Sunday, April 06, 2014

MH370 and Conspiracies

Fareed Zakaria has a post today for CNN basically making fun of the Hoi Polloi for generating conspiracy theories, specifically about the lost Malaysian jet. He quotes a book on the subject of conspiracies by none other than Cass Sunstein of the Obama administration, explaining why so many people don't believe what they are told:
A key condition that helps fuel conspiracy theories is a lack of information. When information is scarce, conspiracies abound. And we don't actually know a lot of things about what happened to that plane.
Now, the trend is heightened where there is distrust of politics, politicians, and people in authority. One can see that in somewhat opaque political systems like Malaysia and China. But one can also see that in the United States, a country famously distrustful of its government.
Yes, he could have added examples such as "if you like your health care you can keep your health care, period", but did not.

It's clear the people of this country, like many others, understand that politicians sometimes lie--or in the least misdirect the public--for a variety of reasons.  Some are noble, some self-serving (although most liars probably think their lies are noble).  The question here is what point is Zakaria trying to make with this piece?

He ends the post by saying most events are the sum of bad luck, mistakes or chance--which is true--but he could said that in 2 paragraphs.  He mentioned something else earlier in the piece:
Group-think also takes over. When the people who are affected or interested tend to gather, talk to one and other, and communicate in isolation, their convictions tend to get hardened. So, if everyone you talk to – and listen to and watch – believes that President Obama is hiding his birth certificate, you get even more sure about this secret plot over time.
Not sure Karl Popper wrote anything on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, but maybe that's where Zakaria was trying to go in the above, dragging birthers and the Obama-haters into the mud.  He could have devoted a paragraph to 9/11 truthers, including many Democrats who when polled suggested that yes, Bush knew more than he was telling because he wanted Iraq's oil, etc.  Somehow liberal conspiracies are never treated quite the same as conservative ones.  

Not to say Zakaria isn't a knowledgeable guy--this essay on the Middle East is probably why he was once called by Bush to a meeting at the White House in late 2001 to discuss an approach to the region in the post 9/11 world:
Mr. Zakaria said he felt participating was appropriate because his views, as a columnist for Newsweek, were public, although he has never divulged his involvement to his readers.
“My column is an analytical column,” he said, adding that he gives advice to policy makers and elected officials: “If a senator calls me up and asks me what should we do in Iraq, I’m happy to talk to him.”
But he's talking about conspiracies here.  The bold above might beg the question--what did he advise president Bush to do on Iraq?  He was certainly no lover of Saddam Hussein's regime.  And he didn't mention his participation to readers.  And the meeting's conclusions were included in a white paper used within government in regards to dealing with US policy towards the region going forward (something Zakaria claims he didn't know at the time).  Such illustrates precisely why there are conspiracy theories.

As to MH370, I've not posited a theory as to what I think happened to it on this blog so far.  I simply don't know.  There's not enough evidence, and what we do have is contradictory. 

I do have a partial theory about the Malaysian government--I think they' been trying to run out of clock on the Black Box pingers by providing misleading information and a trickling of information that should have been available only days after the disappearance,  because they'd just as soon never see the plane found.  A plausible reason is a finding that the plane was either hijacked due to poor security or one of the pilots went mad, neither very palatable for the chamber of commerce types or the government lawyers, not that they were actually involved.  

But such a theory is simply pure speculation.  There are no verifiable facts they are engaged in a conspiracy.  As Zakaria says, it could be explained by sheer incompetence.  The reason I've been critical of the TWA800 investigation is because the public has been privy to many more facts and data about that tragedy, allowing individuals to reasonably draw their own conclusions.  Believing MH370 is on the ground in Pakistan or was shot down near Diego Garcia (as some theories suggest) requires believing that the UK is running interference by having the Inmarsat company generate phony satellite data that ran everyone far away down in the Indian Ocean so the powers that be could clean up the mess somewhere else.  It's interesting speculation, it's probably happened before in the history of governments, but has no basis in fact at this point.

MORE  4/6/14

The CNN story mentioned above regarding supposed new radar data showing the plane skirting the coast of Indonesia while turning south is just another example of the idiocy that leads to conspiracy theories.  This data should have been available within 24-48 hours at the most.  Here's another source:
After reviewing radar data provided by neighbouring countries, investigators have now found that the jetliner curved north of Indonesia before turning south toward the southern Indian Ocean, CNN quoted a Malaysian official as saying.
Funny, they say it flew around the outskirts of Indonesia to 'avoid radar' but they learned this by examining the radar.  So when did Malaysia have this data?  Because if they had it early then the question is raised--again--as to why they allowed countries to search areas where they knew the plane wasn't.  Again making it seem like they don't want this plane to ever be found, or at least not found until everyone more or less forgets about it.

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