Friday, December 26, 2008

The Great Conspiracy reviewed

I few days ago I wrote a review on Fox TV’s “Conspiracy: Did We Land on the Moon? I was also asked to review Barrie Zwicker’s “The Great Conspiracy: the 9/11 News Special You Never Saw.” In it, Zwicker attempts to show that the tragic events of 9/11 were, in fact, orchestrated by our very own government. This is my review.

In (mis)quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “The greatest thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Zwicker opens with “Fear may be the greatest single motivator. It can serve us and it can save us, but ill-founded fear – that’s another story.”

And there, in the first 2 minutes of this “documentary” Zwicker has provided the irony of his own theories. In attempting to show that instead of fighting fear, “today’s leaders traffic in it, chiefly the fear of terrorism,” he simply creates another fear - the fear that our government is somehow duping us in order to gain further control over us.

First off, I have to really wonder about the validity of someone’s claims when they cannot even get one of the most well-known quotes of American history right in the first two minutes of their program. Roosevelt did not say “The greatest thing we have to fear is fear itself” but rather “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” A minor point you might say. But in saying the “greatest thing” it is implying there are other things to be feared, whereas Roosevelt gave only one thing to fear – fear itself. It makes me wonder that since Zwicker couldn’t even get this quote right, what other stuff has he completely missed or even made up? As the program continues, it seems this isn’t the only thing he’s embellished, misrepresented or fabricated.

There are a couple of things that Zwicker gets exactly correct right off the bat. It would seem that a person’s level of patriotism is directly correlated to that person’s level of support for our military endeavors or what our government deems best. I agree that this should not necessarily be the case. Someone can still be extremely patriotic and not agree with the reasons for our being in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Secondly, there has indeed been an overuse of sensationalizing headlines or, as Zwicker puts it, “the promiscuous issuing of terror alerts.” I daresay these are used by media outlets solely for the purpose of selling newspapers or garnering higher ratings simply because bad news sells. However, the connection between these two things and a government conspiracy is shaky at best. A brief look at American history will show that both of these tactics have been used since the nation was first founded and probably even before then. This is certainly nothing new

What is the great conspiracy? According to Zwicker, it is the “fact” of “bloody terrorist events carried out, not by foreign, but by our governments to trick the public into supporting war and police state agendas,” namely as evidenced in the 9/11 tragedy. Since in conspiracy theories such as this, you’ll hear the term “police state” quite frequently, let’s pause for a minute and define what exactly is meant by the term. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a police state as “a state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic, and political life of the people, especially by means of a secret police force.” This is important to keep in mind.

Zwicker attempts to show how the U.S. has practiced its own version of terrorism in foreign nations for at least the past 50 years. He then goes back even further to Columbus’ conquests in 1492 to show that this American version of terror isn’t new. But here again, attempting to paint these accounts with the conspiracy brush, he ignores human tendencies when it comes to national governments. Why didn’t he go back to the Inquisition? Or the Crusades? Or any number of wars throughout the world’s history? Each and every one of these displayed the exact same human tendencies of conquest and the desire for national power. Were these some sort of conspiracy to gain a police state? He also points out that “on one side – ours – the use of terror either is not admitted or is simply defined as ‘not terror’ and the other side’s terror is defined as ‘the only kind of terror.’” In doing this, he seems to overlook not only motivations behind varying acts of terror, but seems to be lumping any act of national defense (of any sort) as an “act of terror.”

Next comes an historical misrepresentation from just before our involvement in WWII. No conspiracy theory is complete without some correlation to Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler and in this point, Zwicker does not disappoint. He recounts the burning of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany in 1933 and how Hitler used the ensuing fear of communism to pass legislation in the German government “to counter the ‘ruthless confrontation of the Communist Party of Germany.” (Wikipedia) In showing how governments perform acts of terrorism on themselves Zwicker states that “The Nazis masterminded the torching of the Reichstag…one week before a national election. That they did so is historical fact.” This is where the misrepresentation comes in. A quick Google search will reveal that whether or not the Nazis themselves were involved is far from “historical fact” and is still a matter of some speculation. Yes, the Nazis certainly capitalized on the event, but to say that their involvement is “historical fact” is a gross misrepresentation of the truth. Yet Zwicker uses this to show the correlation between the Nazi government and the U.S. government, particularly in light of the 9/11 events. In the same manner as the Nazis, he alleges, “within hours of the planes crashing into the WTC, the Bush White House designates the alleged villains.”

Another claim made frequently by conspiracy theorists is that civil liberties have been reduced and dissent criminalized. But which civil liberties have been reduced has yet to be spelled out or detailed. Again, the ironic truth is that his dissenting “documentary” is still available for anyone to watch, conspiracy theory books are still available in bookstores, dissenting websites are still available, and authors of these works are not in jail. So much for a police state.

Zwicker makes what is perhaps the most ignorant statement when he says, “The designated scapegoats of 9/11 [the Muslim men] gained nothing positive from it.” Apparently, he is either completely ignorant of the teachings of radical Islam or is convinced that such a teaching is also a fabrication of the U.S. government. And here again, the non sequitur is made that whoever’s agenda benefits the most is obviously the cause of the event. But even this assumes all benefits are equal or at least of the same nature. These two issues alone – ignorance of Islamic teaching and non sequiturorial assumptions – are the basis for the entire “documentary.”

