The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/columns/2007-07-13/501903/

Page Two: Looney Tunes

A swan song for the conspiracy series

By Louis Black, July 13, 2007, Columns

What is my obsession with 9/11 conspiracy theories? There are many reasons, some far more significant than others. Overall, theorists are perceived as being leftist in orientation (many of those involved are anything but), because most reason that if it were an inside job, most likely the Bush administration was involved; therefore, it must be a quest to indict members of the current administration.

Still, more than half a decade into the Bush administration, we've seen the gutting of the social safety net, an assault on minority rights, judicial attempts to limit the rights of women, and a consistent, broad-based assault on the Constitution. This is not even to mention the whole Iraq debacle: lies, misinformation, graft, corruption, and theft. Concentrating on 9/11 seems like a dilettantish activity.

I do not believe that 9/11 was in any way an inside job. The general story of 19 fundamentalist Muslim terrorists hijacking four planes and flying three into buildings while the fourth crashes fits what I saw and know. If this means I'm cuddling up with George W. Bush or Dick Cheney or that I'm blindly accepting the administration's version, so be it. If Bush believes in something, are we supposed to disagree automatically?

The crashing of two planes into two New York skyscrapers is such a unique, unprecedented event that it will necessarily raise many concerns and issues. In the midst of chaos and confusion, human beings make notoriously inaccurate eyewitnesses. But legitimate questions about construction and destruction – such as how and why the buildings fell, as well as the resulting construction issues – are logical, given the vast devastation. Their existence validates only the events of that day, without insisting on more elaborate explanations.

There should be no surprise at the holes and inadequacies of any government report, especially one that is so important and has an impact on so many constituencies. Even if the 9/11 Commission had done a much better job, it would have made little difference. Anything as complex as 9/11 will raise many questions lacking easy answers.

A conspiracy makes sense only in retrospect. Can you really conceive of a scenario in which elected officials would indulge in such planning? Especially given that this was in Bush's first year, when everything was going their way.

The idea that this was done in order to justify invading Iraq seems nonsensical. Why have no Iraqi hijackers? If the Bush administration could convince so many people that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, why not plant damning evidence of their involvement in 9/11?

Why would such an elaborate staging even be necessary? A year or two back, right-wing, hate-talk radio; its listeners; conservative pundits; reactionary "patriot" groups; and Republican politicians were focused on Iraq. The talk was of the glory of the war, which consisted mostly of damning those who opposed the war and Democrats in general. It took less than three months for the discussion to move on to focusing overwhelmingly on illegal immigration. No crisis like 9/11 was needed to precipitate that debate, yet now so many media commentators, politicians, and even the American people buy the idea that a terrible, illegal immigration threat faces the country. Yes, there were vast marches demanding rights for illegal immigrants, during which the Mexican flag was flown (ignoring the entire history of America's ethnically focused parades, there was absolute shock at this). Without a single building being blown up, as though faithfully fulfilling George Orwell's 1984, almost overnight the enemy we apparently needed to focus on changed. The current team occupying the White House has no problem with manipulating public opinion.

Following are a number of new or previously made points on this topic:

• Those engaged in uncovering the conspiracy tend not to be politically active, demonstrating no interest in the day-in, day-out, roll-up-your-sleeves, never-ending struggles as regards complex, often nearly unsolvable social, economic, and political issues.

• Conspiracy theorists practice very bad history, essentially gathering every bit of data that supports their already-arrived-at conclusion while disregarding any information that doesn't. If you check the online Chronicle forums, for example, among the topics under discussion is the fact that a significant number of "put options" (which are essentially bets a stock will go down) on two airline companies were purchased right before September 11. Bad history is to say these are worth investigating closely because they look suspicious. Good history is looking at a two- or three-year history of such options to see if this activity was in any way an aberration.

• Folks really interested in the "truth" usually avidly listen to dissenters as a way of testing and re-examining premises. This is clearly not the case with the "truth" seekers.

• In this context, "truth" simply means agreeing with the opinions of the conspiracy-theory crowd. Anyone who doesn't buy in is accused of being so terrified by reality that he or she can't even consider the horrors our government is capable of committing. To research and understand 9/11, in their view, is to come to the same exact conclusions as the theorists.

