Journalist are often sent to places a war zone, a natural disaster, or a crime-ridden slum that are physically scary. Those assignments routinely win prizes.
Sometimes they may be asked to cover a story that is intellectually scary. Those assignments are less dramatic but can reveal more about human nature.
Perhaps the most intellectually scary assignment I have had in recent years was to cover a meeting of the so-called "9/11 Truth Movement" in the East Village, New York.
This gruesome assortment of conspiracy theorists insists that the attacks on the US of September 11, 2001 were an inside job.
It is easy to mock this deluded gang of ageing hippies, anarchists and anti-Semites.
I was an eyewitness to the 9/11 attacks, reporting for this newspaper. I stepped out of my local newsagents in New York just seconds after the first plane hit to see a fiery gash above me in the north tower of the World Trade Centre.
I asked the nearest passerby what had caused the flaming hole, assuming it had been a bomb. She told me she had seen a big silver plane fly straight into the building.
Any doubts were expunged minutes later when the second hijacked airliner hit the south tower, all broadcast live on TV.
But to those gathered in a church hall in the East Village, those reports even the TV pictures were all part of an elaborate government cover-up.
The assembled conspiracists quickly agreed that the twin towers had been packed with explosives by the Government, since jet fuel did not burn hot enough to melt the buildings' steel frame.
There was a broad consensus that the Bush family and the Kuwaitis, by virtue of their representation on the board of the trade centre's security company, must have been in on it.
Then a woman stood up and shouted: "What about the Koreans?" (London Times, 8.04.2009) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/world_agenda/article6738443.ece?token=null&offset=0&page=1
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