[Marxism] 9/11 conspiracies

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Dec 7 13:55:50 MST 2006

9/11: The Roots of Paranoia


[from the December 25, 2006 issue]

According to a July poll conducted by Scripps News Service, one-third 
of Americans think the government either carried out the 9/11 attacks 
or intentionally allowed them to happen in order to provide a pretext 
for war in the Middle East. This is at once alarming and 
unsurprising. Alarming, because if tens of millions of Americans 
really believe their government was complicit in the murder of 3,000 
of their fellow citizens, they seem remarkably sanguine about this 
fact. By and large, life continues as before, even though tens of 
millions of people apparently believe they are being governed by mass 
murderers. Unsurprising, because the government these Americans 
suspect of complicity in 9/11 has acquired a justified reputation for 
deception: weapons of mass destruction, secret prisons, illegal 
wiretapping. What else are they hiding?

This pattern of deception has not only fed diffuse public cynicism 
but has provided an opening for alternate theories of 9/11 to 
flourish. As these theories--propounded by the so-called 9/11 Truth 
Movement--seep toward the edges of the mainstream, they have raised 
the specter of the return (if it ever left) of what Richard 
Hofstadter famously described as "the paranoid style in American 
politics." But the real danger posed by the Truth Movement isn't 
paranoia. Rather, the danger is that it will discredit and deform the 
salutary skepticism Americans increasingly show toward their leaders.

The Truth Movement's recent growth can be largely attributed to the 
Internet-distributed documentary Loose Change. A low-budget film 
produced by two 20-somethings that purports to debunk the official 
story of 9/11, it's been viewed over the Internet millions of times. 
Complementing Loose Change are the more highbrow offerings of a 
handful of writers and scholars, many of whom are associated with 
Scholars for 9/11 Truth. Two of these academics, retired theologian 
David Ray Griffin and retired Brigham Young University physics 
professor Steven Jones, have written books and articles that serve as 
the movement's canon. Videos of their lectures circulate among the 
burgeoning portions of the Internet devoted to the cause of the 
"truthers." A variety of groups have chapters across the country and 
organize conferences that draw hundreds. In the last election cycle, 
the website www.911truth.org even produced a questionnaire with 
pointed inquiries for candidates, just like the US Chamber of 
Commerce or the Sierra Club. The Truth Movement's relationship to the 
truth may be tenuous, but that it is a movement is no longer in doubt.

Truth activists often maintain they are simply "raising questions," 
and as such tend to focus with dogged persistence on physical 
minutiae: the lampposts near the Pentagon that should have been 
knocked down by Flight 77, the altitude in Pennsylvania at which 
cellphones on Flight 93 should have stopped working, the temperature 
at which jet fuel burns and at which steel melts. They then use these 
perceived inconsistencies to argue that the central events of 
9/11--the plane hitting the Pentagon, the towers collapsing--were not 
what they appeared to be. So: The eyewitness accounts of those who 
heard explosions in the World Trade Center, combined with the facts 
that jet fuel burns at 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit and steel melts at 
2,500, shows that the towers were brought down by controlled 
explosions from inside the buildings, not by the planes crashing into them.

If the official story is wrong, then what did happen? As you might 
expect, there's quite a bit of dissension on this point. Like any 
movement, the Truth Movement is beset by internecine fights between 
different factions: those who subscribe to what are termed LIHOP 
theories (that the government "let it happen on purpose") and the 
more radical MIHOP ("made it happen on purpose") contingent. Even 
within these groups, there are divisions: Some believe the WTC was 
detonated with explosives after the planes hit and some don't even 
think there were any planes.

To the extent that there is a unified theory of the nature of the 
conspiracy, it is based, in part, on the precedent of the Reichstag 
fire in Germany in the 1930s. The idea is that just as the Nazis 
staged a fire in the Reichstag in order to frighten the populace and 
consolidate power, the Bush Administration, military contractors, oil 
barons and the CIA staged 9/11 so as to provide cause and latitude to 
pursue its imperial ambitions unfettered by dissent and criticism. 
But the example of the Reichstag fire itself is instructive. While 
during and after the war many observers, including officials of the 
US government, suspected the fire was a Nazi plot, the consensus 
among historians is that it was, in fact, the product of a lone 
zealous anarchist. That fact changes little about the Nazi regime, or 
its use of the fire for its own ends. It's true the Nazis were the 
chief beneficiaries of the fire, but that doesn't mean they started 
it, and the same goes for the Bush Administration and 9/11.

The Reichstag example also holds a lesson for those who would dismiss 
the very notion of a conspiracy as necessarily absurd. It was 
perfectly reasonable to suspect the Nazis of setting the fire, so 
long as the evidence suggested that might have been the case. The 
problem isn't with conspiracy theories as such; the problem is 
continuing to assert the existence of a conspiracy even after the 
evidence shows it to be virtually impossible.


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