- An article in the journal, Sociological Inquiry, ("There
Must Be a Reason": Osama, Saddam, and Inferred Justification, Vol.
79, No. 2. (2009), pp. 142-162. PDF) casts light on the effectiveness of
propaganda. Researchers examined why big lies succeed where little
lies fail. Governments can get away with mass deceptions, but politicians
cannot get away with sexual affairs.
- The researchers explain why so many Americans still believe
that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, years after it has become obvious
that Iraq had nothing to do with the event. Americans developed elaborate
rationalizations based on Bush administration propaganda that alleged Iraqi
involvement and became deeply attached to their beliefs. Their emotional
involvement became wrapped up in their personal identity and sense of morality.
They looked for information that supported their beliefs and avoided
information that challenged them, regardless of the facts of the matter.
- In Mein Kampf, Hitler explained the believability of
the Big Lie as compared to the small lie: "In the simplicity of their
minds, people more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie,
since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would
be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come
into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe
that others could have such impudence. Even though the facts which
prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still
doubt and continue to think that there may be some other explanation."
- What the sociologists and Hitler are telling us is that
by the time facts become clear, people are emotionally wedded to the beliefs
planted by the propaganda and find it a wrenching experience to free themselves.
It is more comfortable, instead, to denounce the truth-tellers than
the liars whom the truth-tellers expose.
- The psychology of belief retention even when those beliefs
are wrong is a pillar of social cohesion and stability. It explains
why, once change is effected, even revolutionary governments become conservative.
The downside of belief retention is its prevention of the recognition of
facts. Belief retention in the Soviet Union made the system unable
to adjust to economic reality, and the Soviet Union collapsed. Today
in the United States millions find it easier to chant "USA, USA, USA"
than to accept facts that indicate the need for change.
- The staying power of the Big Lie is the barrier through
which the 9/11 Truth Movement is finding it difficult to break. The
assertion that the 9/11 Truth Movement consists of conspiracy theorists
and crackpots is obviously untrue. The leaders of the movement are
highly qualified professionals, such as demolition experts, physicists,
structural architects, engineers, pilots, and former high officials in
the government. Unlike their critics parroting the government's line,
they know what they are talking about.
- Here is a link to a presentation by the architect, Richard
Gage, to a Canadian university audience: The video of the presentation
is two hours long and seems to have been edited to shorten it down to two
hours. Gage is low-key, but not a dazzling personality or a very
articulate presenter. Perhaps that is because he is speaking to a university
audience and takes for granted their familiarity with terms and concepts.
- Those who believe the official 9/11 story and dismiss
skeptics as kooks can test the validity of the sociologists' findings and
Hitler's observation by watching the video and experiencing their reaction
to evidence that challenges their beliefs. Are you able to watch the presentation
without scoffing at someone who knows far more about it than you do? What
is your response when you find that you cannot defend your beliefs against
the evidence presented? Scoff some more? Become enraged?
- Another problem that the 9/11 Truth Movement faces is
that few people have the education to follow the technical and scientific
aspects. The side that they believe tells them one thing; the side
that they don't believe tells them another. Most Americans have no basis
to judge the relative merits of the arguments.
- For example, consider the case of the Lockerbie bomber.
One piece of "evidence" that was used to convict Magrahi
was a piece of circuit board from a device that allegedly contained the
Semtex that exploded the airliner. None of the people, who have very
firm beliefs in Magrahi's and Libya's guilt and in the offense of the Scottish
authorities in releasing Magrahi on allegedly humanitarian grounds, know
that circuit boards of those days have very low combustion temperatures
and go up in flames easily. Semtex produces very high temperatures.
There would be nothing whatsoever left of a device that contained
Semtex. It is obvious to an expert that the piece of circuit board
was planted after the event.
- I have asked on several occasions and have never had
an answer, which does not mean that there isn't one, how millions of pieces
of unburnt, uncharred paper can be floating over lower Manhattan from the
destruction of the WTC towers when the official explanation of the destruction
is fires so hot and evenly distributed that they caused the massive steel
structures to weaken and fail simultaneously so that the buildings fell
in free fall time just as they would if they had been brought down by controlled
- What is the explanation of fires so hot that steel fails
but paper does not combust?
- People don't even notice the contradictions. Recently,
an international team of scientists, who studied for 18 months dust samples
produced by the twin towers' destruction collected from three separate
sources, reported their finding of nano-thermite in the dust. The
US government had scientists dependent on the US government to debunk the
finding on the grounds that the authenticity of custody of the samples
could not be verified. In other words, someone had tampered with
the samples and added the nano-thermite. This is all it took to discredit
the finding, despite the obvious fact that access to thermite is strictly
controlled and NO ONE except the US military and possibly Israel has access
- The physicist, Steven Jones, has produced overwhelming
evidence that explosives were used to bring down the buildings. His
evidence is not engaged, examined, tested, and refuted. It is simply
- Dr. Jones' experience reminds me of that of my Oxford
professor, the distinguished physical chemist and philosopher, Michael
Polanyi. Polanyi was one of the 20th century's great scientists. At
one time every section chairman of the Royal Society was a Polanyi student.
Many of his students won Nobel Prizes for their scientific work,
such as Eugene Wigner at Princeton and Melvin Calvin at UC, Berkeley, and
his son, John Polanyi, at the University of Toronto.
