In the very first post I did on this blog after Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies was published, I mentioned that I’d received a letter from a friend and fellow writer who is incarcerated in a federal prison, thanking me for the copy of the book I’d sent him. “You’ll be pleased to know,” he related, “that this is actually the 2nd copy of the book to get into MDC [Metropolitan Detention Center]. A…..leader of a China Town gang (tong?) saw me carrying it and pointed out to me that he had it in his footlocker and had just finished reading it. He’d ordered it from BN.com. When he heard I knew the author he made me promise to tell you how much he enjoyed the volume. This is the God’s honest truth!” I was flattered even though I didn’t really believe him. But when I visited him a few weeks ago, he brought it up again. “I promised Wong [not his real name] that I’d introduce you to him,” he said. A few minutes later, a line of prisoners, escorted by correction officers, filed into the visiting area (friends and family are marched into the visiting area that way too–it’s an unsettling experience). He called one of them–a stocky Chinese man with a shaved head and tattooed biceps–over to us. “Great book, man,” he said, shaking my hand.
I’m not blowing my own horn (ok, maybe I am a little–I’m far from jaded about my own very small share of renown); rather, I’m leading into some thoughts I’ve been having about fame and secrecy and how poorly they mix. Yesterday, I spent several unfruitful hours at my computer, reading about 9/11 Conspiracy theory. I couldn’t help noticing that most of the news pages I clicked on featured a lot of damaging information about Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods is just one man and he has millions of dollars of hush money at his disposal. Huge corporations have linked their brands to his, so surely they have ample motive to pony up millions more. His transgressions involved no more than a handful (OK, maybe more than a handful) of women. Even so, he wasn’t able to keep his sordid secrets under wraps. But 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists believe that untold numbers of members of the US security apparatus, the media, the airline industry, first responders, the government, not to mention all the academics, engineers, architects, and researchers that would have had to be involved in the cover up–including otherwise reliably anti-government skeptics like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, Mike Taibi, and even me–have maintained their silence for eight years and counting, despite all the best efforts of the Truth Community to expose the Truth. Maybe Jesse Ventura’s new TV show or those hundreds of thousands of recently released pager messages will turn out to be the tipping point that changes the story forever…. but probably not.
I’ve noticed that many 9/11 Conspiracists choose one of the four major events of that day to focus their attention on–the Twin Towers, WTC7, Flight 93, the Pentagon–and establish a set of theories about it without regard to whether or not they are compatible with each other. For example, we’re told that the total absence of visible plane wreckage at the Pentagon and Shanksville (a completely bogus claim, by the way) is highly suspicious, that crashed planes don’t simply vaporize. But when passengers’ effects were recovered intact from the wreckage in lower Manhattan (including a passport belonging to Satam M. A. al-Suqami, one of the hijackers), we’re told that it was impossible that anything that fragile could have survived a plane crash and explosion (although just such items have survived other crashes and explosions), that it must have been planted to implicate him (although exactly why the Conspirators would have gone to so much trouble to implicate just Satam M. A. al-Suqami–who wasn’t exactly the linchpin of the plot–is not explained). The WTC was brought down by planes; the Pentagon was attacked by a missile. NORAD stood down, except when its fighters shot down Flight 93 over Shanksville. Flight 93 didn’t crash–its passengers’ telephone messages were faked and the local coroner said there were “no bodies” (a statement he tried to clarify in subsequent interviews but to no avail). Airplanes couldn’t have brought down the WTC buildings, so they were rigged with bombs, especially WTC7, which wasn’t targeted by a plane. For some reason, the bombs in WTC7 didn’t go off on schedule, so Larry Silverstein ordered it to be “pulled” at the end of the day–not only implicating himself but providing a smoking gun for conspiracy theorists. A bomb in WTC7 did go off in the morning; housing commissioner Barry Jennings witnessed it (and was murdered by the conspirators for his candor, but not before he’d given a bunch of interviews). If WTC landlord Larry Silverstein was in control of the bombs then he must have been a key player in the conspiracy. But what did he stand to gain by attacking the Pentagon and that field in Shanksville, PA? How did he get access to missiles and fighter jets? What was so important about WTC7 that it had to be destroyed, even at the risk of exposing the conspiracy? If he was only a minor player–a subcontractor, as it were–then how come his controllers didn’t keep a tighter rein on him?
Karl Popper defined the conspiracy theory of society as “the view that an explanation of a social phenomenon consists in the discovery of the men or groups who are interested in the occurrence of this phenomenon (sometimes it is a hidden interest which has first to be revealed), and who have planned and conspired to bring it about.” So who had an interest in the events of 9/11? It depends upon who you talk to. Leftists say that Bush/Cheney needed a casus belli to attack Iraq and secure its oil; radical Libertarians say that the oligarchs who control the US needed a “false flag” incident so they could suspend civil liberties–although few if any of them have been silenced or jailed or censored since 9/11; Alex Jones is still on the air and the Web, Steven Jones and David Ray Griffin are publishing and speaking; only a handful of American citizens have been tortured and imprisoned without charges–most of the people at Gitmo and other secret facilities are foreign nationals. And aren’t Bush/Cheney out of power? How secure is our hold on Iraq/Iran?
Many conspiracists–many more than I would have believed before I got professionally involved with conspiracy theory–believe that 9/11 was a Jewish plot. The Jews, in their telling, are interested in two things: money and Israel. Silverstein’s outsized role in the conspiracy is explained by his surname and his greed–9/11 was insurance fraud, a way for him to improve his investment. Israel wanted us to fight Iraq and their other Arab enemies. But the Bush administration was already militantly pro-Israel. And how have the Jews in general profited from 9/11? If it all comes down to Silverstein’s wanting to rebuild the WTC site on the insurance company’s dime without having to pay for asbestos abatement or demolition, then where are his shiny new buildings?
Conspiracists devise their theories in order to explain the otherwise unexplained–which is precisely what I find so confusing about 9/11 Conspiracy theory. Instead of clarifying things, 9/11 Conspiracy Theory makes them even more complicated than they were. Why a missile at the Pentagon? A bomb at WTC7? No plane at all at Shanksville? If Iraq was the ultimate target and the hijackers were fictitious, then why didn’t the plotters invent some Iraqi hijackers? Why didn’t they arrange to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq–or better yet (since these people have no compunctions about killing huge numbers of innocents) actually use some of them? If the Jews did it, then how come I didn’t get the memo? If the Israelis did it to gain American sympathy for their cause, then why did the supposed Mossad operatives who prove it (Sivan Kurzberg and the rest of the Weehawken Seven) jeopardize the project by publicly celebrating the destruction?
But mostly what I don’t understand is why celebrities’ sexual secrets–which involve just two people (a president and an intern, a golfer and a cocktail waitress, a senator and his chief of staff’s wife)–are so much harder to keep under wraps than something as vast and world-shaking as 9/11.