Today, I’m going to bring up an uncomfortable topic: conspiracy theories.
As a resident of Left Blogostan, I am supposed to view conspiracy theories the same way I view Trickle Down Economics, school prayer and corporate welfare – that is, with utter contempt. Only a right wing survivalist kook from rural Montana can believe it’s a good idea to give tax cuts to ExxonMobil as they are experiencing record profits, and he’s got the grainy alien autopsy video to prove it.
Or something like that.
As I’ve mentioned before, I do not believe in Bigfoot – unless of course you are referring to the Barley Wine brewed by the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. I do not believe the government nor any elements thereof have made contact with extraterrestrials helping design secret technologies at Area 51. I’m not buying the cattle mutilation stories; I don’t believe UN troops are stationed in Canada preparing for attack.
I do believe that science and reason are the path to human understanding. I believe teachers and stay-at-home moms are criminally under-compensated, financially and psychologically. I believe that education, healthcare, public transportation and the environment deserve the bulk of our federal expenditures, and that whenever we run out of funding for such areas, we should dip into the Pentagon’s budget. I believe that altruism and not corporate profit should be at the core of our foreign policy treaties and initiatives.
Okay? Have I sufficiently established my liberalism and sanity? Well, not so fast.
I believe elements of the United States Government helped orchestrate the September 11th attacks.
Okay, for those few of you who are still reading, this is my explanation:
One of the first arguments I get whenever I share my opinion on this horrible chapter in history is that no one in the government would participate in such a scheme. It’s that faith thing again. Actually, it’s faith and denial – faith in the essential righteousness of the American Way and denial of our own dark impulses.
Despite copious evidence to the contrary, most people believe that government and industry are captained mainly by honest, morally erect individuals who have the nation’s best interest at heart. Eisenhower era Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson’s famous remark that, “what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa,” pretty much sums up most people’s view of the military indstrial complex Wilson helped create. It was Wilson who, as president of General Motors, declared that a “permanent war economy” was the only way to avoid returning to the depression economy that plagued America before WW2. With that in mind, Wilson kick-started the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, whose stated purpose was to provide evacuation routes in the event of a nuclear attack, but whose actual purpose was to coerce the taxpayers into footing the bill for a venue for his company’s products. Conservatives like to argue that these projects created jobs that enabled families to improve their standard of living, which is true in the short term at least. But what it also enabled was an irrational belief in the doctrine of endless expansion – ever new markets to penetrate, expenses to cut, enemies to confront. This belief and its goodie bag of breakfast cereal and board games and frisbees and hoola-hoops coaxed cold-war America into a junkie-dealer relationship with Wall Street. The endless cornucopia of material possessions – why, even homeless people have computers now – is the fix that temporarily relieves the negative side effects of our collective self-deception.
For most of us, this belief is essential to survival. How can we get up every morning and raise kids and attend school conferences and vote and everything else if all we are doing is serving narrow corporate interests? Sure, sometimes our leaders give in to temptation from time to time – a bribe here, an indulgence there – but who would go so far as to allow thousands of innocent lives to be lost? Besides, the CEOs and Generals and intelligence operatives and appointed officials who I believe perpetrated this crime are all products of American educational and cultural institutions. Therefore, we are all guilty of this and other crimes, if only by extension. But, more importantly, we are all capable of assisting in such an act; in fact, we do so every day in small ways. That’s the most troubling aspect of this thing, and the aspect about which we are most in denial.
When I was a kid, one of the most common dirty tricks involved one boy clandestinely getting on all fours behind another boy while a third boy pushed the second boy backward. The second boy would trip over the first boy and fall flat on his ass, resulting in several minutes of hilarity. These incidents were almost always carried out nonverbally, or with a minimum of whispering and inscrutable asides. One boy would be singled out – usually the geekiest or least fashionably dressed – and the other boys, thankful that they had not been selected as the fall guy, would become willing participants. Since early childhood, I have seen this routine repeated again and again in the workplace, in the classroom, during creative endeavors. Someone is singled out and the others either participate in that guy’s undoing or simply look the other way. Usually, the one who is singled out adheres most rigidly to the honest, logical course of action, while the members of the dog pile prefer the wing-it-and-then-lie-your-ass-off approach. The latter is always threatened by the former; history provides many examples. Leon Trotsky was singled out and eventually assassinated under such a plot, as was JFK. The “Wobblies” were similarly punked by Samuel Gompers and early industrialists; Judi Bari and her organization, Earth First!, suffered at the hands of the FBI, the Oakland Police and other, more moderate environmental groups. J.P. Morgan hosed down the inventor and electronics pioneer, Nicola Tesla. Later, Wall Street thugs tried to hobble the FDR White House. And on and on and on...
It’s difficult to admit you’re wrong or to relinquish power, especially in a society like ours that values status and self-assurance so much. It’s easier to simply undermine those who have proven you wrong or have demonstrated the validity of an alternative hierarchy in which you factor poorly. We are all guilty. Unless you come from another planet where they do things much differently than we do here on earth, you have participated – if only by silence – in the downfall of a classmate, co-worker or colleague. And we are all conspirators when it comes to undermining the labor movement or the civil rights movement or the environmental movement. Don’t deny it.
Well, this is the culture that spawned the September 11th attacks, and we are all part of it. To deny that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Marvin Bush et al are capable of carrying out such a dastardly deed is to deny some essential-but-uncomfortable truths about ourselves. But if you’re still not convinced, in Part 2, I will discuss specific instances in which Wall Street, the “Intelligence Community,” the Pentagon and Organized Crime – or elements thereof – conspired to dramatically alter world history to the detriment of everyone but their own greedy interests.