It’s going to be intense over the next week or so as we are reminded repeatedly about the events of September 11, 2001. Outside of the local coverage (“Hairdresser Remembers 9/11” , et. al.), virtually every magazine, tv news show, newspaper and blog is running some kinda piece trying to find the right words to summarize how that fateful day has impacted our world. (The best national wrap-up is here in, of all places, Foreign Policy.)
“9/11” makes my gut churn. Literally. The horribleness of the attacks combined with my own childish reactions and sadness over what this country has become since that date make me wanna puke. But this isn’t another “I remember when” article. The intolerance that I see around me towards Islam, people who might be from the middle east and the willingness of a significant part of the public (and politicians) to yield to their darker impulses (revenge, torture, racism) makes me want to stand up and speak out against this insanity.
That’s why I’m going out on a limb here to tell you about people who are telling a story that I don’t believe—the 9/11 Truthers. In this era of intolerance and self-censorship I am standing up to say that they have a point of view that deserves a hearing. Their story is, in a nutshell, that the events of that day were somehow enabled, staged or planned as a Pearl Harbor-type event by forces with an evil agenda. Doubtless the SD911Truth event this Sunday won’t merit any of local media coverage. Even though I differ with the Truthers, I think this kind of “self-censorship” is just plain wrong.
Before you dismiss this line of thinking, realize that these folks have thousands of supporters: there are over one thousand architects and engineers who support their theories, plus sub groupings of scientists, academics, firefighters and explosive experts. Their local supporters are screening a documentary film “Explosive Evidence: Experts Speak Out” at the Joyce Beers Center (Hillcrest, Vermont & 10th Sts.) this Sunday at 6:30pm.
I’ve have a fair share of experience with people inclined towards conspiratorial views of historic events and can tell you that they’re, for the most part, ordinary (and good) people. Back in the early 1970’s, I did a coast-to-coast lecture tour (set up through author Norman Mailer, but that’s another story) that included showing the now famous Zapruder film, a fuzzy piece of home made film that raises plenty of questions about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. From Wikipedia:
The film’s 1975 broadcast on Good Night America ignited widespread public distrust in the findings of the Warren Commission. Perhaps the most controversial effect was the suggestion that an assassin or assassins other than Oswald were involved.
As a result of this tour, I met literally thousands of people who believed. And I got to see the ugly underside of this movement, those who believed that only they knew the truth. Any other point of view was, to their way of thinking, part of the conspiracy. I soon discovered that, because I refused to attach specific blame to any specific group—the Mafia and the CIA were the leading contenders—my tour was obviously part of the coverup.
The parallels between the Kennedy Conspiracists and the 9/11 Truthers are plain enough to see once you’ve done a Google search or two. A few hardcore backers do a great job of discrediting lots of ordinary folk who just have questions. People who’ve realized that truth in government is an oxymoron. And there are plenty of examples that don’t need a conspiracy theorist to spin them, like WMD’s in Iraq, for instance.
In the end there was just one question that I couldn’t get answered by those who knew: “what does it mean if you’re actually right?” Some thought the government would collapse, others envisioned a popular uprising demanding the truth… but then what? And there was no answer. Getting to the “truth” was the extent of their vision.
I’m sure that there are plenty of grounds to distrust the government’s accounting of the events of 9/11. But that doesn’t change what’s happened over the last decade. The thousands who died in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania won’t be coming back. The election of Barack Obama, and his failure to undo any of the wrongs of the past decade proves that the national security/fear State that has emerged in the face of the perceived threats from terrorists is a permanent condition. The enormous sums of money that were squandered in Iraq and other “battlefields” of the war on terror are gone, never to be spent on the welfare of the people, or for that matter, accounted for.
Still, the people raising questions about 9/11 have a right to be heard. One can only hope that they start to make the connections about the rest of the conspiracies out there, like Republicans who are afraid of brown people, the demeaning of the public employees, the quest to “reform” education or the big lie of “Public-Private Partnerships” in San Diego.
Those schemes are in the present, and we can do something about them.