Theater of Cruelty

USA: The debate that never took place

MEDIA / It is actually possible to discuss what really happened on the 11. September 2001 – in a sober way.


In 1951, psychologist and scientist Soloman Asch performed a number of interesting social psychological experiments. His research showed that when you placed a small group of people in a room where the others made clearly false claims of completely obvious facts, a significant portion of them would either begin to doubt their own senses, or consciously join the choir to follow the majority. The subjects were randomly selected and no pressure was placed on them: If their answers were incorrect or not in accordance with the majority's opinion, there were no negative consequences beyond what they themselves felt from uncertainty or shame. This experiment could possibly shed light on how established media covered the attacks of 11. September 2001, and in particular the questions that have been asked in the official version of the events. More generally, it can probably also say something about the way established media work on a daily basis, especially in today's tense situation with increasing pressure on conformity when it comes to crucial matters.

Weird accomodation. The first real challenge of the official story of September 11 came with a French bestseller written by Thierry Meyssan, focusing mainly on the attack on the Pentagon. Meyssan claimed that there was no evidence that the US Department of Defense was hit by any aircraft. He also claimed that both twin towers and WTC7 – a third skyscraper that collapsed neatly and neatly even though it was not hit by an aircraft – collapsed as a result of a controlled demolition with explosive charges that had been placed there in advance. Such a scenario obviously involved some degree of interference from US authorities – albeit not a full organization of a so-called false-flag operation, that is, a simulation of a hostile attack to justify some form of reaction (in this case the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, increased military budgets and a dramatic increase in home and global surveillance). As expected, public and media reactions quickly became unison. The refutations of Meyssan's arguments became even simpler given that his book was published so early that it could not possibly be the result of in-depth investigations. Most of his arguments were also poorly justified.

But instead of dealing with all the claims that could easily be disproved, most journalists strangely chose to attack the case ad hominem and examine Meyssan's character and background in detail to discredit him. Soon enough, and with the help of strange logical fallacies (and partly due to a joint campaign by a small group of media people with ties to neoconservativism), Messayn's views and virtually every other challenge of the official version of the attacks soon became associated with Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. Since then, almost everyone who questions the official story has been met with ridicule and exclusion from public debate.

The opportunity to ask difficult questions about controversial issues may be just what Western society is gradually losing in the face of rising global terrorism.

Ignored, not discussed. In the meantime, the September 11 Commission, which was to "fully review the circumstances of the September 11 attacks," published its report. Although it completely ignores key elements of the events, such as the third tower that collapsed by itself and all economic aspects, the report has been accepted by established media as the absolute and completed review of the tragedy. In the aftermath, the media simply ignored all issues surrounding the official version, and covered exclusively uncontroversial pages by September 11: architectural contests to find a replacement for the twin towers, the huge delays during the reconstruction of Ground Zero, bone fragments found on the roof of Deutsche Bank – the building just four years earlier, repeated memorial ceremonies held here and there, and so on.
Outside the media spotlight, an impressive amount of serious research was carried out by experts and scientists around various sides during the September 11 attacks. Architects, engineers, firefighters, pilots – both private and military – are among those to be mentioned. Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth, for example, launched a signature campaign signed by over 2500 architects and engineers, mainly American. Based on professional expertise, they demanded a new investigation into the collapse of all three WTC skyscrapers on September 11. By referring to a number of technical arguments, they supported a theory that the towers were destroyed by explosives – something it was highly doubtful that Al Qaeda agents would clearly implement. These arguments were occasionally covered by alternative media, while established media consistently ignored the various associations and their work. They also failed to raise any form of discussion around a number of interesting and sometimes marvelous arguments made in books and films that were never – not even in negative words – reported in the media. David Ray Griffin, for example, wrote a dozen books in which he questioned the official version with detailed arguments and with good sources – but the only time he dropped on national television in the United States, he barely said a word in the flood of insults the angry the host met him.

Norwegian journalists. But based on the growing amount of research available on the topic, it became part of vox populi on the internet that doubted the official version, increasingly loud. Movies like loose change got staggering viewership. But only when a handful of celebrities began to express doubts about the official report on September 11 did French media again find it necessary to pick up the topic. In the news articles and debates that followed, there was a great lack of scientific support. The discussions were about how people could have such strange views; how many actually believed the arguments; which celebrities had commented on the topic and why; and how the Internet could also come up with other foolish theories such as that humans had never been on the moon or that extraterrestrial creatures were behind the attacks. The few debates that appeared were typically between scientists defending the official story and celebrities who challenged it – while those who original had presented the latter's arguments, were completely kept out of the media's spotlight. The theme was again laughed at, and a new period of silence began.

I analyzed the first 11 years of news coverage in established media on September XNUMX, mainly French-language media, in a documentary entitled English Wrong, Blasphemous and Sinful. As I compared the news coverage in Western countries, I came across the work of a number of Norwegian journalists who had obviously been able to discuss the topic openly and in a balanced way in their respective publications. Conflicting views on the attacks of September 11 and whether alternative views have news value had even been the subject of heated debates at the Global Investigative Journalism conference in Lillehammer in September 2008.

I traveled to Norway to take a closer look at the phenomenon, and discovered that the debate was not as widespread as it had initially seemed. Nevertheless, it was clear that open discussion of this taboo topic was at least possible in established media, although it did not happen without intense controversy. “When you touch a taboo topic,” journalist Sven Egil Omdal told me, “you are either met with complete silence or with a violent and emotional response. People try to lock you in, place you outside the playing field. It's really foolish. It should never be wrong for a journalist to ask questions. You can criticize us for giving stupid answers, but never for asking questions. "

The opportunity to ask difficult questions about controversial topics may be precisely what Western society is gradually losing in the face of growing global terrorism. September 11, 2001 was a crossroads in that respect, and led to a new era of conformity pressure. Exactly what happened on September 11, 2001 is still unclear – because serious questions about the incident have never been investigated widely enough by journalists or researchers. It means not that September 11 was an inside job, but that means the growing and enduring danger of terrorist attacks means that democratic states are losing an important part of the flexibility needed to question themselves. And to raise questions around a number of key issues such as war and terrorism or capitalism and free trade. As George W. Bush said as he stood at the beginning of this new era: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Most journalists have accepted this message – partly because a lot is at stake for them, as opposed to the test subjects in Asch's experiment: Inability to conform in certain crucial fields can mean losing credibility or career opportunities, or and with losing the job completely.

Critical mass. Fortunately, Asch took his experiment one step further, investigating what would have happened if one other person in the room had made truthful statements against the deceptive majority. Interestingly, in such cases, one could observe that the compliance rate among the subjects dropped significantly. Transferring the example of the media means that asking painful questions is a lonely exercise, but also a useful one because it can succeed in leading a good example until a critical mass is achieved and unwanted questions can no longer be ignored. . Until that happens, measures like the US Project Censored, which publishes an annual anthology on "news that was not in the news," will live on well.

See also Tayman's film:

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