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[So what if no one knows who's behind the WTC attack. Everyone's still got a theory!][So what if no one knows who's behind the WTC attack. Everyone's still got a theory!]

   Nidhi Taparia

Osama bin Laden in not in Afghanistan. He is in America, mobilising finances while George W Bush searches for him in countries far away.

The guy in Afghanistan? That's a replica -- thanks to plastic-surgery -- rousing Afghani passion while the real Laden sits somewhere in the US handling business deals and making a killing on Wall Street after the stock market crash he helped promote. This also explains why Ayman al-Zawahiri, a 50-year-old surgeon from Cairo has risen to second in command.

Did you really believe that bin Laden, with millions to his name, would orchestrate a military strike of this magnitude from among the most impoverished countries on the planet? Can you imagine him in hiding, changing houses every 24 hours and shying away from contact with the rest of the world? Get real.

At the moment, this conspiracy theory lies in my mind alone. Tomorrow, however, it could be all over the Web!

Just like the Nostradamus prediction, the 'Number 11' theory and MS Word's intentionally embedded messages. Some even believed President Bush had a hand in the whole affair.

The Internet, already a fertile ground for hoaxes and theories, has become a thicket of false information. After all, one click is all it takes to proliferate information at an astounding rate. According to experts, these rumours are a hi-tech answer feeding a primitive need of information. Email has replaced urban legends and stories passed around campfires.

Surprisingly, Michael Schudson, author of The Power of News, suggested the possibility of this happening way back in 1995: "Imagine a world in which everyone is able to deliver information directly to everyone else through a computer, a world in which everyone can be his or her own journalist."

Today, valid sources of information are sought after, making sites like snopes, hoax busters, urban legends and CSICOP Hoax Watch increasingly popular.

David Emery, official rumour debunker at about.com receives over 200 emails daily, asking him to clarify the latest rumour. According to him, the Nostradamus hoax seemed silly in comparison with a few others, but managed to convince many, particularly young people, who took the prediction to heart. Disproving it, he maintains, had a calming effect on a lot of people.

So, if you log in tomorrow, read about Osama's look alike and get a panic attack, remember: At least you know where this rumour came from.

More Like This:
 -- Terror in America
 -- They told the world before the telly did
 -- Conspiracy theories abound online

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