Jonah Goldberg has a piece on the proliferation of 9/11 conspiracy theories and how they reflect a rejection of reasonable political discourse. As Goldberg eloquently puts it:
There is a virulent form of unpatriotism festering in America today. Like an algae bloom that deprives life of oxygen, it starves democracy of the air of reason. It now thrives on what we call the far Left, but like a dead zone off the coast, it moves with the tides.
I am referring to the seditious dementia of conspiracy theories, the death of faith not in some mere administration or Congress but in America itself.
As far as I am concerned, the arguments that the US was responsible for the atrocities of September 11, 2001 are as morally reprehensible and intellectually vacant as denying the Holocaust. They use the same pseudoscientific jargon, the same manipulation of facts, the same appeals to the weak minded who want to try to justify their ignorance of the political process by arguing that some sinister cabal runs everything anyway. “Documentaries” such as Loose Change prey on the gullibilities of those whose hatred for the President have overwhelmed every semblance of rational thought or even moral reasoning.
Yet the culture that the left has created, the conspiratorial arguments they frequently use, have fostered the climate where this filth can thrive. Once one accepts that President Bush maliciously “lied” our way into a war in Iraq, it’s not that hard to accept that 9/11 was a lie too. Once one sets aside rational argumentation and descends into the world of conspiracy, nothing is beyond the pale. The mainstream Democratic line ends up being but a few steps away from the fever swamp.
Goldberg invokes Richard Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style In American Politics, which is probably more relevant now than it was when it was written. The John Birchers never had all that much currency within the Republican Party, while today the conspiracy-minded “netroots” have a virtual stranglehold on the politics of the Democratic Party. The “paranoid style” is alive and well, and what was once a movement on the far fringes of American politics is now growing as more and more people are swept up in the irrationalism of Bush Derangement Syndrome.
Our democracy requires informed and rational debate — and as Goldberg observes, paranoid and irrational conspiracy theories take the oxygen out of the room and stifle legitimate and reasonable political debate in a cloud of noxiousness. Responsible citizens should reject these foolish arguments and those who continue to espouse them.