9-11 conspiracy theory: our readers write
Our September issue featured stories on the question of 9-11 "conspiracy theory," including a skeptical look at the conspiracy industry and the so-called "9-11 skeptics" by WW4 REPORT editor Bill Weinberg. The September Exit Poll was: "OK, did Bush do it?" We received the following responses (beginning with the most long-winded and predictable one, just to get it out of the way):
From Dr. Pierre Adler of Manhattan:
The following is a letter I just sent out to Dr. Dutch, whose paper "Nutty 911 Physics" is referenced at some point on your Web site. I have read your posting "911 and the New Pearl Harbor: Aw Shut Up Already," and I have read mountains of writings about 911, including those by Griffin, Jones, and such folks. The necessary changes having been made to suit your article, my words to Dr. Dutch apply to your article as well. When you stand in disagreement with something or someone, your tone and your manner often become off-putting, and, as such, they undermine themselves.
Dear Dr. Dutch,
I happened across your paper "Nutty 911 Physics" this morning and read it immediately. The following is not an argument in favor of, or in opposition to, the factual or logical contents of your paper's assertions and its various arguments. It has to do with style of presentation, i.e., with rhetoric (in the classical and noble sense of 'rhetoric') and my puzzlement regarding your intentions. You may well be right about many of the factual claims and the logical inferences you make; the counterfactual considerations you adduce; and the alternative, possibly more rational courses of action you evoke in the paper, and you may even have refuted the controlled demolition thesis of the Twin Towers and WTC 7, for all I know.
But whatever its good points may be and the role it could play in at least objectively (in contrast to convincing or winning over various individuals) settling some of the points of controversy concerning the events of that branding and pathogenic day, and in helping us to deal with the huge mass of writings that have been produced about them, the flippant tone of the paper (beginning with its title) and its terseness on important and decisive points struck me as hindrances to the task of understanding and orienting oneself with respect to the events in question and their interpretation. The light and disrespectful tone and the terseness act as intimidating factors upon the reader, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, give the impression that, before you even state the entire set of reasons for your disagreement with Dr. Jones, for instance, you have already deemed him not worthy of a respectful and well articulated refutation.
This value judgment displays itself in the fact that whereas you describe Steven Jones as one "who bills himself as a 'Physicist and Archaeometrist'," you tell us of yourself, "I'm a geologist - I get paid to know about stuff like that." Well, could one not equally well say of Dr. Jones that he is a physicist and that he gets paid to know about the sort of stuff he talks about, and of you that you bill (a verb that we usually reserve for performers or show biz personalities) yourself as a geologist? When you tell us that "no amount of evidence will dissuade a conspiracy theorist," what is the status of such a generalization? Is this a falsifiable, psychological remark that is supported by reasonably sufficient empirical data and experimentation? Or a polemical jibe aimed at discrediting people whom you happen not to like, for whichever subjective or political reasons? Indeed, the fact that someone is incapable of revising his (or her) beliefs in the face of empirical or logical considerations is not a very flattering sign about the general mental constitution of the person. And if such is really a belief of yours, for whom do you write? For those who already share your beliefs and convictions? But, then, why the disparaging tone?
To show your contempt for the conspiracists? But why would such a display be necessary? Indeed, if you write merely for like-minded folks, why bother? If, on the other hand, you write for people who are poorly informed or misinformed, or have been mislead by unreliable or false assertions and flawed arguments, then would it not enhance your discourse and your chance of reaching them to speak respectfully and in a manner that is ample and somewhat didactic, and declare them out of reach from the word go?
After reading your paper, I was left with the distinctive impression that you wrote for no one. I was asking myself, is this man open-minded enough to write for a definite audience and seek to teach that audience some of his knowledge and expertise, or is he autistic? Prof. Jones and, say, an author such as David Ray Griffin may have their flaws, but upon reading them, one never has a feeling that they harbor prima facie disrepect or contempt for their opponents or their readers.
Bill Weinberg responds: Accusations of a condescending tone are rather ironic. The conspiracy theorists habitually call their critics far worse things than "nutty." Anyone who dissents from their dogma is labeled a sheep, a government dupe, etc. Cast the beam from thine own eye, Sir. And where did Alex Jones get his physics degree, we'd like to know?
Bert Golding of Houston writes:
My opinion has been that the Bush administration wanted some sort of terrorist action against the US as justification for an aggressive foreign policy, and that they were aware at high levels in the Administration and CIA of a possible plot unfolding, which they chose not to squelch. They got more than they probably expected, but it certainly gave their desired MidEast action all the justification they felt was needed.
