When I first heard about the Nicholas Berg thing, I admit, I was not outraged. This is no reflection on the atrocity involved, but rather on my brain–I’ve reached and exceeded my capacity for outrage so far as Iraq is concerned, and whatever horrors come out, on either side, no longer much surprise me. There’s a limit to how impressed I can be by the capacity of people to inflict misery on one another, and we’re way over the limit and appear to be picking up speed.
Doubtless some of my readers are outraged by my lack of outrage, and would like to yell at me for my callousness. Let’s short circuit this right away–you’re a better person than I am, you have more empathy, I suck and should be ashamed. I have no problems with that. My lack of an infinite supply of moral outrage is a wretched character flaw, yes, but we all play the cards we’re dealt. If you still have to yell, go ahead, but don’t expect much response on my part.
What DID happen, however, was that the old, cold voice in the back of my brain said “Well…that’s certainly…odd.” And the more I read about the whole thing, the more it nagged. It’s…odd. There’s something about it that doesn’t sit right. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what–there are lots of little things that can all be easily dismissed, but somehow it doesn’t ring true to my understanding, limited though it is, of how people are. Either we aren’t getting a few key bits of information, or somebody’s lying about something, or there some other bit that’s been misreported or misremembered or I don’t know what, but there is something…fishy…ahout the whole thing.
That’s not the point of this, however.
The point was that we have somehow come to a point where if you say “I dunno, there’s something weird about it all,” people point at you and scream “CONSPIRACY THEORIST!” or “SICK!” and I, for one, am left going “Huh?”
I know what a conspiracy theory is. A conspiracy theory is when you claim the Bavarian Illuminati are controlling U.S. politics, having gotten their claws into Bush during his tenure in Skull & Bones, (and getting Kerry as a candidate so he won’t interfere, also being a Skull & Bonesite) precipitated the 9-11 attacks via the modern incarnations of the Assassins of Alamut, and sent the U.S. into Iraq so that, in all the confusion, nobody would notice that they were raiding the museums to get the key artifact Hammurabi concealed in code on the back of one of the tablets so that they can summon Elder Gods, ia, ia, cthulhu ftaghn! and then handed the whole mess over to the Men in Black so that they can raze Iraq and soften it up for an alien invasion, since greys like Muslim ovaries better.
THAT is a conspiracy theory. Please make a note of it.
A conspiracy theory involves an explanation of events. It may be far-fetched, but it’s an explanation.
Saying “I dunno, there’s something WEIRD going on, and I have a lot of questions,” is not a conspiracy theory. Saying “So how come the guy was in U.S. custody but they claimed he wasn’t?” is a question, not a theory. There is nothing wrong with asking questions. If somebody says “The whole thing strikes me as weird and awfully convenient, and I don’t quite buy the official version of events,” please do not point at them screaming about conspiracy theories unless they begin talking about the Illuminati.
The other method seems to be to point and yell “You’re sick to even think such a thing! I am horribly offended that you would imply that!” This one is also annoying.
1. It is not about you. Trying to make it about you by proclaiming your offendedness is just tedious. There are many other ways to get attention on the internet, even without a webcam.
2. I realize that claiming offense is a quick way to get people to backpedal and apologize for ever having questioned anything, since many of us really hate to give offense, but a backpedal to avoid hurting someone’s feelings is not the same as saying “Okay, my fears have been put to rest, way to go.”
3. What is with “sick”? I mean, what’s sick about asking questions? I realize people like to claim it’s somehow capitalizing on someone’s death, but Christ, if I was dead, I would want people figuring out EXACTLY how it happened!
The whole thing reminds me of religion, really. If you genuinely, deeply, truly, utterly believed in something, you welcome questions. Testing makes you happy. I believe in carbon dating, and I am delighted to see it tested, because there is not a doubt in my mind that it’ll stand up. The Dalai Lama, whom I admire greatly, has asked that various artifacts supposedly belonging to the Buddha be tested so that we’ll know what was and what wasn’t. That’s faith. The Catholic Church obviously doesn’t have that kind of faith in the Shroud of Turin because they dithered for so long, and have cried and kicked their feet about the results, but that’s neither here nor there.
My point is that if you genuinely believe something to be true, you don’t scream when people question it, you don’t point at them shrieking “SICK! SICK!” or anything like that. It’s only when, deep down in your heart of hearts, you’re pretty sure it ISN’T true that you fight questions of any sort and claim that faith is more imporantant. (At least, such is my experience with people, having been on both sides of the equation.) And so it seems to me that those who freak when people asks questions about weird shit like the Nicholas Berg tragedy must not have very much faith in the official version of events, or else they wouldn’t be getting so defensive when people question it, would they?