High ideals and crazy dreams

Truthers hurt
By AL DIAMON  |  April 28, 2010

I have nothing against conspiracy theories. Sometimes they even turn out to be real conspiracies, like Watergate, Iran-Contra, the entire Clinton administration, and the way Republicans in the Maine Legislature caved in and voted for more state borrowing.

But when it comes to conspiracy theories that turn out to be complete fantasies, I do expect them to be, at least, entertaining. And some of them are:

-The government staged the moon landings in a Hollywood studio.

-Marilyn Monroe was offed by the Mafia acting on orders from the Kennedys.

-Dennis Dechaine of Bowdoinham was framed for the 1988 murder of 12-year-old Sarah Cherry by a mysterious criminal mastermind for reasons that make no sense whatsoever.

-The Mike Heath-for-governor one-day wonder.

Unfortunately, the world is rife with less diverting scams: Birthers (President Obama was born in Kenya — or the Philippines — or someplace foreign), sovereign citizens (the federal income tax is unconstitutional — even though it was created by a constitutional amendment), and Truthers (the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were orchestrated by the Bush administration, the CIA, Israel, Martians, or some combination thereof).

To date, Maine has been relatively uncluttered with advocates of the Truther movement. A radio show in Aroostook County, a Web site or two, and the occasional squirrelly protester at a peace rally or Tea Party protest constitute the bulk of the activity.

That’s likely to change in early May when David Ray Griffin comes to the state.

Griffin, who’s speaking in Deer Isle on May 5 and in Portland on May 6, is a retired professor of theology at a college in California. Several years ago, he became obsessed with 9/11 minutiae, and ever since, he’s been turning out books such as Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory.

I did not make that title up. Although I wish I had.

Griffin’s appearances here are part of a 15-stop tour in which he’s attempting to convince mainstream peace activists to make common cause with the Truthers because, he says, both groups agree that the war in Afghanistan is legally and morally unjustified. Whatever merit that argument might have, sensible anti-war protesters still may want to keep their distance, lest they catch kookiness cooties.

I don’t have the time, space, or energy to go into each of Griffin’s principal claims in detail, but anyone who cares can go to the Web to find compelling evidence to the contrary. Just don’t expect the facts to disrupt the train of illogic on his conspiracy-theory tracks. As Griffin critic Chip Berlet put it in a review of one of the Truther’s books, Griffin maintains “a relentless disregard of substantial evidence from multiple sources that contradict the claims he is making.”

That personality disorder contributes to Griffin being a slippery interview subject. During a phone conversation, I asked him why no one involved in what would have to be a massive undertaking to fake the destruction of 9/11 had ever come forward and admitted what they’d done. After all, most real conspiracies start to unravel when a Deep Throat coughs up some insider stuff.

“If the press, the news media, would have an investigation,” he said, “you’d get plenty of people coming forward. But if somebody comes forward, the press will ridicule them as conspiracy theorists.”

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