Friday, May 19, 2006

Hiding in the Open

The problem with information today is that it's impossible to separate the truth from the lies. Upon request of Judicial Watch, a conservative organization that opposes government corruption, the Pentagon released a tape of the attack on the West Wing on 9/11. Judicial Watch hoped this would put to rest conspiracy theories about government involvement, that a military missile might have hit the Pentagon. Unfortunately, the tape still shows no plane, only a streak of light.

Conspiracy theories are as diverse as they are detailed. One good example of the argument is the video 9/11 Lose Change 2nd Edition and the 9/11 Loose Change Viewers' Guide. While both are amateur efforts that rely on an uneven mix of logic, speculation, and evidence, the disparity of their claims draws attention the importance of this controversy, and even the rebuttal fails to address some of the most significant issues. 9/11 has been extensively televised, discussed, and researched, and yet despite all our best efforts, huge holes exist in our story.

David Ray Griffin is one more conspiracy theorist who has extensively documented problems he perceives in the government's official conspiracy theory, and while he has plenty of critics, it's important to remember that our own government is composed of the biggest conspiracy theorists of all; since the Cold War, the Neoconservatives have promoted wild accusations against any perceived enemy, based not on any evidence but on a deeply ingrained belief in their evil. The Power of Nightmares, a BBC documentary, makes this very clear.

Here's one more conspiracy theory:

The Saudis are friends of America, not just because they have oil, but because they reinvest oil money into America. As Greg Palast will explain in an upcoming book, the American addiction to foreign oil depends not only on the oil itself, but on this flow of capital back into its economy. Controlling oil means maintaining friendly trading partners. Other oil-rich countries, such as Hugo Chavez's Venezuela and Saddam Hussein's former Iraq, refuse to cooperate with this policy. Our government recognizes that increasing dependence on oil from nations that want to keep their money will eventually result in a massive outflow of capital that will have enormous consequences on the American economy. In turn, the collapse of the dollar will affect the world economy, partially because of their reliance on the American dollar as a reserve currency. This will not only be an economic disaster, but the transfer of power from allies to nations hostile to American interests could be even more dangerous.

Senior government officials recognize that it would take a new Pearl Harbor for the American people to allow them to use the military to deal with this threat to global stability. In fact, they say it themselves. Then the Saudis offer a Faustian bargain; they will help a group of terrorists execute an attack on American soil, and the American government will look the other way. This will give America the pretext to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan, eliminate a mutual enemy in Iraq, and then move on to Iran and other threats to both the Saudis and the Americans.

This leads to a moral crisis, never mind the false dichotomy: allow Americans to die or allow a global power transfer that could have far worse consequences. The tipping point is the Neoconservative understanding of grand myths that is remarkably similar to the beliefs of Islamic Jihadists; Americans need to believe they are engaged in a war against evil, and if the people lose faith in that myth, an even worse disaster will come about: the disintegration of the shared values that hold society together through the proliferation of individualism. For the greater good, they look the other way.

Until the day of the attack, it had been theoretical, but suddenly, people are really dying. The Neoconservatives, and especially George W. Bush, a man bound to his own morality, are overcome with regret. As planned, they dedicate themselves to a war on terrorism itself, not only to ensure economic and social stability, but because they've become believers in their own myths. They know they can't strike back directly at the Saudis for the same reason they allowed them to carry out the attacks, so they go after who they can to make up for what they've done. If 9/11 can serve the greater good of a stable and democratic world, it will all be worth it.

All this is fiction, but it has a point. Nietzsche warned us, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” In a world of increasingly centralized control and ubiquitous disinformation, we run a high risk that the few people with any real power will make incredible concessions to maintain the delicate balance that maintains our way of life. If our government knew beforehand or was involved in any way in the 9/11 attacks, we may never know, because in the midst of all the conflicting conspiracy theories, they could simply hide in the open.

Here's some more fiction that lies to tell the truth:

V for Vendetta features a tortured protagonist who wages war against a corrupt government that believes so completely in the necessity of control that it has executed a terrorist attack on its own people to secure a stable society. V fights them not only because they have done him and society wrong, but because he made this attack possible through experiments they conducted on his own body. V hides his identity and his shame behind a Guy Fawkes mask that symbolizes his ideology. At the end, it is asked who he really is, and the answer is that he is all of us.

This is not true because he is an everyman who fights for the common good but because of his shame. In a democratic society, we share responsibility for the evils that occur. Just as V's body created the biological weapon that made the terrorist attack and the rise of totalitarianism possible, the people's apathy made the continuation of corruption possible. To make up for the wrongs that had been done through him, V "gazed long into the abyss" and became a monster and a terrorist himself, but he also saved the people from that same fate.

We might need to consider that George W. Bush and those around him are also V.


Blogger handyguy said...

Question: If the military fired a missile at the Pentagon, what happened to AA Flight 77 and the people on it? Were they imaginary?
But it's true the tape doesn't prove anything...

The Power of Nightmares is a great film....for more thoughts on it:

7:36 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

It's more likely that AA Flight 77 did hit the Pentagon, but there's enough conflicting evidence that it's worth further investigation. Anything less only encourages rumors.

However, the fact that people are missing doesn't mean alternative situations aren't possible. It's easy to make people disappear when they want to; the Federal Witness Protection Program does a good job of this. It's also possible to make people disappear when they don't want to; the Gestapo did a good job of this.

If we want to prevent our own government from developing in that direction, we need to encourage transparency. Most people would think that our government would never create a Gestapo if it was given the power to do so, but so did the Germans. It only takes one bad apple.

Thanks for the link to your thoughts on The Power of Nightmares. It's a great film that I wish was as widely circulated as Loose Change. I like that you linked to various opinions on it. The first thing I want to do when viewing something so controversial is to find what the critics have to say.

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