The Pencil Today:

Truth Is Duller Than Fiction

One of those near and dear to me in my adopted hometown of Bloomington feels I’m betraying the journalists’ code of curiosity when I dismiss 9/11 Truthers and other conspiracy theorists.

The other day I wrote about the discovery of a piece of the landing gear wedged in between a couple of high-rises several blocks away from New York City’s Ground Zero. It’s believed to have come from one of the two planes that slammed into the World Trade Center towers. I typed: “Gear up, Truthers!”

9/11 Truther

This pal of mine happens to be a crackerjack news reporter and takes the journalists’ creed and vocation seriously. The old City News Bureau motto — If your mother says she loves you, check it out — could be her personal mantra.

All that said, she’s all wet.

At least in this case.

She points out an article from a website called Truth Theory that lists “5 Conspiracy Theories Which Turned Out To Be True.” They are, in order:

  • The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (you know about this so I don’t have to explain it)
  • Operation Northwoods (a proposed series of terrorist attacks on US soil that could be blamed on Castro’s Cuba, thereby galvanizing public support behind an invasion of that island nation)


Fidel Castro

  • The Nayirah Testimony (some little brat daughter of a Kuwaiti oil sheik testified that Saddam Hussein’s army was brutal as part of the propaganda lead-up to Gulf War I)
  • Operation Paperclip (the US imported German rocket scientists to work on our space program after the Nazis had been defeated in World War II)
  • MK-Ultra (the CIA experimented with hallucinogens, hypnosis, subliminal messaging, and other methods to  determine their efficacy in “mind control” as well as in cracking captured Soviet spies.

The idea being, if your federal government could do these things, why couldn’t it blow up several structures vitally important to global finance, killing thousands, and creating a byzantine cover story just so that it could…, um, y’know, do something or another.


The Plot In Action

If “conspiracy” means anything the government does that is criminal or abusive, then yes, there are “conspiracies.” The funny thing is one of these “true conspiracies” never even happened; the author of the piece admits Operation Northwoods was nixed out of hand. That’s a strange way to prove the existence of “conspiracies.”

The word “conspiracy,” of course, implies a secret, nefarious plot carried out to fool the rest of us — save the wise and perceptive souls who’ve sussed the whole thing out. Operation Paperclip was so secret that Werner von Braun, the top Nazi rocket scientist, held a press conference upon surrendering to American soldiers, pledging loyalty to the US. A little more than a year later, a national magazine ran an article revealing that some of the hundreds of German emigre scientists were having a tough time getting used to American cooking.

If you’re beginning to think US authorities and the ex-Nazis themselves were awful at keeping their secret, conspiracy theorists have a ready response: Conspirators love to parade their “secrets” in the open; it’s the best way to keep them, well, secret.

That, as much as anything, illustrates the fascinating thought processes of conspiracy theorists.

My guess is the CTs (I’m tired of typing conspiracy theorist) will be falling all over themselves to create wilder stories than ever about this hunk of landing gear discovered a dozen years after the fact.

ABC News

The Landing Gear & Its Resting Place (Inset)

I suppose it’s exciting to think of the White House and the Kremlin and a hundred other seats of sovereign power being packed to the point of bursting with archcriminals and mad scientists who sit around tables conjuring evil plans to take over the planet. A geo-political world that’s the setting for the mother of all grand spy/mystery/apocalypse novels would be, no doubt, entertaining. The real world in which national leaders countenance mass rape as a military strategy and multi-national corporations work tirelessly behind the scenes to purchase political sway is simultaneously repulsive and yawn-inducing.

Dig Matt Taibbi’s take on the Truthers (from The Great Derangement, Speigel & Grau, 2009):

In 9/11 Truth lore, the people who staff the White House, the security agencies, the Pentagon and groups like PNAC and the Council on Foreign Relations are imagined to be a monolithic, united class of dastardly, swash-buckling risk-takers with permanent hard-ons for Bourne Supremacy-style “false flag” and “black bag” operations, instead of the mundanely greedy, risk-averse, backstabbing, lawn-tending, half-clever suburban golfers they are in real life.

Wait, there’s more:

The people who really run America don’t send the likes of George Bush and Dick Cheney to the White House to cook up boat-rocking, maniacal, world-domination plans and commit massive criminal conspiracies on live national television; they send them there to repeal PUHCA and dole out funds for the F-22 and pass energy bills with $14 billion tax breaks and slash fuel-efficiency standards and do all the other shit that never makes the newspapers but keeps Wall Street and the country’s corporate boardrooms happy.

In other words, Hannah Arendt was right: the truest and most insidious evil is the most banal.

And that’s no fun.

Journalism Heroes

This is the second post in a row in which I’ve quoted Matt Taibbi. Long-time readers of this column know I go gaga over Taibbi.

A contributing editor for Rolling Stone, Taibbi has penned the most incisive, righteously angry stories about the financial meltdown of 2007-08 to be found in any news outlet. He redefined the term vampire squid to describe the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs in its historic role in America’s bubble economy.

