AUS DEM SPIEGEL
Ausgabe 37/2003

Cover Story Panoply of the Absurd

Part 3


Charles Ward, a former assistant of the leading Kennedy murder conspiracy theorist, Jim Garrison, described the way this method works as follows: "Garrison drew a conclusion and then organized the facts. And when the facts didn't fit, he liked to say that they'd been changed by the CIA."

This method of finding conspiracies where there are none has also been helpful to the September 11th conspiracy theorists. Otherwise, one could simply include that the reason many a controversial report never resurfaced is that it was resolved, as the story of the "living assassins" demonstrates. It is no secret, but rather an important lesson about a highly competitive news market, one in which journalists copied from one another so as not to miss a single story, and were ultimately all wrong and had all dispensed with any principles.

At this point, the story only seems to live on where Bröckers, Bülow and the like seem to prefer looking for their information: in the "global memory of the internet, which, in its archives, registers, collects and provides access to all these discarded crumbs" (Bröckers/Hauß).

And it is only there, where the old and the new, the incorrect and the correct are placed on equivalent footing, that these kinds of reports still appear to possess the currentness from which these authors fashion their suspicions and accusations.

THE DREAMERS

This indiscriminate use of facts, most of them derived from the internet, is particularly astonishing because the resumes of most conspiracy theorists are in fact quite respectable.

The spiritual leader of the self-proclaimed alternative investigators in Germany is Mathias Bröckers, former features editor at the "Tageszeitung" ("taz"), certainly a respectable publication. Bröckers, an expert on cannabis, spent many years showering the world with reports and books on the effects of the hemp plant.

Now Bröckers feels that it has become his calling to "liberate conspiracy theory from its position as a dirty, imprecise epistemology, and to ensure that it is taken seriously as a critical science of perception." His goal is to achieve a "counter-conspiracy conspiracy," whatever that is.

The second man in this group is TV writer and book author Wisnewski, who has already demonstrated his knack for turning nonsense into news in the case surrounding the (German terrorist organization) "Red Army Faction." Years ago, the journalist claimed that the third generation of the RAF was invented by the intelligence services, which urgently needed a decent enemy. Go to Wisnewski's web site and you'll find reports titled "Poison Gas Used Against Kurds was Iran-CIA operation" or "Moscow Hostage Crisis: Is the USA Behind It?" The formula is obvious: the Americans are always the murderers.

At least Andreas von Bülow, the former Federal Minister of Research and Technology and a member of the SPD (German Social Democratic Party), makes a somewhat more reputable impression. He has a respectable political career behind him, was considered one of the Social Democrats' rising young stars under former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, and once served as parliamentary undersecretary in the German Ministry of Defense, where he was quite close to the world of the intelligence agencies. In 1994, he withdrew to the top floor of his house in Bonn to explain the world to the people.

The German dreamers - Bülow, Bröckers, Wisnewski - could easily have drawn their inspiration from Frenchman Thierry Meyssan. The guru of conspiracy theorists prefers to wear black, down to his Puma running shoes, drinks fruit juice on the roof terrace at the Pompidou Center in Paris, and lectures. He speaks for one hour, two hours, three hours, always returning to variations on a single sentence: "I am convinced that an aircraft did not crash into the Pentagon."

Meyssan likes to argue. Unlike the other conspiracy theorists, he didn't need September 11th as a reason to mount his soapbox. That's where he's always been. He has organized boycott campaigns against Danone, used his research to make life difficult for radical right-wing politician Le Pen, and attacked the Catholic secret order Opus Dei. He has also been a well-respected and feared man in established political circles. But does he still retain that position today?

Since last year, he has been embroiled in a court battle against France' major newspapers. He sued them because they were making fun of him. But he also sued them because he, Meyssan, believes that he must force them to live up to their responsibility to expose what really happened on September 11th.

His book has already been translated into 18 languages. In it he claims that it was certainly not a Boeing that crashed into the west wing of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, but that it was most likely a cruise missile, evidence of the US military industry's intention to force its way into power.

Meyssan sits above the roofs of Paris and reaches across the table for his book. He points at a picture of the Pentagon façade. In the photo, the hole in the façade doesn't look very large. "And you believe that a Boeing disappeared into this hole? Yes? Is that what you believe, Monsieur?"

The book contains many photos that depict smoke, fumes and fire. Meyssan displays them like a treasure. Like evidence. Facts. Truth. But questions remain: Which photos are missing? Which ones did Meyssan overlook? And which ones did he leave out?

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