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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

911 Redux: Where is That Decoder Ring When We Need It? - by Danny Schechter

In times like these, wouldn’t it be great if we all had what, Captain Midnight, A TV hero from my youth brandished as a “decoder ring?” As we get ready to begin September’s fifth year anniversary commemoration of events of 9/11, we all need help in sorting out—“decoding”---the dramatic changes that followed the “Day That Changed Everything.”

And, yes, there is a “code,” a top secret code, a clear understanding among many in power that the American public would never understand, much less support, what would be done, what “had to be done” in their/our name unless it was coded, renamed, reframed, and in effect, hidden in a very public language that made it culturally acceptable, and politically palatable.

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And so it was “concealed in plain sight,” as language used to convey its opposite meaning in the way that George Orwell anticipated so many years ago, when “peace” meant war, and black was really white in his prophetic book Animal Farm. He was decoding a Soviet Empire then. We are confronting an American one now.

But the challenge is the same.

In that fallen empire—fallen, let us remember, as a result of its military defeat in faraway Afghanistan, the place that consumed them then, and still consumes us now. The State was their key player with the old party apparatchiks clinging to an unrealizable ideology. In ours, the “ private sector”—the corporations, multinationals and the media they own---are the prime movers behind the scenes as lobbyists and linguists advancing their special interests in the name of, and as, the public interest. Their new world order of top-down, stage-managed control is no different in its essentials than the shadowy machinations of the Comintern.

They know how the game is played now and how “the cheese has moved,” and that the informal institutions of influence are far more powerful than the formal institutions of democracy. They know that reality is what people perceive it to be and that “managing” those perceptions, spinning and sloganizing them, is far more essential than explaining anything.

The Bolsheviks did it crudely in the name of their party line for seventy-five years. Now, the Busheviks are doing the same with neoconology in a very different setting where back room players and corruption by avaricious industries call the shots, usually out of sight. The media knows it but no rarely shows it until it becomes too blatant, or “Enronesque, “ to ignore.

To shape and a manage public opinion and even attempt to manipulate it, you need more than message points. You need to know more than you can learn from monitoring what we say to each. Illegal Wiretapping can handle that but brain tapping demands more sophisticated research and modalities,

The DC-based “Mellman Group” (which works for Democrats by the way) is just one of the many firms on the cutting-edge of “perception management,” based on a deep understanding of mass psychology and strategies for applying findings from sophisticated research. Here’s how they explain their mission:

“People often make decisions that they themselves cannot explain. These decisions emerge from the complex interplay of attitudes, emotions, beliefs, values and perceptions. At The Mellman Group we design our research to probe beneath the surface, to lay bare the structure of decision-making and individual choice. The result? An ability to read the complexities of attitudes and opinions and a track record of successfully changing them.”

One of the techniques is called “strategic mapping:” “Strategic mapping graphically represents the psychology of choice. Each combination of techniques we choose helps us reveal the underlying structure of decisions for consumers and voters around the world.”

Which brings us to 9/11 and its conflicting theories:

There have always been two often intersecting theories of history: the conspiracy theory referencing action by deliberate design, and then the “f*ck up theory” that implies incompetence and unintended consequences. Sometimes these two theories morph and merge.

Ironically, it was the Bush Administration that first rolled out its own conspiracy theory: the “Al-Qaeda did it” conclusion. It seemed so obvious. “They” conspired. “They” planned it. “They” hijacked the planes. “They” crashed them into buildings--except when they didn’t.

And the media bought it and recycled this storyline endlessly in print, radio and TV, as part of a relentless scattershot chronicle of demonization filled with contradictions and omissions that at different times included the Saudis, the Pakistanis, the city of Dubai, Saddam Hussein and just about every Immam and Mullah out there. On September 11th an AMTRAK passenger train was stopped when a rider suspected that an Indian traveler with a turban was part of the Taliban. Others have been denied air passage because of their T-shirts.

It often seems as if the “terrorists” are everywhere and no where at the same time. It is us versus them.

(This rampant paranoia reminds me of the old joke about the cop about to arrest a communist during the bad old days of the Red Scare. The man protests that he is an “anti-communist.” The cop responds, “I don’t care what kind of communist you are.”)

This is the official narrative repeated without pause, legitimated by the 9/11 Commission, signed, sealed and delivered. It is always offered up as ‘just the facts, ma’am’ “real story” by some self-styled “terrorism expert.”

Yet, as South African writer Nadine Gordimer recognizes, “the facts are always less than what happened.”

Other “facts” soon began dribbling out, unofficial facts to contradict the official ones. They added up to “Inconvenient Truths” as in the gospel according to Al Gore. And suddenly two new theories offered a widely believed “counter-narrative”—even as this one has yet to fully penetrate the mass media guardians of public order and understandings.

The first is the incompetence theory, the by now accepted reality of screw-ups without end that, when taken together, would in any other society lead to prosecutable crimes and misdemeanors. Surely a country which spent three years embroiled in the Clinton witch trial should be capable of going after a real abuse of power.

This shameful record will no longer stay buried as we learn of failures to act despite as many as 60 warnings, fatally flawed intelligence procedures, agencies not communicating or consciously deceiving each other and themselves, of billion dollar Air Defense Systems not defending the country, of a lack of emergency planning, and as in the case of the World Trade Center an absence of preparedness, police and fire radios that didn’t work, and “America’s Mayor” more consumed with his image and “legacy” than it protecting the responders who were allowed and encouraged to work in conditions known to be dangerous without safety provisions.

All you will need are three sources to persuade you of the colossal “f*ck-up that was 9/11: two new books, Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, and “Grand Illusion” by Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins exposing Rudy Giuliani’s fraudulent heroism, and, now, the new Globalvision assisted documentary 911: Press for Truth on the 911 Commission cover-up and the pernicious role played by our media.

Beyond all this is the Bush Did It counter-conspiracy theories propounded in different form on a thousand books websites and films like “Loose Change” that claim to “connect the dots” by identifying the long and nefarious hand of government complicity—not just duplicity-- behind 911.

Some of those propounding these views sometime seem fanatical as if they are waging their own Jihad based on an almost fundamentalist certainty that they know what happened. Everyone has heard the claims of controlled demolitions and missiles used to stage a new Pearl Harbor. There may be truth here---but is it the only truth?

It seems clear that even if the government did not prepare 911, they were prepared to use it to political advantage and to have it economically benefit their many donors and “partners.”

And the fear-mongering and war making is continuing to this day even as a once sympathetic world soon had enough of the cynical self-serving victimology—and ‘patriotically correct’ posturing. This has fueled abuses of our constitution and hatred of Muslim peoples. It has fueled terrorism, not contained it.

In the weeks ahead, let us call for the media, that part of it anyway that is least compromised to shed prior assumptions and safe conclusions and become open to investigating all these narratives as some did finally about the phony claims of WMD’s in Iraq.

More than two towers collapsed on 911. Our democracy has fallen with them. In years past, in similar mysteries of history, it has taken more than 5 years for the truth to surface. (Example: it took 50 years to learn that an engine room explosion brought down the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in 1998, not Spanish sabotage. That false “attack” was used as pretext for the bloody Spanish American War.)

The only danger today is that we may not have the time to wait. Fascism—real fascism, as defined not as religious Muslims but as autocratic corporate rule--has a funny way of becoming irreversible. To see the signs, many seem to need that new kind of decoder ring.

New Dissector Danny Schechter is “blogger in chief” of and author of “When News Lies.” (SelectBook) Comments to

© Copyright 2006
911 Redux: Where is That Decoder Ring When We Need It?


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