By JAY AMBROSE
Listen up, America, and listen good. There is a conspiracy going on to boost the Bush administration and undermine large numbers of Internet bloggers and even some university professors by having you believe these people are making ding-a-ling claims about 9/11.
The conspirators — and I am pretty sure I know who you are — have somehow managed to get actors to pose as critics of the Bush administration on Web sites, in press interviews and on TV panel discussions. Instead of saying sensible things about possible mishandling of the terrorist threat, they say there is no terrorist threat. They say the downing of the Twin Towers was an inside job possibly committed by neo-conservatives, perhaps under government direction, and even that it was a cruise missile that hit the Pentagon, not a commercial jetliner.
It is clear what they are up to. By making preposterous observations that point less to a reasonable reading of reality than to a kind of psychological strangeness, they want you to think this is what all Bush critics are like — irresponsible, laughable, extreme and bizarre. The administration thereby comes out the winner, in and of itself evidence that the administration is behind this mammoth hoax.
From the beginning, these conspirators have to know that no halfway reasonable person will believe many of their claims. A missile hit the Pentagon? To have arranged that and made it seem like a commercial airliner would have required the cooperation of hundreds of vicious, anti-American people who track airline flights, cleaned up the refuse after the crash and checked all of the data after the fact. The story relies on a misunderstanding of how the crash happened and by totally misconstruing the quote of a single witness. These conspirators had to know they would be caught in this silliness, which is why they engaged in it.
Of course, some of these people — such as the 75 academics in the group called Scholars for 9/11 Truth — were a bit more sophisticated in some respects in this game they are playing. A contention of this organization is that jetliners could not possibly generate enough heat to have caused the collapse of the World Trade Center. But while that might seem plausible on the surface to the layman, these academics had to know of the voluminous studies of the nation’s top experts that the heat generated by the planes on several stories of the buildings could in fact weaken structural supports in such a way as to lead to the collapse, and they had to know that brilliant engineers would not sit idly by while they prattled on.
What some of these engineers and other experts did, in fact, was share their knowledge and understanding with writers of a book by Popular Mechanics journalists called "Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can’t Stand Up to the Facts." Not everyone is going to rush out to buy the book, but anyone with a computer can locate on the Web a Popular Mechanics magazine article that sums up the central arguments and disposes of these extreme, zany claims as if they were little more than drops of water to be shaken off a dog’s back.
These conspirators — can’t you see them chuckling? — also knew the public would catch on to their lunacy because of a major problem with their tale, something so big, bold and obvious that scarcely a dunderhead among us could miss it. That’s the fact that Osama bin Laden does not dispute his guilt and has pledged more of the same. Just the other day, the Arab TV broadcaster Al-Jazeera produced a tape supposedly showing the al Qaeda leader chatting with a number of the terrorists who hijacked the planes on 9/11.
Is it possible, though, that these conspirators are convincing the public of their absurd story, against all calculations they could not possibly do so? A survey by the Scripps Howard News Service in collaboration with Ohio University shows that more than a third of Americans believe administration officials either participated in the 9/11 attacks or let them happen in the hope this would facilitate going to war in the Middle East. The only good news here — if I may depart in my last sentence from the rhetorical device of pretending that conspiracy theorists are actually conspirators — is that two-thirds of the nation remains sane on the issue, refusing to be taken in by conspiratorial nonsense.
(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)