Archive for the ‘9/11’ Category

9/11 Conspiracies: A Cultural Phenomenon

September 14, 2010

It’s a slippery thing truth. Even at the best of times journalists and historians both grapple and struggle with the term by wading through political interpretations and spin. How will historians of the future be able to judge the invasion and occupation of Iraq? Will they even refer to it as “invasion” and “occupation” or will they fall to the more official lexicon of “liberation”, “regime change” and the moniker “Operation Iraqi Freedom”? Will they look back and see the toppling of a tyrannical dictator? Will they draw parallels between Saddam Hussein and Hitler, or will they see the most powerful armed force on earth humbled by an insurgence of ex-soldiers, civilians and foreign militants thus drawing comparisons with Vietnam?

It is, of course, entirely likely that they shall record both and both shall contain small elements of truth. However historians choose to portray the events post-march 2003 they shall have an easier task of finding the absolute truth then they shall when analysing another history defining event of this era, an event with a plethora of interpretations from the logical to the obscene, the terrorist attacks on New York city on September the 11th 2001.

It is not my intention to join the choir of voices who cry out conspiracy, yet I believe that these people and their theories represent a cultural phenomenon, even if they contain not a modicum of truth. First off let us look at what we do know to have happened. On the 11th of September 2001, two American Airline planes crashed into the World Trade Centre towers. This constituted the most destructive attack on American soil since Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941. Over 3000 people were murdered by the twelve hi-jackers and as the towers crashed to the ground footage was instantly beamed to a shocked and appalled audience across the globe. Effectively this is where consensus on the event ends. In fact there are many who do not believe the hi-jackers were the cause of the carnage, but played mere bit part roles in a far wider conspiracy. As I’ve said, I do not aim to analyse the events that took place that day, instead I wish to look at the fact that so many conspiracies exist, and why.

Conspiracy theories are of course not a new development and are not unique to 9/11. Perhaps the most famous set of conspiracy theories spawned from the assassination of President John F Kennedy in Dallas Texas, a conspiracy given impetus by the subsequent murder of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, whose own murderer was also killed by unnamed gunmen. The integral difference between the two events is the rapid development in methods of mass, global communication, such as the internet, a modern phenomenon which has been given a huge boost to conspiracy theorist across the world. These developments have served to decentralise political analysis meaning that anyone with access to an internet connection can formulate their personal theories and form part of an ever growing digital sub-culture.

There are, at the very least, around fifty mainstream conspiracy theories, born from groups such as “the 9/11 truth movement”, or “Architects and Engineers for 9/11 truth”. These theories are as broad and diverse as the groups themselves, yet each share a few common characteristics. Some are based simply on smaller details, yet agree with the mainstream narrative. For example the theory that the plane which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, allegedly en route to the White House, was in fact shot down by the Air Force. Evidence for this is based on an understanding of conventional military practise and a faux pas made by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a press conference.

 Other theories, which are more complex, look at the bigger picture and claim that the collapse of the towers was the result of series of controlled explosions. Such theories often look at the “other” building, World Trade Centre Seven, which also collapsed that day but was over shadowed by the carnage wrecked by its larger brethren. The theorists observe that no skyscraper has ever collapsed due to fire, yet WTC7 seemed to suddenly crumple after being ablaze for a mere eight hours. These theorists receive a sheen of legitimacy when supported by numerous engineers and architects who debate such things as the strength of heated steel.

 Other, multifaceted theories suggest that security systems were deliberately closed down, that fighter jets were intentionally scrambled in the wrong direction, that fire alarm systems within the towers were switched off, that a circling military plane was remotely controlling the doomed airliners, that fire crews were already loitering in the area prior to the attack, that CIA men in suits were swiftly combing through the rubble to find secret documents and that pieces of aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon were in fact planted, as the attack was not carried out by an airliners but a much smaller drone or a missile.

