Credulity and Its Discontents
If we ever find the time, perhaps we should conduct a group analysis of the hit pieces emanating from the intellectual/academic left against the ‘9/11 Truth Movement’. Among other similarities, they each exhibit a noteworthy “dual consciousness.” In a 1997 interview, the great 20th century sociologist Pierre Bourdieu used the phrase to refer to the mindset of media professionals who publicly deny the insidious workings of the invisible structures of corporate broadcasting – masking it even from themselves to an extent; all the while they take advantage of the media tool at their disposal and denounce their critics, claiming they have uncovered nothing which hasn’t been known for ages about the media. . .
Books and articles referred to below:
1. Alexander Cockburn: The 9/11 Conspiracists and the Decline of the Left
3. Borjesson, Kristina, ed. Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press. New York: Prometheus Books, 2002.
4. David Ray Griffin: Response to Chip Berlet’s Review of THE NEW PEARL HARBOR
5. Nicholas Levis: Pod Theory, “Whatzits” and Other Curious Physical-Evidence Claims
6. Manuel Garcia: We See Conspiracies That Don’t Exist: The Thermodynamics of 9/11
7. Kevin Ryan: A Quick Review of Manuel Garcia’s article “We See Conspiracies That Don’t Exist: The Physics of 9/11”
8. Bryan Sacks: Philip Zelikow: The Bush Administration Investigates the Bush Administration
9. Sibel Edmonds: Letter to 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean, August 1, 2004
Thus we can hear in one breath from Alexander Cockburn that US intelligence infiltrates terror cells and foments terrorism for the purpose of catching the terrorists in the act, and in the next also that even the suggestion that 9/11 could have had false-flag origination is “nutty.” Cockburn admits that “Sometime (sic) an undercover agent will actually propose an action, either to deflect efforts away from some graver threat, or to put the plotters in a position where they can be caught red-handed.” But according to Cockburn it’s completely nutty to even consider the possibility that these same murderous double and triple-dealers would be utilized to plan a terror event that will ultimately be blamed on official enemies for the purposes of gaining a stronger hold on power. Has he heard of Operation Gladio? Of course he has, so his puzzling insistence on limiting the range of possibility needs explanation.
If you were Christopher Hayes, you might say Cockburn exhibits excessive credulity. That’s the phrase used by the latest batter to take a swing at the ‘9/11 truth movement,’ Christopher Hayes. There is some very good analysis in his piece, but regarding 9/11 skepticism Hayes turns out to be devastatingly blinkered. Showing signs of the Bourdieuian double-consciousness referred to above, Hayes first tells us the Bush administration has routinely lied with relative impunity over the last six years, so skepticism of its motives is warranted. But then we learn that skepticism about 9/11 is completely baseless, ‘dangerous’ and a ‘waste of time.’ This despite the fact that Hayes offers nothing approaching a detailed argument to back up the claims.
Now, he does reference the “Popular Mechanics” article of 2005, but he writes as if the piece was remotely comprehensive or somehow the final word on the subjects it raised (it was neither). One wonders: did Hayes even read the PM piece? Maybe if he did he’d know that the article studiously ignored the best arguments for US complicity and focused instead almost exclusively on interpretations of the hotly-contested ‘physical evidence’.
There’s also no evidence Hayes read the “9/11 Commission Report” either, which he is willing to admit was a ‘whitewash’. But if so, how can he be sure just what exactly is being covered up?
He can’t, and he really should know better, considering that Hayes deserves credit for his analysis of the credulity of the mainstream media. The credulous style, as he says, is the perfect compliment to the ‘paranoid style’ moniker used to hammer conspiracy theorists since the early 1960’s. Those exhibiting the credulous style believe:
“all political actors are acting with good intentions and in good faith. Mistakes are made, but never because of ulterior motives or undue influence from the various locii of corporate power. When people in power advocate strenuously for a position it is because they believe in it. When their advocacy leads to policies that create misery, it is due not to any evil intentions or greed or corruption, but rather simple human error.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. But what Hayes cannot see is that many on the left – including himself! – exhibit the same credulity he so ably diagnoses in the corporate media. Further, neither he, nor Cockburn, not Matthew Rothschild, nor Matt Taibbi or anyone else in the 9/11 ‘hit piece’ parade have come close to showing that the best works of 9/11 skepticism are exercises in paranoia. 9/11 skepticism is the result of ordinary citizens with limited resources trying to pick up where its media and government have failed them. No one disputes that there are plenty of wacky 9/11 conspiracy theories — least of all us. There are other theories that aren’t wacky but just plain wrong. But these facts do not justify the bizarre credulousness toward the demonstrably unreliable stories told by official sources about 9/11. How many times does it have to be pointed out, for instance, that NORAD lied about its response that day? Or that Philip Zelikow, a Bush administration insider who had no business directing the 9/11 Commission in the first place, omitted key evidence regarding US foreknowledge of the alleged hijackers’ whereabouts? Or that incriminating testimony from several reliable sources during private interviews was relegated to the dustbin?
In light of this, the real jaw-dropper comes in the last paragraph of Hayes’ article. The remedy for unsupported skepticism of the ‘9/11 Truth Movement’ variety, Hayes tells us, is for “the public to come to trust that the gatekeepers of public discourse share their skepticism about the agenda its government is pursuing.” He says this without any detectable irony.
Trusting that Hayes is not a completely out of touch, we can presume he means the press must shape up so that it becomes trustworthy, and not that the fault lies with the paranoid public for failing to trust the well-meaning press! But even on this most charitable interpretation Hayes displays a stunning failure to understand the nature of the both corporate and left-gatekeeping media. The corporate press, as a system, has no interest in pursuing the bottom story on sensitive matters (it’s the gift-giving season, so hopefully someone will send him “Into the Buzzsaw” as an introductory primer). Even the best intentions of well-meaning reporters and editors mean very little against this solid fact. In what, exactly, is the public supposed to trust?
As for the left gatekeepers like Cockburn and others at “The Nation,” they banish 9/11 skepticism for different, more complex reasons. The reasons have far less to do with the substance of the research that they do with a witches’ brew of denial, turf protection, psychological and intellectual commitments to inadequate explanatory schemes, bloated concern for their reputation and an unhealthy neo-puritanism that lives in fear of how the ‘left’ appears to ‘outsiders’. For an example of what happens when a conspiracy denier actually tries to take on a serious skeptical argument, see this lesser-known exchange between Chip Berlet and David Ray Griffin.
Hayes apparently cannot see that according to his own argument, his suggested remedy is starkly irrational. The true conclusion for which his own article argues, but which he cannot bring himself to write, is that there is no basis for the credulousness exhibited by either the mainstream press and the establishment left press. This credulousness borders on an abdication of responsibility. The historical record shows there is a symbiosis, not a disconnect, between US intelligence complex and its supposed enemies. Do Cockburn, Hayes and the others on the left deny this bottom fact? If so, please show us the argument. Otherwise, we will continue to press for an acknowledgment of the implications of this symbiosis from those on the left, and also press for greater criticism of the corporate press that continues to credulously parrot the Bush administration’s ‘us vs. them’ propaganda.
PS: More evidence of excessive credulity can be seen in a piece by Cockburn’s colleague, Manuel Garcia, on the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings.