Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"9/11 truthers": a persecuted minority?

In response to my post about this past weekend's Ron Paul rally in DC, commenter David Stratton accuses me of engaging in the same sort of bigotry toward so-called "9/11 truthers" -- those who believe the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were an "inside job" perpetrated by the U.S. government -- that I criticized when directed toward illegal immigrants:
Kurt Vonnegut might say "so it goes...", but I doubt he would use words like "lunacy" "kookery" and the like to denounce people without exploring their side of the issue whatsoever. If you want to sit and cast stones at the guy who was being a bigot and using hateful language towards Mexican illegals, perhaps you ought not to build yourself a glass house in which to live by turning right around and casting your *own* hateful propaganda at your *own* group of hated persons.
I'm actually glad this came up, because I am typically hesitant to denounce anyone as a "kook" or a "lunatic". If you check out my posts over the years, you'll find a good deal of them are spent defending people who have been denounced by all Right Thinking people as crazed lunatics (see Jeremiah Wright). As for 9/11 truthers? I referred to them in my last post as kooky lunatics because, in my experience, the vast majority are kooky lunatics.

I have watched the exceedingly silly Loose Change -- God's word to truthers, set to a hip-hop soundtrack -- and witnessed the tinfoil hat-wearing creators make fools of themselves on national television. Consider this exchange, where Loose Change creator Dylan Avery attempts to cite some former Underwriters Laboratories employee to back his assertion that there was just no way for the steel in the World Trade Center to collapse due to burning jet fuel:
DYLAN AVERY: Well, real quick, I just want to jump in and say, Kevin Ryan has been open about his statement. He has always been public about the fact that he worked for the—I don’t remember the exact name, but it was a subdivision of Underwriters Laboratories, which did water testing. But it was the fact that he got the higher-up from—he got the word from his higher-ups that they actually had certified the steel and, I mean, his science still adds up.

DAVID DUNBAR: In fact, Underwriter Laboratories does not certify structural steel.

DYLAN AVERY: Oh, okay.
It pretty much goes on like that from there. Now, I'm not looking to conduct an exhaustive debunking of 9/11 conspiracy theories (others with much more will power than me have already done that), but let me throw one question out there for any conspiracists looking to bombard my comments with "gatekeeper!": if the Bush administration was so damn good at pulling off a massive "inside job" on 9/11 in order to justify the war in Iraq, then how come they couldn't even plant a few WMDs? As Alexander Cockburn suggested in a 2006 debunking of 9/11 conspiracies, wouldn't planting a few boxes saying "Weaponized Anthrax, Destination: Middle America" be much easier to pull off than a controlled demolition of WTC 7?

But I digress.

Whether 9/11 conspiracies are true or not (they're not), they serve as a massive distraction from much more worthy causes. In fact, if one were a government agent bent on discrediting anti-establishment movements, one would be hard-pressed to come up with a better marginalizing tool than the truthers (how's that for a conspiracy?). At nearly every anti-war rally I've been to there have been people holding "9/11 was an inside job" signs; I saw the same the same thing when I covered an ACLU-sponsored rally last year in support of habeas corpus (yes, in these here United States people have to protest for rights King John recognized in the 13th century).

And what have 9/11 truthers gained? Why, they've done their damndest to discredit a whole bunch of movements that have much, much more popular support then their -- yes -- kooky theories. Hell, they even did their best to ensure that Ron Paul's chances of securing the Republican presidential nomination went from "slim" to "non-existent" by trying to make his campaign not about opposition to militarism and the burgeoning police state, but about WTC 7 (which, naturally, the hacks at Fox News were more than willing to exploit).

So again I ask, what have 9/11 truthers done for America lately -- convinced a few naive high schoolers to download Loose Change?

That said, here's my message to David Stratton and any other truthers lurking out there: thanks for nothing.

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