The Reflecting Pool director, Jarek Kupsc, responds to Mother Jones

Paging Terry Gilliam, or Why Mother Jones Can’t Have It Both Ways

By Jarek Kupsc - Writer/Director of The Reflecting Pool

The October 2008 issue of Mother Jones (Special Election Edition) deals with the devastating legacy of the outgoing Bush Administration and the problems it has imposed on our democracy. A “New Hope” warms the horizon, melting away the Wicked Witch of the West (Bush, in green-face, on the cover), and so it seems the climate is finally favorable for an all-out assault on the Bush junta. One might assume that September 11th, 2001, would be an obvious point of attack. Unfortunately, Mother Jones chose instead to bash the 9/11 Truth Movement—and by extension anyone who questions the official narrative.

In an article “The Truth Is Out There: In search of intelligent life in the world of 9/11 Conspiracy Theories” (p. 95), Dave Gilson states that “the 9/11 truth movement’s narrative is just as maddeningly inadequate – and unimaginative – as the neocons’.” Aside from the article being factually inaccurate, Mr. Gilson’s self-defeating thesis is astonishingly easy to dismantle – with the help of his own words.

Mr. Gilson singles out my recent movie, The Reflecting Pool, as an example of “the exalted Googlemaniacs who form the truth movement’s brain trust.” However, the author fails to explore this and other generalizations any further. Neglecting to mention a single book or an academic paper on the subject, Mr. Gilson is oblivious to the fact that over 400 architects and engineers in this country alone have questioned the official explanations of the collapse of Twin Towers and WTC 7. Moreover, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which promoted the hastily researched “Theory of Pancake Collapse,” has ultimately retracted its findings, stating that NIST is “unable to provide a full explanation of the total collapse” (NIST, Sept. 27, 2007). In other words, the government itself doesn’t even know how two planes brought down the Twin Towers. Google this, motherjoneser.

When Mr. Gilson derisively writes that “a common Truther refrain is that they’re “’just asking questions,”’ he conveniently fails to mention which questions are being asked. If Mother Jones purports itself to be “smart, fearless journalism,” why didn’t they send their best investigative journalist (so long it’s not Mr. Gilson, please) to find out what motivated Mr. Larry Silverstein to purchase the lease on the Twin Towers six weeks before the attack, knowing that the property has never brought in any profit since its opening, and was an environmental hazard due to asbestos? Why would the most successful real-estate developer in the country commit such a business blunder? We know that Mr. Silverstein didn’t openly plan to demolish the structures, so why did he secure the right to rebuild WTC in his contract? I want to know the answers.

To his credit, Mr. Gilson agrees that “due to official stalling and stonewalling, the full story of September 11 remains a work in progress.” But again, this disturbing statement doesn’t warrant any further explanation on his part. “Work in progress?” Where is the work, and where is the progress? As far as the government and the media are concerned, the case is closed. Mr. Gilson continues his sly remarks on the 9/11 Commission Report: “The 9/11 Commission’s official account glossed over uncomfortable questions but read like a page turner.” Again, no further extrapolations on Mr. Gilson’s part as to what these “uncomfortable questions” were. Perhaps these uncomfortable questions are the ones that the 9/11 Truth Movement is asking, that millions of people are asking, and that The Reflecting Pool reiterates. For example, why did Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld become, a mere four months before 9/11, the first civilians in charge of controlling hijacking intercepts in NORAD’s forty-three-year-old history? Why were at least four well-documented War Games being conducted on 9/11, resulting in the insertion of false radar blips on Air Traffic Controllers screens? The former Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta, testified he had heard Vice President Cheney re-affirm “the standing orders” in response to Flight 77 approaching the Washington, D.C., airspace. What exactly were these orders? I would like to know.

In his rambling narrative, Mr. Gilson attempts to prove that the 9/11 Truth Movement and The Reflecting Pool miss “the real lesson of the Bush administration, which is not that a secretive cabal runs the White House, but that its diabolic intent has been trumped by staggering incompetence. Seven years on, the neocon notion that imperial power can reshape reality has been fully exposed as a fantasy.”

