So Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard thinks maybe the 9/11 attacks weren't the work of terrorists, after all. Perhaps, she told an interviewer, the Twin Towers were deliberately downed because it would have been too expensive to "re-cable" them. Her remarks are just another reminder that you shouldn't stick a microphone in an actor's face unless you've given her a script to read.
Some are defending Cotillard's remarks, saying it is a healthy intellectual exercise to be skeptical. Governments do lie, after all. But there's a difference between being skeptical and being stupid. When al Qaeda takes responsibility for the attacks, one has to wonder how Cotillard could think it was the work of overzealous real estate developers. (And why the Pentagon?)
Cotillard's lawyer--perhaps imagining the evaporation of his 10 percent fee as American producers hunt around for Audrey Tautou's number--retracted her remarks. But I didn't see him quoted on another bit of intelligence the actress passed on in her interview: "Did a man really walk on the Moon?" she wondered.
Yes, Marion, a man really did. Several men, in fact. They also hopped on the Moon, steered little rovers on the Moon and drove golf balls on the Moon. NASA magic-- or, as JFK put it, the process of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth"--is even more amazing than Hollywood magic.
My older daughter has been studying something called theory of knowledge, or TOK, a part of the International Baccalaureate curriculum. It's an exploration of how we know what we know. The Moon landing was one of the events students in her class discussed. A sizable minority--nearly a third--think the United States faked the whole thing.
I'm convinced some of that disbelief stems from the fact that many of the students at her international school come from countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. Twenty years after the Cold War ended, there is still residual distrust of anything American, dismissal of American accomplishments. And relations between Russia and the U.S. (and the U.K.) are just as frosty as during the bad old days.
Then there's the way many people think of America seven years after the attacks that Cotillard is skeptical about. Where were the Iraqi WMDs George Bush promised us? Though, if you think about it, shouldn't a nation that can fake a moon landing and kill 3,000 of its own citizens in a deadly fit of urban renewal be able to plant some nerve gas and atom bombs?
I'm all for skepticism, for questioning the line that elites feed us, but swallowing the half-baked notions of a few wigged-out conspiracy theorists is just as dangerous.