Thursday, January 24, 2008

Beyond The Mirror -- The 9/11 Funhouse, Part IV

In this series, I've been discussing some of the most transparently false arguments concerning 9/11 and the Global War On Terror that are still in circulation (starting here, then parts one, two and three). In this installment, a few fallacies concerning the so-called "conspiracy theorists" who say "9/11 was an inside job": more personal forms of attack, and a more personal defense.

Conspiracy Theorists Need Something To Believe In

Like all good propaganda, the most enduring lies about 9/11 are difficult to disentangle. One of the most complex is the one that says:
The people who see a conspiracy behind 9/11 are basically paranoid conspiracy theorists who see conspiracies everywhere. They can't accept the fact that the world is chaotic -- they need to believe unseen forces are at work behind everything happening around them. These people would have seen a conspiracy behind 9/11 no matter what they saw, no matter what they were told, no matter what actually happened.
This is difficult to refute because there's a grain of truth to it. There are people who see unseen forces behind everything. But I'm not one of them.

I have no need to believe unseen forces are at work, anywhere. I would be quite content to believe that everybody was playing by the same rules, just like in checkers or something, and get on with it. But I seem to be driven by a more powerful force -- a need to make sense of the world.

I'm an empiricist: I grew up reading Arthur Conan Doyle's stories about Sherlock Holmes and absorbing wisdom such as "It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts." Even now, I have no interest in simply theorizing about things; I want to see the details. I'm not the type to fix the intelligence around the policy. I want to base the policy on a coherent analysis of the intelligence.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time thinking about the famous line from Holmes that runs: "When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." As a student I specialized in math and science. For fun I played chess and music. Later on I taught math. Now I program computers for a living.

All these activities keep me thinking about what is true and what is false. They've taught me to eliminate the impossible and to accept the truth, no matter how improbable it might seem. And it's become a vital life-skill. In prior days, my math had to be solid or the college would have booted me out. Nowadays, my code has to be solid or my clients will go elsewhere. When the day comes that I can't separate the true from the false, I'm out of a job. I've always known that.

So in a very hand-to-mouth sense, I need to believe in the truth -- both on a low level (my code is good; this math is right; that move is solid; this note is correct) and on higher levels as well (I know my kids are lying to me if their explanation doesn't fit the facts, and the same goes for clients and students and the television and the internet and everything else).

I'm happy if a story holds together. I'm happy if something is true. And it doesn't matter to me whether the truth is expressed as Bach or The Clash, whether it's beautiful architecture or witty graffiti, whether it's the sort of chess Bobby Fischer used to play, or Capablanca before him, or Paul Morphy before either of them! ... or Gauss or Newton or my favorite math teachers, or any of the other people who see how things work and describe them in ways that make sense.

And that's why I can't believe the official story of 9/11. It's not that I'm a conspiracy theorist by nature. It's just that the official story doesn't make any sense. It didn't make any sense on the day it happened, it's made even less sense as the years have gone by, and that's why I don't believe it.

I don't expect geopolitics to make sense in the way that Bach or Morphy did. I understand that we have a multitude of players, playing under multiple sets of rules -- or not playing under any rules at all! -- moving at the same time, deliberately cutting across one another's plans, and leaving a mess in their wake. I don't expect that wake to be simple, or easily untangled.

In other words, I might buy the story if there were only one or two incredible details. I would probably be satisfied with the idea that the attack was complex and bound to leave a few "loose ends", even if those "loose ends" were absolutely bizarre ... if there were only a few "loose ends" left over.

But it's not just a few loose ends. It's massive contradictions, clear evidence of lying, conflict of interest all over the place, advance warnings ignored, investigations shut down, evidence destroyed, official stories changed -- and changed again! -- and much more besides, including magical violation of the laws of physics.

For a single example of this magic in action, consider the "collapse" of the South Tower. As shown in the photos, the top third of the building broke off and started to topple over.

Part of it extended beyond the perimeter of the building, as we can clearly see.

If it had been a gravity-driven event, with no explosives involved, we would expect at least part of this block to continue falling, since there is no tower beneath it -- nothing to crush it but thin air. It should have landed in the street, or on an adjacent building. Instead this part of the tower turned to dust before it ever hit the ground. All because of gravity? Sorry! That can't happen in real life.

In other words, there's not necessarily anything wrong with me, and there's not necessarily anything wrong with anyone who agrees with me; there's something wrong with the story we've been told.

