September 17, 2009No Theories Necessary -- "Why Propaganda Trumps Truth" by Paul Craig Roberts in Foreign Policy Journal is one of the more fascinating things I have read lately. The Rovian Republicans are always quick to smear anything that questions or opposes them in any way, but Roberts is not so easy to tar. He was assistant secretary of the treasury under Reagan. And those who write off conservatives as looney might consider his academic record. His alma maters include the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Virginia, the University of California, Berkeley, and Oxford University. He was a senior research fellow at Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University. He served in the congressional staff in the House and Senate before he was appointed by Reagan. Far from being a lunatic he is one of the more lucid minds one is likely to encounter. He's author or co-author of several books, including Marx's Theory of Exchange, Alienation, and Crisis and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy and The Capitalist Revolution in Latin America.
It takes a lot of space to drop a few hints about the weight of this man's word, but it's worth it because he is challenging one of America's biggest, fattest sacred cows, the 9/11 conspiracy theory, the official explanation of the U.S. government. You know, the one in which no one is held accountable, except the mythic, ever-elusive Osama Bin Laden, former CIA asset.
In tackling the question why so many people don't want to even hear the facts about 9/11, Roberts explains that Hitler himself very lucidly explained the theory of the Big Lie in the book he wrote while in jail for his goofy Beer Hall Putsch (before the big industrialists realized he had talent worth investing in). Hitler knew exactly what he was doing and wrote the book on it for others to follow. In Mein Kampf he explained that the masses would much more easily fall for an outrageous lie than a small one. With cool, amoral analysis he explained how one could manipulate the masses merely by having the audacity to lie on a scale that few could ever imagine. Merely having no moral restraint gives you an advantage over more "simple" people who do. Hitler wrote, "In the simplicity of their minds, people more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have such impudence. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and continue to think that there may be some other explanation." All you really need to win, according to this theory, is to be a psychopath with no conscience. It's very simple.
In the midst of the 9/11 catastrophe, virtually everyone was gripped with fear by the spectacular destruction and mass murder. And very quickly at that moment, while still in a state of terror people were given an explanation, which suddenly materialized within hours of an event that was supposedly a complete surprise. Once this narrative emerged, it was deemed to be complete and beyond question. Questioning was considered unpatriotic, even traitorous. "You're either with us, or with the terrorists," Bush said. And, "Let's not tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories." Arie Fleischer said, "Watch what you say." In the raging of the moment the official explanation became welded to the feelings of horror and helplessness. The incident created a fear of such intensity that it dug deep into the psychological wellsprings of most Americans. And there it implanted a belief system.
Like a boxer who rises from the canvas before the count of 10 but is still dazed, Americans were rushed into war before they could gather their wits. By the time the emotions began to clear and a more grounded perspective could be recovered, there was already so much invested in the wars, it was difficult for people to change course psychologically. There is too much invested in it. It would be hard to go back at that point and say: we were wrong. It's certainly more comforting to say, "Let's move on," than to dig into that horror story and maybe find something even more terrigying than what we already know.
That could have something to do with why a baffling number of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, even though it has long been acknowledged even by Bush himself that Saddam had no connection to the attacks at all. Among those who know it was not Saddam Hussein who launched the attacks, most still fall back on rest of the original story, and it is still maintained by the government and the establishment media. Now at the eighth anniversary of 9/11, there are marked shifts in the terrain regarding the beliefs about what took place there. The wish to find more definitive answers, to be able to assign guilt and responsibility and see some accountability, to resolve conflicts between the explanation and the facts of the case seems to be reaching a critical mass. As with any murder, the victim's families long for a sense of closure. And beyond them, large numbers of people around the world are not satisfied with the official explanation and want to know more. In a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll more than a third of Americans said they believed that either elements of the government let it happen, or had a hand in making it happen.
