Posts tagged with Journalism
Note to readers: This article does not advocate 9/11 conspiracy theories. No where in the article does the author state "9/11 was an inside job," or even imply as much.
All that said, to properly understand the context of this article, readers should know that dozens of high-ranking government officials have called for a new investigation, and over 220+ senior Military, Intelligence Service, Law Enforcement, and Government Officials have also criticized the official story. This includes 41 U.S. Counter-Terrorism and Intelligence Agency Veterans*. Hopefully this makes clear that criticizing the 9/11 commission does not imply inside job or conspiracy. Rather, there is a wide degree of middle ground which is the focus of this article.
With the 11th anniversary of September 11th, 2001 just around the corner, we can expect America and our media to look back once again on this turning point in our nation's history.
But like every year before it, we will look back with our eyes half open, not wanting to look at the full complexity of this enormously influential event, preferring to remember and reflect on a simplified caricature of our history instead. It's the story that our government and nation's media settled on quickly in the days and months following the attack, and despite all the new information that has come to light, it is the story that sticks with us today.
It's a story of a great nation taken by surprise, of a country built by a love of freedom attacked by those who hate it. It's a simple story. You know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are immediately. Our government may have been neglectful or incompetent, but it was essentially innocent - a victim of a tragic act as much as the people who died that day. The 9/11 Commission confirmed this, placing the blame nowhere in particular but on Osama Bin Laden and the hijackers that aided him. And a comic book for kids further iconified our story for a whole new generation to help come to grips with this event.
What's most sad, to me, is that this story is a fiction. Not because it doesn't contain some truth, but because it doesn't contain all of it. To do this story justice, you have to tell the whole story, so far as we know it, and it's fair to say that story has never been told.
But to tell the whole story of 9/11 is impossible in our current cultural climate. To criticize this story at all will have you quickly branded a "conspiracy theorist." Because when it comes to 9/11, there is no room for gray area, no room for nuance or complexity (or a deep memory of history for that matter). Those reading this may even be holding their breath for that regrettable moment when I declare that "9/11 was an inside job" simply because this article didn't begin with the implicit acknowledgment of the official story.
And that's the terrible position that most journalists and citizens find themselves boxed into: Either you implicitly acknowledge the official story or you get lumped into the other extreme as a "9/11 truther" - a label which could be associated with the most respectable beliefs among the movement or the most ludicrous and absurd, depending on what media exposure has shaped your opinion of what the label implies. Either Osama did it and our government is blameless or Osama had nothing to do with it and our government staged the whole thing. Really? Is the truth really found in one of these extremes?
I think it's time this black and white thinking is challenged. America deserves a grown-up telling of this story and journalists have a professional responsibility to provide it.
It's true, there is a lot of misinformation on the subject, from official sources and from activist voices. That is why it is the journalist's job to impartially look at all the available evidence, sift out the unsubstantiated claims (no matter the source) and report on the facts as best as they can be discerned. Will this evidence disprove some official claims? Yes it will. Will it disprove some 9/11 truth movement claims? Yes it will. The responsibility of journalists is to weave complex narratives that deal in nuance and gray area.
To say this story can be summed up in a black and white fashion, making our government out to be blameless or the only blame, is a disservice to reality. So that is the tough job Films For Action has embarked on. It is the job all journalists should aspire to, despite that being largely an exception to the rule.
The sad, hard truth of the matter is that, to tell the whole truth, you're going to have to piss off a lot of people.
The government would prefer a black and white conclusion because the "you're either with us or against us" rhetoric makes it easier to promote aggressive foreign and domestic policy without dissent.
The media prefers it because it makes writing stories easier and they don't have to stick their necks out or risk getting fired, as Dan Rather did for a story critical of then-president Bush.
The 9/11 truth movement, while dealing in grey area more than most, can jump to conclusions too quickly, suffers from one-sidedness, and can overestimate their case in an effort to counteract the imbalance of the current debate.
People in general would prefer to think in terms of black and white, because no one would rationally want to consider that their government is anything but universally a force of good.
No matter which way you cut it, it's hard to deal with complexities. And you can't sum that up in a slogan or a soundbite.
Of course, all these words are meaningless unless it can be proved that a critical view of the official story is a credible and principled position to take. And to demonstrate this, this author would point you to one compilation of news stories.
