus with My Sister, and I’ll bet her sister doesn’t go around claiming, for instance, that fire can’t bend steel, as O’Donnell has, so the sister’s got at least one advantage). One of my former Stossel co-workers, producer Kristi Kendall, who sort of comes across like a blonde, twelve-year-old Girl Scout despite now being about thirty, says that her grandmother once wrote to The View to suggest that Kristi should be its new co-hostess, and though I laughed about it at the time, if ABC had listened to Kristi’s grandmother, we could have prevented the whole Rosie thing. (Note: a recent poll shows about 1/3 of Democrats now believe that Bush had advance knowledge of the attacks, but as my Manhattan Project co-hostess Karol Sheinin says, South Park has argued that 1/4 of Americans are retarded.) [UPDATE: Ah! Rosie's finally being countered instead by argumentative comments from her conservative, shoe-designing, Rhode Island-raised, Survivor-featured co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck -- that's what I'd call giving America a clear choice.]

The closest thing I’ve done to meeting O’Donnell this month, though, was probably attending a lecture about global warming skepticism by Julian Morris of the International Policy Network, but I say this not because I lump global warming skeptics in with 9/11 conspiracy theorists (or Holocaust deniers, or anti-Darwinists) — on the contrary, my skeptical statistician friend Chuck Blake and others have helped convince me that the danger from warming, to the extent we can even make any reliable predictions about it, is wildly overblown and probably best left to the quiet study of climatologists rather than policy-makers for at least another decade or two.

No, the reason I say that night’s IPN lecture was a bit like meeting O’Donnell is that without IPN knowing it in advance, Whoopi Goldberg was having a book release party downstairs from the IPN speech for her new children’s book. I was surprised how little security a Whoopi appearance entails, though I’m sure they’re used to this sort of thing in L.A. (perhaps L.A. people are surprised how little security there is at author appearances when they visit New York). The aforementioned Mr. Blake, also in attendance at the IPN speech, commented, though, that he wasn’t terribly excited about Whoopi himself and thought of her mainly as “the person who screwed up Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Like Bad Sci-Fi — No, Wait, It Is Bad Sci-Fi

My one regret comes from the thought that had I known about my proximity to Whoopi’s appearance in advance, I could have brought with me — and asked her to autograph — the DVD my friend Meredith Kapushion gave me of the movie Whoopi says she wishes she’d never made: Theodore Rex, in which she plays a tough cop in the future who gets partnered — much to her chagrin! — with a fast-talking, uncouth, human-sized tyrannosaurus rex created through genetic engineering. His tail often slaps people in the buttocks at inappropriate moments, and the guy who created him wants to blow up the world with an ice missile. Whoopi wears a lot of really tight black spandex. I also wish she hadn’t made Theodore Rex and can’t really laugh about it anymore. At the end, Whoopi and the dinosaur learn to overcome their differences and work together. I need to watch this for a moment to compensate. OK, all better.

(On another sci-fi note, I read that next season sees a TV series called The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which takes place between Terminator 2 and Terminator 3 — which strikes me as beating a dead horse, since there are only so many times time-traveling cyborgs can plausibly attack one person without finishing the job or having the whole thing turn into an overlong Saturday Night Live sketch [Note: Microsoft Office spellcheck does not contain the word "cyborg" -- there's something wrong about that {Oh my gosh! It also doesn't contain the word "spellcheck"!}]. I am more optimistic about the live-action Star Wars TV series scheduled for 2009, which takes place between Revenge of the Sith and the original film, since Lucas says it will feature the bounty hunters seen in The Empire Strikes Back, such as Boba Fett and Bossk. I could see them, unlike Sarah Connor, sustaining at least two seasons. Boba Fett, for instance, has a cool helmet, while Bossk is a lizard guy. That’s two episodes right there.)

Meanwhile, on Earth: Ron Paul

It’s strange that roughly half the country is antiwar enough to see opposition to continuing the Iraq War as Democrats’ chief virtue, yet Ron Paul is treated like a crazy person for suggesting (in the recent South Carolina debate between the ten announced Republican candidates), in a fashion that doesn’t even strike me as logically incompatible with a hawkish attitude, that groups like al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq may hate us because of past U.S. interventions in the Middle East. (His views about this are sometimes mentioned in conjunction with his aversion to the U.S.’s close relationship with Israel.)

Now, it’s true that Paul comes from the most crankily anti-interventionist wing of the libertarian movement (Note: Someone please pay me to explain all this in more detail), the Old Right-sympathizing “paleolibertarians,” kindred spirits in some regards to Pat Buchanan’s anti-interventionist “paleoconservative” faction (but with a bit more of that California-hippie-anarchist flavor, which, like some of the folks mentioned above, often has that tiny, zesty hint of schizophrenia about it). Some in that faction don’t even think that the U.S. should have gotten involved in World War II. But what strikes me as odd, I guess, about Paul getting labeled nutty for his anti-interventionist position is that this may be the most mainstream thing Ron Paul believes — yet oddly enough, is nonetheless my area of greatest disagreement with him (though I don’t dismiss that position as completely or as huffily as did Rudy Giuliani, who, in a further irony, I may well end up voting for in the general election, after casting a symbolic vote for Paul in the primary, if Paul lasts that long). Here’s a video debate just today between National Review’s Jonah Goldberg and the Brooking Institution’s Peter Beinart over whether Paul’s a nut (this video clip is from the same series of Goldberg-Beinart conversations that included this one, a nice summary of where the GOP, and its various factions, stand after the 2006 election defeat).

In contrast to his views on the military, I’m completely onboard with Paul in his desire to:

–abolish the Federal Reserve

–end Federal involvement in drug enforcement

–abolish the income tax

–dismantle the entire welfare state

–get the U.S. out of the U.N.

–restore the gold standard and/or allow private currency production

–end all subsidies

–eliminate virtually all Cabinet-level agencies

And so on. Who would have thought, in other words, that being antiwar is the thing that would get him “in trouble”? I only wish I could take this to mean we’re all now in agreement on all those other items.

I also wish, whatever differences I may have with Paul, that those unscientific online polls that his fans are so good at “winning” for him were accurate and reflected a groundswell of support that would carry him to victory in ’08, if not on this Earth, at least on some superior alternate world, somewhere amid the fifty-two universes of the multiverse. I am reminded of a heavily Michael Moorcock-influenced old idea I had for a sci-fi novel in which a man is forced to work across multiple universes with his own doppelgangers, each with a seemingly divergent political philosophy but all compatible with the core idea of liberty in the end. I’ve put up with enough crap from politicians in my lifetime that I ought quite easily to be able to hold my nose and vote for Ron Paul — indeed, for once, I may not even notice a stench. How can I pass up a quite likely once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like that?

P.S. Ah, well, at least Michelle Malkin has acknowledged that Paul is not a member of the 9/11 Truth conspiracy theory movement noted above, and if the whole issue gets too depressing, we have this video clip presenting the lighter side of 9/11, pointed out to me by Dan Raspler.

UPDATE 5/23/07: Speaking of conspiracies, my friend Jessica Seigel of the New York Times is scheduled to be on O’Reilly on Fox News Channel tonight at 8 Eastern (and 11) reacting to a new Pew poll showing most American Muslims don’t believe Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks.  [And now, here's the video.]


Tim said...


Clara said...

Cleanup crew never found the remains of any of the airliners supposedly hijacked on 9/11. The planes were in fact diverted by federal agents and taken to a secret government holding compound, where the passengers remain in captivity to this day.

That’s according to some crazy video I saw online.

The truth is too boring for some people, apparently.