The New York Times has an article today on L’Effroyable Imposture, the book by French author Thierry Messyan, that claims that the 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by American right wingers who wanted to manufacture wars in the Middle East for the purpose of getting at oil reserves. The book has sold very well in France, despite the fact that the French press has shredded it repeatedly.

One thing I love about America is that I think we’re much less susceptible to such theories than our counterparts around the world. When Italy lost to South Korea in the World Cup, it was widely believed that the game was fixed by FIFA. The Arabs I know believe that the reason Israel gets more positive press in America than they do is that the Jews control the US media. The French are in love with the idea that 9/11 was the product of a secret conspiracy, not by well known Islamist terrorists but by some shadow group here in the US. The list goes on and on and on.

Sure, there are Americans who see conspiracies everywhere they go, but they’re really fringe elements in our society. I think that the reason that Americans don’t go in for that sort of thing is that our culture ingraines in us a belief that we are in control of our own destiny. On the other hand, in many other (older) cultures, belief in conspiracy takes the place of belief in some sort of higher power that meddles in everyday affairs. People can’t accept that things happen for mechanistic reasons, so they instead cede any responsibility society might have for what goes on to some sort of shadow power that really controls things.

I have to say that it frustrates me to an incredible degree. This pathology explains why groups like the Palestinians are in many ways utterly defeated. Rather than looking at the situation and thinking about what they can do right now to make things better, they blame Jewish conspiracies for everything happening right now and hold out hope that Allah is going to bail them out in the end. It’s a problem I don’t know how to solve, or even if there is a solution.