There are some people, I am told, who don't believe that 35 years ago,
American astronauts landed on the moon. At the same time, other members of the
public think that a vast conspiracy has covered up the discovery of UFO-type
And still others cling to the notion that the CIA killed John F. Kennedy,
while a Jewish subset of this sector similarly thinks that Yitzhak Rabin was
murdered by the Mossad.
In other words, there are some really dumb people out there, a portion of
whom are stark-raving mad.
Conspiracies are the lifeblood of mystery novels and thrillers. They feed
into our fear that somehow, all of our troubles can be traced to a small group of
malevolent malefactors, whose plots and stratagems are designed to steal our
liberties and our money while we innocently sleep.
Such nonsense has helped employ a small army of writers, film crews and
actors for generations, with little effect other than to keep those people employed
and the weak-minded entertained.
So there should be no surprise about the fact that the Sept. 11 attacks and
the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that followed would become
source material for the same sort of conspiratorial fantasies.
Soon after 9/11, rumors began sweeping the Arab world that the Al Qaeda
attacks were the work of Israel. A fable about the Jews who worked in the World
Trade Center calling in sick that day became widely accepted. Of course, this
attempt to blame a familiar target of Arab intolerance was somewhat paradoxical,
since many in the same sector claimed that only the Jews were smart enough to
have pulled off such a dastardly and complicated crime.
CRACKPOTS KNOW NO BOUNDARIES
But nutty conspiracy theories are not the sole province of the Jew-haters who
seem to dominate the Muslim world these days. Although it would be unfair to
draw a straight line between vile Islamic anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and
those of the American far left, let's just say that the crackpots of Cairo
might find something to talk about with the likes of, say, Tim Robbins or
Robbins, the Hollywood star/playwright, had his anti-Iraq war satire
"Embedded" produced at New York's Public Theater this spring. The play, which
portrayed the war as a neoconservative conspiracy, will be remembered chiefly for the
fact that, as Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout pointed out, Robbins
actually used a publication put out by lunatic left-cult leader Lyndon
Larouche as the source for a misquote of conservative philosopher Leo Strauss.
As for Moore, his new "documentary" film "Fahrenheit 9/11" is about to open
after a huge buildup in the press. The flick, which won the Palme d'Or at
this year's Cannes Film Festival, purportedly shows the war to have been a
conspiracy cooked up by evil-doers in the White House.
Among the chattering classes, Moore is considered something of a comic
genius, though his previous films were more agitprop than wit. I'll leave the
skewering of his latest work to others after it comes out. But I will note that any
one who could have written in a book, as Moore did in his best-seller "Dude,
Where's My Country?" that George W. Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks, or that
most Israelis "know they are in the wrong" in defending themselves against
Palestinian suicide bombings, is not exactly a trusted source on the subject of
the war on terrorism.
Though Moore belongs on the Sci-Fi Channel, his brand of analysis is being
treated as the stuff of mainstream debate on C-Span. And that has consequences
not just for the upcoming presidential election, but for the sanity of American
After the failure to find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the Abu Ghraib
prison scandal, ongoing American casualties and with seemingly little progress
made toward transforming Iraq into something that resembles a democracy,
skepticism about the war is widespread.
Second thoughts about the wisdom of the war are understandable. But they are
also a distraction from the real question of whether transforming the Mideast
from a hotbed for Islamo-fascism into a beachhead for democracy is
practicable. While the cause remains just, the answer to that question remains uncertain,
even though it can still be argued that the Middle East is a safer place now
that both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein have been toppled.
Yet what is troubling about the undeserved respect given Moore is whether his
film and the wacko world of conspiracy that lies behind it will help drive
the debate on the war during the presidential campaign. That is clearly the
intention of Moore and those who back him, such as the far-left MoveOn.org Web
site, which is hoping to push Democratic candidate John Kerry to move from second
guesses and sniping at Bush to open opposition to the war.
Though common sense dictates that a major-party candidate should move to the
center rather than to left or right, Kerry may be advised that he can't afford
to let Independent/Green Party candidate Ralph Nader seize the initiative on
the war. Nader, whose presence on the ballot probably put Bush in the White
House in 2000, has said he will use the war as his top issue. If the gadfly
erodes the Democratic base this year as much as he did four years ago, that could
again sink the Democrats.
But Kerry should remember that the overwhelming majority of voters outside of
Hollywood and the Manhattan theater district are not as enamored of Bush
conspiracy theories as are the denizens of these places. Just as Bush must attempt
to navigate between his right-wing conservative base and the center, Kerry
must avoid alienating Americans who may have doubts about Bush, but still do not
question America's motives in the war on terror.
President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer,
America's pro-consul in Baghdad, as well as some of the tactics they have
employed, are all fair game for criticism. But what's needed now from the Democrats is
a reasonable alternative policy that will not result in a U.S. retreat.
What we need from both parties is a commitment to a free Iraq, coupled with
unceasing pressure on the terrorists and their allies. Kerry should remember
there are more votes to be found there than in the nightmarish world of Michael