Friday, October 1, 2021

One Out Of Three Ain't Good

The third installment of "The Twenty Year Shadow of 9/11", a three-part series by Ben Howard, Aaron Good, and Peter Dale Scott, has been posted at CovertAction Magazine, and it starts with a note from the editors:
[Because this series has been the result of a collaboration among three writers with extensive knowledge about 9/11, U.S. hegemony, and the commonly suppressed aspects of our system of governance, our authors decided to take a different approach with Part 3. Rather than present one consensus conclusion, they present here three separate concluding sections—one from each author. We hope this format takes full advantage of the unique perspectives that each have to offer.]

The series started out well, and I praised the first installment without any reservations. The second installment turned out to be surprisingly dismal, to be blunt, and it raised the question, "What's going on here?"

Now we have the answer.

Because this series has been the result of a collaboration among three writers who fundamentally disagree about the important issues in question, there can be no consensus among them. So they've written three separate conclusions, and it seems to me that the only fair and practical thing we can do is treat them separately.

I was planning to write one post reacting to each of the three installments, and I was expecting to cheer each installment with gusto. But things haven't worked out as I expected. Fancy that!

Now, having written the first two posts in a series that was planned to include three, I find myself more or less obliged to write four additional posts, one for each of the authors' conclusions and a final post summarizing my reaction to the series as a whole: my conclusion, so to speak.


We'll start with a disclaimer: I have spent many hours reading and listening to Peter Dale Scott, and learned an enormous amount in the process. I hold him and his work in very high esteem, and it was Peter's name that attracted my attention to the series.

I do not know anything about the other authors, Ben Howard and Aaron Good, other than the biographical information provided by CovertAction Magazine, and which I will quote as appropriate.

My late mother, Winter Matriarch, used to tell me, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." She wouldn't have understood blogging. And she didn't understand 9/11 either. Sometimes we have to say things that are not very nice. Sorry, Mom!

But, having just written a tribute to Bill Blum, which included the words "Some of our best and smartest friends are going to disagree with us on key issues, and we need to be OK with that," I intend to abide by my sanctimonious declaration and confine my comments to the various contributions, but not the authors themselves.

Ben Howard

According to CovertAction Magazine,

Ben Howard is an independent researcher.

He lives in Massachusetts with his wife and daughter.

You can follow Ben on Twitter: @housetrotter.
Since Ben Howard's conclusion appears first in this installment, we will look at it first. At only five paragraphs, it is by far the shortest of the three, so I may as well quote in full.

(The other two authors wrote much more, and I will only quote short excerpts from their contributions, but you'll have to wait a while for before we can talk about what they've written.)

Here's Ben Howard:
In reflecting on 9/11 and the preceding terror attacks, it is clear that the security services’ long-entrenched practice of withholding and compartmentalizing information has had disastrous consequences. Contrary to the sentiments expressed in the press and by members of the 9/11 Commission and Joint Intelligence Inquiry, these disastrous consequences were far from accidental. Instead, as I believe we have demonstrated in Parts 1 and 2, this practice of withholding and compartmentalization has, at key moments, been employed for the purposes of allowing terrorist attacks against Americans and American interests.
Unfortunately I beg to differ. In my view, the claim that the "practice of withholding and compartmentalization has, at key moments, been employed for the purposes of allowing terrorist attacks against Americans and American interests" has not been "demonstrated" in this series, although something of the sort has been demonstrated elsewhere. It is possible that the authors intended to demonstrate this, but it is by no means clear that they did so.

They've shown that the U.S. has a long history of recruiting, training, supplying, and maneuvering "radical Islamic terrorists" on the world stage, and using them as a proxy army against one country after another, most notably Afghanistan and the Soviet Union.

They've also shown that some of these recruits were permitted to enter the U.S. and move around freely once they got here, even though, given their status as "radical Islamic terrorists", they should not have been allowed to do this. And they have shown that these "terrorists" were protected (i.e. from the FBI) by other "security forces" (i.e. the CIA).

Whether any of this was done "for the purposes of allowing terrorist attacks against Americans and American interests" is a question which this series has never even raised, let alone answered.

Another question that has not even been raised in this series concerns the role of the "radical Islamic terrorists". Were they the only "attackers" who were active that day? Were they even attackers at all? Are we sure they weren't just patsies?

