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Nuts and Cranks

02/07/2009

The other night, the BBC aired yet another excellent instalment of its documentary series Conspiracy Files. This latest episode looked at the theories surrounding the London bombings on 7 July 2005, which killed 56 people and injured nearly a thousand.

As with 9/11, conspiracy theorists were quick to point out inconsistencies in the official records, speculating that the bombings were an ‘inside job’, carried out by the government, its domestic intelligence service MI5 and all the other usual suspects (America, Israel, etc.) in order to gain support for the ‘War on Terror’.

These theories had never gained much currency outside the Muslim community and the so-called ‘Truth Movement’. Recently, however, a film titled ’7/7 Ripple Effect’ appeared on the internet, which seemed to make a compelling and comprehensive case for the conspirators.

The BBC’s Conspiracy Files is brilliant in exposing the flaws, contradictions and profanity of many of the conspiracy theories contained in the ‘Ripple Effect’. Critically, it also sheds light on those who are peddling them.

The author of ’7/7 Ripple Effect’, for example, hides behind the supposedly Arabic sounding name ‘Muad’Dib’. He is later shown to be a bearded Yorkshireman called Anthony John Hill, who – far from being an Arab or a Muslim – thinks of himself as the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

Another leading member of the 7/7 ‘Truth Movement’ is Nick Kollerstrom, who – besides uncovering the truth behind the London bombings – specialises in crop circles and has written several articles about how the Nazis’ death camps never really existed.

In the age of ‘old’ media, people like Kollerstrom and Hill would have been ignored by the mainstream media. In the age of ‘new’ media, the internet provides them with a global platform for their ideas – with no journalistic ‘middlemen’ or quality control to filter out what really belongs into the gutter.

None of this would matter, except that conspiracy theorists – however discredited – are sincerely believed by significant sections of the population. That’s why, in late 2005, I was among the first to call for a public inquiry into the events of 7 July 2005. (Annoyingly, much of the article, which appeared in Prospect Magazine, is no longer available for free).

It’s not so much about resolving every possible contradiction, but about being seen to be transparent and honest. Faced with an increasingly sceptical public who get their information about current events from the internet as much as the traditional media, governments must put all their cards on the table, and do so early.

Otherwise, it will be the nuts and cranks of this world who determine the ‘truth’ behind events like 7/7.