That's why I'm a "conspiracy theorist".

And I resent the constant media push to question my sanity, and that of others like me -- from people who won't even examine the facts of the case because they're so busy attacking those who do so. Some very well-known writers have lost all my respect for this very reason (and if I were less of a gentleman I might mention names such as Alexander Cockburn, George Monbiot, and Gwynne Dyer).

Conspiracy Theorists Find Their Bizarre Theories Comforting

Just in case it's not obvious yet, I don't speak for anybody but myself. I'm not a member of any 9/11-related organization, I don't hang at any 9/11-related websites, I'm not in any formal alliance with any group or individual. I do correspond with a few people who I support in various ways, and a few other people who help me too, but I have never discussed any of this with any of them. So I don't know what they think about it. I only know what I think.

I don't find any comfort in the belief that American democracy is over. I don't find any comfort in knowing that my country is fighting multiple wars based on gigantic and deliberately-crafted lies; that it has killed and/or maimed and/or rendered homeless millions and millions of people, in "revenge" for what amounts to nothing more than a bit of political "street theater".

There are already billions of people suffering through every day of their lives, dying from easily preventable diseases, starving to death, all kinds of horrible things going on in a world that's got enough natural cruelty to last a lifetime, without my country -- the wealthiest and most powerful nation the world has ever seen -- dropping bombs on people while they sleep, kidnapping them and taking them away to be tortured, destroying their hospitals, cutting off their water and electricity, and poisoning their landscape with depleted uranium -- all to separate them from their oil.

Anyone who has a heart and a moment to think about these things can see that there is nothing even remotely comforting about any of this -- nothing whatsoever. And I am more than a little bit offended by this particular transparently false argument about 9/11.

Conspiracy Theorists Hate America

This is possibly the biggest red herring there ever was. It's also a conflation of endless very different entities into a single ball of nonsense.

I've loved most of the American people I've ever met, most of the American landscape I've ever seen, too many individuals and places and things to mention, and let's not forget the principles on which the country was founded. I hate the violence; I hate the pollution; I hate the propaganda; I hate the endless war against the rest of the world; I hate the relentless glorification of rich idiots and serial killers; I hate the marginalization of the poor and the demonization of the gentle; I hate the racism and the intolerance and the hatred; I hate the national leadership of both major parties. Does this mean I hate America? Not at all -- and what if it did?

There are plenty of things to love about America, and plenty of things to hate. The truth or falsehood of the official 9/11 story doesn't depend on any of them.

Conspiracy Theorists Blame Bush For 9/11 Because They Hate Him

This is a reversal of cause and effect. Conspiracy theorists blame Bush because they can see so many ways in which he deserves to be blamed.

His reaction to the attack was inappropriate, every step of the way. He sat in the classroom and listened to the kids read the story about the goat, even though he knew the country was under attack. What sort of commander in chief is this?

Then he declared endless limitless war against the rest of the world. What sort of a statesman would do that?

Bush resisted any official investigation for as long as possible. Then when he was forced to empower one, he assigned the monstrous war criminal Henry Kissinger to run it. Kissinger had to resign to avoid the exposure of a blatant conflict of interest. He realized this when he was asked whether he had any Saudi Arabian clients named "Bin Laden".

So then Philip Zelikow was handed the assignment. He had previously written a book with Condoleeza Rice. He had also written a treatise on catastrophic terror and the political uses to which it could be put. He's a specialist in public myth-making. Bush put him in charge of the investigation.

When his turn came, Bush refused to testify in public, or under oath, or without Dick Cheney at his side. Bush and Cheney refused to allow any records of their "testimony" to be kept. All this was designed to make us trust them?

Then we found out that before 9/11, Bush ignored counter-terrorism officials who tried to warn him about the coming attack. We found out that investigations into certain families and certain countries had been systematically shut down. We found out that members of the Bin Laden family were allowed to leave the country in the immediate wake of the attacks. We found out that the Bush family and the Bin Laden family have done business together for a long time. We found out a lot more, too, that traces directly to the president, and his father.

Conspiracy theorists hate George Bush because of all this. They didn't make all this up in order to support some baseless, irrational, pre-determined hatred of him.

This deliberate reversal of cause and effect is so transparent; it's more an assault on the fabric of reality than on the "inside job" argument.

In other words, "If you'll believe this, you'll believe anything!"

And that's exactly what they're hoping for.