4. The Gatekeepers

If it was Griffin’s book that had first ignited my suspicions about the official story of the events on September 11th, then it has been the response of the media that fanned the flames. No television network or mainstream newspaper has respectfully represented any challenges to the official story. No mainstream outlet has even seriously examined the 9/11 Commission itself.

In seven years, I have seen just two documentary examinations of 9/11 – the aforementioned one on Channel 4, and a later documentary made by the BBC called “911: The conspiracy files”, which, though more comprehensive and rather slicker than the Channel 4 offering, was hardly more objective. (And for a fuller response to the BBC’s mistreatment feel free to read my formal letter of complaint in Appendix A.1)

I estimate that in Britain, and out of a total quarter of a million hours, there have been less than three hours of designated terrestrial airtime given over to re-examining the evidence on September 11th. The media silence has been deafening. And the justification for such mainstream disinterest is simple and can be summed up in just two words: “conspiracy theory”.

This is a perjorative, of course, which is meant to be unconsciously translated and understood to mean “paranoid rubbish”. Latent within it is an absolute denial to free speech, if only on the basis of embarrassment and taboo, and yet it is a surprisingly powerful tool for enforcing the permitted boundaries to what we may be allowed to ask and what we dare to really think. These same two words, “conspiracy theory”, nowadays providing our governments and their many useful servants within the media, with a quick and convenient means of shutting down all kinds of legitimate public debate. We hardly need the Thought Police when we can be trained to so assiduously police our own thoughts.

*

A few commentators on the Left have been particularly vocal in their attacks against those calling for a re-opening into the investigation of 9/11. Regarding the perpetuation of such errant nonsense as a sort of disease, they caution that lurking behind all the jumbled thinking that really doesn’t add up to a hill of beans, a dangerous credence is lent, whether intentionally or otherwise, to reactionary standpoints and also to racial (specifically anti-Semitic) bigotry. At best, they say, the “truthers” are misguided people searching for simple answers in a complex and frightening world – conspiracy theories are, after all, a comfort blanket.

“There is a virus sweeping the world.” George Monbiot intones, his words drawing humorously on Marx’s famous opening to the Communist Manifesto, “It infects opponents of the Bush government, sucks their brains out through their eyes and turns them into gibbering idiots. First cultivated in a laboratory in the US, the strain reached these shores a few months ago. In the past fortnight, it has become an epidemic. Scarcely a day now passes without someone possessed by this sickness, eyes rolling, lips flecked with foam, trying to infect me.”2

This new scourge is, at least according to Monbiot, distracting opponents of Bush and Blair from the real issues of illegal wars and the rise of a global corporate hegemony threatening us all. It is, after all, “a coward’s cult”.

“There is no reasoning with this madness. People believe Loose Change because it proposes a closed world: comprehensible, controllable, small. Despite the great evil that runs it, it is more companionable than the chaos that really governs our lives, a world without destination or purpose. This neat story draws campaigners away from real issues – global warming, the Iraq war, nuclear weapons, privatisation, inequality – while permanently wrecking their credibility. Bush did capitalise on the attacks, and he did follow a pre-existing agenda, spelt out, as Loose Change says, by the Project for the New American Century. But by drowning this truth in an ocean of nonsense, the conspiracists ensure that it can never again be taken seriously.”3

And here’s Monbiot again, two weeks later with the same diagnosis, writing in his Guardian comment beneath the banner “Bayoneting a scarecrow”:

“Why do I bother with these morons? Because they are destroying the movements which some of us have spent a long time trying to build. Those of us who believe that the crucial global issues – climate change, the Iraq war, nuclear proliferation, inequality – are insufficiently debated in parliament or congress; that corporate power stands too heavily on democracy; that war criminals, cheats and liars are not being held to account, have invested our efforts in movements outside the mainstream political process. These, we are now discovering, are peculiarly susceptible to this epidemic of gibberish.”4

Yet as Monbiot openly admits, he is attacking a straw man, and the straw man he chooses principally to bayonet is the internet-hit documentary film called “Loose Change”. A tightly edited montage of collected footage, put together on home computers by a small group of amateur film-makers led by Dylan Avery, it was the first film to present any overall catalogue of the sorts of hanging questions than are still awaiting answers. As a first attempt, it got things wrong and speculated too wildly, and it became hugely successful mainly because it filled a vacuum that the mainstream media had left.

Unfortunately, by presenting such an astonishing weight of evidence, there is an inherent weakness to the Loose Change formula. Why? Because truly the questions surrounding the events of September 11th come from so many and such various directions, and in consequence such a broad-brush approach makes for mountains of research whilst leaving writer and director, Dylan Avery, open to attack from all directions.

What are the chances that Avery will be right on every assertion, when he doesn’t even pretend to be. But then why does George Monbiot feel it’s his responsibility to discredit “Loose Change”? Why not face the argument squarely, and consider the objections of others more qualified to speak, rather than attempting to discredit the whole issue of any kind of 9/11 cover-up through ad hominem attacks on those much less respected than himself? Instead of obsessing over the rights and wrongs of the analysis of Dylan Avery and David Ray Griffin, he might more bravely have picked his fight with someone his own size or even bigger. There have been plenty of potential targets:

“If my books are moronic nonsense,” wrote David Ray Griffin in angry response to Monbiot’s column, “then people who have endorsed them must be morons. Would Monbiot really wish to apply this label to Michel Chossudovsky, Richard Falk, Ray McGovern, Michael Meacher, John McMurtry, Marcus Raskin, Rosemary Ruether, Howard Zinn, and the late Rev. William Sloane Coffin, who, after a stint in the CIA, became one of America’s leading civil rights, anti-war, and anti-nuclear activists?

