This article, by John Gravois, staff reporter for The Chronicle Of Higher Education, won't remain online without subscription for long, but I linked anyway. It is a philosophical debunking of conspiracy theorists, basically painting them as tinfoil-hat nutjobs. This quote sums up the author's primary objections to conspiracy theories:
"One of the most common intuitive problems people have with conspiracy theories is that they require positing such complicated webs of secret actions. If the twin towers fell in a carefully orchestrated demolition shortly after being hit by planes, who set the charges? Who did the planning? And how could hundreds, if not thousands of people complicit in the murder of their own countrymen keep quiet? Usually, Occam's razor intervenes."
I simply approach 9/11 conspiracies from an opposite direction. Broad theories about what happened are not needed. But glaring holes in official explanations still need to be exposed. Not all these conspiracy theories have equal merit. The evidence that explosions brought down the twin towers seems weaker than the evidence that a cruise missile hit the pentagon. This particular theory is at least worth debating. Watch Loose Change for some highly disturbing evidence.
However, I also disagree with the above quote. I think "complicated webs of secret actions" are not so uncommon among business tycoons and governments. How did Hilter rise to power? Certainly complicated webs of secret actions (combined with demagoguery) were his method. All would-be authoritarians, in nations in every continent, are forever conspiring. The CIA, Kissenger and Pinochet conspired to take over Chile. And they did, commiting unspeakable evil in the process. For decades afterward, if you said the CIA was involved, people would think you were a nut. As for the legions who would be required to keep their mouths shut, they can be made to do only the smallest part of the plan, and so are not party to the conspiracy as a whole. If the CIA really wanted to blow up the WTC, I don't think they would find it so hard to train (and silence) a demolition team. The information that the WTC's bomb sniffing dogs were removed weeks before 911, and a number of unidentified construction crews were seen in the building is unsettling to say the least. Everything can be rationalized, and people can be made to believe that the evil deed they do is necessary and right. If Bin Laden is capable of conspiracy, then certainly Dick Cheney is also. Ambitious and ruthless men conspire.
Not to say a neoconservative led cabal did have anything to do with 9/11. I don't know. The truth is hard to find. And perhaps even harder to stomach. I am just saying don't stifle debate. I don't see the value in all the character assassinations of conspiracy theorists. Same for peak theorists. What's the point? Harper's published a particularly silly article on peak oil (not online), interviewing mainly survivalists, ridiculing their views, with minimal explanation. If the theory is stupid, don't write about it. If the theory is intriguing but flawed, expose it. Whether the theorist is eccentric is irrelevant.