• Consequently, telling several generations of activist progressives that they refuse to imagine what our government is capable of doing is insulting. These are the people who marched for civil rights, who were beaten and killed in that struggle – the ones who stood up to the government on Vietnam and Iraq while uncovering and publishing the truth on this country's illegal and far-flung activities abroad, as well as the violation of citizens' constitutional rights at home. Regardless of the prevailing, predominant mass opinion, they've always stood up for what they believe.

(Important caveat: Admittedly, I'm bad-mouthing the theorists as much as they dismiss those who don't agree with them. But I don't believe there was a conspiracy and find the attitudes of too many conspiracy theorists self-important rather than political. The idea that any of us should enter into the glue pit of arguing individual details or treat their "questions" as though they really are questions rather than assertions requires buying into their way of thinking. This is unhealthy. But yes, I am doing what I'm accusing them of doing.)

• Theorists insist that the events of the world are more controlled and intentional than there is any chance that they are and, moreover, that history is marked by big, terrible events executed by evil conspirators. Rather than irrational, erratic, unpredictable, and ever-changing, history is, in their view, organized and under control – although it's the organization and control of evil, hateful visionaries.

• This means there are good guys and bad guys, a point of view that allows for dehumanizing and demonizing other people. Almost every major atrocity committed in the last two centuries has had its roots in such demonizing. Theorists do not believe that history is created primarily by involved people championing policies they believe will benefit society – policies that sometimes, in spite of the best intentions, failed or even proved to be destructive. Instead, they believe in evil people intentionally doing evil things. In this view, President Bush isn't just a hopelessly incompetent, arrogant fraternity boy who has done more to damage his country than any president in memory. Instead, he is either a puppet of evil world masters or evil himself, knowingly doing terrible things in his quest for horrific results. To demonize others is to justify all actions against them – makes them not human but instead Jews or Palestinians; Hutu or Tutsi; Serbs, Croats, or Bosnians; pagans or Christians; Kurds, Shiites, or Sunnis. It becomes not just necessary but holy to kill them: If you do not then they will kill you.

• If there was a conspiracy, it hardly matters. More than 40 years after President Kennedy's assassination, a national and international network of those conspiracy theorists is still hard at it – but in those four-plus decades, there has not been even one real-world consequence. The 9/11 conspiracy theorists will prove just as fruitful. When so many people concentrate so intensely on one event, so many relatively meaningless details are elevated, and so many theories developed that, rather than taking any steps toward clarity, they render the situation hopelessly muddied.

Conspiracy theorists in general have proven to be more hobbyists than activists. It is important to note that there have been conspiracies that have been uncovered throughout history, usually by journalists, politicians, political activists, and/or ideological critics. By definition, one who exposes a conspiracy is not necessarily a conspiracy theorist.

• What the Kennedy theorists did by implicating every possible government agency and indicting none of them was to reinforce the notion of a vast, governmental conspiracy: If every body and agency could have been involved, and not one has been tried and acquitted or convicted, then they are all potentially guilty. Since conspiracy theorists' whole modus operandi is to assume guilt until innocence is proven, this thinking ends up tarring the whole government. Conveniently, then, this hysteria (with not even as much grounding in reality as the McCarthy-instigated Red Scare of the 1950s) paved the way for the 9/11-related nonsense. An assumption of vast, governmental guilt easily translates into vast, governmental conspiracies.

• Frequently, "truth seekers" reject the notion that they are theorists, claiming instead that they actually have proven their points with facts. Yet there is no one organizing theory of what happened on 9/11. There is not even widespread general agreement on most points. (They should follow the lead of a group of parents of autistic children, who have brought a civil suit against the companies manufacturing vaccines. Without expressing an opinion, this group has enough agreement among themselves and accumulated evidence that they feel comfortable proceeding in bringing the suit.)

• There are few things as utterly pointless as calling for a new investigation of 9/11. Why? Any official governmental report is not to be trusted; they are inherently political, massaged, and deliberately spun. Still, these weaknesses are not proof of a conspiracy. Any kind of government study is going to be massive, offering endless amounts of information. A new study would be regarded just as suspiciously as the existing study. Even if it definitively stated that there was a conspiracy, it would be attacked over details and specifics.

Finally, in the immortal words of that great scholar and statesman, "That's all Folks!" end story

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