Although widely under-reported by even 9/11 justice advocates, the mainstream media itself has verified and reported on enough contradictory news stories to justify the movement's basic call for a new investigation.*1
Taken together, this 25 page timeline of 9/11 may be one of the best, highly nuanced, full accounts of this story that has been compiled so far. And all of it has been sourced by mainstream news outlets.
The fact that this information has actually been reported on by established, credible news organizations with rigorous fact-checking departments may come as a shock to many. After all, we're led to believe that all the good, honest reporting on the subject unanimously supports the clear-cut 9/11 commission's findings, and that anything critical of this story was put together by amateur alternative media which can easily be debunked. But of course, such stereotypes are false as well.
This is one of the more incredible stories behind the story of how the media has reported on 9/11. The mainstream media has, in the course of hundreds of news stories, written a powerful "unofficial" history of 9/11. It is exactly the story that must be told, and it is anything but black or white.
In fact, it severely undercuts the official story. Some might say it completely "destroys it." But you cannot sum it up with any slogan or simple conclusion. To say "9/11 was an inside job" is as much a disservice to the truth as saying "they hate us for our freedoms." To get the full truth, so much as we know it today, you simply have to read it yourself.
*1 -- It's also worth noting that "the movement" is not the only direction this demand is coming from. Dozens of high-ranking government officials, many even personally involved in the 9/11 Commission, are calling for a new investigation - making this legitimate, high-profile story one of the most under-reported and ignored news stories in recent memory.
For more on Films For Action official position on 9/11, see our F.A.Q.
Note to readers: Please note that this is not an article about 9/11 conspiracy theories. No where in the article does the author state "9/11 was an inside job," or even imply as much. Also of note, there are not "two sides to this story" - criticizing the 9/11 commission does not imply inside job or conspiracy. In fact, criticism does not imply or necessitate conclusions being made, despite everyone wanting to jump to conclusions.
What is the full truth of 9/11/2001? It is, quite simply, to tell all sides of the story. It means weaving together all the known facts, unanswered questions, significant actors and conflicting viewpoints into a single complex narrative that gives fair weight and context to all the relevant perspectives. It means writing the news - and the analysis of that news - independent from government, advertising, corporate, and cultural pressures.
Very few journalists, sadly, have done this, or are capable of this. But I believe it remains the duty of all good journalists to feature critical perspectives on 9/11. They should be prepared to do this regardless of the political cost or potential loss in support this may cause. Once a journalist or citizen becomes aware of the legitimate and unreported aspects of this story, it is simply the right thing to do.
Of course, all of this hinges on the question of credibility.
All serious journalists must acknowledge that if there is credible, verifiable information which supports a critical view of the government's story, that voice deserves fair representation. To side-step this moral dilemma, a majority of the media would have the reader believe that there are no valid questions or facts that deserve your attention, and so almost universally we see writers attacking 9/11 skeptics with ridicule and straw man arguments without ever giving context to their claims.
But the truth is, there are dozens of news-worthy stories that contradict or muddy the official narrative, the facts of which have even been verified and reported on by mainstream outlets. But these stories are almost always buried or insulated from related stories which obscure their significance.
Briefly, here are just 25 examples, taken from WanttoKnow.info (Please take note of the sources):
1996-2001: On multiple occasions spies give detailed reports on bin Laden's location. Each time, the CIA director or White House officials prevent bin Laden's elimination. [Los Angeles Times, 12/5/04, New York Times, 12/30/01, more]
2000-2001: 15 of the 19 hijackers fail to fill in visa documents properly in Saudi Arabia. Only six are interviewed. All 15 should have been denied entry to the US. [Washington Post, 10/22/02, ABC, 10/23/02] Two top Republican senators say if State Department personnel had merely followed the law, 9/11 would not have happened. [AP, 12/18/02, more]
2000-2001: The military conducts exercises simulating hijacked airliners used as weapons to crash into targets causing mass casualties. One target is the World Trade Center (WTC), another the Pentagon. Yet after 9/11, over and over the White House and security officials say they're shocked that terrorists hijacked airliners and crashed them into landmark buildings. [USA Today, 4/19/04, Military District of Washington, 11/3/00, New York Times, 10/3/01, more]
