There are times when a girl is a little, um, surprised at the overwhelming response she gets.
So it was when I went on the Fox News Channel's "Hannity and Colmes" show last week to talk about actor Charlie Sheen's comments implicating our government in the "plot" to carry out the destruction of 3,000 lives along with the Twin Towers and Pentagon on 9/11.
It's probably no surprise that all of us discussing the issue from different perspectives still believed the attacks had, in fact, been carried about by determined Islamic terrorists, not our government.
Ahh, but later ... I started getting inundated with e-mails. They implored _ or demanded _ that I consider Sheen's "evidence" of a government conspiracy. Many were along the lines of this one: You are "obviously a Neo-con slave unable to think for yourself and it was made blatantly clear with your appearance on FOX ... "
"Maybe your (sic) just another media whore that is looking for ways to make herself richer."
That was from the Alex Jones radio show, which hosted Sheen, inviting me to be a guest on the program.
My new Web blog was similarly inundated. Many cited a recent CNN poll that said more than 80 percent of Americans agreed with Sheen. Of course, it was one of those "what do you think/e-mail us now" type polls that mean nothing.
Still, it's clear a LOT of folks, including many kind and well-meaning people, really believe this conspiracy stuff.
Several great sources answer the conspiracy theorists, including a definitive cover story in Popular Mechanics magazine in March of last year. (The story notes that even then the ranks of the conspiracy theorists were growing.) From the accusations that Building 7 collapsed for "no known reason" to "the Twin Towers fell at a speed that makes no sense" _ and therefore the government planted bombs in them _ Popular Mechanics uses many non-government sources to answer point by point how and what really happened that awful day. Pretty fascinating.
Interestingly, my blog also started receiving comments that the Popular Mechanics report shouldn't be believed, at least in part because the magazine had some relationship with William Randolph Hearst.
I'm the first one to suggest that we in a democracy should have a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to our government. I would sure like to know how the United States ever became vulnerable to such attacks in the first place! But our skepticism has to be based on thoughtfulness, knowledge and right principles. (Have other conservatives, and liberals _ have I? _ gone so far, too far, in trying to question a legitimate government that this is what we get?)
In any event, what the conspiracy theorists won't answer is why our government would do such a thing as 9/11 _ and more to the point, if it committed this terrible crime and then, essentially, got away with it, why hasn't it "finished" the job? Conspiracy theorists repeatedly claim that no one can answer why there are so MANY conspiracy theorists, so that alone gives their theories credence.
That's a circular argument to say the least, but here's at least one reason for the conspiracy theories that I find compelling: the threat of Islamic terrorism is so frightening, so unpredictable, so unknowable that in some ways it's easier and more manageable for some folks to think that our government is behind it all. Exposing the terrorists for who they are resolves little _ evil must still be fought, and the endgame in some minds is uncertain. But if the administration could be exposed for "initiating these attacks," it would provide final, "easy" resolution _ and it would end the administration and any influence its adherents have, forever.
Could it be that the latter endgame is a little more comforting to some people?
But reality intervenes, and reality is that Muslim terrorists carried out the fateful assaults of 9/11 _ thank you, Osama Bin Laden, for admitting exactly that.
What may be the growing prevalence of the conspiracy theorists concerns me in this: not only is it an insult to those who died on 9/11, it does make me question _ if just for a moment _ whether we in the United States really have the will to fight and win the war against terror.
(Betsy Hart is the author of "It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids _ and What to Do About It." She can be reached at www.betsyhart.net or betsysblog.com.)