The Jeffersonian‘s regular readers know I’ve written a lot about 9/11 here. Some of my arguments on the subject appear in a recently published book titled Infamy: Political Crimes and Their Consequences. I sent a copy of the book to a friend, to ask if he would post a brief review for it online. He wrote back with good comments to say why he is still skeptical, especially about arguments that explosives were used to bring down the World Trade Center towers. I published my initial response here.
Consider an additional thought about an author’s presumption of belief, a variant of the idea that an author may ask you to suspend disbelief. Simply put, you can address readers as if the case is made. Why duplicate effort if you believe the case is made? If independent, credible researchers gather sound evidence, analyze it correctly, and tell a convincing story, why repeat what they have done? That is why I point to James Douglass’s work on Kennedy, and David Griffin’s work on 9/11 so regularly. Those fields are already plowed.
That doesn’t mean there’s no more to say. There’s a lot more to say, and a lot more to do. The number of people who believe Oswald was a patsy grew slowly over decades. We take it for granted now that public school textbooks will never reflect this belief, yet we wonder why young people now seem ready to discount facts. One reason might be that they know the so-called facts they learned in school are, in fact, lies. In a somewhat unreflective way, they become cynical without knowing why. Pervasive dishonesty makes us disbelieve everything.
As 9/11 passes from current event to historical catastrophe, history books will state that Osama bin Laden and his jihadist organization brought down three buildings of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001. Indeed they already say that. Yet Osama bin Laden, or anyone working for him, could not have brought down building 7, since nothing hit building 7. It imploded about eight hours after the first tower came down. Your school textbook will not say that, nor will it ever say that.
It’s worthwhile to imagine yourself addressing readers who pick up your book, say, three or four generations hence.
Still, it’s worthwhile to imagine yourself addressing readers who pick up your book, say, three or four generations hence. Where will general beliefs about what happened on 9/11 have settled in 2180 or 2190? Will the number of people who agree with Griffin have grown by then? Will the people who do agree with Griffin feel comfortable about their friends knowing that they do? The latter question bears enormous impact, because beliefs about pubic events are social beliefs. No one wants to be ostracized over opinions one might hold about a crime committed years ago.
If you imagine that shared beliefs about 9/11 will follow a pattern similar to shared beliefs about Kennedy’s murder, then it’s useful to imagine what you might say to people in 2180, who think about 9/11 the way we think about Dallas in 1963. You would have a lot to say to them. You would say what Kennedy researchers have implied for over fifty years: “Wake up! Get yourselves moving! Do you want to let criminals steal your republic? Don’t let them do any such thing.” The same reasoning holds for 9/11.
So if you read Infamy, you will find some persuasion there, but the book’s main purpose is to discuss productive ways to think about political crimes of enormous consequence.
So that’s part of what Infamy does. It imagines what you might say to people if the case is made. Research on 9/11 is not as far along as it is for Kennedy. We have to stay with the project. In that way, Infamy offers encouragement and advice. It criticizes conventional ways of thinking about these two crimes. It discusses what political crimes like these have in common. Further it points to what was necessary to solve the first one, and argues that similar efforts, research methods, and collaborative analysis will be required to solve the second one. One big difference is that the video evidence for 9/11 is easier to interpret. There is also more of it. That gives 9/11 researchers an advantage.
So if you read Infamy, you will find some persuasion there, but the book’s main purpose is to discuss productive ways to think about political crimes of enormous consequence. For an introduction to the evidence, read Douglass’s and Griffin’s outstanding work. Read other books and articles, too. Look at photographs and video recordings. I did: a lot of films, a lot of books and a lot of photographs. As your knowledge about these crimes increases, you will become adept in your judgments as you sort effective presentations from less effective ones.
Above all, draw your own conclusions from the research you do. Of all the minds applied to this problem, your mind is the only one that counts. Research, persuasion, and formation of beliefs about the truth may all be social enterprises, but only you know what you need to be convinced, in one direction or the other. Investigate to see where the research leads. Further, don’t give up. Evidence will come together, and connections will appear that you did not anticipate.