ZEITGEIST: THE MOVIE and LOOSE CHANGE - Why do we watch them?
In a small village in the Russian Far East, I was swapping Spanish classes for Russian classes. My Russian is minimal, and the chance to exchange Spanish classes with an experienced Russian teacher was nice proposition for me.
This small village, once the site of an important Soviet agriculture commune, now struggles to maintain its youth who wind there way toward bigger cities and more opportunity. My young teacher is one of the few that have stayed. She is bright, 31years old, and speaks perfect English. During one of the classes she asked me if I had seen ZEITGEIST: THE MOVIE. I hadn’t, so that night I took a look on the internet, thinking it might give us something to discuss in class.
ZEITGEIST: THE MOVIE may be the ultimate conspiracy theory film. It is truly all encompassing, from Christianity, to 9/11 with WWII, Vietnam and the Federal Reserve thrown in for kicks. These films have an amazing pubic appeal. Conspiracy theories are like gossip, few admit that they enjoy them, but I think most due. The first time I came in contact with 9/11 conspiracy theories was with Loose Change, a film written and directed by Dylan Avery that has been very popular. According to Wikipedia
“An August 2006 Vanity Fair article suggested that Loose Change "just might be the first Internet blockbuster" as it became the most watched video on Google Video in May 2006, being viewed at least 40 million times on that site, and with the official Loose Change website receiving over 100,000 hits a day. Millions more have viewed the film via unaffiliated websites. More than one million copies of the DVD have been sold, and many more have been given away.”
And for ZEITGEIST: THE MOVIE, much the same can be said. I have found a wide variety of people, (not all but most in bars) who if you dig enough and feed them enough drinks, you will find they believe in these theories. Isn’t it said that more Americans believe in UFO’s than evolution? In one week in New York, an investment banker and union member confessed to me to be 9/11 Truth Movement backers. My ex-wife (Spanish) was convinced that the Apollo Lunar landings were a hoax, and when I brought her to Cape Kennedy, she sensed UFO’s (okay, she is a little wacky) but not that far out there. According to Time Magazine,
“A Scripps-Howard poll of 1,010 adults last month (Sept. 2006) found that 36% of Americans consider it "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that government officials either allowed the attacks to be carried out or carried out the attacks themselves.”
But what does this group believe the motive was? Again Time Magazine,
“The entire catastrophe was planned and executed by federal officials in order to provide the U.S. with a pretext for going to war in the Middle East and, by extension, as a means of consolidating and extending the power of the Bush Administration.”
I don’t want to delve into the details of all of the theories, but suffice to say I think they are at best a collection of unrelated coincidences, that grouped and out of context can make an interesting case for the uncritical thinker. But that doesn’t mean I am not attracted to them. On the contrary, I have spent hours watching these films, knowing that they were not serious, but enjoying the “feeling” of a grand conspiracy. It is somehow comforting. Much the same for the universe, all the coincidences that occurred to create conscious human life make it very easy for us to believe in creation theories.
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I don’t think that it is any coincidence that the Arab world, entrenched in dogmatic religion, and Eastern Europe, devoid of it for so long, both gravitate strongly to these types of theories. No matter how we look at it, these theories are dangerous because they demonstrate how easily even modern man is convinced of something that is really absurd. No sooner we wean ourselves from religious dogma, than we find ourselves in the grips of bizarre theories of world conspiracy.
In the famous interviews Joseph Campbell gave to Bill Moyers, he spoke about how modern man would have to find a new myth, and unfortunately it might come from a more sophisticated version of one of these theories. But for something to be believed on a grand scale must there not be some truth to it?
I remember returning to the US (I was living abroad) for Christmas in 2001, and I was shocked at the intensity of the patriotic fervor. What is clear is that a bill of goods was sold to the American people to eventually invade Iraq and carry out an agenda. But when that agenda was addressed academically, for example, by John Mearsheimer, from the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, from Harvard University, in their white paper on "The Israel Lobby", the whole subject was squashed.
If we can’t have honest, open and free debates about the main issues of our day, I am afraid we are doomed to fall in the traps set but the conspiracy theorists.
The Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt said it well, `The essence of tyranny is the denial of complexity.'
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