Prisoners of the Truth (1): Truthers and Truthiness.


The truth is what you believe, and what you believe is mostly what you receive, what the conventions tell you, what everybody says.

Of course, not all of us are content with conventional received wisdom. Down the corridor from the Creator there is a Truther. He is one of the nicest of Truthers, eager to share the Truth with anybody and not in the least abusive if you refuse to accept the Truth. Many Truthers become either abusive if you reject the Truth, or begin to suspect that you are part of the Great Conspiracy to deny the Truth. In consequence they not only break off all relations with you but often begin to denounce you to the authorities as a serial killer, paedophile or whatever (for every little helps when you are battling the global network of anti-Truth).

Now, what is the Truth? Why, it is very simple. The United States government secretly hired a number of Saudi gentlefolk to pretend to be Islamist terrorists and hijack a number of airliners and crash them into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and either the Capitol or the White House (most bets are on the latter, but nobody knows for sure). Those airliners could not, however, actually do much in the way of damage, and in any case the Saudi gentlefolk could not possibly have flown them into buildings, which requires skills and reflexes beyond the capability of foreign brown-skinned males. Therefore the United States government cunningly planted explosives and thermite all over the World Trade Centre to ensure that it would catch fire and then collapse, even though no airliners crashed into these (or else they did, but having an airliner crash into you is hardly likely to make a building collapse and the buildings had to collapse, apparently). They also, apparently, either planted explosives in the Pentagon or fired missiles at the Pentagon to make a big bang and thus conceal the fact that no airliner had crashed into the Pentagon (or else it did). Meanwhile, since the other airliner which was supposed to crash in Washington actually crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, and neither the Capitol nor the White House exploded unexpectedly despite no airliner crashing into either, we are at liberty to wonder whether the passengers who mobbed the cabin of that airliner and caused it to crash were not, themselves, dupes or agents of the United States government.

This is a rather large Truth, as Truths ought to be. One might ask why the United States government should have wished to do all this. The answer is, of course, that the United States government desired to invade Afghanistan and conquer Iraq, and it could not possibly do these things without a titanic pretext. Pretending that the innocent al-Qaeda organisation had done this horrendous deed provided the United States government with an excuse to go ahead and invade Afghanistan, Iraq, pass the Patriot Act and discourage the passage of gay marriage acts in several states.

The United States government, indeed, has quite a history of such Truths.

For example, in 1898 the obsolete U.S. battleship Maine happened to be in Havana harbour at a time when, coincidentally, the U.S. government wished to go to war with Spain in order to seize Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Unexpectedly, the Maine blew up. The United States government (facilitated by the Hearst press) spread the story that the Maine was a victim of a sinister bombing plot by the Spanish government, and before you knew where you were there were Rough Riders riding roughly up San Juan Hill while Gridley fired when ready at anything targetable in Manila Bay. Soon the Pacific and the Caribbean had been saved for — beg your pardon, from — ruthless, murderous racist exploitation. And it wasn’t long before people noticed the extreme convenience of everything, not to mention the fact that neither Spain nor its Cuban colony had either the desire or the capacity to blow up the Maine, and wondered whether possibly Washington had blown up its own battleship to excuse the seizure of a global empire.

But during the First World War several battleships (such as the Italian Leonardo da Vinci)exploded of their own accord, so maybe it was just the seizure of a darned fine opportunity.

For example, in 1941 the United States government had broken the Japanese military and diplomatic codes, unbeknownst to the Japanese, who with extraordinary stupidity proceeded to transmit their coded messages over the radio. (Alle Funkverkehr ist Hochsverrad.) So the Americans knew that the Japanese were up to something in late November 1941. They even broadcast a war warning to their armed forces in early December (which somehow did not stop the U.S. Army Air Force from lining their combat aircraft in Manila and Honolulu up neatly on the concrete apron in review order so that one strafing pass from a Type 0 fighter would take out the lot if they had been fuelled — which they weren’t).

Admittedly, the Advanced Air Striking Force under Admiral Nagumo was sailing under sealed orders and radio silence, and the instructions to attack were “East Wind Rain”, which unless you were extra good at guessing games was not something which the codebreakers could make much of. So they whizzed off to Pearl Harbour and took out three old battleships and crippled two more. But, as it happens, the U.S. once again did not much need those battleships because they were cranking out a brand-new class of much better ones. Meanwhile, the aircraft carriers of the Pacific Fleet just happened to be off on one of their rare exercises and thus were not attacked. (Had they been attacked they would certainly have been sunk — American aircraft carriers at that time were unarmoured hulks packed with explosives and petrol — and there could have been no Coral Sea stalemate or Midway victory.) So it wasn’t long (well, thirty years or so) before some (well, Gore Vidal) began wondering whether the sinister President Rosenveldt had not deliberately allowed the Japanese to bomb Pearl Harbour so that he could go to war with Germany (although if the Germans hadn’t boldly declared war with America it’s hard to see how that could have come to pass).

