copyright Jamey Hecht, 2003
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Thursday, September 12, 2013
I’m a C-Realm listener who admires the work you do, and I was somewhat taken aback by the recent (9/11/13) interview with Tom Barbalet. On the assumption that you have the time and energy to read listener comments about your broadcast, I’d like to share my thoughts. I hasten to mention that I have no doubts about your intellectual honesty and remain grateful for your excellent work.
Episode 275 of the C-Realm Podcast featured my friend Mark Robinowitz, whose unique contribution has been to differentiate among the various kinds of dissenting hypotheses regarding 9/11. A page on his website www.oilempire.us condenses that work into a single chart that can be viewed at a glance (click to enlarge):
Having interviewed Mark, you’re probably well aware of this chart and the point it makes—yet Episode 379 shows little evidence of that awareness. Instead, it pillories the explanations listed here as “probably not true” and “disinformation that discredits,” as though they were the best the 9/11 Truth movement had to offer.
I was pleased to hear you acknowledge that the intelligence community does indeed deliberately mislead the public about its violent and unconstitutional activities, so I need not refer you to the abundant documentation (e.g., CIA document #1035-960 RE: “Countering Criticism of the Warren Report,” easily available online in both transcript and facsimile). Such documents launched the phrase “conspiracy theory” as a tool of disinformation, one that has proven remarkably effective. Only people of courage, like yourself, can persist in espousing dissident hypotheses in the face of officially encouraged mockery, contempt, and stigma.
I was also pleased to hear your guest say he no longer uses the phrase “conspiracy theory,” but disappointed at its very frequent occurrence in the interview.
The word “narrative” has its uses and its limits. You made fine use of it in criticizing lazy writers who have embraced a story without thinking it through. But your use of the word is so broad that it tars everyone with the same brush. Surely we live in a world that includes evidence, criteria, hypothesis, inference, and critique—not merely a postmodern welter of competing “narratives.”
You asked your guest about the collapse of WTC-7, but he never addressed the question. You asked him about Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, and he discussed the hazardous ignorance of physics and engineering that makes for a bad architect. He ignored the engineers in the organization, which seemed egregious.
Apparently the focus of episode 379 was the vocal population within 9/11 Truth—a largely failed movement which I believe has run its course—who militate for a given narrative without adequate reasoning and research. Yes, their behavior is sociologically interesting in its own right. But to speak as if they represent the entire movement is, it seems to me, ethically perilous and misleading in ways you must not have intended. I hope I haven’t misunderstood you or mischaracterized episode 379.
I edited Michael C. Ruppert’s book Crossing the Rubicon: the Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil. It makes a case for Dick Cheney’s central role in the attacks, based on means, motive and opportunity. If this bestseller were vulnerable to discredit, it would likely have drawn a libel lawsuit from Cheney’s associates—but there has been no such suit, nor any rebuttal that I know of. Crossing the Rubicon is widely praised for its sustained attention to context and motives (which Mr. Barbalet imagines have been ignored), including Peak Oil, geopolitics, narcotraffic, money-laundering, war profits, and political power.
I mention the book because it deliberately eschews issues of physical evidence (as does Mark Robinowitz), precisely the issues studied by the above-mentioned organization of architects and engineers. It does this because physical evidence is notoriously plastic; one expert witness contradicts another, and the custody chain of the evidence is usually in doubt, making it vulnerable to tampering. From my perspective, then, Architects & Engineers is a straw man, whether its work is excellent or poor. There is a mountain of evidence that is not of this sort, and to many reasonable people it establishes beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of persons within the government and its corporate sponsors. Episode 379 mentions none of it.
I appreciated your audio excerpt from Hill and Knowlton’s long-discredited disinformation regarding Iraq and Kuwait, since it showed your audience that authorities do lie; that these lies are often exposed; and that this exposure rarely changes the policy outcome or prevents the violence which those lies were intended to facilitate.
Mr. Barbalet rightly drew attention to the appalling human toll of American foreign policy and its horrific legacy of death, bereavement, mutilation, cultural destruction, and deception. Unfortunately, he also suggested that whoever is persuaded of U.S. involvement in 9/11 also neglects this history of American violence at home and abroad; that to hold a dissident hypothesis regarding this particular episode of violence somehow entails the lazy, passive racism that remains indifferent to the horrors of U.S. intervention in scores of countries the world over. This absurd claim is dispelled by a look at the work of Peter Dale Scott, or Michel Chossudovsky, or Michael Ruppert, or Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed, or Gore Vidal, et cetera.
James Howard Kunstler, in whose books and podcasts I have usually found both wit and wisdom, routinely deploys a strategy similar to that of Mr. Barbalet: he disavows “conspiracy theory” because it has been stigmatized as the domain of fools, wing-nuts, and profiteers, but he endorses some of the very claims which that phrase is usually intended to rule out. Because the CIA has been so successful in shaping public perceptions, intelligent people of goodwill like JHK often share the engineered but bogus assumptions launched in the CIA’s own documents, such as #1035-960, cited above:
“Our ploy should point out, as applicable, that the critics are: (I) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (II) politically interested, (III) financially interested, (IV) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (V) infatuated with their own theories.”
Stigma can be a heavy price to pay for political insight, not least in its effect on the size of one’s audience. I sympathize with the impulse to avoid incurring it. But it is disingenuous to do as Kunstler so often does, dispelling stigma with a breezy contempt for his fellow dissidents while in the same breath employing the insights of the same people he has just dismissed: “I’m allergic to conspiracy theories, but…” Marginalized as “wackos,” other people are left to pay the price—the risks and the contempt and the derision—for insights and observations that Kunstler repeats because they happen to be correct. See, for example, KunstlerCast episode 152, “Is Peak OilA Conspiracy Theory?” Note that in The Geography of Nowhere (1994), and elsewhere, Kunstler illuminates the documented conspiracy of General Motors, Ford, and Firestone to buy up and destroy the electrical public transportation systems of 45 American cities.
Of course some hypotheses are indeed implausible—e.g., no planes hit the towers, or driver William Greer shot JFK, or we never landed the Apollo 11 on the moon—and not everyone who holds them is a sophisticated liar. Some people are actually persuaded of this sort of proposition that I dismiss as either disinformation or fantasy. I don’t begrudge anyone the opportunity to dissociate himself or herself from such hypotheses and their advocates. But it plays into the CIA’s hands to wear one’s own sophistication with arrogance. That said, I reiterate my admiration for Mr. Kunstler.
Finally, your guest often referred to “the 9/11 Truther Movement.” To me, that little suffix (“-er”) is offensive. Republicans do something similar when they contemn “Democrat policies” instead of “Democratic policies.” The distinction looks small enough that no one mentions it for fear of pettiness, but it is actually a clever subterfuge that focuses attention on the people—ad hominem—rather than the policies or the hypotheses that are at issue.
In closing, I very much appreciate your work, the generally excellent C-Realm Podcast. I would welcome an opportunity to discuss these issues with you further.
Jamey Hecht, PhD