One "Brian" of the Phoenix Insurgent writes:
After work today I took some time to read your interesting article on 9/11 ('9-11 AND THE NEW PEARL HARBOR'). I appreciate the tack you have taken and agree with much of it. I find myself, as I often do, here in the middle, not finding either pole (and they are polarized, for sure) of this debate terribly attractive. Although I am an anarchist, I reject the popular anarchist current that says that conspiracies don't exist or that investigating them is a waste of time. At the same time, I am disturbed by the fringe wingnuts in the 9/11 Truth camp. Were bombs pre-planted in the WTC towers? Did a cruise missile hit the Pentagon? I can't say I have the answers to these questions, although to say I am deeply skeptical of the government's story is an understatement. In the end, however, I don't think any of those are necessary for government complicity.
I also appreciated you calling out of Alex Jones' website for its support for anti-immigration forces. I do read his website from time to time, and that tendency within it has always bothered me a great deal, especially since I do so much work around the issue of open borders, anti-minutemen and immigrant support. Definitely his advocacy for closed borders to increase security fits very well into your hypothesis (correct, I think) that many of the arguments of the 9/11 Truth folks do reinforce the march towards a police state. I would say this is clearly also true for liberal elements that have criticized the war and the alleged lack of intelligence surrounding the invasion and the 9/11 attacks. Their arguments were definitely part of a dialectic within the elite that lead to increased police powers across the board and also in the end makes the state more efficient at achieving its goals, which is certainly contrary to the interests of a free humanity. However, on the flip side, many challenges to state power tend to lead to it reinforcing itself with new tools and powers - not just 9/11 conspirators. One could say, for instance, that ELF/ALF actions have contributed to the return of the grand jury as a refurbished tool for attacking the revolutionary movement. That doesn't discredit those movements, I don't think.
As an aside, I haven't seen any polls on this, but my encounters with the 9/11 conspiracy tendency have left me with the distinct impression that it is essentially a white movement, with a working class undercurrent which shares much common theoretical ground with the right, and with xenophobic elements within it. I think it is telling, from my subjective point of view, that I have seen so few Black folks involved in that movement, despite the high percentage of Blacks who doubt the official story and, most tellingly, the history of actual proven government conspiracies against them. Clearly, most working class Blacks have other problems to worry about or see something in the 9/11 movement that does not attract them.
I hesitate to psychoanalyze the movement, but since it does seem to be so white, it doesn't surprise me that it also reflects the reactionary attitudes of so many white people - Minutemen, for instance - that they are under attack by a system they no longer control. This probably explains why the 9/11 movement has not reached out to other movements in any serious way in solidarity. In typical white activist fashion, 9/11 Truth asserts that its issues are universal and paramount and that resolving them will somehow also resolve all the others. We've seen this before.
But, in particular, I appreciate your acknowlegement that conspiracies do exist in real life, from which I extrapolate that you would agree that sometimes one faction in the government or elite does stage an attack on another faction - a coup, essentially. For me, this is the interesting part of the events of 9/11. The threat against Bush ("Angel is next...") seems to me at this point to represent the clearest evidence for at least some manipulation of the 9/11 plotters by an element within the government for its own selfish ends. In part, this would explain seemingly contradictory actions taken by government, (i.e., the pressure to dismiss the Pakistani general, for instance). In a coup or a contest for power, there are differing interests at play, so contradictions appear.
Anyhow, I don't want to get into a deep discussion of the 9/11 movement, since you've already covered it so well and I tend to agree with much of what you said. I did want to ask if you have read much Webster Tarpley. He is a rising star right now in the movement, and while he goes a bit too far into the "Al-Qaeda is a myth" camp that you delve a bit into, I do find his investigation of the drills that ran that day and the historical circumstances that might have prompted one faction of the elite to stage a coup on 9/11 very interesting. I ask because I noticed that you did not mention him in your piece.
Bill Weinberg responds: Many thanx for the thoughtful response. Nice to see that someone's paying attention. I don't think we're hanging out with the same anarchists. Most of the ones I know are pretty conspiracy-obsessed. I'm not a big fan of ELF/ALF (burning SUVs is a particulary stupid way to protest air pollution), but I think there is a critical difference between engaging in direct action that could provoke a draconian response and making arguments that legitimize a draconian response. Especially given their frequent xenophobic (Alex Jones, Eric Hufschmid) and Islamophobic (Chossudovsky) tendencies, I really don't think many of the conspiracists particularly care about civil liberties. They are just acting out an Oedipus complex.
