By Jefferson Flanders

On Friday night, Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly briefly debated David Corn of the Nation magazine and Newsday‘s Ellis Henican about the dangers of home-grown anti-Americanism and its export overseas; O’Reilly focused on Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban’s plans to fund the overseas distribution of Loose Change, a film which suggests that the attacks on 9/11 were an inside job by the U.S. government.

O’Reilly’s liberal guests discounted any significant impact of anti-American screeds from the far Left, arguing that they represented only voices from the fringe. Henican brushed aside any concerns when O’Reilly questioned him about the potential danger of showing Loose Change in the Middle East.

What I found fascinating about the conversation was how Corn and Henican assumed that viewers would see through the patent absurdities of Loose Change. (To his credit Corn has debunked 9/11 conspiracy claims). The reality is that a shockingly high percentage of Americans are suspicious about U.S. government complicity (36 percent suspect the U.S. government promoted the attacks or intentionally sat on its hands, according to a Scripps Howards/Ohio University survey) ; a BBC poll in September 2006 found 16% of Britons believed there was a wider 9/11 conspiracy involving the American government while 20% said they did not know.

Why wouldn’t wide-spread distribution of Loose Change, financed by a billionaire (Cuban) with an added narration by an American movie star (Charlie Sheen), and the attendant publicity, further influence public opinion here and overseas? And doesn’t that matter?

The U.S. 9/11 “Truth Movement” is mirrored in Europe by similar groups. Don’t forget there were 9/11 conspiracy best-sellers in France and Germany in the first several years after the attacks. Former German government minister Andreas von Bülow argued that 9/11 was part of a neoconservative conspiracy (including Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency) to give the Bush Administration justification to attack Iraq in his book “The CIA and September 11.” French author Thierry Meyssan in his “The Big Lie” (versions in 28 languages) claimed that it was a U.S. missile that hit the Pentagon on that September day, not a hijacked American Airlines 757, again as part of an dark, elaborate plot to create “an hegemonic military regime.”

Why does challenging the conspiracists matter? Why should Cuban and Sheen be publicly confronted over their complicity in advancing these noxious theories?

It should be deeply disturbing that a third of the U.S. populace would question whether its own government could be involved in mass murder—because that is the ugly charge actually being made. If you believe that 9/11 was part of a Bush Administration conspiracy, you believe American government officials killed nearly 3,000 of their fellow citizens in cold blood. (I’ve also written before how the false “Bush lied on WMD” meme unfortunately fuels this paranoia.)

Who would argue that is healthy for the democratic political process? The acceptance of conspiracy theories makes political debate difficult, if not impossible. It creates an atmosphere of enmity and suspicion. It encourages the growth of extremism, since a government that would murder its own people can hardly be trusted on anything, could it? The 9/11 “Truth Movement” and “docugandas” like Loose Change represent the equivalent of a political virus—challenging their fabrications publicly is a way to help inoculate Americans against infection.

Many of the 9/11 conspiracy groups embrace theories tinged by anti-Semitism. The European branches of the 9/11 “Truth Movement” are more open in arguing Israeli involvement in the attacks, including as the BBC puts it, that “the Jews were forewarned about the attack,” a libel the U.S. State Department, among others, has addressed and debunked on its website.

This is particularly of concern if Mark Cuban plans to underwrite the distribution of Loose Change in the Middle East, where 9/11 Denial has always had a receptive audience. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 many Arabs denied that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were behind the attacks, but over time, as bin Laden publicly accepted responsibility, the idea that the Mossad and CIA plotted 9/11 has faded. It would be a tragic irony if an American-produced and financed film resuscitates this discredited propaganda.

So O’Reilly has it right. Sunlight is the best disinfectant—and the 9/11 “Truth Movement” needs to be challenged with the facts. While the truth may seem self-evident or obvious to the mainstream media, the opinion poll numbers suggest that isn’t the case for a dismayingly large number of people in America and the wider world. More exposure of the shabby 9/11 fabrications is needed. As George Orwell once wrote, sometimes the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent people.

9/11 Conspiracies and the Facts

A full debunking of “Loose Change” can be found here.

The Popular Mechanics debunking of common 9/11 conspiracy theories can be found here.

An extended commentary on the 9/11 “Truth Movement” can be found at “Exposing the 9/11 conspiracy fantasies.”

Reprinted from Neither Red nor Blue

Copyright © 2007 Jefferson Flanders

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