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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Facts and Fantasies

A comment left yesterday on one of my recent posts flagged up one of the problems of the 'information age.' It has never been easier to disseminate and promote misinformation and conspiracy theories. Some of the ideas the commenter posted came from a blog he/she obviously reads and believes. I followed his link and found the blogger promotes just about every crazy conspiracy theory available. It starts off by claiming that the "Arab Spring" is a plot managed by the CIA and NATO to destabilise the Middle East. According to him, the CIA 'runs' Al Qaeda and 'arranged' for the destruction of the Twin Towers.

It isn't the first time I've encountered these beliefs. They are fairly widely held - and it must be said that they are promoted by various governments - in the Middle East. This is where the internet comes into play, because they invariably cite as a source, or as 'proof' one or more of the more rabid conspiracy theories promoted by some of the more way out conspiracy theorists based in the US or the UK. Michael Moores fiction, Fahrenheit 911, is frequently quoted as 'proof' and presented as a 'documentary' which 'proves' that George W Bush ordered the destruction of the Twin Towers to 'justify a war against Islam.'

It highlights two problems in my view. Apparently no 'government' source in the west is trusted, but every 'opposition' source is to be taken as 'truth' no matter how far fetched. It is, of course, made all the more credible by the fact that we know our government's often 'spin' the truth and omit the inconvenient or damaging from their reports. It is this that gives the conspiracy theorists an open platform. "If they're saying this ... what are they not telling me?" becomes more than a simple mantra - and, if we are honest, we all have that thought when dealing with Government Press Releases, the Media and political announcements. The classic email sent out by one of Blair's aides on the day the Twin Towers were destroyed - the infamous "today's a good day to bury bad news" was merely a confirmation of something we already new about government "news" management.

The second problem is that many, especially those living in countries like Syria or Iran, often do not have access to any information sources that do not meet their government's 'message' about the 'enemy.' This is where the conspiracy theorists in the west play directly into the hands of the propagandists in those areas. The constant stream of books, films, YouTube clips and sheer fantasy poured onto the net by them feeds the hatred many opponents of the western ideals and way of life use very effectively to foster hatred of us and everything we cherish. One can only wonder what motivates them and what their idea of a 'perfect' society looks like. Given that some are rabid believers in the right to arm themselves with every kind of weapon of destruction and others are tree-hugging vegans, I don't think we'll see anything constructive emerging from their campaigns anytime soon.

What certainly is needed is an acknowledgement of past mistakes by government and by the various 'Intelligence' Organisations. Much of what we are now seeing in terms of terrorism, piracy and political upheaval is a legacy of the Cold War. The Taliban rose to power with arms and support from the US, and have now rejected everything their benefactor stands for. The same has happened in a number of other countries. One could mention Mugabe, the Marxist Regimes in Angola and Mozambique, the various factions in the former Belgian Congo, Vietnam, North Korea and West Africa. If we were given an honest acknowledgement of exactly who did what for who in those areas, we might be in a position to roll back a lot of the mythology about what is happening at present.

Personally I don't believe that the CIA, NATO or MI5 are involved in 'destabilising' the Middle East. I do believe that the 'Intelligence Services' of many countries are active there, since knowledge, advance warning and even support for diplomatic efforts depend on knowing what is happening 'on the ground' and who is or is not involved. I also recognise that there are some things I cannot be told at this time for a whole variety of reasons - including the fact that it might actually inflame things in the minds of some if it were made public.  Diplomacy and negotiations in an inflamed climate of distrust can all to easily flare into violence when it is 'spun' or manipulated by someone with a violent agenda.

What my search (perhaps trawl is a better expression) turned up yesterday is that while there are plenty of factual and informative sources available on these matters, there is also a plethora of extreme conspiracy fantasy out there - and that is a sad reflection on the ability of those posting it to consider the impact their fatasies are having in reality. If anything is a threat to our freedom of thought and expression, it is probably the dissemination of 'fantasy' as fact by these groups.

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