Whilst these are some of the hotly contested conspiracy details, theorists also point to the owner of the towers, Larry Silverstein, a long term friend and political ally of the Bush family. Mr Silverstein had, they allege, recently taken out an insurance policy which covered the centre from disasters and terrorist attacks to the tune of up to three billion dollars. Indeed Mr Silverstein has become a central figure in most of the theories, some of which betray sinister anti-Semitic undertones, as theorists point to his political connections and the fact that the World Trade Centre was an economic liability, swiftly losing Silverstein and his associates money. In a Television interview Silverstein comments that he made the decision to “pull it”, when asked about the WTC7 skyscraper, a comment widely seen as an acknowledgement of controlled explosions, but could of course just as likely mean suspending the fire fighting operation, which is exactly what did happen and is exactly what Silverstein later sought to clarify.

Each of these theories form a “J’accuse” towards the administration of George. W. Bush, and claim that his government either displayed negligence bordering on criminal, or carried out the operation covertly as a “false flag”, to rally patriotic support, to pass restrictive legislation such as the Patriot Act, and to instil enough fear in the American people so as to support an expansionist, Imperialist foreign policy. These theories will have you believe that the Neo-Conservative administration had spent their years prior to electoral victory concocting one of the most audacious conspiracies in history with the explicit aim of destroying America’s cultural symbols of economic dominance and murdering thousands of Americans.

The more outlandish theories, which abound not only around the internet but in published books as well as in political and religious sermons, contest that the terrorist attacks were not only an inside job by the American government but are in fact a precursor to the rise of “a new world order”, a united global government which aims to take over the world for the benefit of a elite cabal of related families. Even further along the spectrum are theories which truly test the ability to keep a straight face, such as the short lived account, which was popular among American Christian Evangelists, that images of demons, devils, and even Satan himself could be seem rising from the smoke of the collapsing towers. Along with these apocalyptic visions we have also witnessed a resurgence of 19th century Anti-Semitism as claims rose that Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence service, coordinated the attack to drag America into the Middle East. This ridiculous and blatantly racist theory, which also claims that the 4000 Jewish employees at the towers were told not to go to work that day, was briefly touted by Hezbollah as a black propaganda campaign against Israel and is a common theme of far-Right groups both in the States and across Europe as they huddle around their crumbing ideology clutching their copies of “The protocol of the Elders of Zion.”

Before coming to my conclusions surrounding these theories we must consider the facts surrounded events before, during and after the attack so as to understand the rationale and reason for the theories. Firstly, 9/11 was the largest attack on American soil since the Oklahoma bombing and the first attack from abroad since Pearl Harbour. Secondly, following the attack the Bush administration did indeed utilise it for political gain, by pushing thorough legislation which greatly inhibits civil liberties whilst denouncing any dissent as unpatriotic. At the same time the American administration, and her foreign allies did launch an aggressive foreign policy in Afghanistan, and Iraq whilst also helping wage proxy wars in Lebanon, Somalia and Latin America. Indeed Karl Rove, President Bush’s equivalent to Alistair Campbell, privately declared that “we are an empire now.”

It is perhaps a  cliché to describe such a political culture as Orwellian. I believe it is safe to say that if Mr Orwell were with us today he would, between long drags of a cigarette, bemoan the fact that he told us this was coming. My analysis of these theories has reached the following conclusions. Firstly as far ranging, as controversial, as convincing, as tenuous or as obscene as these theories appear they all share a few common traits. Primarily it must be recognised that production of these theories means that the American and international public refuse to believe a word from which originates from the American establishment. They reject the official findings of the “9/11 Commission”, they reject the explanations, the reasoning and at times the overwhelming evidence that figures both within and without the government have presented. Indeed anyone who has put forward evidence with deviates from the theories or collaborates with the official narrative is swiftly denounced as a member of the conspiracy, even if they are as far removed from the inner cabal of power hungry oligarchs as can be imagined. Indeed it is quite obvious that, as Richard Clarke quite rightly states, the problem with Government is that it is almost impossible to keep anything secret, there are always leaks. This is especially true if, as the theorists claim, literally thousands of people have been involved in orchestrating the attack. Put simply, someone would have talked. It is of course quite understandable that in this age of multi-media propaganda, spin, information manipulation and political word play that the public should not accept the word of the politicians or the establishment at face value. We in Britain clearly learnt this lesson from the infamously “sexed-up”, “dodgy dossier” which made the case for War prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, claiming that Iraqi weapons could hit British interests in Cyprus in under 45 minutes. The American public should also have learnt this when Colin Powel made his case to the United Nations to “prove” that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which were transported across the desert in large, bespoke trucks. All this of course was purely fantasy, pure spin, pure Hollywood. We live in an age when civilian death is given the clinical name of “collateral damage”. This has of course led to an increased disillusionment from the politicians and governments and, in the case of the conspirators, has formed into a culture of political nihilism, and a belief that something more sinister must be going on, that there must be a hidden agenda, a secret angle.