Vampire Squid

Goldman Sachs Boss Lloyd Blankfein Relaxes In His Pool

He just may be my fave journalist working today.

So, I figure I’ll give you my full rundown of excellent journalists at work today. You’ll note not a single one comes from the corporate media establishment. That’s because the people working for those profit-driven infotainment, news-as-soap-opera, bootlicking, obfuscating PR firms for the power elite are neither journalists nor excellent. As an example, Washingtonian magazine, the journal of the DC fecal-matter-encrusted ruling class, has named ABC’s George Stephanopoulos as one of the top 50 journalists in the nation. Stephanopoulos, you may recall, had his lips surgically removed from Bill Clinton’s posterior and went on to become one of the brightest lights in the phony-assed, professional wrestling inspired, faux two-sides-to-every-issue Sunday morning talk show world.

It’s like naming Psy one of the greatest musicians of the 21st Century.


He’s Not

Here, then, are the good reporters:


Klein, Ehrenreich & Taibbi

None of these people, as far as I know, attended last night’s White House Correspondents Dinner, an annual affair wherein corporate news media toadies are invited to laugh at the sitting president’s tepid jokes and breathe a rarified air reserved for only the best of America’s courtiers.

As Chris Hedges says, if you’re a journalist making $5 million a year, you should start to worry. Problem is, the “journalists” who make that kind of dough think their worries are over.

4 thoughts on “The Pencil Today:

  1. -bill says:

    I don’t subscribe to the elaborate conspiracies that the Truthers preach. For me, the concept of false flag, black ops involvement in 9/11 simply fails on every facet. Except one.
    That the warning of a potential attack was dismissed and downplayed.

    The “Bring it ON!” cowboys providing the Shrub’s “intelligence” wanted a reason to revisit Iraq. They got far more than they anticipated, but that didn’t change the plan; which was immediately put into action. Mission Accomplished.

    Spinning this simple, admitted, “lapse” into what we have 12 years later is actually made easier by deeper, more vast conspiracy theorists.

    They got away with it and we’re none the wiser for it.

  2. How perfect that I was listening to a long cut from Firesign Theater’s “Everything You Know Is Wrong” while reading this article. I appreciate Taibbi’s framing of the difference in viewpoint between “rabbit hole” evil and “what’s in front of your face” evil – that’s a relatable framing, because there are always going to be humans who are determined to face the daily details of struggle, and humans who are more attracted to sussing out larger patterns. I don’t see an inherent moral difference or conflict between the two positions — they’re just different positions from which to view the events we experience. And life is made of stories, as the poet Muriel Rukeyser said.

  3. PS — I still wuv you, Mikey.

  4. Steve Llewellyn says:

    I’m not active in the 9/11 Truth world, but have attended presentations over the years put on by locals, many of whom you know and respect, dedicated to this cause.

    But I have two problems with your article: one is the implication that the discovery of this landing gear somehow discredits Truthers’ ideas about what REALLY happened on 9/11, and the other is the reference to the 5 conspiracy theories article, which although likely accurate, is hardly the basis for disbelieving our government’s excuses for taking us into any wars.

    I’ve only heard one person suggest that no planes hit the twin towers – that they were holograms. The main issues, as I’ve gathered over the years, are: a.) Was the government aware that an attack was imminent, and involved? b.) Were the towers, and WTC7, brought down by controlled demolition, aided by the use of nanothermite? The “Bin Laden determined to strike the US” PDB that Bush got a month prior to the attack and the failure of NORAD to deal with any of the hijacked planes (OK, they likely shot down the one over Pennsylvania. After all, a plane crashing doesn’t leave debris over a 6 mile area) suggests that something was amiss. And those towers falling like they did. Maybe the twins, but to suggest WTC7 just spontaneously collapsed in a fashion just like a controlled demolition due to some small fires throughout the building is laughable. Look at the video, for christ’s sake. And if you haven’t already, read the NIST report on the events of that day. Often cited by the ‘hijackers did it all crowd,’ it’s a piece of crap.

    Beyond MK Ultra, Northwoods, Tuskegee, etc., there’s the much larger issue of how we got into past wars. “Remember the Maine!?” Bullshit used to get us into the Spanish-American war. The Gulf of Tonkin incident. Bullshit used to get us into Vietnam. And most recently, WMDs, yellowcake, aluminum tubes and the rest of the bullshit used to get us into Iraq. It’s these larger lies that should most concern us. That, and Eisenhower’s warning about the rise of the military-industrial-congressional complex (that’s got us by the balls).

    Taibbi’s my favorite journalist, and I agree with his assessment of the PNAC crew, BUT that doesn’t mean they weren’t involved in 9/11. Remember, Dick Chaney’s beloved Halliburton was on the verge of bankruptcy before Iraq, where they got $39 billion in contracts. Like any other issue in the world of human affairs, always follow the money.

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