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The Weblog at The View from the Core - Tue. 09/12/06 05:39:43 PM
Two Articles for the 9/11 Anniversary
Both deal with a refusal to face reality.
First, Sept. 10 people wrong by Ezra Levant at The Calgary Sun, yesterday.
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Are you a September 10th person or a September 11th person? September 10th people think the world hasn't fundamentally changed since the terror attacks of 9/11. September 11th people know it has.
When September 10th people hear about a jihadist attack like last week's firebombing of a Montreal Jewish school, or the attack the week before in San Francisco, or the month before in Seattle they say it is a random crime, not related to a global struggle between Western civilization and Islamic fascism.
September 11th people know even if such terrorist acts aren't centrally controlled from Iran or Pakistan, they are part of a larger movement, and that Islamic fascists use the motto "think globally, act locally."
September 10th people look at Islamic fascists and project their own liberal values onto them. They wonder what we did wrong to provoke such rage; they wonder how we could split the difference with our attackers and buy peace, for that is what reasonable people do. If only we can sit down and reason this thing out together.
Jack Layton is a September 10th person. He thinks we can negotiate with the Taliban, to tackle the "root cause" of their alienation. Maybe he'd bring Dr. Phil along to really get a good discussion going, have a good cry and walk away as friends.
September 11th people are more culturally aware. They know liberal ideas like allowing a difference of opinion, like peaceful resolutions of disputes, like a belief in the innate worth of every man and woman are not shared by all men. In fact, liberal values like tolerance of dissent and freedom of religion and speech are the "root cause" of terrorism; it is that liberty the terrorists seek to replace with abject submission. The concept of compromise itself is anathema to the perfect truth the terrorists claim to represent. It is liberal arrogance to think they can negotiate true believers away from their true beliefs.
September 10th people serve up Western-sounding excuses for terrorists (they're poor; we have not treated them fairly, it's all Israel's fault). September 11th people actually listen to what the terrorists say when they explain themselves: they are on a holy mission to make the entire world submit to Islam's sharia law. September 11th people take the jihadists at their word. September 10th people find that too terrifying to contemplate.
September 10th people want to believe multiculturalism has no limits, and that all cultures are equally valid, equally moral, equally good. September 11th people respect some differences and tolerate others. But September 11th people have breaking points; they take Western, liberal values seriously, like equality of the sexes and non-violent solutions to problems. And when those Western, liberal values collide with illiberal values, September 11th people are not afraid to say: "Our values are superior, and you must accept them if you come to live with us."
September 10th people are torn between their belief in our Western, liberal values, built up at great cost over centuries, and their new fad of political correctness towards minorities. And so a September 10th person who would noisily criticize a Catholic priest's moral prudeness, and invoke the separation of church and state, sits quietly as Muslim imams propose the invocation of sharia law and censorship of dissidence including children's cartoons of Mohammed.
September 10th people have a role model. He was pleasant and fashionable and well-meaning and wrong. His name was Neville Chamberlain. September 11th people have a role model. He was curmudgeonly and hard-nosed and right. His name was Winston Churchill.
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Second, Conspiracy Cranks by James B. Meigs at The New York Post, today.
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On Feb. 7, 2005, I became a member of the Bush / Halliburton / Zionist / CIA / New World Order / Illuminati conspiracy for world domination. That day, Popular Mechanics, the magazine I edit, hit newsstands with a story debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories. Within hours, the online community of 9/11 conspiracy buffs which calls itself the "9/11 Truth Movement" was aflame with wild fantasies about me, my staff and the article we had published. Conspiracy Web sites labeled Popular Mechanics a "CIA front organization" and compared us to Nazis and war criminals.
For a 104-year-old magazine about science, technology, home improvement and car maintenance, this was pretty extreme stuff. What had we done to provoke such outrage?
Conspiracy theories alleging that 9/11 was a U.S. government operation are rapidly infiltrating the mainstream. These notions are advanced by hundreds of books, over a million Web pages and even in some college classrooms. The movie "Loose Change," a slick roundup of popular conspiracy claims, has become an Internet sensation.
Worse, these fantasies are gaining influence on the international stage. French author Thierry Meyssan's "The Big Lie," which argues that the U.S. military orchestrated the attacks, was a bestseller in France, and his claims have been widely repeated in European and Middle Eastern media. And recent surveys reveal that, even in moderate Muslim countries such as Turkey and Jordan, majorities of the public believe that no Arab terrorists were involved in the attacks.
"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion," Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was fond of saying. "He is not entitled to his own facts." Yet conspiracy theorists want to pick and choose which facts to believe.
Rather than grapple with the huge preponderance of evidence in support of the mainstream view of 9/11, they tend to focus on a handful of small anomalies that they believe cast doubt on the conventional account. These anomalies include the claim that the hole in the Pentagon was too small to have been made by a commercial jet (but just right for a cruise missile); that the Twin Towers were too robustly built to have been destroyed by the jet impacts and fires (so they must have been felled by explosives), and more. If true, these and similar assertions would cast serious doubt on the mainstream account of 9/11.
But they're not true. Popular Mechanics has been fact-checking such claims since late 2004, and recently published a book on the topic. We've pored over transcripts, flight logs and blueprints, and interviewed more than 300 sources including engineers, aviation experts, military officials, eyewitnesses and members of investigative teams.
In every single case, we found that the very facts used by conspiracy theorists to support their fantasies are mistaken, misunderstood or deliberately falsified.
Here's one example: Meyssan and hundreds of Web sites cite an eyewitness who said the craft that hit the Pentagon looked "like a cruise missile with wings." Here's what that witness, a Washington, D.C., broadcaster named Mike Walter, actually told CNN: "I looked out my window and I saw this plane, this jet, an American Airlines jet, coming. And I thought, 'This doesn't add up. It's really low.' And I saw it. I mean, it was like a cruise missile with wings. It went right there and slammed right into the Pentagon."
We talked to Walter and, like so many of the experts and witnesses widely quoted by conspiracy theorists, he told us he is heartsick to see the way his words have been twisted: "I struggle with the fact that my comments will forever be taken out of context."
Here's another: An article in the American Free Press claims that a seismograph at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory picked up signals indicating that large bombs were detonated in the towers. The article quotes Columbia geologist Won-Young Kim and certainly looks authoritative. Yet the truth on this issue is not hard to find. A published Lamont-Doherty report on the seismic record of 9/11 says no such thing. Kim told Popular Mechanics that the publication's interpretation of his research was "categorically incorrect." Yet the claim is repeated verbatim on more than 50 Web sites as well as in the film "Loose Change."
Every 9/11 conspiracy theory we investigated was based on similarly shoddy evidence. Most of these falsehoods are easy to refute simply by checking the original source material or talking to experts in the relevant fields. And yet even the flimsiest claims are repeated constantly in conspiracy circles, passed from Web site to book to Web site in an endless daisy chain. And any witness, expert or publication that tries to set the record straight is immediately vilified as being part of the conspiracy.
The American public has every right to ask hard questions about 9/11. And informed skepticism about government and media can be healthy. But skepticism needs to be based on facts, not fallacies. Unfortunately, for all too many, conspiratorial fantasies offer a seductive alternative to grappling with the hard realities of a post-9/11 world.
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