What is your HOP level?

An interesting article in NY Magazine discusses conspiracy theories and the secret history of 9/11.

As well as mentioning a few of the suspicious facts about what happened that day, it cites a score to categorize just how far along the conspiracy theory path you are: the HOP level.

Me, I’m about a Level 3.5. Everyone has to have a theory, and here’s mine:

Consider the October surprise conspiracy. Whether that conspiracy is true or not, the Iran-Contra scandal is at the level of documented fact, and it’s hard to deny that the sudden freeing of the hostages immediately after Reagan took office was a vital popularity boost for an otherwise unpopular president.

Wind the clock forward to 2000, and we have an unelected President, so unpopular that he had to skip the usual inaugural parade to avoid being pelted with projectiles. He’s making a routine PR visit to a school, reading The Pet Goat to the kids, when someone tells him that some planes have been hijacked.

I think it was news to him. To me, he looks like he’s worrying about it as he continues to sit there. But I think he’s been told that it’s under control.

I think that one or more people high up in the chain of command decided it would be best to let the hijackings go ahead, then send in the Marines to kick ass, and get a cheap PR victory for the new administration.

That’s why US air defenses weren’t scrambled; that’s why the plane was allowed to get so close to the Pentagon. The expectation was that it would be like every other hijacking and hostage taking, and that the only people in danger were a few hundred civilians. The planes would land somewhere, there would be negotiations, troops would be sent in, Bush’s approval rating from handling the difficult challenge would rocket no matter what happened or how long it took.

I think that those people high up who made the decision to let the hijackers get away with whatever they wanted, were as horrified as the rest of us when they saw what happened next. They had been prepared to risk a few lives, but nothing on the scale of 9/11. If their decision ever became public knowledge, they would be lynched.

Hence, the general level of secrecy and coverup, and the eventual whitewash of the 9/11 Commission Report.

I think my conspiracy theory is better than the Reichstag Fire kind, because it’s a conspiracy of dunces. Remember Hanlon’s Razor: never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity.

Is it really plausible that there was a conspiracy over the course of several years, spanning several countries, started long before the election, and that the people now in the Bush administration managed to keep it totally quiet?

I think not. Cheney, Rumsfeld and friends didn’t manage to keep arms sales to Iran and Iraq quiet, so there’s not a hope they could pull off 9/11 as a deliberate act. Look at their performance at running the economy and dealing with Iraq—they’re not evil geniuses, they’re naïve idiots who value blind faith over reality.

And even if I believed they had the skills, ultimately I just don’t believe Republicans are that evil. They might want to run Social Security into the ground and rip up the Bill of Rights, but I don’t think they’d kill thousands of Americans just to boost Bush’s popularity and get a few spying laws passed. That’s just unrealistic.