The second and most overwhelming similarity is the point blank refusal to believe that Al Queda were responsible for the attacks, or at the very least acted without the aid of sinister forces within the United States. This is  curious as Al-queda claimed responsibility for the attack almost immediately, and have constantly repeated this claim throughout the past nine years. Again, what do we know which is factual? Well we know that by 2001 the organisation was the most obvious threat to American and European interests. Al-queda operatives, or sympathises, bombed the USS Cole, blew up the American embassy in Kenya, and had attempted to destroy the World Trade Centre with a car bomb in 1993. Indeed President Clinton had attacked Al-queda bases in Sudan, thus forcing the group to flee to the Taliban protected mountains of Afghanistan. This much, we can safely suggest, is historical fact. Al queda, which translates as “the base”, was simply the name of Osama Bin Laden’s ranch in Kandahar, a financial base of operations where Bin Laden could coordinate his Afghan based mujahedeen whilst bank rolling any potential projects, thereby ensuring that any independent group which achieved its goals could be claimed to be doing so under the banner of Al Queda merely because Bin Laden and his cohorts funded them. In turn this achieved a wide, yet informal network of terror which has subsequently been reasonable for bombings in Bali, Madrid, London and Istanbul.  History will also tell you that Bin Laden and his fighters were funded and equipped by the CIA and MI6 in the 1980’s to fight the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, to create a “Russian Vietnam”, a venture which  they hoped would end the Cold War, and bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union that much faster. As ever, truth is far stranger, and far more dangerous than fiction.

I am satisfied that these are the facts that we know to be true, yet the most prolific line throughout all of the conspiracy theories is that, as one member of the 9/11 truth movement stated: “those twelve men were armed only with Stanley knives and a basic knowledge of flying. Their efforts were coordinated by a man in a cave in Afghanistan. That is simply impossible. That is the most farfetched lie of 9/11, they could not have pulled this off.”

This is the core line that almost all of the conspiracy theorists chant in chorus, the idea that such a relatively simply, if audacious, act could have been carried out against the most hi-tech, security conscious super power on earth. Americans are taught, though education and though agents of socialisation, such as the mass media, that the United States is an impregnable fortress, that the country exists in glorious isolation, that from its safe position the United States is free and able to pontificate and police the world and crucially, they are made to understand that this is only one-way-traffic. Policies and principles are exported abroad, sometimes via the tank and the bayonet, but they are never imported, and they shall never be imported through violence. America exists in a culture which is based entirely around the principle of global hegemony. The idea that twelve men could have carried out an attack of this magnitude, and with such hideous success, seriously erodes this myth.

Clearly the people of the United States of America live in just as much danger of being attacked as anyone who lives in London, Madrid, Istanbul, Bali or for that matter anywhere else in the world. However, seldom or unlikely such attacks may be their nationality gives them no automatic exemption. Yet their view of America and their ideas of cultural hegemony cannot stomach this truth. Therefore one response is to come up with something far grander, they must place the blame at sinister forces within the country, as only forces that are American could possibly have the power, the intelligence and the technology to attack America. It is I suppose a sort of reverse nationalism, a belief that no foreigner could attack the super power, especially not twelve men from the fabled “third world” of the Middle East.

This, is the overarching theme of the 9/11 conspiracy theories, a refusal to believe that the super power could be attacked with such ferocity and murderous intent. It is a cultural problem, not quite the “protective stupidity” which Orwell concocted for the populous of 1984, but instead it represents the product of decades of national hubris, of watching war ships sail to attack distant oceans, tanks and troops fighting upon distant shores and bombers flying Over distant cites without once considering that such terror could possibly come the other way.