The 9/11 Truth Movement is a controversial subject. I’ve even had some heated arguments with friends and family about it. The greatest barrier to discussion is the stigma of “conspiracy theorist,” which threatens anyone who takes the subject seriously to be labeled crazy or gullible or worse.
In one discussion, someone commented that the belief in a conspiracy fulfills a need for us to make order and sense out of senseless, chaotic events. This is a common notion, but I actually think the opposite is true. It’s much more comforting to believe that there are no conspiracies, at least of this magnitude. To think that an event this important, an atrocity that has become a central rationale for a whole new direction in our country’s foreign and domestic policies, was the result of a government conspiracy of some sort, is very frightening indeed.
But I think it’s wrong to speculate on the needs such a controversy fulfills, on either side, because it obscures the real issues involved. The key point should be—does the official version of the event make sense? If it doesn’t make sense, then we as citizens have not only the right but the duty to demand the truth.
This key point often gets lost because of our tendency to speculate about what the truth might be. Some of the speculations may seem more plausible than others, but they all shift the attention away from the questions of fact to the questions “Who did this and how?” It is much easier to ridicule such speculations than it is to refute a fact-based analysis of the event itself. Yet the tendency to speculate is inevitable, and so we must expect such things to crop up around any question of political conspiracy. With the JFK assassination, for instance, popular attention has tended to focus on speculative and sensational aspects—the “grassy knoll” and so forth—while the fact that the official version is flimsy from top to bottom, even if one only relies on the Warren Commission’s own evidence, is rarely recognized.
In addition, there will always be lunatics that are attracted to conspiracies. This fact is consistently exploited by those who attack conspiracy theories. They use the argument ad hominem and by association: find the least coherent conspiracy theorists you can, and then label all of them with the same brush. Everyone gets lumped together with believers in
There are quite a few on the left who are dismayed by the 9/11 Truth Movement because they see it as a distraction from the important work of grassroots organizing and resistance. I certainly agree that political action is of more importance in the larger scheme of things. And yet, if the official version of the attacks is wrong, I can’t imagine how anyone could justify denying the need for truth. Interpreting history is one way that the political class attempts to control people. Surely part of resistance is to be skeptical about the official version of history. And this particular piece of history is evidently being exploited in order to steer this country towards a more authoritarian, less democratic state, as well as putting us on a perpetual war footing. We can’t really claim, then, that the issue is irrelevant.
For the record, I am very troubled by glaring inconsistencies in the 9/11 story. Among the many aspects, the most bizarre, it seems to me, is the collapse of the WTC buildings. Even if one were to accept the idea that the airplanes could cause such a collapse (which I don’t), the collapse of WTC Building 7, which was not hit by a plane, is inexplicable. I am open to hearing rational explanations of these events, but so far I have noticed a peculiar defensiveness and hostility on the part of those who seek to refute criticisms. They all end up making ad hominem attacks on the critics, while using flimsy and scattershot arguments to rebut their questions of fact. I haven’t seen a sober, systematic refutation yet. And the attitude of the government, which has been to stonewall and bluff its way past attempts at investigation, is suspicious, to put it mildly. To be fair, the Bush administration lies so routinely about everything that it’s difficult to attribute rational motives a lot of the time. Still, it begs the question—if the truth about 9/11 was clear, and favorable to the government, wouldn’t it be more forthcoming, if only in self-interest?
The fact is that no one has ever been disciplined for negligence over this terrible event. Not a single person has had to pay the piper for allowing this to happen. There has never been an actual criminal investigation. All we got was a commission with a very unsatisfactory report. WTC 7 went conveniently unmentioned in this report, among other things. It’s absurd for the defenders of the official version to get testy about criticism when those who have presented this version have done such a lousy job.
Earlier this year we witnessed the sorry spectacle of a mentally ill extremist named Ann Coulter, who actually has a voice in the media during these strange times, attacking the 9/11 widows as publicity seekers. I don’t think the real problem was that these widows supposedly supported John Kerry, although that’s the way it was framed. The problem is that they’re not satisfied with the official version of the event that caused the deaths of their husbands. This speaks particularly to my point, because I don’t think these widows are conspiracy theorists. At least, that’s not my impression. I haven’t heard any speculations from them. What I do hear is that the version of 9/11 that we’ve been given does not seem like the whole truth to them. And I know if my spouse had died in this attack, I wouldn’t care what anyone, Ann Coulter or otherwise, said about it—my sole focus would be finding out the truth. If the entire world told me to shut up, I wouldn’t stop talking as long as I thought there was some part of the truth that was still hidden.
What is a legitimate issue for the widows is a legitimate issue for the rest of us as well, because this event has been a catalyst for so much more tragedy. For myself, I can say with complete sincerity that I have no stake in what particular form the truth might take. If it were proved that Osama Bin Laden did it, I would be relieved. I would prefer not to have to face the possibility of government complicity. But as long as the events are not reasonably explained, strictly on the basis of reason and science and not on name-calling or innuendo, I can’t dismiss the issue from my mind. And I don’t think the American people will be able to forget either.