As another example of linking one thing with another when it doesn’t necessarily follow is the statistic he gives from a Canadian study. The poll says that 63% of Canadians think that “individuals within the U.S. government including the White House had prior knowledge of the plans for the events of September 11th, and failed to take proper action to stop them.” Having prior knowledge of an event and being an instigator of that event are two different and entirely separate things. This is evidenced by a statistic from the same study that was not cited: that only 16% of those surveyed thought the U.S. government was in some way “involved in the planning and execution of the events of September 11th.”

The list and Zwicker’s droning goes on and includes such “facts” that the U.S. government had a “secretly contrived” hand in the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, the attack on Pearl Harbor, etc. Zwicker doesn’t provide any evidence whatsoever for these mentioned and the evidence that he does attempt to show does not provide proof or evidence of any kind other than that the government could have done such and such. And since it has been done before (argues Zwicker), then obviously “it wouldn’t be a first” for the Bush administration to do so either.

Zwicker finally gets to the main point of the “documentary” in discussing the government’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks. He quotes varying sources and documents, and includes an interview with Michael C. Ruppert, another conspiracy theorist, author and investigator. The ultimate motive behind the attacks is, of course, oil or the growing lack thereof. Once again, however, the problem with the so-called “evidence” and “facts” presented here is simply someone taking one thing said or done, reading into it their own preconceived notions of what actually happened, and presenting the results as “Here’s what actually happened!” However, this line of thinking takes a mistake and puts malice into the intents of those who made the mistake. It attempts to claim an inside scoop into what those who made the mistake were thinking, feeling, and wanting.

Zwicker questions what Bush knew and when he knew it. He begins with the classroom whisper in Bush’s ear that purportedly informed Bush of what was going on. Zwicker points out that this whisper came “20 minutes after the first aircraft smashed into the WTC, 18 minutes after CNN breaks into regular programming.” Later, in attempting to show that Bush knew about what was going on before he even got to the school, Zwicker quotes a report by ABC’s John Cochran in which Cochran claims to have asked Bush as he left his hotel, “Do you know what’s going on in New York?” to which Bush replies in the affirmative. Here’s the problem I have with that. Timelines put Bush leaving his hotel at approximately 8:30 a.m. The first plane did not hit the WTC until 8:46 a.m., a full 15 minutes later. How could the reporter know what had happened in New York before it had even happened? And once again, how could Zwicker possibly know Bush’s motives for continuing his visit with the school once Bush had been told? Is it possible that since at the time of Bush’s arrival at the school, only one plane had been crashed and the scope of the emergency was not yet known? And further, as the 9/11 Commission Report points out, when Bush was informed of the second plane, is it not feasible to think that Bush did indeed want to project a calm demeanor? The point is, we don’t know and thus cannot assign malicious intent, let alone some grand government scheme, from these and similar events. Zwicker also contends that Bush’s statement that he saw the first plane hit the WTC couldn’t have occurred (and he couldn’t have) unless government-operated cameras were set up so that he could watch. However, once again, this is attributed malice to a simple verbal mistake. It’s funny that even though the media loves to pick apart Bush’s statements that, quite honestly, are often filled with horrible verbiage, yet in this he is taken quite literally without any hint of the possibility that he misspoke.

In yet another misrepresentation, Zwicker quotes the 9/11 Commission Report saying, “The Commission imagines, page 39, that as late as 9:30, quote ‘no one in the (president’s) traveling party had any information…that other aircraft were hijacked or missing.’ Wrong! The Commission imagines that it can get away with such claims, even though millions of people saw T.V. news reports about the hijackings on CNN beginning at 8:48.” Zwicker would have us believe that the Commission is saying the President didn’t know about either of the first two plane crashes. But what does the report actually say and what timeframe were they talking about? In the report just a few paragraphs before the one Zwicker quotes, it clearly states that the president was told about the second plane. The “other aircraft” mentioned are NOT the first two planes as Zwicker would want us to believe as evidenced by his reference to CNN coverage of those two crashes, but rather the report’s focus is the remaining two aircraft, the first of which did not crash until 9:43. The report is clear on this and I have a hard time believing Zwicker did not read the few paragraphs that came before the quote. Yet he seemingly purposefully misleads by insisting the report is talking about the first two aircraft.

In the end, was there some incredible incompetence in how the events and subsequent investigations were handled? Absolutely. But does this incompetence necessarily require both a pre-existing knowledge and an active role in bringing the events about? Absolutely not! And here Zwicker fails miserably in trying to prove his theories.

Zwicker does end on a correct note and one worth repeating: “Upholding the U.S. Constitution obligates one to guard against enemies, foreign and domestic. The founders of the country included that for a good reason. They knew that for centuries, governments had turned toxic. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and not just from outside threats.”


Michael said...

Interesting review. Given some of our country's past history I would not be surprised to see a government level involvement, whether actively or passively.

One thing is certain...we have lost sight of the base on which we were founded.

Stephen said...

Neither would I. However, this video doesn't really offer any concrete evidence of governmental involvement, just mere speculation based on preconceived notions.

"we have lost sight of the base on which we were founded"

Not sure what you are referring to here, so can't agree or disagree. :)

Thanks for the comment