If I were asked to provide a single defining trait to describe conspiracy theorists I would choose:
Conspiracy theorists: those whose near absolute scepticism of official narratives is matched only by their complete credulousness when it comes to alternative explanations - particularly those involving secret groups of people plotting treachery in the dark.
So - to choose the World Trade Center as an example - there's simply no chance that some things may just have been coincidence, or honest mistakes. And that some of the 'cover up' which followed may have merely been the inept covering up their asses as opposed to the truly evil covering up the unspeakable.
None of this is possible. On the other hand though, any theologian or retired engineering professor or celebrity libertarian who makes claims of conspiracy is assumed automatically to be honest, an expert, and in no need of double-checking.
In a similar vein, while the official narrative of 9-11 is poured over for any inconsistency, no such concern is shown for the flipping great inconsistencies in any alternative narrative that could be created.
As Matt Taibbi puts it:
What is the theory of the crime, according to the 9/11 Truth movement?Up to a point scepticism is a healthy attribute. But it's also one that needs to be applied even-handedly.
Strikingly, there is no obvious answer to that question, since for all the many articles about "Able Danger" and the witnesses who heard explosions at Ground Zero, there is not -- at least not that I could find -- a single document anywhere that lays out a single, concrete theory of what happened, who ordered what and when they ordered it, and why. There obviously is such a theory, but it has to be pieced together by implication, by paying attention to the various assertions of 9/11 lore (the towers were mined, the Pentagon was really hit by a cruise missile, etc.) and then assembling them later on into one single story. But the funny thing is, when you put together all of those disparate theories, you get the dumbest story since Roman Polanski's Pirates.
The specifics vary, but the basic gist of what They Say Happened goes something like this:
A group of power-hungry neocons, led by Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Bush and others and organizationally represented by groups like the Project for the New American Century, seeks to bring about a "Pearl-Harbor-like event" that would accelerate a rightist revolution, laying the political foundation for invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Your basic Reichstag fire scenario, logical enough so far. Except in this story, the Reichstag fire is an immensely complicated media hoax; the conspirators plot to topple the World Trade Center and pin a series of hijackings on a group of Sunni extremists with alleged ties to Al Qaeda. How do they topple the Trade Center? Well, they make use of NORAD's expertise in flying remote-control aircraft and actually fly two such remote-control aircraft into the Towers (in another version of the story, they conspire with Al Qaeda terrorists to actually hijack the planes), then pass the planes off as commercial jetliners in the media. But it isn't the plane crashes that topple the buildings, but bombs planted in the Towers that do the trick.
For good measure -- apparently to lend credence to the hijacking story -- they then fake another hijacking/crash in the Pentagon, where there actually is no plane crash at all but instead a hole created by a cruise missile attack, fired by a mysterious "white jet" that after the attack circles the White House for some time, inspiring the attention of Secret Service agents who point at it curiously from the ground (apparently these White House Secret Service agents were not in on the plot, although FBI agents on scene at Ground Zero and in Shanksville and elsewhere were).
Lastly, again apparently to lend weight to the whole hijacking cover story, they burn a big hole in the ground in Pennsylvania and claim that a jet went down there, crashed by a bunch of brave fictional civilians who fictionally storm the fictional plane cabin. The real-life wife of one of the fictional heroes, Lisa Beamer, then writes a convincingly self-serving paean/memoir to her dead husband, again lending tremendous verisimilitude to the hijacking story. These guys are good!