Monday, May 26, 2008

An Afternoon with the "Truthers"

I went down to Senator McCain's office to meet with the local conspiracy theorists. There was a pretty good-sized crowd there; I'm going to guess 25-30 people, maybe even 35. A fair number were kids, and I mean kids--there were easily eight children from 7-12 years old, and they were among the most enthusiastic, although we'll assume they haven't done a lot of research themselves and are just going along with what Mom and Dad were doing.

I located Blair Gadsby and introduced myself. My experience with Truthers has tended to be positive, and Blair didn't break the mold. Nice guy, very well-spoken, not angry in the slightest, but quite sincere in his belief about 9-11 "Truth". I talked to him enough to get his particular flavor of 9-11 conspiracy. He believes that the hijackers existed, is not sure they flew the planes into the buildings (he expressed some support for the remote-controlled theory), but that somebody--the government but maybe not Bush per se--made things worse by controlled demolition of the buildings.

This is the same kind of conspiracy theory that Rob Bishop described to me on his show; a kind of LIHOP plus CD. I haven't thought that one through, but it strikes me that there are some grave problems with this theory; how did they know what stories the planes would hit, for example? And how do you accept the hijackers, but then switch over to remote controlled planes?

I also talked with another pleasant guy named Craig, who hit me up with "eight hijackers are alive". Lord, I'll be hearing that one on on my deathbed. Craig also tried the "Flight Manifests didn't have the hijackers" routine. Karen Johnson, the State Senator Troofer, was there but unfortunately my digital camera chose today to go on the fritz, so I didn't bother to interview her.

I did bring out a couple of the signs. I had my "Let's Roll" shirt (authorized by the Todd Beamer Foundation), and I came up with a pretty good riff on that. On one side, I had "When Americans Say Let's Roll, They Mean:" with pictures of Todd Beamer, Jeremy Glick and Mark Bingham. On the reverse, I wrote, "When Truthers Say Let's Roll, They Mean:" with a picture of a guy smoking a joint.

At any rate, I enjoyed myself reasonably well. I was a little disturbed/disappointed at the number of cars honking as they passed the group. This is not a neighborhood that anybody would consider terribly "Truther-friendly". There were some people pushing other causes along the roadside, and at least some of the reaction could have been to the "Recall Mayor Gordon" woman. (Gordon is in a feud with County Sheriff Joe Arpaio over illegal immigrant roundups by the latter). But I'd have to say a fair number of people seemed to be reacting positively to the "Truthers" and nobody was angry or flipped them the bird while I was there.

I asked Blair about the general ground rules he was operating under. He said that he will drink water only, with no other liquid or solid food. He will remain at his post from early in the morning until late at night, but will go home to sleep. He did assure me that this might be a hunger strike, but it's not a starvation one. He's hoping to make it about two weeks or until the 11th of next month. I have to say, he's going to look pretty gaunt. If the guy's hiding five extra pounds on him it's lead weights in his pockets. He did say that one of the courses he's teaching at MCC is Islamic Studies. I did not think to ask if he himself is Islamic; not another Barrett!

His cause is nutty, but he's making a sacrifice without quite doing the Heaven's Gate routine. I can't find it in my heart to rag on the guy too much. I wish I could convince him it's all for nothing, but failing that I will continue to attempt to make sure that others who aren't as balanced don't fall into the same trap.

No photos because of the frazzled camera; I'll see if I can snatch some from one of the Truther's websites.