Cui Bono? The Conspiracy Theorists!

There were conspiracy theories about the Charlie Hebdo massacre circulating around the Internet literally hours after the attack. Most of them blamed Israel or “Zionists”. Others said the attack was a “false flag” operation by some “capitalist state” or other (usually the United States or Israel). Indeed the words “false flag” and “cui bono” have become Internet clichés in recent years.

This also happened immediately after the massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar just over a month ago. In this case, the “[Indian] Hindu state” was blamed by many Muslim theorists. 

Basically, whenever Muslims carry out a terrorist outrage in Europe or the United States, a conspiracy theory is quickly released (or concocted) which says that it wasn't Muslims “that done it”. (Usually Israelis/Jews/Zionists are blamed.) This was also true of London bombings, previous terrorist attacks in Paris, the Madrid train bombing, etc.

Indeed what many people may not know is that there are also many conspiracy theories about the London bombings of 2005. In other words, it's far from only being a 9/11 phenomenon. 

(Check out this particular theory about the Paris killings; which mainly boils down to the fact that these conspiracists don't seem to realise that chrome mirrors on cars can change color.)

Cui Bono?

On September 14, 2001, Pakistan's Major General Hamid Gul (former Director-General of the infamous ISI security/intelligence services) was reported (in Newsweek) as saying that “Mossad and its American associates are the obvious culprits [for 9/11]”. 

He asked this very common question: “Who benefits from the crime?” 

(There will be more on this particular 9/11 theory later.)

That's the central question most conspiracy theorists ask: Who is to gain from X? 

So what about people having something to gain from conspiracy theories themselves? Or in Major General Hamid Gul's words: Who benefits from conspiracy theories?

Basically, X (the conspiracy theorist) has “something to gain” from saying that Y has something to gain from saying that Z committed the attack.

Indeed I believe that some -- perhaps many -- of the political disseminators and propagandists who plant these theories on the Internet and elsewhere don't themselves believe them! (They are, in other words, “lying for Justice”.)

Conspiracy theories are, after all, as easy to create as Tweets. It could take literally minutes to concoct one. (It may take longer to construct a believable one.) And if it furthers the theorist's political goal/s (or prejudices), then what's to stop him creating one? 

You can then guarantee that at least some theories will spread themselves over the Internet. It's just so damn easy to spread them! 

(None of these points, incidentally, require a denial that states and politicians conspire -- they do.)

9/11: The Jews done it!

Let's take the case of one conspiracy theory that became very popular at one time -- and still is in some circles.

This is the theory that “Jewish” or “Israeli” (depending on the particular rendition of the theory) workers in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were given advance warning of the impending 9/11 attack.

So I wonder what National/International Socialist “anti-Zionists” think of the fact that their conspiracy about Jewish or Israeli workers being forewarned was actually started by Syria's government-owned Al Thawra newspaper (penned within 24 hours of 9/11) and Hizb’allah's Al Manar network (disseminated six days later)?

Anyway, that's how the story was spread. 

What were the origins of this story? (Though sometimes conspiracy theories don't have evidential origins as such; they just appear out of the conspiracy theorist's hat.) 

Of all things, it was the Jerusalem Post's Internet edition that was partly responsible.

The story had it that the Israeli foreign ministry had gathered the names of four thousand Jews thought to have been in the vicinity of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on the morning of September 11. The problem for the conspiracy theorists was that this bit of information-gathering occurred after the 9/11 attacks, not before.

Consequently, it was one small step in Hezbollah's mind -- and, later, in the minds of Middle Eastern (Muslim) news agencies - to say that the Israeli information-gathering occurred before -- not after -- the attack. It's almost certainly the case that some -- or many – Hizb’allah journalists and conspiracy theorists actually knew this this to be the case; though that didn't matter to them.

One other thing changed, eventually, after the original Hizb’allah and Syrian reports. 

Syria and Hizb’allah first talked about four thousands “Israelis”. That soon became four thousand “Jews”. 

The final blow to this conspiracy theory, however, is that up to 400 Jews did die on 9/11 (9.2% of all victims). 


One of the main motivating forces for many conspiracy theories is the conspiracist's prior politics. (See this American Thinker article: 'One's Politics Determines One's Conspiracy Theory'. )The theories are usually tailor-made to advance -- or gel with -- prior ideologies or political beliefs. Thus whatever conspiracy theory a person believes may well be determined almost entirely by his prior politics.

Because of such political motivations and the psychological desire for titillation and simplicity (e.g. the US/Jews “done it!”), conspiracy theories -- unlike scientific theories -- are passed on largely without critical scrutiny from their believers. But that doesn't matter. Once the meme or virus is spread, then it keeps on spreading -- as memes or viruses tend to do. 

And that's precisely what happened hours after the Charlie Hebdo killings.