If the evidence allows for several explanations to a given problem then the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions is most probably correct. This principle is called Occam’s Razor, after the 14th-century English logician and Franciscan friar, William of Ockham. There is not the slightest need to postulate pre-placed explosive charges to explain why the towers collapsed at near free-fall speeds. Practical aspects of explosive demolitions make the explosive charge hypothesis improbable to the point of absurdity (see “Conspiracy disproved”).
There are plenty of real conspiracies in the US. Why make up fake ones? Every few years, property tsars and the city government in New York conspire to withhold fire company responses so that enough of a neighbourhood burns down for the poor to quit and profitable gentrification to ensue. That is a conspiracy to commit ethnic cleansing, and also murder. It is happening today in Brooklyn, even as similar ethnic cleansing and gentrification is scheduled in San Francisco, where Bayview Hunters Point is the last large black community in the Bay Area, sitting on beautiful waterfront property: so now is the time to move the black folks out.
The conspiracy virus is not new. Let me recall. The Russians couldn’t possibly have built an A-bomb without Commie traitors. Hitler was a victim of treachery, otherwise he couldn’t have been defeated by the Red Army marching across eastern Europe and half Germany. JFK couldn’t have been shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, it had to be the CIA. There is no end to examples seeking to prove that Russians, Arabs, Viet Cong, Japanese, whoever, couldn’t possibly match the brilliance and cunning of secret cabals of white Christians.
Some discover a silver lining in 9/11 conspiracism. A politically sophisticated leftist in Washington DC wrote to me agreeing with my ridicule of the inside job scenarios but adding: “To me the most interesting thing (in the US) is how many people are willing to believe that Bush either masterminded it [the 9/11 attacks] or knew in advance and let it happen. If that number or anything close to that is true, that’s a huge base of people that are more than deeply cynical about their elected officials. That would be the real news story that the media is missing, and it’s a big one.”
“I’m not sure I see the silver lining about cynicism re government,” I answered. “It seems to demobilise people from useful political activity.” For the conspiracism stems from despair and political infantilism. There’s no worthwhile energy to transfer from such kookery.
Richard Aldrich’s book on British intelligence (4) describes how a report for the Pentagon on declassification recommended that “interesting declassified material” such as information about the JFK assassination “could be released and even posted on the internet, as a diversion” and used to “reduce the unrestrained public appetite for secrets by providing good faith distraction material”. He added: “If investigative journalists and contemporary historians were absorbed with the vexatious, but rather tired, debates over the grassy knoll, they would not be busy probing into areas where they were unwelcome.”
I am therefore sure that the Bush gang, and all the real conspirators of Washington, are delighted at the obsessions of the 9/11 conspiracists. It’s a distraction from the 1,001 real plots of capitalism that demand exposure and political challenge. As Theodore Adorno wrote: “The tendency to occultism is a symptom of regression in consciousness” (5)
Alexander Cockburn is co-editor of the political newsletter and website ‘CounterPunch’ and co-author of ‘End Times: the Decline and Fall of the Fourth Estate’ (CounterPunch, forthcoming 2007)
(1) In a 1987 television series the Russians, disguised as UN forces, were to occupy the US within 10 years.
(2) Bohemian Grove, name of the select club close to San Francisco where Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr, Clinton and Tony Blair all met; the annual Bilderburg group meeting, from the name of its first venue in 1954 in the Hotel de Bilderberg in the Netherlands; Ditchley, an Anglo-American foundation named after its original English country house home; and Davos, home of the annual World Economic Forum.
(3) David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor, Olive Branch Press, Northampton, Mass. 2004.
(4) Richard J Aldrich, The Hidden Hand, Overlook Press, New York, 2002.
(5) Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno, Minima Moralia, Verso, London, 1978.