- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Vast conspiracy

“Conspiracy theorists allege that the events of 9/11 are not adequately explained by the ‘official story’ fingering Osama bin Laden and his network as the culprits. What really needs explaining, though, is not 9/11, but the existence of such conspiracy theorists themselves, whose by now well-known speculations about what ‘really happened’ that day are — not to put too fine a point on it — so mind-numbingly stupid that it is mystifying how anyone with a functioning cerebrum could take them seriously even for a moment. …

“A clue to the real attraction of conspiracy theories, I would suggest, lies in the rhetoric of theorists themselves, which is filled with self-congratulatory descriptions of those who accept such theories as ‘willing to think,’ ‘educated,’ ‘independent-minded,’ and so forth, and with invective against the ‘uninformed’ and ‘unthinking’ ‘sheeple’ who ‘blindly follow authority.’ The world of the conspiracy theorist is Manichean: either you are intelligent, well-informed, and honest, and therefore question all authority and received opinion; or you accept what popular opinion or an authority says and therefore must be stupid, dishonest, and ignorant. There is no third option.

“The absurd idea that to be intelligent, scientific, and intellectually honest requires a distrust for all authority per se and a contempt for the opinions of the average person, has so deeply permeated the modern Western consciousness that conspiratorial thinking has for many people come to seem the rational default position.”

—Edward Feser, writing on “We the Sheeple? Why Conspiracy Theories Persist,” Sept. 20 in Tech Central Station at www.tcsdaily.com

Math heresy

“The debate over gender and science, which helped bring down Harvard President Lawrence Summers this year, has been revived by a new report from the National Academies. …

“The report endorses the view that the predominance of men in scientific fields is due not to biological differences and personal priorities, as Summers suggested, but to gender bias and unconscious institutional sexism. But is this an effort to find out the truth, or to stamp out heresy?”

—Cathy Young, writing on “Women, science, and the gender gap,” Monday in the Boston Globe

Fighting for us

“She’s a Renaissance woman, whose talents run from scholarship to music and sport. But in [a recent Wall Street Journal] interview Condoleezza Rice often seems oddly detached from the life-and-death quality of the war against the terror masters. … Her mission for the next two years is not victory, but to put ‘some fundamentals in place.’ I wish the interviewer had asked her to define these ‘fundamentals,’ so that we could better judge whether or not they are worth the lives and limbs of our children. Most of those young men and women believe they are there to win, and lots of them complain that their rules of engagement seem more calculated to avoid accusations of excess than to defeat the enemy.

“While the secretary says that the terrorists ‘have to be defeated,’ she specifies that in Iraq ‘we just have to fight tooth and nail for the victory of the Iraqis who do not want Iranian influence in their daily lives.’ … she doesn’t say that our children have to fight for us, but for the Iraqis.”

—Michael Ledeen, writing on “Cognitive Dissonance,” Tuesday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

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