Competing Conspiracy Theories

So when Scott Anderson wrote his investigative article for GQ on the alleged government frame up and subsequent cover up of the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings, we were taken back to all the gritty details from Alexander Litvinenko’s book, Mikhail Trepashkin’s interviews, and the questions covered in Andrei Nekrasov’s haunting 2004 documentary Disbelief (see trailer after the jump).

In an interesting interview with RFE/RL on the censorship experience, Anderson discusses how difficult it was to track down sources still willing to talk about the incident, and, despite his reliance on Trepashkin for much of the article, he does fact check every statement he published from him.  But essentially, for the hardcore Russia obsessives out there, most of the GQ article (available in full over at Gawker) contains previous information, endowed with greater credibility.  Anderson zeroes in on some of the most nagging questions, including the baffling discovery of explosives planted at a building Ryazan by local FSB, the arrests of two central FSB, followed by Putin’s message of congratulations on the citizens’ vigilance, followed by Patrushev’s disavowal of the event as a “training exercise.”

So it’s clear to us now that if the Conde Nast corporate brass hadn’t been so preemptively frightened of losing business in Russia to cause the self-censorship, than very few people would have paid attention to the story – indeed, it had been out for more than a week before NPR broke the story.  But now we have a serious journalist paying attention to a story that was previously the domain of fringe personalities.

So what do you do if you are Putinista?  I’d probably try to explain that this conspiracy theory isn’t based on facts but just fed by the FSB’s institutional rejection of openness, which although may inadvertently appear like mysterious behavior, only reflects long established trends of secrecy which is not the same as guilt.

Instead, they’ve asked one of the hacks at Russia Today to prepare a multi-part series entitled “911 Reasons Why 9/11 Was (Probably) an Inside Job.”   I swear to god.