Even though mainstream thought leaders have set up the meme that the "truthers" are the conspiracy theory freaks on the left equivalent to the the "birthers" on the right, (whose cause is to prove that Obama was not born in the U.S.) the group of people who want to see a more thorough and independent investigation of 9/11 is growing in size and it is not comprised only of lunatics. Many high-level people in our society now stand on the side of those who want a new investigation. Wanting a thorough, independent investigation is a serious issue all to itself. It does not require a belief that it was "an inside job" or anything other particular explanation. It just means wanting to find the truth, to separate false stories from real ones. This is the minimum due the families of those who died in the attacks as well as those who have died in the wars or are dying from lung disease from Ground Zero on 9/11.
It's very strange lately to see these questions increasingly surfacing in popular culture, so much so that the mainstream media has to deal with the issue, and try to find another stance toward it than just heaping hostility and ridicule on anyone who questions. This appears to be quite challenging. A writer of the quality of Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, who writes brilliantly about mainstream politics, is overcome with loathing when he has to address the subject of the 9/11 Truth movement. When it comes to someone questioning the 9/11 official story, no amount of venom that he can summon seems to be enough. The normally poised observer is suddenly almost beside himself with disdain and contempt. It was quite striking when he was recently involved in a written debate about 9/11 with David Ray Griffin, who has written a number of books about the inconsistencies of the official story. He seems furious that he even has to address the subject.
This furiousness is telling. There's been a subtle role reversal as confidence in the official explanation of events has eroded. Now that the desire for a thorough, independent investigation not controlled by the Bush administration is no longer a fringe position, is moving into the mainstream and perhaps on the verge of achieving some sort of critical mass, it is the defenders of the official conspiracy theory who are starting to seem like the hysterical ones in their desperate attempts to stem the tide of disbelief.
The debate between Taibbi and Griffin (see Alternet) is a fascinating example of role reversal between the opposing camps of conspiracy theorists. Taibbi has said that "9/11 conspiracy theorists" are "idiots" because "9/11 conspiracy is so shamefully stupid." Something, however, persuaded him to go up against David Ray Griffin, a theologian, a scholar who has turned his scholarship for the last several years to exposing what is wrong with the 9/11 Commission Report. Taibbi has never seriously looked into it because he considers it stupid and not worth looking at. Right or wrong, he was very poorly equipped to go up against Griffin in a debate. Griffin is verbose, but he comes off as calm, polite, encylcopedically knowledgeable about 9/11 and well-versed in debating its points. Taibbi's name calling was not much of a match for him.
Normally genteel and polite people drop their manners when it comes to 9/11. Ariana Huffington, writing in support of Van Jones, the Obama official who resigned under fire for signing a petition calling for an investigation, wrote that she "detest[s] 9/11 Truthers." She not only disagrees with their calls for an investigation, apparently, she detests them. Not Jones himself, however. He was just "wrong to allow himself to be associated with them."
I don't want to list newsclips here, but every day there are breaks on this story. A petition calling for a referendum on whether or not to have an independent investigation of 9/11 was finally accepted in New York after much resistance from local officials. They had been saying thousands of the signatures are not valid, but the argument was finally overwhelmed by the rising numbers of signatures. Voices from around the world are calling for an investigation. Yesterday a report of two Swiss scientists from the University of Zurich added their names to the list of questioners of what they call "the official Bush version" of the attacks. (MWC News). Professor Ganser said, "Three thousand humans were sacrificed for strategic interests. The more we explore, the more we doubt the Bush version. It is conceivable that the Bush government was responsible. Bush has lied so much already! And we already know that the US government planned an operation in 1962 that was approved by the Pentagon that would have sacrificed innocent US citizens for the government's own interests ... We only ask questions."
Of course 3,000 was only the beginning, there have been thousands of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were justified by 9/11, and tens of thousands of casualties, and uncounted numbers of Iraqi and Afghan deaths. Questions indeed.
One does not have to be a "truther" or a "conspiracy theorist" or really to have any theory at all to object to the way the Bush administration tried to squelch an investigation from the beginning. It was only after literally years of very loud objections by family members of victims of 9/11 that the administration finally relented to allow an investigation at all, but only one with very little money, very little time, and a Bush administration ally in control of every item that went into the report. That alone is enough to call for a real investigation. There is no need for theories.
-- David Cogswell