9/11 skeptics resurface
The National Post is like Canada's version of The Washington Times, a neocon rag.
Conspiracy theorists thought election could bring their 'issue' to the fore
Adrian Humphreys, National Post Published: Monday, October 20, 2008
The spreading ripples of conspiracy to silence those dismissing the official version of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, got one ring larger recently: this newspaper was dragged into the subterfuge when an article on 9/11 conspiracy theories in the federal election campaign was delayed due to space limitations.
It did not take long for the missing story to add to an already complicated plot for a number of 9/11 skeptics who had been contacted for the story -- and who were already deeply mistrustful of the mainstream media.
"Who got to you?" one wrote to the reporter after the story was not in the newspaper the next day. He then suggested the reporter was never really working on a story but rather gleaning information on the movement for some unspoken purpose.
"It would not surprise me in the least if the article was pulled. The lid is nailed down very tightly on this topic," wrote another. A sympathetic skeptic simply said: "Thanks for trying."
That a reporter is simultaneously branded as both a perpetrator and a victim of a non-existent plot speaks to the complex passions and downright twitchiness of Canadian 9/11 skeptics and to the surprising reach of their circle.
When the Liberal party dumped a candidate in Winnipeg over writings that championed 9/11 conspiracy theories and an NDP candidate in B. C. was chastized for related statements, it was a bizarre and unexpected twist in the middle of a rather predictable election campaign.
While the 9/11 election scandals were short-lived, soon buried by the stock market meltdown, it served to ignite-- or perhaps reinvigorate -- a cross-country campaign to get 9/11 conspiracy theories on to the Canadian public's agenda. On newspapers' letters pages, on Web sites and in blogs, 9/11 skeptics burst out of the closet and urged others to follow suit, apparently convinced they formed a silenced majority.
"There is enough evidence across the board here to suggest there were more hands in the pot to stir it up than what meets the eye," said Andrew Moulden, a medical doctor and candidate for the Canadian Action Party in the Ontario riding of Nipissing-Timiskaming, when asked about 9/11 by the National Post.
"There are a lot of things that scream foul," he said. "There are too many holes and gaps in the middle and too many inconsistencies . They needed a Pearl Harbor and it happened."
While that kind of talk gets you kicked out of the Liberal party, it brought Dr. Moulden more than a dozen campaign workers who travelled to North Bay on an outing organized by the Ottawa 9/11 Truth group. For 9/11 skeptics, it sent hope soaring.
"Success in this riding will bring the real issues into Parliament" organizers told supporters. "Enough shouting from the street corner, now we get into the government!"
Conspiracy theories of all sorts have long resonated in Western society.
Shocking, touchstone events in American history are the ripest for attracting conspiracy proselytizers. The assassination in 1963 of U. S. president John F. Kennedy has long been the quintessential conspiracy case, spawning a cottage industry of disbelief and a library of skepticism.
Now 9/11 has toppled JFK as the leading conspiracy.
The U. S. Department of State calls the varying theories on 9/11 "a hodgepodge of sinister, unfounded allegations."
While some conspiracy theories are laughed off as harmless diversions, purported 9/11 plots are often viewed more harshly because many quickly devolve into anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism.
"What makes the 9/11 conspiracy theories particularly important is that they have united disparate groups of Jew haters -- American far-right extremists, white supremacists and elements within the Arab and Muslim world -- who are exchanging and echoing information, ideas, and conspiracy theories, particularly through the Internet," says a report by the Anti-Defamation League, a U. S.-based Jewish organization.
"Anti-Semites are blaming Jews for the worst terrorist act committed and for its consequences, such as military conflicts. Allegations of Jewish culpability in the 9/11 attacks may even be used as justification for future acts of anti-Semitic violence."
That the conspiracy theories would be so pervasive in Canada to pop up with the frequency they did in the election is in line with the findings in a recent survey on the topic. An Angus Reid poll conducted around the anniversary of 9/11 this year found that while the majority of Canadians believe the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda, 39% either disagree with that explanation or are unsure. About a third of those surveyed believed the U. S. government allowed the
attacks to happen and 16% believe the U. S. government made the attacks happen.
The events of 9/11 are perfect for spawning conspiracy theories, said Adam Galinsky, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
"Sept. 11 was a huge event with these massive building structures crumbling to the ground. This made people feel completely out of control -- who knew when this type of terror would happen again?" Prof. Galinsky said. "Whenever a big event happens -- a large consequential, meaningful event -- people assume there has to be some large, consequential cause of it."
His study on what draws believers to such theories was published in the latest issue of the journal Science.
"When people don't have control objectively, what they try to do is regain it psychologically and one way to do that is by seeing patterns in the world -- superstitions, conspiracies, seeing the Virgin Mary in a water stain -- all serve the same underlying purpose," he said. "They allow people to feel in control over their environment."
Charles Pigden, a philosophy professor at New Zealand's University of Otago, says there is nothing wrong with conspiracy theories, as such. "Many of them are silly, of course, but they are not silly because they are conspiracy theories, they are silly because the specific theories postulated are improbable," he said.
He points to past events, once dismissed as conspiracy theories, that turned out to be true, including the Watergate burglary of the Democratic headquarters by supporters of U. S. president Richard Nixon and the selling of weapons to Iran to fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua by the Reagan administration.
Accordingly, the Canadian skeptics, many of whom joined clubs in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Ottawa in advance of the election, voiced a bold agenda: "We have the opportunity to swing the election and to explode 9/11 truth to the top of the agenda," declared the Vancouver 9/11 Truth Society.
Some found candidates they could support.
But even Dr. Moulden, the Ontario candidate, was not so sure 9/11 was an effective election platform. He did not bring it up while on the campaign trail.
"If I was to speak these issues here, then I open up a whole can of worms," he said. "If you say anything wrong about Israel, then the Anti-Defamation League will paint you as anti-Semitic. I love everybody and every individual around the world but the Mossad [Israel's national intelligence agency] makes it very clear: Their art of war is by deception. So to what extent they have played a role in here, I don't know."
On election night, Dr. Moulden drew 201 votes, coming in fifth out of five -- 2,606 votes behind the Green party, his closest competitor.
Nelson Wiseman, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said the skeptics were deluded by the controversy briefly bringing their views to wide public attention. It gave them a hint of reassurance that they were not alone.
"An election presents people with a vehicle to get attention for a day. It's a little wedge for them to get their message out," he said. And, accordingly, the window soon closed, predictably having no impact on the election.