rejecting so-called "conspiracy theories" has been begging the question
Albert, Corn, and Berlet have rejected Ruppert and his allies claims that Bush was behind 9/11 based on their rejection of Ruppert, et al's argument and evidence. Well, Albert et al have no support for their rejection of Ruppert's argument and evidence. They, therefore, only beg us to share their view of the world and whine a lot if we don't.
Michael Albert, David Corn, and Chip Berlet, among others, have rejected the claims of Michael Ruppert, Stan Goff, and Michel Chossudovsky, among others, that George Bush was behind 9/11. They base their rejection on two counts. One is that they reject their argument, the other is they reject their evidence. About the argument, David Corn has claimed,
"I won't argue that the U.S. government does not engage in brutal, murderous skullduggery from time to time. But the notion that the U.S. government either detected the attacks but allowed them to occur, or, worse, conspired to kill thousands of Americans to launch a war-for-oil in Afghanistan is absurd." (When 9/11 Conspiracy Theories Go Bad," March 01, 2002)
Corn goes on to argue that these claims are absurd because no one in the government is capable of such a deed, "Simply put, the spies and special agents are not good enough, evil enough, or gutsy enough to mount this operation." (W 9/11 CTGB)
Chip Berlet argues, in "9/11 Conspiracism and the Left" that Ruppert et al's claims depend on mistaken thinking,
"What is at issue with the more speculative allegations is the question of prior knowledge, and the logical fallacy that the sequence of events implies some causation. The government failing to heed warnings, or Bush allies reaping windfall profits after 9/11, does not prove that there was a conscious plan for the government to ignore warnings of terrorism or, as some have claimed, to actually stage the attacks as part of a U.S. government covert operation."
Michael Albert along with Stephen R. Shalom, in "Conspiracies or Institutions: 9/11 and Beyond," tried to list a number of suggested explanations for the attacks on 9/11, including the idea that the Bush people had prior knowledge and let it happen, and the idea that it was run by the CIA, and other "rogue" elements of the U.S. and other governments. About that list of suggestions, Albert remarks,
"... None of the above strike us as remotely interesting much less plausible. Neither of us would ordinarily have ever spent even five minutes exploring the above claims, because they all fly in the face of our broad understanding of how the world works." (CoI: 9/11 aB)
In sum, then, the attack on Ruppert's argument is to say it is absurd, riddled with mistaken thinking, and implausible because it flies in the face of these critic's broad understanding of "how the world works." I find it hard to accept the claim that there is something wrong with any of the arguments that Ruppert and his allies have made. The simple way to put their point is to say that we depend on government or the President or our employers to protect us from our enemies both foreign and domestic, but with this bunch they are the ones making us suffer. In support of this claim Ruppert, and others, present evidence that shows that the government had prior knowledge, but let it happen, or because Al Queda is a government asset, the attacks are best understood as being done by the government to its own people. In either case, Bush was behind 9/11. Albert and the rest have no trouble understanding what Ruppert and his allies are claiming. If his argument was so riddled with mistaken thinking, I'd think they would have real questions about what sense Ruppert was making.
This attack on the argument stands next to their attack on the evidence gathered by Ruppert, et al, to support their argument. I have heard that Chomsky's general position on the claims made by Ruppert, et al, is that he doesn't think they have any evidence to support them. In general, it seems Albert, Corn, and Berlet reject Ruppert's evidence as trivial, or distracting. Berlet argues,
"Ruppert, however, makes sweeping claims that cannot be verified at a time when there is some much verifiable wrongdoing by the government and corporations that the outcome, no matter how unintentional, is that Ruppert's allegations serve to distract from serious progressive opposition to the status quo and sometimes even discredit it." (9/11 CatL)
The issue of whether Ruppert has already verified his claims by presenting the materials in his timelines, for example, is not addressed by Berlet. One can ask the question what Bush's actions were before 9/11 and be unable to verify any speculation about them if, for example, the President refuses to allow any investigation to occur. The fact that the Bush administration is not in the forefront of a thorough investigation would seem to support Ruppert et al's claims that Bush has much to hide.