A fantasy? It has been suggested that our current neocon-shaped reality is ever reminiscent of a surreal movie directed by Terry Gilliam (Brazil, anyone?). Mr. Gilson must be in complete denial to propose that our reality has not been reshaped by the Bush administration. He exclaims that the neocons are so dumb and incompetent, they couldn’t “pull off anything bigger than T-ball on the South Lawn.” Yet in the same issue of Mother Jones, in “Reign of Error” (p. 44), Gilson defies his own logic, offering a litany of Bush administration’s “biggest hits,” which would take years to undo, should anybody try. Such “fantasies” include, but are not limited to: the White House pressuring the EPA to downplay risks of breathing at Ground Zero; Gitmo’s grand opening and Bush’s pronouncement that Geneva Conventions don’t apply there; White House asking NSA to start warrant-less wiretaps; Colin Powell presenting phony Iraq intelligence to the UN; oil executives lying to Congress about a secret meeting with Cheney; and Halliburton’s winning a $7 billion, 5-year, no-bid contract in Iraq.

If this list, far from complete, implies “staggering incompetence” of the Bush administration, lets look at some other damage reported by Mother Jones in the same issue by his colleagues:

“Power Corrupts,” by David Cole (p. 39) describes the insidious, and legally difficult to reverse, power-grab of the administration, including the right to torture;

“Pursuit of Habeas,” by Jack Hitt (p. 37) bemoans the post-9/11 loss of one of the most basic human rights we have had: habeas corpus;

“America’s Most Dangerous Librarians,” by Amy Goodman and David Goodman (p.42), delves into the dangers of the National Security Letter (NSL) initiative, which allows for warrant-less investigation of just about anyone;

“Control Delete Escape,” by Daniel Schulman (p. 83) questions the motives behind the Bush administration’s attempt to hide their legacy by deleting White House email archives.

Calling such overwhelming changes in our lives “a fantasy” seems a bit flippant. Is all this a sign of “staggering incompetence,” or a deliberate, methodical and highly effective way of turning America into another form of government? Are these “fantasies” going to simply disappear with the new administration? The common stance taken by such influential intellectuals as Noam Chomsky or Gore Vidal, and readily echoed by lesser minds, is that the Bush administration is a bunch of bumbling idiots. They seem to confuse a cretin President with people whose agenda is slowly but effectively imposed on our failing democracy. (For the record, Gore Vidal is supporting re-opening of the 9/11 investigation.)

During our recent tour with The Reflecting Pool, I’ve been asked hundreds of times why a magazine like Mother Jones or Harper’s would not connect all the obvious dots in one solid 9/11 piece of investigative journalism, just like the editor of the fictitious Sentinel does in the movie. My answer, sadly, is always the same: even the so-called liberal publications have to draw the line somewhere if they are to stay in business. Shortly after the Telecommunications Act (Clinton, 1996), with the ongoing consolidation of media corporations, 80% of investigative journalists lost their jobs in the profit-boosting shuffle. What’s left are the unlucky few who have to play within the perimeters of safety, even if they, like Mother Jones, pretend to operate under the “smart and fearless” credo.

In the absence of investigative journalism in this country, I feel fortunate to have a 9/11 Truth Movement and any citizen who “just asks questions.” These are the people demanding a truly independent investigation of September 11th, 2001, and a big obstacle they face is mainstream media’s resistance to inconvenient facts. Five corporations own 5,000 TV and 14,000 radio stations in this country. As Mother Jones itself reveals in the October issue, the news are mostly nothing but scripted dispatches from the White House. We live in what some people call “delusional democracy.” Dealing with 9/11 issues openly and without fear can take us a step further to fixing some of the problems without resorting to false hopes that the new incoming administration will fix it for us in a jiffy. Putting a boogey-man picture of George W. Bush on magazine covers is fun and easy, but hoping that our problems will go away once he’s gone is as juvenile as Mr. Gilson’s rhetoric.

Let me conclude with another quote from the Special Election Edition of Mother Jones, which does a good job of illustrating the parallel universe of absurdity we have been living in under the Bush administration, and which Mr. Gilson dismisses as a mere “fantasy” supported by 9/11 Truth activists:

A Guantanamo Bay detainee “learned that one of the official reasons for holding him was because two years after he was seized a friend blew himself up, except that because of bureaucratic incompetence, it wasn’t his friend at all, who was alive and well and living nonterroristically back in Germany. Paging Terry Gilliam.” (Mother Jones, “Pursuit of Habeas,” by Jack Hitt, October 2008, p. 38).

