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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    9/11 ‘Truth’ movement a waste of time

    Justyn Dillingham columnist
    Justyn Dillingham

    Several years ago, the Fox News Channel ran a special that purported to expose the Apollo moon landings as a publicity stunt cooked up to scare the Soviet Union. The special included testimony from several “”experts”” who came up with numerous reasons why the famous footage we’ve all seen was filmed in New Mexico.

    With its gloss of respectability and suitably grim, dramatic music, the special was one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen – because it was so convincing. I came away thinking that it seemed possible to “”prove”” anything by making a reasonably impressive video. Thank God Hitler didn’t have television to play with.

    I can’t help but think of that special today, when the UA Mall is sure to feature at least one group representing the “”9/11 Truth”” movement – that is, a movement dedicated to exposing the complicity of the U.S. government in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

    They won’t be alone. A poll taken last year found that one out of three Americans believe either that the attacks were “”an inside job”” – that is, that the attacks were orchestrated not by al-Qaeda terrorists but by the federal government – or that the Bush administration knew about the attacks in advance. That’s an astonishing testament to how thoroughly the Bush administration has failed.

    It is hard to know where to begin to debunk the claims, because the ideologues have piled up such a seeming preponderance of evidence – much of it clad in the guise of “”expert”” analysis – that it is nearly impossible to counter. Conspiracy theory is meant to be believed, not argued with.

    It’s painful to watch so many well-meaning people waste their time on a theory that amounts to calling George W. Bush the most clever man who ever lived. Only a bonafide genius could pull off the greatest crime in American history, somehow contrive to keep it covered up, and spend seven years pretending to be an inarticulate sap. If he’s that smart, maybe he should be president.

    Conspiracy theorists will no doubt back off from this claim; sure, Bush was asleep at the wheel, but he’s just a figurehead. Someone else gave the actual order. Cheney. Rumsfeld. The CIA. Big corporations. The “”military-industrial complex.”” Anyone and everyone was responsible for Sept. 11 except the terrorist leader who openly proclaimed he had done it.

    What of the contention that the Bush administration merely knew about the Sept. 11 attacks before they happened? This message has some appeal for conservatives as well as liberals, since it mirrors the old right-wing belief that Franklin Roosevelt let Pearl Harbor happen just so he could drag us into a needless war.

    But the evidence suggests that Bush was simply careless and unconcerned about the possibility of a terrorist attack. That is damning enough, but it is not enough for some people.

    It’s not enough for George W. Bush to be a bad president who failed to catch Osama bin Laden. He’s got to be bin Laden. It’s not enough that Bush lied about Saddam Hussein. He’s got to be worse than Saddam.

    The 9/11 Truth ideologues may well respond that they are simply trying to start a “”dialogue”” about Sept. 11. The trouble is that they’ve already decided how the dialogue is supposed to go. No dissenting voices are welcome at this particular party.

    Don’t get me wrong;

    It’s not enough for George W. Bush to be a bad president who failed to catch Osama bin Laden. He’s got to be bin Laden. It’s not enough that Bush lied about Saddam Hussein. He’s got to be worse than Saddam.

    I’m sure the official explanation of Sept. 11 was riddled with inaccuracies. But I don’t think the 9/11 Truth movement is driven primarily by an interest in finding out the truth. It is driven, instead, by a dangerous and unsettling fear of government. It infects the antiwar movement, which is essentially right and honorable, with the ugly spirit of the mob.

    It’s worth recalling that a good number of the people now braying for the “”truth”” to be told about Sept. 11 were fairly unbothered by the event when it happened. Many of them followed Noam Chomsky when he declared that the terrorist attacks weren’t nearly as terrible as Bill Clinton’s 1998 bombing of a pharmaceuticals factory in Sudan (a failed attempt to get bin Laden that killed one or two people).

    Chomsky has been a valuable critic of U.S. foreign policy for many years. But his cold and unfeeling comment said more about him than it did about Sept. 11. After years of (rightly) condemning American crimes against other nations, Chomsky simply could not bring himself to acknowledge a genuine crime committed against Americans. No matter that thousands of ordinary people had been brutally murdered; it simply wasn’t in the same realm as the theoretical deaths of non-Americans. This same weakness lies behind the 9/11 Truth movement.

    What distinguishes the 9/11 Truth movement from those videos about Bill Clinton that people like Jerry Falwell used to sell in the ’90s? Their theme was simple: Bill Clinton is a murderer, a rapist, a crook. No real evidence was offered. Why bother with evidence when your audience is people who hate Clinton anyway?

    For that matter, little separates the movement from the tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who also exploited ordinary people’s fear of their government by telling them that it was stocked with Communist traitors. Merely hating the government is no guarantee of righteousness, or even of being right. Timothy McVeigh thought himself a freedom fighter standing up to an evil regime. So did John Wilkes Booth.

    “”Having ever regarded Government as their deadliest bane,”” said Abraham Lincoln of the lynch mobs of the South, “”they make a jubilee of the suspension of its operations, and pray for nothing so much, as its total annihilation.”” That is the spirit behind much of the anti-government rhetoric that parades itself as radical thinking, and it is a frightening one indeed.

    It is painful to behold so many intelligent young people wasting their time on the 9/11 “”Truth”” movement. It is a fake issue that serves only to distract us from our real troubles. Enough already.

    Justyn Dillingham is a senior majoring in history and political science. He can be reached at

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