The rhetoric of conspiracy - Theories of September 11th


Seminar Paper, 2003

22 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Excerpt

Table of Contents

I Introduction

II Theoretical Background
1.1 What is a Conspiracy/Conspiracy Theory?
1.2 What makes a Conspiracy Theorist?
1.2.1 The Psychological Effect of Grave Events
1.2.2 Accessibility and Distribution
1.2.3 The American Tradition of Conspiracy Thinking

III Conspiracy Theories of September 11th
2.1 Fulfilment of Bible Prophecies
2.1.1 Satan in the Smoke
2.1.2 9/11 in the Bible
2.1.3 The WTC-Attack in the Bible Code
2.2 A Work of the Illuminati
2.2.1 Who are They?
2.2.2 Traces of Their Involvement
2.3 A Conspiracy by the Government
2.3.1 The Failure of the CIA
2.3.2 Quick Evidence and More Gains than Losses

IV Conclusion

Bibliography

List of Works Cited

List of Works Consulted

List of Internet References

I Introduction

Throughout the history of the United States of America there have been numerous events that became subject of conspiracy theories; beginning in their early days with the Bavarian Illuminati, to who the so-called the One-Dollar-Conspiracy is connected, claiming that Adam Weishaupt replaced George Washington and therefore it is him, who is depicted on the one dollar-note (Knight 1). In April 1947 an event in New Mexico was officially explained with the coming down of a weather balloon, but conspiracy theorists suppose that a flying saucer crashed in the desert, and established the myth of Area 51, an assumedly secret military base containing the remainings of the alien spacecraft. 20 years later Area 51 appeared again in a conspiracy theory supposing that the moon landing was nothing but a staging, filmed on the ground of that military base. The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22nd 1963 and the fast and simple solving of the case gave rise to a lot of speculations, too; in his movie JFK, the director Oliver Stone even used the word “coup d’état”, suggesting that a conspiracy of members of the government, including Lyndon B. Johnson, killed the president out of political reasons.

On September 11th 2001 the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, destroying the World Trade Center, heavily damaging the Pentagon, and killing almost 3.000 people, shocked the world and had a lasting effect on national and international politics of the United States. In short time, thousands of websites appeared on the internet and are still online, each offering its own truth about what had happened: Some claim having seen Satan himself in the flames and the smoke that rose from the burning twin towers, saying that the attack was just the beginning of the end of the world. Others use anti-Semitist sentiments and report about a Jewish plot following Zionist ideology. Again others blame the US-government for not preventing or even carrying out the attacks in order to justify their later wars on the Taliban regime and on Iraq. Some even talk about the involvement of an alien race.

This seminar paper will begin by providing a theoretical background on conspiracy theories and suppose a thesis how those theories influence people and seduce them to believe. Rhetorical features will be taken into account as well as psychological features. After the outlining of the theoretical background, an overview of several conspiracy theories, connected with the events of September 11th 2001, will be given. Each theory will be individually discussed and examined in regard of its use of language and how historical facts and findings are mixed up with clichés and biased subjective opinions of the authors. In the end there will possibly be a common scheme to identify of how the writers and publishers of such theories succeed in winning so many supporters.

II Theoretical Background

1.1 What is a Conspiracy/Conspiracy Theory?

When writing on conspiracy theories, the term itself must be defined first. ‘Conspiracy’ means the “act of conspiring, esp. joint planning of a crime [... or a] plan made by conspiring” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s 250). ‘Conspiring’ means to “make secret plans (with others), esp. to do wrong” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s 250). The word ‘conspiracy’ appears also in the criminal law of the United States of America, where the “common-law-Definition” of Lord Denmann from the year 1832 is employed: “The indictment must charge a conspiracy either to do an unlawful act or a lawful act by unlawful means” (Bornhövd 27).

The second word of the compositum is ‘theory’, which means a “set of reasoned ideas intended to explain facts or events [... or an] opinion or supposition, not necessarily based on reasoning [... or] ideas or superstitions in general (contrasted with practice) [... or a] (statement of the) principles on which a subject is based” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s 1330). The definitions of those two words from the dictionary explain very clearly what the term ‘conspiracy theory’ means.

Thus, a ‘conspiracy theory’ is a set of ideas, partly based on reasoning and facts, but also based on speculations about a political or historical event, suspecting a certain group of people to have staged or induced that event for their own (political) purposes. The target groups of such suspicions are usually (supposedly) powerful elites like secret societies (e.g. the Bavarian Illuminati), governments, or – rather used as an instrument of anti-Semitist agitation – Jewish lodges. Some more ‘adventurous’ theories even blame aliens or simple take the concerned events for the fulfilment of biblical or other prophecies. All conspiracy theories advertised on the internet or in books have in common that they all claim to present the ‘real truth’ which is opposed to the ‘official version’.

1.2 What makes a Conspiracy Theorist?

1.2.1 The Psychological Effect of Grave Events

The University of California carried out a test among 64 students, examining how likely the test persons were to link grave political or historical events to conspiratorial plots. In order to do so, the students were handed a faked newspaper article in four different versions, all reporting about the assassination of the head of state of a fictional country. Each version had a different outcome of the assassination. In the first version the president was gunned down and killed, in the second version the president was hit but survived, in the third the shot missed but the president died shortly afterwards of an unrelated cause, and in a final version, the assassin’s shot completely missed the president and did not harm him at all. The students were asked about their opinion, which version told the likely truth. The result showed that the graver the consequences of the assassination were, the more likely it was that the students linked the shooting to a conspiratorial plot. The general assumption deduced from this test is that people are likely to link major events to major causes (“Who shot the president?”).

The terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 are obviously a major event of present-day history, regarding its consequences like the new political agenda of the United States’ foreign policy, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the change in international relations between the United States and countries like Germany and France, the changes in the US’s inner security-policies and the inner-political crisis in the United Kingdom. Therefore it can be aligned with all the events that were mentioned in the introduction as an ignition for speculations and conspiracy theories.

But is only the occurrence of such a grave political event a sufficient reason to start assuming a conspiratorial plot? Why do conspiracy theorists not trust the official versions? This question needs to be approached by different aspects. First, the problem could be the official version itself. The presented truth could evoke the suspicion that it is all made up, e.g. by giving only weak proof or no proof at all, or by being presented too quickly. Second, the problem could be the conspiracy theorist as a person by generally distrusting such explanations of events. In that case, conspiracy thinking serves as a type of epistemological dispute. The conspiracy theorist finds himself in an “ongoing process of distrusting official accounts and finding new connections, rather than passively buying into a neatly packaged set of ready-made convictions” (Knight 11). But where does that general distrust derive from?

[...]

Excerpt out of 22 pages

Details

Title
The rhetoric of conspiracy - Theories of September 11th
College
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz  (Englische Philologie)
Course
Paranoia in American Literature and Culture
Grade
1,7
Author
Year
2003
Pages
22
Catalog Number
V78181
ISBN (eBook)
9783638827997
ISBN (Book)
9783638832151
File size
845 KB
Language
English
Tags
Theories, September, Paranoia, American, Literature, Culture, Conspiracy, 911, September 11th, 11.09.2001, 11. September, Verschwörungstheorien
Quote paper
Christian Schlegel (Author), 2003, The rhetoric of conspiracy - Theories of September 11th, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/78181

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