Jarek Kupsc is the writer/director of “The Reflecting Pool”

Mother Jones rolls in her grave

“But any assertion that a ruling class tries to direct the system for its own interests is, by definition, considered a conspiracy fantasy in mainstream political discourse. In this broader sense, "conspiracy" refers to something more than just illegal acts. It serves as a dismissive label applied to any acknowledgment of ruling-class power, both its legal and illegal operations.”

“Then there is "incompetence theory," or even "stupidity theory," which maintains that people at the top just don't know what they're doing; they are befuddled, incapable, and presumably not as perceptive as we.”

“Closely related to "idiosyncratic theory" is "aberration theory": secret, criminal state behavior is dismissed as an atypical departure from normally lawful behavior…. There persists a similar mythology around imperialism. Supposedly, U.S. rulers don't know what they are doing abroad. In their "misguided attempts to help out in other parts of the world," they do unintentional damage.”

- Michael Parenti

I would add that incompetence theory (though frequently based on a misunderstanding of ruling class values, eg the "incompetent" manner in which the United States government deals with poverty) can apply to the events of 911 quite nicely. If the orchestration of the attacks had been competent there wouldn't be hundreds of inconsistencies, contradictions and outright impossibilities staring us in the face, none of which are explored by our alleged "journalist".

Another "progressive" immolates himself on the funeral pyre of the official fairy tale. Next.

Yes, for decades now, our elected officials always had our best

interests as their top priority (sure).

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen endless mix-ups, mistakes, boo-boos, partisan bickering, bad luck, etc., they just can't get a handle on problems like: war, health-care, poverty, unemployment, education, immigration, drugs, inflation, housing, taxes, etc., etc.!!!

How long will my fellow sheeple continue to believe this is all due to incompetence????

Consider mass emailing truth messages. More info here:

Kupsc writes:

"During our recent tour with The Reflecting Pool, I’ve been asked hundreds of times why a magazine like Mother Jones or Harper’s would not connect all the obvious dots in one solid 9/11 piece of investigative journalism, just like the editor of the fictitious Sentinel does in the movie. My answer, sadly, is always the same: even the so-called liberal publications have to draw the line somewhere if they are to stay in business. Shortly after the Telecommunications Act [...] 80% of investigative journalists lost their jobs in the profit-boosting shuffle. What’s left are the unlucky few who have to play within the perimeters of safety, even if they, like Mother Jones, pretend to operate under the 'smart and fearless' credo."

Kupsc, bless his heart, is too kind.

The best inference is that the CIA's Project Mockingbird, and kindred ongoing hidden programs consciously fostering control of the larger global agenda, have long been running nearly all the "respectable" Left (and Right, and Centrist -- and even libertarian of Cato and Reason variety) media. (We might as well rename them: Mother Mockingbird, Mockingbird Nation, Mockingbird Now!, The Progressive Mockingbird, etc.)

The fact that some important elements of the Left's agenda are well-articulated in these media is key to their effectiveness: Leftists are sold on their veracity to a Left agenda based on all the routine noise they make about the smaller issues, so that they have confidence that these same media are telling them the truth when it comes to promoting the Big Lie about what matters at a practical level to the power elites.

They've got countless everyday leftists worked up over stuff like Gitmo and ancient CIA-sponsored coups -- important in their own right but nothing that 85% of the voters can wrap their minds around -- while gingerly avoiding (and, occasionally, in carefully planned and timed flurries usually around 9/11 anniversaries, denigrating) 9/11 truth issues (and, in the past, such matters as the Murrah Building bombing, the Waco massacre, the '93 WTC LIHOP bombing, the '60s assassinations, and so forth -- stuff that, had the facts really been presented to the public in a reasonably timely matter, could have brought down the whole regime).

Agree and disagree

"The best inference is that the CIA's Project Mockingbird, and kindred ongoing hidden programs consciously fostering control of the larger global agenda, have long been running nearly all the "respectable" Left (and Right, and Centrist -- and even libertarian of Cato and Reason variety) media"

I'm sure Mockingbirds abound, and yes I would be surprised to find agents of influence not embedded in popular progressive outlets, but there's only so many spooks to go around. The sheer number of intellectuals from all political stripes who refuse to touch 911 with a ten foot pole points to classic group think.

