Far Stranger Than Fiction

Matt Taibbi is a great journalist and always well worth reading. He has a forthcoming book about conspiracy theories, more specifically the “9-11 Truth Movement”. His voice is as usual acerbic and hilarious, as one can read in this brief excerpt:

The 9/11 Truth movement is really distinguished by a kind of defiant unfamiliarity with the actual character of America’s ruling class. In 9/11 lore the people who staff the White House, the security agencies, the Pentagon and groups like PNAC and the Council of Foreign Relations are imagined to be a monolithic, united class of dastardly, swashbuckling risk-takers with permanent hard-ons for Bourne Supremacy-style “false flag” and “black bag” operations, instead of the mundanely greedy, risk-averse, backstabbing, lawn-tending, half-clever suburban golfers they are in real life. It completely misunderstands the nature of American government — fails to see that the old maxim about “the business of America is business” is absolutely true, that the federal government in this country is really just a lo-rent time-share property seasonally occupied by this or that clan of financial interests, each of which takes its 4-year turn at the helm tinkering with the tax laws and regulatory code and the rates at the Fed in the way it thinks will best keep the money train rolling.

The people who really run America don’t send the likes of George Bush and Dick Cheney to the White House to cook up boat-rocking, maniacal world-domination plans and commit massive criminal conspiracies on live national television; they send them there to repeal PUCHA and dole out funds for the F-22 and pass energy bills with $14 billion tax breaks and slash fuel efficiency standards and do all the other shit that never makes the papers but keeps Wall Street and the country’s corporate boardrooms happy. You don’t elect politicians to commit crimes; you elect politicians to make your crimes legal. That is the whole purpose of the racket of government. Another other use of it would be a terrible investment, and the financial class in this country didn’t get to where it is by betting on the ability of a president whose lips move when he reads to blow up two Manhattan skyscrapers in broad daylight without getting caught.

The rest of the excerpt, especially his mock-up of a secret meeting between the neo-cons planning their complex mission to blow up the W.T.C., is worth reading.

I don’t know where Taibbi goes with his arguments overall, whether he dismisses the theorists as crackpots by bashing their science or what. My own take on 9-11 conspiracy theory is simply that it is not radical, or in other words it doesn’t get us anywhere.

Or to put it another way: what if there was no conspiracy? Does that mean the world, and the war, are fine and dandy? Shouldn’t we be putting all our energy into changing things anyway? Or was the world all hunky-dory up until September 2001?

Whether Al Qaida hit the towers, or the C.I.A. did it, or the Mare Salvatrucha, or the Pope himself was flying the second plane, we would still be in the same world we are living in now, the one in which the government went charging off to war against whomever they pleased.

The issue remains: what are we going to do about it?

But wait! you say. Surely proving that the U.S. government lied to its own people and killed thousands of innocents would accomplish something? Wouldn’t people be shocked into action?

Actually, I don’t believe that they would. Just look at all the lies that were told outright by the administration, well documented in the new books that keep coming out as one by one various insiders tell us again and again what we already know: that the government lied to its own people outright to start this war.

I think one of the biggest differences between now and the days of the Vietnam War (and I think there are more differences than similarities) is that in the 1960’s, people were genuinely outraged to realize that their government had been deceiving them, that the war in Asia was not only unjustified but that the U.S. had been actually losing and not winning, that there were gross injustices in the U.S.A. itself, etcetera etcetera. Personal memoirs written about coming of age in those times are filled with testaments to the generational power of this revelation.

But that was then, and this is now. My belief is that people simply aren’t surprised anymore to learn that the government is corrupt. We’ve been lied to so many times that some of us may never believe them in the first place. So the 9-11 Truthers can jump and howl all they want but I really think it will get us pretty much nowhere.

I mean, it’s even in the plot of more Hollywood movies than I can think of: the idea that Big Brother is secretly behind every big bad catastrophe? No way! I don’t believe it!

Speaking of Hollywood, the idea that folks aren’t shocked by clandestine government shenanigans also goes some way towards explaining the non-success of the recent wave of movies about the Iraq War. Nobody went to see them because there would be no revelations. Everyone knows the ending, such as it is, already. Maybe if Hollywood had had the guts to make movies like Redacted and Stop-Loss back in 2003 or 2004, back when it was really needed, back when it was news that the war was a sham. Now, it’s old hat.

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