It's far from a moot point, and it is certainly relevant one, given the blatantly obvious disconnect between the story of the attack and the damage it was said to have caused. The fact that the evidence remaining after the attack cannot be accounted for by the attack as officially described throws enormous doubt on the claim that the "hijackers" caused all the damage all by themselves.

I find it very disturbing that even though none of this has even been mentioned, we are already into the conclusions, and acting as if these unasked questions had been satisfactorily answered.

Ben Howard continues:
These terrorist attacks are illegal but are essential for maintaining the present political economy. As demonstrated in Parts 1 and 2, they are often crucial to achieve the political and economic goals of the ruling class. The disastrous withholding of information by intelligence agencies and other covert groups is therefore necessary so these planned attacks are not foiled before they serve their intended purposes. Deep events, carried out with secrecy and subterfuge as they are, are often so submerged that even elements of the national security state cannot fully glean their breadth and scope.
Once again I disagree about what has been demonstrated in the first two parts of the series.

Nowhere has it even been suggested that "terrorist attacks" are "essential for maintaining the present political economy", not to mention "crucial to achieve the political and economic goals of the ruling class".

On the other hand, this is the first time I've ever seen the phrase, "terrorist attacks are illegal", and in my view this is a very insightful statement, especially compared to its neighbors.

Here's Ben Howard again:
It is no surprise, then, that the public has a limited understanding of these events. Much of this can be attributed to the unknown but certainly large amount of highly relevant information that has been concealed through dubious means, ranging from the improper classification of documents up to destruction of evidence and perjury. However, despite this suppression of information, many important stories and facts which belie establishment myths and narratives appear in prestigious newspapers or are reported by official government inquiries. That these stories and facts are not broadly known and incorporated into our collective understanding of our system is evidence of some other, more subtle, means of suppression.
This is correct, in my opinion. The public certainly has a limited understanding of these events. Concealment or destruction of evidence and perjury are certainly elements of the story. And other, more subtle, means of suppression are definitely in play. So we seem to be on the same page again.

Here's Ben Howard:
Indeed, while many well-educated and well-read Americans may acknowledge that the official story of a deep event like, say, 9/11 is “something of a whitewash,”[1] bourgeois norms typically prevent these people from delving too deeply into that which is being whitewashed. These deep events point to the conclusion that the world we live in is often ruled by dark and occulted forces which escape accountability thanks to state secrecy, media manipulation, and the powerful psychological forces of repression, denial, and dissociation. But to acknowledge the implications of this conclusion for our nominal democracy is to situate oneself outside of acceptable discourse. It is clear, therefore, that to develop a proper understanding of the nature of the American politico-economic system, we must transcend this “acceptable discourse.” Our present understanding of America’s history and politics, manipulated as it is by ruling class interests, cannot serve us.
I agree with most of this, too. We could hardly ask for a better example of people refraining "from delving too deeply into that which is being whitewashed".

And it's very clear that "we must transcend" a great deal of institutional resistance, not only to "develop a proper understanding" but simply to communicate freely with large groups of people. So that part is good.

There's a big red flag in the form of a reference, which we will explore soon enough.

But on with the show, this is it!
It is necessary, then, to develop a popular “common sense” counter-narrative which, through unflinching analysis of the role of class power and elite self-interest in our society, is able to capture and convey the true significance of these deep events. I am under no illusions that one article series, no matter how finely crafted or diligently researched, can change the course of history. That said, I am hopeful that it might contribute in a small way to the creation of a new and better understanding of history and politics we so desperately need. I remain optimistic that the great masses of people in this country and across the world, armed with more of the truth, will change the world for the better.
This is where I disagree most emphatically. In my view, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, "to develop a popular common sense counter-narrative" which includes "unflinching analysis of the role of class power and elite self-interest in our society", if only because "the role of class power and elite self-interest in our society" is antithetical to "common sense" as popularly understood.

And therefore, any "narrative", "common sense" or otherwise, which starts with "The people who control our country are so greedy and so intent on running the whole world that they would be happy to see you and your whole family crushed or burned to death if it might advance their agenda just an eighth of an inch," is by definition so far beyond the bounds of "acceptable discourse" that very few people will take it seriously, even if every word of it happens to be true. And I don't doubt that it is, but we probably can't prove it to anybody's satisfaction.

