I recently had an upsetting exchange with a good friend, brought about by my assertion that: “The Americans did 9-11 to themselves.” My remark brought to an abrupt end a perfectly calm and rational discussion, over dinner, about Geo-Politics. I saw a side of my friend I had never seen before. If I had confessed to hacking into his bank account and stealing a thousand pounds he could not have been angrier. He was extremely hostile and refused to engage with me on the subject.
Let me admit straight away that this was not the first time that my opinion on 9-11 had landed me in deep water with friends and family. “Why not avoid the topic?” I hear you ask. Well, often I do but, on occasion, when the conversation moves in a certain direction, I feel compelled to express my views. What is extraordinary to me is that otherwise rational, discourse-loving people completely shut down when it comes to 9-11 and treat me as though I am some kind of leper.
In my experience, around one in every five or six people with whom one discusses this subject reacts very badly. What might explain their ire? I would suggest three reasons. Firstly, rather like the antipathy towards telephone sales people within society, there are those who have no truck with so-called conspiracy theorists. After all, both mainstream media and a whole array of well respected, liberal journalists have long painted them as socially dysfunctional losers who spend most of their time on-line in darkened rooms. The Guardian journalist, George Monbiot, has characterized those who, like myself, belong to what is known as the 9-11 Truth Movement, as being:
possessed by this sickness, eyes rolling, lips flecked with foam,” who are “trying to infect me.”
Secondly, there is the strong human impulse to avoid taking on board information that conflicts with our innate belief system and preconceptions. The theory in social psychology underpinning such action is “Cognitive Dissonance.” Put another way, our a priori assumptions will inevitably exclude any amount of empirical evidence.
Thirdly, with regard to 9-11 itself, there is bound to be strong resistance to the possibility that any government could kill three thousand of its own citizens in cold blood. And yet, many of those who refuse to contemplate any wrongdoing on the part of George W Bush and his neo-con cronies in respect of 9-11, are more than happy to accept that the very same regime conducted an illegal war in Iraq which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
This contradiction is what I find so hard to accept. Surely, a government that is wicked enough to carry out mass murder in Iraq, on a false premis, would be more than capable of either planning, or at least being complicit in, the events of 9-11.
If I was seeking to downplay the catastrophe of 9-11 or even deny that it happened, despite the evidence of our own eyes, then by all means take me to task. But I do none of those things. I am just as upset and horrified by 9-11 as anyone else on this planet. I merely call into question who was responsible.
My friend, a thoroughgoing Atlanticist and a man of deep intellect, told me that the only other person who he had ever heard spout the same poison about 9-11 was a taxi driver in the Midlands. If he had been willing to listen to me I would have explained to him that opinion polls reveal that between thirty and forty percent of Americans – at least a hundred million people – do not accept the official account of the events of 9-11 and that the 9-11 Truth Movement contains hundreds of scientists, engineers and former US diplomats and civil servants.
I informed my friend that during the six years I lived in the States I attended public meetings and read books on the subject. He was not swayed.
Conspiracy theories are said to be:
a) speculative hypotheses that treacherous and illegal acts were carried out by two or more people and were plotted covertly and
b) always perpetrated by non-State and non-Institutional actors.
I agree with a but not b. I would argue that a government position on such an event constitutes an official conspiracy theory and those who adopt a contrary stance are espousing the unofficial version of the conspiracy theory.
In any event, just because I happen to contest the official narrative on 9-11, that nineteen Saudi Arabians with box-cutters hijacked four airliners and defeated the most sophisticated defense system in history, does not render me an irrational crackpot. All I ask is for a reasoned discussion on the issue and for usually sensible people to stop blindly trusting Bush and the neo-cons on 9-11.