Albert tells us, in C or I: 9/11 and B, that as a conspiracy theorist, Ruppert and his allies, are guilty of going about their investigations in the wrong ways. They have a "certain general methodological approach and set of priorities." So, the problem with this is,
"Conspiracy theorists begin their quest for understanding events by looking for groups acting secretly, either outside usual institutional norms in a rogue fashion, or, at the very least to manipulate public impressions, to cast guilt on other parties, and so on. Conspiracy theorists focus on conspirators' methods, motives, and effects. Personalities, personal timetable, secret meetings, and conspirators' joint actions claim priority attention. Institutional relations drop from view."
The problem with Ruppert's dealing with conspiracies and secret behavior, according to Albert, is not so much that the evidence of such behavior does not exist, but that even if one spent the time seeking evidence of such behavior, it would not lead to lasting social change. So, Albert argues,
"For social activists, it makes sense to develop institutional theories because they uncover lasting features with ubiquitous recurring implications. On the other hand, if an event arises from a unique conjuncture of particular people who seize extrasystemic opportunities, then even though institutions undoubtedly play some role, that role may not be generalizable and an institutional theory may be impossible to construct. For a district attorney, it is sufficient to identify individual wrong-doers, but for those seeking social change it is important to go beyond particular participants. Unique events, of course, could be hugely consequential - as in the attempt to assassinate Hitler - but exploring the details of such events rarely if ever facilitates understanding society or history."
Albert, here, seems to be arguing, not that Ruppert does not have any evidence that Bush was behind 9/11, but that the kind of claims he's pursuing and the evidence he's amassing will not lead to an institutional account of society or history and won't thereby lead to making lasting changes. Of course, we should remember that what sets Albert and Chomsky off from many on the left is their theoretical baggage on just this issue. Whereas the Marxists shot the Czar because they thought that was needed to change Russia, anarchists like Chomsky think that shooting the Czar was pointless unless there were also changes in the underlying institutions that gave the czar of Russia his power in the first place. If you don't change institutions, then, according to their argument, you get the same kind of hierarchical politics as when there were czars, only called by different names. This point about institutions has always been a strong issue for Chomshy, in my mind. However, the question having to do with Ruppert, et al, is whether it is appropriate to insist that we ignore Ruppert's evidence of wrong doing because we need to also change institutions. Albert has done nothing, by my reading, to challenge the claim that Ruppert, et al, are just putting together the kind of case a District Attorney might amass against individual wrong doers. According to Albert, he has no objection to such a project. So at this point, Albert has no objection to either Ruppert's argument or his evidence.
I am struck by the claim that Ruppert, et al, are "conspiracy theorists." Berlet's article is about such theorists on the left and the right. I have been skeptical of Albert, et al's claim that the argument about Bush being behind 9/11 was a matter of conspiracy thinking because it seemed such an obvious ad hominem argument. I was supposed to recall there are conspiracy theorists on the right that rave on about Jews and the U.S. being sold out by Liberals to U.N forces riding in on black helicopters.
I have rejected these ideas because they depend on false notions that an entire people can be stereotyped, and that Jews or Liberals could be in a position to sell out the country. In fact, I've gone the other way and thought it was republicans and conservatives who might be in a better position to sell out the country because they tend to own more of it.
However, I now think it's been a mistake to reject these claims in their entirety because they share with Ruppert, et al's claims that our protector, whether the government, social institutions, or the President, is responsible for or complicit with out suffering. The mistake here has been to allow the issue of our liberal/conservative differences and views of various religions and minorities dictate for us our position on the issue of whether our protector has been harming us.
I want to step back from rejecting the stories about black helicopters and Jewish perfidity. I want to say, hey, interesting claims, if true. And then I insist that the people making these claims support their arguments with evidence. Have them account for my objections. I want to do this because I will at the same time expect the same response about Ruppert, and his allies claims about Bush being behind 9/11.
The reason Ruppert sounds absurd to Albert, Corn, Berlet, and others, is that what he says may challenge their "broad understanding of the way the world works." Well, yes, their claims do challenge the way most people think the world works. But by not more effectively dealing with the evidence that Ruppert and his allies have put forward, Albert begs us to take his view of the world over Ruppert's. Albert and his crew offers us no real reason to think Bush was not behind 9/11, despite whatever preconceptions most of us have about what Bush should have been doing.
address: conspiracy theories both right and left have a point
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