first published on: www.theopposition.ca
It has now been ten years since that day when an unprecedented attack took place on American soil. I’ll never forget where I was when it happened: at high school in math class when my teacher asked me if I had heard the news. There were maybe six students in the classroom at the time (grade 12 was when about half the kids seemed to drop out) and we were occupied with asking one another which building(s) the WorldTradeCenterwas. I kept thinking of the UN building myself, and my friend kept insisting it was the building that Godzilla attacked in a movie but it was clear that he was getting his movies (and his monsters) mixed up. We were let out of school early that day to watch the news and be with our families. Nothing had prepared us for this, we, now called the 9/11 generation. We knew not war, those of us in North America, but only of war. The Second World War was an abstract collective memory kept alive primarily in films, while the Cold War had just ended as we came onto the scene. The 1990’s (the Clinton/Chrétien years) were relatively quiet on our side of the world, save some involvements inIraq and the formerYugoslavia. There is no disputing it, the events of September 11, 2001 changed my outlook on the world, made me want to know more about it, and started my path into the world of politics and journalism. (I imagine that many other writers and readers of this site had a similar experience?)
What has the last decade, the 9/11 decade, brought us? The naive optimism of the 1990’s seemed dead, political polarization overtook the public debates, and the world became more connected than it had already been as the phenomenon called globalization passed through more phases. Ten years = two countries occupied and largely destabilized, arguably both worse off than they were before the invasions. We witnessed a war launched by the most powerful nation on earth based completely on what has been revealed as a pack of lies. To this day it astonishes me how the heads of a government in a democratic system can get away with such things, but a little bit of further reading reveals a legacy of governmental lies when it comes to the business of war and peace. For myself, the myth of Western benevolence was shattered and the world seemed uglier and a less comfortable place than the cushy 90’s seemed to present. It’s hard to say whether this is simply an act of growing up and becoming more mature and realistic, or if the world truly got worse. I would guess it is a combination of both.
Ten years since such a defining event of generation’s lifetime and what is the current state of the world? Immediately following the attacks a polarizing discourse emerged, a binary view “us” vs. “them” view of the world best exemplified by the 9/12 words: “You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists.” But who are “the terrorists?” What we witnessed was a turn to state repression where the 9/11 attacks and the post-9/11 discourse were used to justify every type of repression against numerous non-state actors and political opposition groups. This phenomenon took place all over the world as a loosely defined “security” discourse overtook other national conversations. Now, at the end of our murky decade we find the global financial order has fallen apart, with all-out crises taking place in Europe, and aUnited Statesbled dry by two occupations and about to take the plunge into what may prove to be a more devastating economic crisis than the Great Depression. We inCanadahave been largely insulated, but I find it too hopeful and naive to think this is going to last. Revolutions, long overdue, have erupted in the Arab world and elsewhere, and a seldom talked about one has taken place in Iceland Very difficult times are ahead, but the long-term results of the current upheavals and shifts will not be apparent for a long while. Times like this require thinking outside of the box and I have no doubt that things will change here inCanada. These are big changes and I think it essential that all politically minded people be involved, and that people be aware and connected to the outside world.
And here we get to the latter part of the article, the frustrations and the frauds part. The 9/11 conspiracy theories come to mind and the insistence of the people who follow them like a religion. I remember the first time I saw the (now fully debunked) “documentary” film Loose Change. I believed it then when I was twenty years old and wanted to believe that George W. Bush, aside from already being a war criminal and a liar, was actually behind the attacks. This vilified someone who already was a criminal in my mind and at the time it seemed to make sense, but then, I looked closer at the ‘evidence’ brought up, and over the years (perhaps not coincidentally as I became more educated) I started to realize that this conspiracy talk really was a bunch of nonsensical drivel.
There are fishy thing about 9/11 no doubt. We definately have to ask how much governments and intelligence agencies knew about it beforehand. The Project for a New American Century, for instance, was a right-wing think tank that was formed in the 1990’s by neocons such as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. This group stated that an attack on Iraqwas necessary and overdue, and that Americamust ensure the seizure of the world’s resources, particularly oil fields, to remain on top of the world’s economic order. They also mentioned that a “PearlHarbour” type attack could give them the justifications for doing so. This raises eyebrows, yes, and we must always ask questions and seek the truth, but the actual 9/11 conspiracy theories that are posited by Loose Change and others simply do not hold any water when held to any serious scrutiny.