From Kim Sky, somewhere in cyberspace:
first, thanx for the massive accumulation of theories and theorists.
Exit Poll: OK, did Bush do it?
as for your "real alternative conspiracy theory: Were the Justice Department, FBI and CIA leaking or even inventing their own blunders...[to get limits on domestic spying lifted]?"
the term = opportunism
as with hurricane katrina, the forces of evil emerge so skillfully and quickly. perhaps when money is to be made people move so quickly that it's hard to believe they didn't actually orchestrate the hurricane/9-11.
George King, seemingly of somewhere in New England, writes:
I'd like to respond to your September 2006 Exit Poll: "OK, did Bush do it?"
No he did not, if you mean make or let 9/11 happen. And neither did Cheney, Rumsfeld, or the undead spectre of Richard Nixon. The Bush Regime are certainly evil bastards, but the conspiracists' evidence for these accusations is simply too weak to stand.
Next, and FYI and then a comment/question.
The FYI: A website called GNN.tv has posted your "9/11 and the New Pearl Harbor" article (in two parts), and the response has been less than favorable. The guy who posted it has even gotten a lot of flak for doing so. For example Carol Brouillet, she of the "Deception Dollar", who is saying she might "bump" GNN's URL from the next Dollar "and replace it with a site more friendly to seeking truth." For this one variation from the usual line!
Your article was subtitled on GNN with "How wild 9/11 conspiracies undermine the left", but not many people are talking about that aspect of it. I tried challenging some of them, but it's a swamp. One post-9/11 convert to anarchism even commented that he thinks "The Truth Movement" is the way to popularize opposition to the government. Others think that "The 'left' should be undermined" or that it is equivalent to the Democratic Party.
Nevertheless, I liked the piece, and was glad to hear you naming names of the right-wing populists who frequent that issue...
The Comment/Question: Lately I've been lurking on a 9/11 conspiracy discussion board to see what we're up against. It isn't pretty. A lot of people bring up other, older conspiracy theories, the usual right-wing populist litany. (NWO, CFR, Trilateral Commission, International Bankers, Jews (yes, explicitly), Zionists (constantly), Bilderberg, Bohemian Grove, even the Illuminati and the Freemasons -- Yes, it's all here.) This seems way beyond the scope of investiGoogling 9/11, which makes me wonder about the internal dynamics of the "Truth Movement".
I have read that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, some people in the Patriot Movement got behind Bush. Some of them weren't as anti-Federal-Government and isolationist as they had been in the 1990's. So, I have to wonder if some of the die-hard Patriot Movement types are trying to win back these followers now that Iraq is going so badly and Bush is much less popular. They trot out the same old legends, but this time put them in the background of the fallen towers. Discrediting the new authority figure might bring the wayward Patriots back into the fold. These authoritarian types need to follow someone, so instaed of following Dubya, they're following Alex Jones or whoever. Could this be one of the motivations at work (in addition to general recruiment of disaffected teenagers)?
You might also be interested in this: "The Anarchism of Fools: Conspiracy Theory as a Substitute for Social Critique", a RAT 2004 talk by Peter Staudenmaier --
Thanks for your time, your website, and your radio show. Take care.
Bill Weinberg responds: George, you ask some very smart questions. I think Bush has, for the moment, sucessfully domesticated the Patriot types by emulating Reagan, who they loved. They were alienated by the first Bush because of his multilateralism and "New World Order" talk, and of course they utterly despised Clinton, which is why the militia movement exploded in the '90s. But everything which happened since 9-11 has brought them back into the fold. Bush is getting a lot of mileage with them out of the war, whereas they were suspicious of his old man's war and downright hostile to Clinton's wars. Unlike his old man, Bush is going unilateral and not getting the UN involved, which appeals to their xenophobia and softens their isolationism. And while under Clinton the US was fighting right-wing fascist types in both the Balkans and Haiti, and was actually perceived to be fighting on behalf of Muslims in ex-Yugoslavia, now the US is fighting against Muslims, which appeals the Patriots' Christian nationalism. However, if things continue to go poorly in Iraq (which is practically certain), the perceived Jewish control of the White House will serve the most hardcore Patriots well... So while Bush has got the Patriots well under control at the moment, I shudder at the thought of what the eventual backlash could look like...