So I don't think it's necessary to develop any more narratives. Instead, I think we should try to popularize the best "common sense narrative" that we already have, which goes something like this:

The official story of 9/11 is blatantly false. We can demonstrate this in 10 or 100 or 1000 ways, so no matter how much evidence it might take to change your mind, we can give you more. The facts that this obviously false story has only been challenged by a few representatives of any political party, and that they have been banished immediately, shows that we cannot expect any politicians, of any political party, to raise any more questions, let alone tell us the truth. And the fact that this false story is echoed endlessly by the government and all the big media shows that we cannot trust the government or the big media to tell us the truth about 9/11 either. Ever.

This much truth, which can easily be demonstrated, would be enough to cause severe cognitive dissonance in the people who think of themselves as Democrats or Republicans, and for those who watch the big media "news" broadcasts. In that sense, it's already "a bridge too far". Going even farther beyond the bounds of "acceptable discourse" seems very risky to me, at least when dealing with the population in general. (When talking to 9/11 researchers, of course, the risk is greatly reduced. But we don't need to convince very many of them.)

Furthermore, as Ben Howard points out, we're up against "some other, more subtle, means of suppression", so even though we already have a "common sense narrative", it's a very difficult narrative to spread, especially compared to the official story, which gets endless free press everywhere. In other words, in my opinion, the problem is not that we don't have anything convincing to say. It's that we can't get our message to the people who need to hear it.

In addition to trying to squeeze some information in "around the edges" of "acceptable discourse", we also need to try to move "the bounds" of that discourse when we can. At least that's my opinion. I think we need to be hammering on the gatekeepers continually. We need to make people understand that a claim such as "even Noam Chomsky doesn't believe that" does not constitute a logical argument, much less a sound one.

I use Chomsky as an example because he's the Master Gatekeeper as far as I can tell. But plenty of others are jockeying for places in line, evidently hoping to assume his position when it becomes available. In my view, we should be hammering on all of them. And speaking of which, the time has come to discuss the "big red flag" I mentioned earlier.

I would hardly describe myself as someone "with extensive knowledge about 9/11". I can barely imagine collaborating on a series about it with Peter Dale Scott. And I can't help asking myself, "If I were in Ben Howard's position, what would I bring to the table?"

Would I be able to provide more than one reference?

If I could only provide one link, would I choose a column written by Chris Hayes of MSNBC, published by "The Nation", and called "9/11: The Roots of Paranoia"?

Would I link to an article that described "the so-called 9/11 Truth Movement" as a "rabbit hole of delusion"?

Would I link to an article that said:
Conspiracy theories that claim to explain 9/11 are wrongheaded and a terrible waste of time
or that repeated a vicious lie told endlessly elsewhere, that
Popular Mechanics assembled a team of engineers, physicists, flight experts and the like to critically examine some of the Truth Movement’s most common claims. They found them almost entirely without merit
or that concluded:
the public must come to trust that the gatekeepers of public discourse share their skepticism about the agenda its government is pursuing
No, No, No! The public must come to trust the gatekeepers? Sorry, Chris! Sorry, Ben! I'm not having a bit of this. I have never put up with any of this from anybody, and I'm not about to start now.

I would never link to an article that made any of these claims unless I intended to refute the claim.

I would never link to an article that made all these claims unless I intended to trash the whole article.

In short, I wouldn't even consider linking to it, except as an example of obvious disinformation. I certainly wouldn't give my readers the impression that I endorsed it, or that I found it credible. Was there no better way to document the assertion that some Americans think the 9/11 report was "a bit of a whitewash"? I'm kidding now. There are many better ways to do it, but apparently Ben Howard, despite his "extensive knowledge about 9/11", couldn't quite put his finger on any of them.

If I had been described as having "extensive knowledge about 9/11", but this was the best link I could provide, what then?

If I were "optimistic that the great masses of people in this country and across the world, armed with more of the truth, [would] change the world for the better", would I give them something better to read than Chris Hayes?

When I was reading Ben Howard for the first time, I couldn't help thinking, "Why didn't they just let Peter write the conclusion?"

Now, having read the other two conclusions, I can tell you that Ben Howard's conclusion stands far apart from the others -- in length, tone, and substance.

This, then, must be "the dissenting opinion", which I suppose answers my question.

And I guess that constitutes grounds for hope.

After all, it's highly unlikely that either of the other authors could have written anything worse than this unless they were in substantial agreement with Ben Howard.

We will look at the conclusion written by Aaron Good in the next installment of this series.