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
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.
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.�
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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
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.
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 demolition.
What is the
explanation of fires so hot that steel fails but paper does not combust?
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 to nano-thermite.
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 ignored.
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 rediscovered 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.
what we observe all around us, not just about the perfidy of Muslims and 9/11.
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.
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 in
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.
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
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.
of course, some kooks. I have often wondered if these kooks are intentionally
ridiculous in order to discredit knowledgeable skeptics.
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.
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 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.
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
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
disturbing fact of all remains: The 9/11 event responsible for these adverse
happenings has not been investigated.
Craig Roberts [email
him] 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.