Well, maybe. It’s a story, anyway.

In fact, both stories have a certain plausibility. One only has to assume that the American military does not ever badly stow its munitions nor that American servicemen ever sneak a smoke in the magazine, and one only has to assume perfect competence among American codebreakers and complete knowledge of the future on the part of the Presidency, and it is easy to accept those assumptions, not so?

In contrast, the third example of Truth is easily shown to be preposterous. This is that John F Kennedy was murdered by the U.S. military at Dealey Plaza because he was scheming and plotting not to start the Vietnam War. A brief glance at Schlesinger’s memoirs of Kennedy shows that, as one would expect, Kennedy approached the Vietnam war with the same heartless, irresponsible recklessness which he had earlier shown in his Cuban policy. If there was a conspiracy against Kennedy, which is not improbable, it surely had nothing of substance to do with Vietnam.

A less obvious example of Truth, one neglected by most Truthers, is the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces in August 1990. Was this encouraged by the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie? Did Glaspie, by saying that the U.S. would have no objection to Iraqi border rectifications with Kuwait, effectively give a green light to the invasion of that country, which had always been claimed by Iraq (ever since British imperialism created it as an easily-controlled, oil-rich autocracy) and which was simultaneously trying to bleed Iraq of its limited funds in the aftermath of the war with Iran, while it bled Iraq’s oilfields by drilling slanted wells into Iraqi territory? Nobody knows. All anybody really knows is that the U.S. was able, very effectively, to exploit the situation by destroying Iraq’s military power and providing itself an excuse for a permanent base in the Middle East to balance its proxy bases in Israel and Turkey.

But all that all this shows is that the United States government is an extremely ruthless global force which has no hesitation about committing terrible crimes when it can fool its public into allowing it to do so — which is not new; think of the War of 1812 or the Seminole War or the Mexican War. None of the pretexts for these incidents can be shown to have been executed by the U.S. government itself. Many, in fact, describe the destruction of the World Trade Centre as a “Reichstag fire” scenario; however, most historians now believe that the burning of the Reichstag fire was set not by Hitler but by Van Der Lubbe, and that Hitler merely brilliantly exploited the situation for his own purposes, as he did subsequently throughout his career until he ran out of options. Why should Bush, universally reviled by American dissidents as an imbecile, be on this occasion so much smarter than Hitler?

It is interesting that Noam Chomsky is a sceptic about the Truth about the 11th of September 2001, as he is also sceptical about the Truth about August 1990 and Dealey Plaza 1963. His scepticism is simple: he does not choose to believe in conspiracies. In part, of course, this is probably a version of elitism, of wishing to feel above such suspicions which verge on paranoia. But, on the other hand, consider: the Truth, as yet, cannot be proved by anything admissible in court. Therefore, the Truth is worthless except as an article of faith.

Meanwhile, whoever was responsible for the crime of destroying the Twin Towers and damaging the Pentagon, this crime is insignificant compared with the crimes which followed on from it, and which are directly attributable to the government of the United States and its allies. Hundreds of times more people were killed in response to the 11th of September attack than were killed in that attack itself, and also crimes of a more terrible and egregious and widespread nature. Those crimes were committed by the United States with the knowledge and approval of its people — or at least its people did not bother to examine those crimes sufficiently closely to condemn them, though most Americans would probably condemn them if they understood it.

So, this is the argument against the Truth — that even if it is true, it pales beside the crimes which everyone acknowledges as true and does not care about, or if they care about such crimes, cannot persuade others to follow them. Today, on the one hand Obama is stealing trillions from the American people and pouring all that cash borrowed from future decades into the immediate pockets of his friends in the American financial and corporate community. On the other hand, he is taking billions from the American people to finance the slaughter of wedding-parties in Afghanistan and the flattening of cities in Pakistan. And he is doing this with the uncritical approval of three-fifths of the American public, the other two-fifths being critical of him because they feel he is slaughtering too few wedding parties and not flattening sufficient cities.

The Truth may be True. But it will not make anyone free. Not until we can get to grips with the conventional, received Truth which has everyone else in their grips — and that will not be done by obsessively scrutinizing slow-motion videos of skyscrapers falling down.


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