“If anyone who believes that 9/11 was an inside job is by definition an idiot, then Monbiot would have to sling that label at Colonel Robert Bowman, former head of the U.S. “Star Wars” program; Andreas von Bülow, former State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of Defense; former CIA analysts Bill Christison and Robert David Steele; former Scientific American columnist A. K. Dewdney; General Leonid Ivashov, former chief of staff of the Russian armed forces; Colonel Ronald D. Ray, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense… “5

Griffin might also have added the names of former Italian President, Francesco Cossiga; the so-called “Father of Reagan-omics”, Paul Craig Roberts; former FBI translator Sibel Edwards; and respected political commentator, Gore Vidal, who had close personal acquaintance with the Kennedy family, and so presumably knows a thing or two about politics and power. (And it is worth noting that Gore had even publicly endorsed Griffin’s book.6)

Then we come to Noam Chomsky. Chomsky, the grand old man of the intellectual Left, who has devoted so many years to studying and uncovering the Machiavellian politics of his homeland. Using what he knows from linguistics and psychology, Chomsky has done much to elucidate how propaganda and media manipulation are used. He has so often written and spoken about how the elite are able to “manufacture consent”.

You would think that Chomsky is hardly the sort to accept things at face value – to trust in any official story. Yet, when it comes to 9/11, Chomsky finds no good reason to challenge the official story at all, showing no interest whatsoever in any of the questions raised. That passport which certainly worried Monbiot, at least in the early days, doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. The odd lapses in security and air defense are brushed aside. The strange money transfers and dodgy stock-market deals are of no concern. But he also takes a different tack to Monbiot – and a far less confrontational one. When asked about 9/11, he says this:

“Did they plan it in any way? Or know anything about it? This seems to me extremely unlikely. I mean for one thing they would have had to have been insane to try anything like that. If they had it’s almost certain that it would have leaked… secrets are very hard to keep… and if it had they would have all been before firing squads and the end of the Republican Party forever… it was completely unpredictable what was going to happen. You couldn’t predict that a plane would actually hit the World Trade Center. Happened it did but could easily have missed… so you could hardly control it.”7

But this mixes the whole lot up together. Since they couldn’t control all the events, Chomsky simply presumes that they couldn’t even have known anything about it. Truly this is a non sequitur unworthy of a man of Chomsky’s obvious intelligence. And he is also strangely off-target in his assessment of the scientific evidence, telling his audience:

“Anyone who knows anything about the sciences would instantly discount that evidence. I mean there’s plenty of coincidences and unexplained phenomena – you know and why did this happen and why did that happen and so on – but if you look at a controlled scientific experiment same thing is true. I mean when somebody carries out a controlled scientific experiment at the best laboratories, at the end there are a lot of things that are unexplained. There are funny coincidences and this and that… That’s the way the world is. And when you take a natural event – not something that’s controlled – most of it will be unexplained.”

Well, I’d say that it’s a pretty poor sort of a scientist who at the end of a controlled experiment concludes: “Geez, I don’t know – I guess some sort of weird shit just happened.”

In truth, Chomsky brings nothing to the debate at all. Like Monbiot and many others, he prefers to stick to more “serious issues”. Any idea of re-opening the inquiry is not a serious consideration apparently, but a distraction from issues that matter, and that’s the end of it. Well, that’s almost an end to it – but Chomsky also says something more astonishing. He suggests that uncovering the truth wouldn’t help those of the political left in any case, which then brings him to reach this altogether startling conclusion:

“I mean even if it were true – which is extremely unlikely – who cares? I mean it doesn’t have any significance”

So there we have it: Noam Chomsky actually dismisses what might conceivably be the greatest manufacturing of consent in history, as a matter without significance. And this revered political activist and humanist says of the cold-blooded murder of 3000 people “who cares.” I must confess that when I first heard him say this, I was dumbfounded.

19/11: the conspiracy files” was broadcast on BBC2 on Sunday 18th February 2007. Following the broadcast, I posted an official complaint to the BBC, detailing how the arguments and the evidence had been entirely slanted in favour of the official story. I received a cursory and evidently standard reply. You can read my letter of complaint in the appendix.

2A 9/11 conspiracy virus is sweeping the world, but it has no basis in fact” from the Guardian Comment by George Monbiot on Tuesday February 6th, 2007.

3A 9/11 conspiracy virus is sweeping the world, but it has no basis in fact” from the Guardian Comment by George Monbiot on Tuesday February 6th, 2007.

4Bayoneting a scarecrow: The 9/11 conspiracy theories are a coward’s cult.” from the Guardian Comment by George Monbiot on Tuesday February 20th 2007.

5“…all the members of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice, Veterans for 9/11 Truth, and Pilots for 9/11 Truth; and most of the individuals listed under “Professors Question 9/11” on the “Patriots Question 9/11” website.” taken from “Morons and Magic: A Reply to George Monbiot” by David Ray Griffin posted on 03/07/07 at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17256.htm

6“It’s very thorough, it’s not – you know – a hectic prose. Fingers are pointed. A lot of it is questions that never got answered. I recommend this book – it’s very disturbing – because you really realise that there’s a lot of menace around. And it’s since we don’t have a free press or media, since it all belongs to the same sort of people who benefit from these wars… we have no redress. We have no place to turn.” Gore Vidal reviewing David Ray Griffin’s book.

7Author’s transcription of Noam Chomsky’s reply to an audience question taken from a post on You Tube – details regarding time and place were unfortunately not available.

I have since discovered that Chomsky has softened in his opinion. In a different interview he concedes that it is “not even debatable” that the government clearly had prior knowledge of the impending attack, and so presumably he now also supports a re-opening of the investigation:

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