Columnist Leonard Pitts Joins the Ranks of Government Shills
National Columnist Leonard Pitts Joins the long list of government apologists and shameless shills with his latest column casting those who would have the temerity to question the "official record" as nothing more than "rote rejectionist" incapable (or perhaps unworthy) of "honest debate".
Posted on Fri, Sep. 15, 2006
IN MY OPINION
Just the facts . . . at least as we know them
BY LEONARD PITTS JR.
I beg your pardon.
Apparently I made a major error of fact in a recent column. It turns out, contrary to what I wrote, there never was a Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States. It wasn't hijacked airliners that brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Nor did any airplane plow into the Pentagon. Nor did United Flight 93 come to Earth in a field in Shanksville, Pa. Rather, this tragedy was staged by the U.S. government in order to dupe the nation into an oil war in the Middle East.
Or at least so I am told by a surprising plurality of readers. Add to that Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela and renowned loose cannon, who said in a speech Tuesday it's possible the U.S. government had a hand in attacking itself on Sept. 11.
Of course, it's also possible the U.S. government doesn't even exist, that it and we and Chávez himself are only figments of the imagination of a little boy staring into a snow globe.
Possible, but not bloody likely.
I don't propose to spend time debating whether Sept. 11 unfolded as the official record says it did. If eyewitness accounts (''I happened to look up and I saw this airplane not more than 50 feet up coming right at us,'' Alan Wallace, a witness at the Pentagon, told The Washington Post), cockpit voice recordings (''Please, please don't hurt me,'' a voice on United Flight 93 pleads), cellphone calls (passenger Thomas Burnett told his wife, ''I know we're all going to die. . . . I love you, Honey'') and common sense (if the planes were not crashed, what happened to them and their passengers?) are not enough to make the case, I can't imagine what would.
No, I only bring this up because of what it says about our growing tendency to embrace separate but unequal facts en route to separate but unequal truths.
A QUAINT IDEA
You might call it cynicism, but cynicism is quaint and 20th century compared to this new tendency to reflexively reject any facts provided by government or the dreaded mainstream media. Conspiracy theorizing is not new -- ask Elvis next time you see him -- but what is new is that the Internet has broken the government/media monopoly on the dissemination and definition of news.
While that's good in many ways, one troubling byproduct is this new notion that you cannot truly understand the great and terrible events of our time without access to some ''factier'' facts promulgated by some website most of us never heard of with an ideological slant that conveniently mirrors one's own.
Granted, government lies sometimes and conspires sometimes and media fail sometimes to be energetic watchdogs. So certainly people have a right -- a duty -- to be skeptical of both.
This, however, isn't skepticism. It's rote rejection, baby tossed out with bath water.
Once upon a time, we all drew from the same body of fact. We may have constructed different truths, but they were all based upon commonly accepted facts. We all knew, for instance, that the shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986. From that, we could debate what the tragedy meant and we might or might not reach consensus, but as long as no one argued that it was really destroyed by aliens, we at least had the same frame of reference.
No longer, as the questions of whether there was really a terrorist attack on Sept. 11 make abundantly clear. So honest debate becomes nearly impossible and consensus, even more so. I mean, you may think a wall looks best in yellow, I may think it looks best in red. But if we can't agree on what yellow and red are or what a wall is, we have no basis for even arguing about it.
If you doubt that, ask yourself: When's the last time you had a political debate that was fruitful as opposed to merely loud?
Don't feel bad. I can't remember myself.
LEONARD PITTS JR. is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.