Peter Phillips of Project Censored calls events like 911 truth (or JFK) "threshold concepts" -- prominent personalities are understandably reluctant to voice their support for alternate interpretations, no matter how obvious, for the simple reason that they fear losing respectability. This especially applies to journalists outside of the mainstream, who jealously guard their reputations in the face of ongoing attacks by figures on the far right.
Many, I presume, justify their actions on the basis that they perceive their work for other progressive causes too important to jeopardize by flirting with political dynamite like 911 truth.

It also makes sense that corporate, state and "mockingbird" media set the tone. Unfortunately it's not readily apparent who works for "the agency" and who suffers from lack of backbone.

I don't think our differences here are that great

I agree that most journalists aren't told they're on Mockingbird's payroll or whatever. What Mockingbird is expert at is controlling the hierarchy of power within "respectable" media outlets: the publishers, editors, and highly promoted journalists who call the shots and set the tone. The other guys -- remember, only about a third of those with a master's degree in journalism are able to make some semblance of a career as journalists -- get hired for and survive in their insecure jobs by quickly catching on to what their bosses expect out of them. Most of the time, their bosses don't even need (and for obvious reasons would prefer not) to explain what subjects shouldn't be breached.

Of course, the guys who write those slyly engineered hit pieces warning off their readers from giving any credence to priority-coverups like 9/11 truth have been working in close consultation with propaganda agents of the power elites. Then and only then are these pieces put out. The regular journalists simply get the message -- usually indirectly -- that they're to lay off the subject. For them, if the topic simply must come up, they're to summarily dismiss it with a swift ad hominem jab. But the long-winded polemics against 9/11 truth must be left to the old pros, this being such an extraordinarily dangerous subject for the elites.

Sounds about right.

Sounds about right.

Thanks mcfrandy for those astute observations

I agree that very little probably needs to be said to dissuade journalists from delving into 9/11. Having worked in an insecure job myself as a writer -- advertising -- it is abundantly clear when certain ideas and approaches are not welcome. No one who wants to keep their job goes into places that have been decreed off-limits.

No matter that the official line at the media outlet may be "brave and fearless," just as the official line at an ad agency may be "we think outside of the box." In fact, if you venture out of the box very far, your work never gets used and if your work is not used there is no reason to keep you.

The employee who is savvy in office pollitics quickly picks up on rules both spoken and unspoken. This is true in regard to dress code, how long you can be gone for lunch without raising eyebrows, and dozens of other areas. Why wouldn't it also be true about topics worthy of investigation?

But this hit piece from Ma Jones is no accident. It was carefully crafted to deliver the maximum insult to those who are a genuine threat to the established order of things, while maintaining a jovial, almost casual tone. I'm sure they slaved over this to get it just right. If they overdo it they make us sympathetic by being an underdog. As someone said above, it is lethal by being dismissive. If they came out swinging, they would seem to care too much. The subtext here is: "I can barely be bothered to concern myself with these fools, but just for laughs, let's make fun of them for awhile."

No one should waste their time writing to Ma Jones to complain about it. They don't care what we think and your energy is better spent elsewhere. Don't waste any time talking to the co-opted media or politicians. Talk to your fellow man, those who are getting no perks from the current arrangement.

The kind of effort put into this piece shows what we're up against. They will not relinquish power without fighting with everything they've got, and they've got alot.

But we've got the truth.

Superb comments

(and not just because you agree with me -- though that helps!).

As an experienced copywriter, you've hit squarely on some things that were only barely on my horizon. The piece is an almost painfully crafted work of propaganda -- and much of that crafting is to give the impression of being tossed off, not self-important, and laughing off 9/11 truth theses as unworthy of labored analysis (hence the implicit excuse for failing to address the movement's major arguments). It was passed around among various propaganda specialists, critiqued and revised mercilessly and protractedly (while preserving Gilson's recognizable style), and planned for placement in the "October" issue, ostensibly in anticipation of the election, but deliberately timed for the issue's actual release from late August through mid-September, when 9/11 truth commemorative events -- rallies, marches, conferences, film festivals -- are at their height and would have the most influence on, say, folks who subscribe to _Mother Jones_.

And writing to such a magazine is about as naive as phoning to the CIA to request that the latter not to interfere in other countries' politics. (Indeed, it just reassures the media operatives that such a reader is sucker enough to suppose the magazine thinks independently.)