First off, there’s the main theory, the controlled explosion theory that is espoused in Loose Change. This theory posits that those huge airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center did not cause the buildings to collapse, but that the buildings were rigged with explosives beforehand, which is why, if you watch closely, you can see the windows being blown out by debris before the actual bulk of the building reaches that floor as it crashes down. I’ve seen the footage enough times. So this theory supposes that people managed to place high tech explosives on each floor and set them one by one to explode. First off, what people? How many people would be involved in this? Are these conspiracy theorists claiming that a team of people (likely a small amount) managed to rig the buildings with explosives without anyone noticing? A common explanation for why the towers were rigged with explosives rather than fell downward due to the plane exploding is the claim that steel (which the beams of the WTC were made of) does not melt at the temperature which airplane fuel burns. Some believers in the conspiracy theories will cite “basic physics” on this. I ask then, why, if it’s such clear, apparent “basic physics” why haven’t physicists (that is, people who do physics for a living) come out en masse claiming fraud? It’s not because the United States government is going to kill them all, as no conspiracy theorists on 9/11 have turned up dead mysteriously as far as I know. Why hasn’t this massive group of physicists come out then? The reason why is because it is not “basic physics” that can convince someone that 9/11 was an inside job. It’s an altogether straw man argument. No one save the 9/11 conspiracy theorists ever talk about the melting of steel. Steel may not melt at the specific temperature that jet fuel burns, but steel beams get damaged due to fire and explosions, that is, they weaken and bend. That is what happened, the beams were weakened and the weight of the top of the building brought it down floor by floor. The debris flinging out from the windows? Well, when the ceiling comes crashing down on a floor that tends to happen.
Another common posit: Why were their cameras conveniently on theWorldTradeCenter when the first plane hit? Again, another absurd question. It was a clear day inNew York City, one of the tourist capitals of the world. The World Trade Centers were two of the tallest buildings in the world at the time. Why exactly would cameras not be on them?
And finally, I recall the most disturbing claim made by 9/11 conspiracy theorists: the Jews who worked in the WTC towers were all called up and told not to go into the towers. Is there some registry somewhere that lists anyone who is Jewish? What the hell are 9/11 conspiracy theorists thinking when they say this? I remember one time I was at an anti-SPP rally (that is, the Security and Prosperity Partnership, a bill that was further integrating the U.S., Canadian, and Mexican economies) when it was more or less hijacked by anti-New World Order/9/11 conspiracy theorists with large segments from the Canadian Action Party and the Libertarian Party of Canada. I got a little dismayed and went to Tim Horton’s to grab a coffee. As I was heading back to the crowd a middle-aged woman who I had seen earlier, who came across as really friendly from our earlier encounters, came up to me and asked: “Do you think the Jews caused 9/11?” It was clear that she was really hurt and I inquired and found out that someone had spoken at the mic and made that claim. This was the end of my personal flirtations with the 9/11 conspiracies. Thankfully people who say inflammatory things like this have no actual power and are seen to be nothing more than loud, crazed speakers on street corners.
There are plenty of other claims made by conspiracy theorists, but I won’t get into them all here as they are worth less time than I have already given to the subject. It belongs in the same category as the allegations of hoax in regards to the Moon Landing and revisionist Holocaust Denial.
I cannot state how many times I’ve been disappointed with people once they tell me they believe this kind of nonsense. As I stated above, the world has many great political, economical, and social showdowns ahead, and sometimes when I get talking to people I find out they are on a similar, let’s say, revolutionary vein of thinking as I am. Just when I think I may have a potential ally to start networking with they spill the beans on some “9/11 was an inside job” or “New World Order” or “Freemasons run everything” nonsense. Then I usually back away. I find these beliefs to not only be false, but counter-productive from an activist perspective. We face many challenges in the future that we hope to overcome, but we cannot do this by clinging to such pseudo-nonsense such as Loose Change. One thing I find most disturbing is how theorists cling to it like a religion, and much like organized religion these theories do act like opiates for the masses. It creates the image an all-powerful world order that is completely futile to raise a fist against, keeping those who think they are educated in basements and street corners talking about these grand global plans that they think they know about rather than working collectively to overcome tangible and proven issues. I appeal to anyone lost in this state to seek more useful trains of thought and action, rather than continuing to blindly chase after such phantom concepts.
The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.
English cosmologist and physicist (1942 – )