Here are some thoughts that I've developed on the issue of conspiracy theories. There has been some controversy at Pacifica over Michael Ruppert and his view that the Bush administration had advance warning of the 9/11 attacks. Today Ruppert was interviewed by Gary Null on these issues and here are main the points of disagreement with the anti-conspiracists the we share.
1. Despite the fact that Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and many Pacifica journalists have often relied on questionable characters as sources for their reports on allegations of criminal activity by the US government Ruppert has been attacked for allegedly using similar sources. Why should we believe Mike Vreeland who Ruppert says warned the US government of 9/11? Vreeland has been called a liar and a crank, why isn’t he?
2. The Nation’s David Corn says Ruppert's citations often "don’t pan out." How do we know that Ruppert's facts are accurate? In fact Corn presents himself as an “expert” on 9/11, its causes and its perpetrators. However, Corn has not presented any theories of any kind that explain 9/11 except in the most general terms that poverty in the third world contributes to a violent hatred of the US government and capitalist establishment. Corn makes no reference to the recent congressional hearings that showed a shocking lack of attention to numerous threats of terrorist actions against eh US. Corn makes no reference to the tape of FBI informant Emad Salem that was uncovered by Pacifica reporter Paul DeRienzo showing some sort of possible foreknowledge of an attack on the World Trade Center by FBI officials. That tape is played often to this day on WBAI and Corn has made no comment on its troubling potential meaning. Neither does Corn make reference to Jean-Charles Brisard’s book “Forbidden Truth” that targets US-Taliban secret oil diplomacy as a cause for the 9/11 attacks. Brisard has been a guest on Democracy Now saying many of the same things as Ruppert and yet neither Corn nor Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has made any criticisms of Amy Goodman as they have made of Ruppert.
3. In the wake of 9/11 many have questioned the role of the US government, often based on past lies and conspiracies. In fact in the late 80s there was a conspiracy theory labeled “The October Surprise” based on the theft of Democratic party planning documents and rumors that George Bush Sr. was plotting with the Reagan administration to launch a war or other intervention in Central America to create a patriotic backlash and insure a 1988 Republican election victory.
The “October Surprise” was widely presented as fact on the Pacifica network, especially WBAI. In fact Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting members and associates were among the loudest proponents of the “October Surprise” conspiracy theory. In fact FAIR often mentioned the mainstream media’s ignoring of the “October Surprise” as a symptom of conservative and corporate control of the media. Currently FAIR founder and former Executive Director Jeff Cohen has been hired by MSNBC as senior producer of the Phil Donahue show. Prior to that, while still employed by FAIR, Cohen was a panelist on Fox TV’s “Fox News Watch.” FAIR member Norman Solomon has bitterly criticized Mike Ruppert because of his tenacious investigation into possible US government foreknowledge of 9/11. Why was the “October Surprise” conspiracy theory good enough for FAIR in the 80s, but Ruppert’s current research, in the era of FAIR’s rise to commercial media prominence, not good enough for today’s Pacifica, especially taking into account FAIR’s deep involvement with the recent Pacifica civil war.
4. Chip Berlet has deservedly made a career on critiquing other people’s journalism, while searching for evidence of creeping right-wing influence in leftist movements. Berlet says he is not against conspiracy theories per se, but he is worried when these theories overshadow more conventional leftists analysis of the worlds ills. But, what Berlet leaves out is the chilling effect his work can have on honest inquiry. Currently no one really knows for sure who was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center. No one knows for sure why the Center was attacked except for general and obvious reasons like dislike in some quarters for US policies in the Middle East and support of Israel. This has caused a great deal of consternation among liberals and leftists who fear loosing the political high ground to conservative war hawks like Bush who are speaking to many American’s anger and desire for justice and retribution against those deemed responsible for the attacks. Looking at the Democrats’ disastrous showing in the mid-term elections are we being paralyzed, as the democrats were, by our fear of dealing honestly with what might turn out to be very uncomfortable facts about the nature of terrorism. Why aren’t you contributing to a right-wing backlash by focusing on conspiratorial so-called “evil groups,” as charged by Berlet, within the government as the reason for oppression and suffering?
5. Why should journalists “give you a megaphone” as asked by David Corn? Is here a tendency by some charged-up political activists to self-identify as “experts” who feel they should be the ones to tell progressives what they need to hear. Is it acceptable in a Democracy to filter ideas through a handful of such “experts” in order to “protect” the public from controversial, disturbing or even wring headed ideas. What does it say about these “experts” and so-called political activists that they, despite their self-proclaimed progressivism, have such a low opinion of the public as to believe they would be so easily mislead as to need to be protected from investigations that might not jibe with the accepted orthodoxy of the leftist community. What ever happened to informed decision making by democratic citizens?