Gilson is channeling David Corn

“On the altar of God, I swear eternal hostility against all forms of tyranny over the mind of man."--Thomas Jefferson

A big achievement

They talked us into the supreme crime and made us complicit.
How many leaders have wished they could do that? Sometimes
people only look inept because we misunderstand their goals.

Peter Dale Scott

Reading these astute comments, I wish the authors would also give me their 2 cents on what I have to say about Peter Dale Scott, which has now disappeared into my blog at .

Two cents doesn't buy much since Bush took office

Sorry, what "authors" are you talking about? Do you mean people making comments here about the Gilson article?

Whether I'm included or not, I'll make a couple comments about your recent blog item on Scott:

1) While I can't prove it, frankly I'm convinced that Chomsky is an ingenious CIA plant aimed at defanging the American Left. His m.o. is to divert leftists and enlist their faith in him with riveting socioeconomic analyses of institutions (however true or false those might be in their own right) whose appreciation has no power to effect reform, while discouraging his fans from critically examining empirical evidence of State conspiracies that actually have much potential to broaden resistance to the State. Indeed, it almost appears that the subtext to Chomsky's analyses is that the State and its institutions are invincible, and that his analyses are merely intellectual exercises, liberating only in the sense that his readers feel they understand the world better.

2) I think the basic difficulty with Scott is that, productive though he is as a sort of historian, he fundamentally loves the idea of the State. He wants big government. He just hates the way certain elements have hijacked the regime. Not just because, in economics, he's a socialist. He likes the idea of the military and the intelligence agencies of the powerful nations going in and "fixing" the Third World, ridding them of right-wing tyrants and mass impoverishment. And it frustrates him no end that the U.S. and its Western allies are instead going to those places and carrying on quite different agendas.

Consequently, his writing is compromised by the idea that rogue elements are undermining what the State should actually be doing, so one should always speak as though those elements are invasive, to be extirpated that the State can get on with the business of doing all those wonderful things it would otherwise. The subtext seems to be: the tub is full of cyanide, but let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Personally, speaking as a quasi-Rothbardian, I'd be delighted to throw out the "baby." I suspect Scott feels (perhaps unconsciously) that if he didn't focus his wrath on supposed rogue elements, he'd be de facto arguing against the State, including his dreamed-of agenda for it.

Two cents

Yes, I meant you and the others here. I was trying to get you to focus on my point on Scott, which you did, so thanks. The bottom line is that Bush, Chomsky and Scott all believe "jihadists" did 9/11. Scott doesn't like to come out and say it, and he is considered part of the Truth Movement, but as you seem to agree, his attitude is based on denial. He as much as admitted this in his recent Alex Jones interview, when Alex asked him about his view of the future. Scott said it depends on the day of the week, and added that denial can be useful. How would he have the energy to do all the work he does if he couldn't at least pretend to himself that this "public state" was still there? Chomsky is similar. Can you imagine dissident scholars in the former Soviet Union spending decades painstakingly documenting the crimes of the "deep" Soviet state? I mean, I'm glad they've done it, but I think more than enough has been done, and ditto re 9/11. One thing we should be (almost) grateful to Bush et al. for is that they have made (or should have made) it easier for us to see our situation. If you read my "MITOP" I'd like to know what you think of that, too.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply

You seem particularly learned in these matters, and I plan to read the material off your website which is linked with your name.

I'm unsure how to take your comment that Scott doubts the MIHOP thesis, as he wrote a peer-reviewed paper for _The Journal of 9/11 Studies_ and, living next to Berkeley as I do, he usually shows at local large gatherings of 9/11 truthers, sometimes giving a brief talk.

For what it's worth:

In politics, people tend to have enormous difficulty distinguishing between what I might call idealized political theory, on the one hand, and de facto reality on the other. This doesn't happen so much in some other areas of thought. In college, I took an introductory class in sociocultural anthropology, and the professor made much of how the way people characterize their cultural behavior is often highly different from what the outsider observes.

The point, I think, was that people tend to be indoctrinated by their culture to be delusional about what's happening around them. Conversely, the skilled ethnographer, though prospectively interested in what his subjects have to say for themselves as with other sorts of observations, recognizes that such disconnects always exist and doesn't let them compromise the truth of his interpretations.

Though I took many political science classes, never in them did I encounter such thinking, at least not in such a straightforward way.