- As a young man in the early years of the 20th century,
Michael Polanyi discovered the explanation for chemical adsorption. Scientific
authority found the new theory too much of a challenge to existing beliefs
and dismissed it. Even when Polanyi was one of the UK's ranking scientists,
he was unable to teach his theory. One half-century later his discovery
was re-discovered by scientists at UC, Berkeley. The discovery was
hailed, but then older scientists said that it was "Polanyi's old
error." It turned out not to be an error. Polanyi was
asked to address scientists on this half-century failure of science to
recognize the truth. How had science, which is based on examining
the evidence, gone so wrong. Polanyi's answer was that science is
a belief system just like everything else, and that his theory was outside
the belief system.
- That is what we observe all around us, not just about
the perfidy of Muslims and 9/11.
- As an economics scholar I had a very difficult time making
my points about the Soviet economy, about Karl Marx's theories, and about
the supply-side impact of fiscal policy. Today I experience readers
who become enraged just because I report on someone else's work that is
outside their belief system. Some readers think I should suppress
work that is inconsistent with their beliefs and drive the author of the
work into the ground. These readers never have any comprehension
of the subject. They are simply emotionally offended.
- What I find puzzling is the people I know who do not
believe a word the government says about anything except 9/11. For
reasons that escape me, they believe that the government that lies to them
about everything else tells them the truth about 9/11. How can this
be, I ask them. Did the government slip up once and tell the truth?
My question does not cause them to rethink their belief in the government's
9/11 story. Instead, they get angry with me for doubting their intelligence
or their integrity or some such hallowed trait.
- The problem faced by truth is the emotional needs of
people. With 9/11 many Americans feel that they must believe their
government so that they don't feel like they are being unsupportive or
unpatriotic, and they are very fearful of being called "terrorist
sympathizers." Others on the left-wing have emotional needs
to believe that peoples oppressed by the US have delivered "blowbacks."
Some leftists think that America deserves these blowbacks and thus
believe the government's propaganda that Muslims attacked the US.
- Naive people think that if the US government's explanation
of 9/11 was wrong, physicists and engineers would all speak up. Some
have (see above). However, for most physicists and engineers this would
be an act of suicide. Physicists owe their careers to government grants,
and their departments are critically dependent on government funding. A
physicist who speaks up essentially ends his university career. If
he is a tenured professor, to appease Washington the university would buy
out his tenure as BYU did in the case of the outspoken Steven Jones.
- An engineering firm that spoke out would never again
be awarded a government contract. In addition, its patriotic, flag-waving
customers would regard the firm as a terrorist apologist and cease to do
business with it.
- In New York today there is an enormous push by 9/11 families
for a real and independent investigation of the 9/11 events. Tens
of thousands of New Yorkers have provided the necessary signatures on petitions
that require the state to put the proposal for an independent commission
up to vote. However, the state, so far, is not obeying the law.
- Why are the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are
demanding a real investigation dismissed as conspiracy theorists? The
9/11 skeptics know far more about the events of that day than do the uninformed
people who call them names. Most of the people I know who are content
with the government's official explanation have never examined the evidence.
Yet, these no-nothings shout down those who have studied the matter closely.
- There are, of course, some kooks. I have often
wondered if these kooks are intentionally ridiculous in order to discredit
- Another problem that the 9/11 Truth Movement faces is
that their natural allies, those who oppose the Bush/Obama wars and the
internet sites that the antiwar movement maintains, are fearful of being
branded traitorous and anti-American. It is hard enough to oppose
a war against those the US government has successfully demonized. Antiwar
sites believe that if they permit 9/11 to be questioned, it would brand
them as "terrorist sympathizers" and discredit their opposition
to the war. An exception is Information Clearing House.
- Antiwar sites do not realize that, by accepting the 9/11
explanation, they have undermined their own opposition to the war. Once
you accept that Muslim terrorists did it, it is difficult to oppose punishing
them for the event. In recent months, important antiwar sites, such
as <http://antiwar.com>antiwar.com, have had difficulty with their
fundraising, with their fundraising campaigns going on far longer than
previously. They do not understand that if you grant the government
its premise for war, it is impossible to oppose the war.
- As far as I can tell, most Americans have far greater
confidence in the government than they do in the truth. During the Great
Depression the liberals with their New Deal succeeded in teaching Americans
to trust the government as their protector. This took with the left
and the right. Neither end of the political spectrum is capable of
fundamental questioning of the government. This explains the ease
with which our government routinely deceives the people.
- Democracy is based on the assumption that people are
rational beings who factually examine arguments and are not easily manipulated.
Studies are not finding this to be the case. In my own experience
in scholarship, public policy, and journalism, I have learned that everyone
from professors to high school dropouts has difficulty with facts and analyses
that do not fit with what they already believe. The notion that "we
are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead" is an extremely
romantic and idealistic notion. I have seldom experienced open minds
even in academic discourse or in the highest levels of government. Among
the public at large, the ability to follow the truth wherever it may lead
is almost non-existent.
- The US government's response to 9/11, regardless of who
is responsible, has altered our country forever. Our civil liberties
will never again be as safe as they were. America's financial capability
and living standards are forever lower. Our country's prestige and
world leadership are forever damaged. The first decade of the 21st
century has been squandered in pointless wars, and it appears the second
decade will also be squandered in the same pointless and bankrupting pursuit.
- The most disturbing fact of all remains: The 9/11
event responsible for these adverse happenings has not been investigated.
- Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury
during President Reagan's first term. He was Associate Editor of
the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments,
including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International
Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution,
Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President
Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's
Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet
Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with
Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors
and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice.
Click here for Peter Brimelow's Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts
about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.