I was recently thinking about the 2020 field of Democratic candidates, which just got even wider when former governor Mike Gravel announced his candidacy. The Humanist Report did a rather good breakdown of his platform, and some of his flaws as well.
The links below the video, of particular note is the Vox article.
I bring this up in this kind of topic because, quite honestly, I'm torn. On one hand, I agree with his policy positions, and his reasons for entering the race. He's not trying to become president, he's trying to shift the discussion to populist left policies and influence the other candidates. On the other hand, the ability to think critically and to correctly evaluate scientific evidence is one of my personal litmus tests, and I lose a ton of respect for someone when I find out they believe in conspiracy theories.
Far too many politicians lack critical thinking skills. Yes, Donald Trump is the first example that comes to mind of a politician who believes lies, denies science, believes numerous conspiracy theories (including 9/11 truth) and is the furthest thing from what you'd call a very stable genius. However, I'm not comparing Mike Gravel to Donald Trump, but rather making the point that politicians on both the right and left represent a larger problem in US politics. How many prominent figures on the right have pushed Benghazi, birtherism, climate denial, or creationism? How many corporate Democrats and people on the left pushed Russiagate?
The good news is that Mike Gravel doesn't seem to be including 9/11 truth anywhere in his actual platform. If you read through his foreign policy positions, he never mentions it. This is fortunate, because he's keeping it on the level of a personal belief, rather than an ideology he wishes to impose on others. Many politicians do not separate these things, such as Mike Pence and other religious fundamentalists who try to turn their beliefs into public policy. I wouldn't call it fair to compare him either to creationists who want intelligent design taught in public schools, or to compare him to climate deniers who take donations from fossil fuel companies and push for deregulation.
The bad news is that this hasn't stopped 9/11 truthers from latching onto him like he's their savior, similar to what you saw with Ron Paul in 2012. The video I linked above doesn't have too many in the comments section, but there are several truther threads defending Gravel on this, and attacking the host Mike Figuredo as being ignorant and uninformed. I was relieved when I heard Mike Figuredo say that 9/11 was not an inside job, given that there are left wing hosts who either pander to conspiracy theorists, or believe in CTs themselves. (The most popular is JFK, which is not surprising, given that over 60% of the country believes in that one.) It seems the host, in doing so, really stuck his neck out there, given the predominance of truthers in the progressive movement.
This brings me back to the question: What's the harm in 9/11 truth? Surely it's wise to question our leaders, challenge authority, and be skeptical of what the government tells us. Well yes, but that's different from making up bullshit, jumping to conclusions, and letting an ideological label do the thinking for you. I can identify several ways that 9/11 truth is harmful:
The first is if a truther is in a position of political power and is making policy decisions based on those beliefs. As I said in another thread, they might decide to continue selling hundreds of billions of dollars in arms to Saudi Arabia, which they funnel directly to ISIS and Al-Qaeda. There's no harm in that, because "Al-Qaeda never killed anyone." They might decide to continue to ramp up hostilities with Russia and provoke a new Cold War, the way the corporate media and Donald Trump are doing today. The last time the US fought a Cold War, it trained and armed Mujihadeen fighters to combat the Russians. There's no harm in that, because "Al-Qaeda never attacked us." The fact of the matter is that 9/11 truthers are essentially Saudi apologists and Cold War apologists. They are playing directly into the hands of the neocon deep state and Military Industrial Complex that they swear they oppose. Remember that George W. Bush himself operated as if Al-Qaeda had never attacked the US, with the oil and weapons deals with the Saudis, and going to war with the state enemies of Al-Qaeda like Iraq. Every time truthers open their mouths, they're defending policies like this.
I don't think Mike Gravel would ever do this though, since he opposes the current state of US relations with Saudi Arabia.
The second is that conspiracy theories make it impossible to solve real problems. The CTers devote all their time and energy chasing down nonexistent threats, which reminds me of how Donald Trump is wasting so much time trying to get funding for his stupid border wall to defend against a nonexistent threat. Meanwhile, scientists are forced to divert funding into CT related studies on ballistic forensics, metallurgy, vaccines, and global warming just to placate the CTers, even though showing CTers more evidence almost never changes their minds.
The third is that conspiracy theories have caused a noticeable decline in both the level of public discourse and the level of education brought to most political debates. CTs are making people dumber by the minute. Go into any online debate involving truthers, and it will look as though they're trying to out-stupid the creationists and climate deniers on the right. Truthers have gotten so arrogant that they instinctively shift the burden of proof to the skeptics, as if truther arguments are so ironclad they don't have to provide any evidence. They engage in the circular argument that any source that disagrees with them was paid off by the government. They use the strawman that anyone skeptical of 9/11 truther claims must automatically believe everything the government tells them. They start with the conclusion they already believe and work backwards, only looking at sources that confirm their bias (like the discredited ae911truth.org). All the while, they think they're privy to the hidden truths that nobody else realizes, and genuinely believe they're saving the world by spouting their bullshit.
The fourth is that belief in CTs, which typically involves willful ignorance or distortion of science, can and has gotten people killed. Psychological studies have shown that people who believe in any conspiracy theory are more likely to believe in other conspiracy theories, and it's not uncommon to meet people who believe in all of them at once (Alex Jones). Belief in CTs is motivated by feelings of powerlessness, and when you combine that with lack of education, you have a recipe for violence. I probably don't have to remind anyone of the death threats sent to Sandy Hook parents, or the guy who took up arms because he believed in Pizzagate. When it comes to people on the political left who believe in various CTs, I've heard plenty of calls for a violent revolution, by leftists who claim the peaceful revolution is naive and ineffectual. So if someone believes that 9/11 was an inside job, and is paranoid enough to brand anyone skeptical of this claim as an enemy in addition to the government, it cannot end well.
To repeat what I said earlier, I don't think any of these problems apply to Mike Gravel himself, as he has not espoused other CTs and has not made 9/11 truth part of his platform. Yet they certainly would apply to the truthers who have begun following him solely based on his endorsement of the CT. I don't know whether or not to support him, because 9/11 truth is a huge strike against him, just like any other CT would be.
In fact, the only Democratic candidate so far who has not pushed any kind of conspiracy theory is Tulsi Gabbard. As much as I like Bernie Sanders, on several occasions he tried to placate the establishment by arguing that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections to help Donald Trump, which the release of the Mueller Report has completely debunked. Bernie went so far as to introduce a resolution to that end last year, which was something on which I definitely disagreed. I wished he had used the opportunity to instead do what Tulsi Gabbard did both last year and again this year, pushing for actual electoral reform that would make a difference.
Edited by Frozenwolf150, 11 April 2019 - 08:29 AM.