Jan 2001: After the November 2000 elections, US intelligence agencies are told to "back off" investigating the bin Ladens and Saudi royals. There have always been constraints on investigating Saudi Arabians. [BBC, 11/6/01, more]
May 2001: For the third time, US security chiefs reject Sudan's offer of thick files on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. A senior CIA source calls it "the worst single intelligence failure in the business." [Guardian, 9/30/01, more]
June-Aug 2001: German intelligence warns the CIA that Middle Eastern terrorists are training for hijackings and targeting American interests. Russian President Vladimir Putin alerts the US of suicide pilots training for attacks on US targets. In late July, a Taliban emissary warns the US that bin Laden is planning a huge attack on American soil. In August, Israel warns of an imminent Al Qaeda attack. [Fox News, 5/17/02, Independent, 9/7/02, CNN, 9/12/02, more]
July 26, 2001: Attorney General Ashcroft stops flying commercial airlines due to a threat assessment. [CBS, 7/26/01] In May 2002, Ashcroft walks out of his office rather than answer questions about it. [Fox News/AP, 5/16/02, more]
Aug 6, 2001: President Bush receives an intelligence briefing warning that bin Laden might be planning to hijack airliners. Titled "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US," the briefing specifically mentions the WTC. Yet Bush later claims it "said nothing about an attack on America." [CNN, 4/12/04, Washington Post, 4/12/04, Briefing, 8/6/01, more]
Aug 27, 2001: An FBI supervisor tries to ensure that a hijacker doesn't "take control of a plane and fly it into the World Trade Center." [Senate Report, 10/17/02] Headquarters chastises him for notifying the CIA. [Time, 5/21/02, more]
Sept 10, 2001: A number of top Pentagon brass suddenly cancel travel plans for the next morning, apparently because of security concerns. Why isn't this news spread widely? [Newsweek, 9/13/01, Newsweek, 9/24/01, more]
Sept 11, 2001: Data recovery experts extract data from 32 damaged WTC computer drives. The data reveals a surge in financial transactions shortly before the attacks. Illegal transfers of over $100 million may have been made through WTC computer systems immediately before and during the 9/11 disaster. [Reuters, 12/18/01, CNN, 12/20/01, more]
Sept 11, 2001: Described as a bizarre coincidence, a US intelligence agency was set for an exercise on Sept 11 at 9 AM in which an aircraft would crash into one of its buildings near Washington, DC. [USA Today/AP, 8/22/02, more]
Sept 11, 2001: Hours after the attacks, a "shadow government" is formed. Key congressional leaders say they didn't know this government-in-waiting had been established. [CBS, 3/2/02, Washington Post, 3/2/02, more]
Sept 11, 2001: Six air traffic controllers who dealt with two of the hijacked airliners make a tape recording describing the events within hours of the attacks. The tape is never turned over to the FBI. It is later illegally destroyed by a supervisor without anyone making a transcript or even listening to it. [Washington Post, 5/6/04, NY Times, 5/6/04]
Sept 13-19, 2001: Bin Laden's family is taken under FBI supervision to a secret assembly point. They leave the country by private plane when airports reopen days after the attacks. [New York Times, 9/30/01, Boston Globe, 9/20/01, more]
Sept 15-16, 2001: Several of the 9/11 hijackers, including lead hijacker Mohamed Atta, may have had training at secure US military installations. [Newsweek, 9/15/01, Washington Post, 9/16/01, Los Angeles Times, 9/15/01, more]
Sept 20, 2001: Several 9/11 hijackers later mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report turn up alive. "Five of the alleged hijackers have emerged, alive, innocent and astonished to see their names and photographs appearing on satellite television...The hijackers were using stolen identities." [quote Times of London, 9/20/01, see also BBC, 9/23/01, more]
Dec 2001-Feb 2002: The US engineers the rise to power of two former Unocal Oil employees: Hamid Karzai, the interim president of Afghanistan, and Zalmay Khalizad, the US envoy. The big American bases created in the Afghan war are identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline. [Chicago Tribune, 3/18/02, more]
May 17, 2002: Dan Rather says that he and other journalists haven't been properly investigating since 9/11. He graphically describes the pressures to conform that built up after the attacks. [BBC, 5/16/02, Guardian, 5/17/02, more]
May 23, 2002: President Bush says he is opposed to establishing an independent commission to probe 9/11. [CBS, 5/23/02] Vice President Cheney earlier opposed any public hearings on 9/11. [CNN, 1/29/02, Newsweek, 2/4/02, more]
May 30, 2002: FBI Agent Wright formally accuses the FBI of deliberately curtailing investigations that might have prevented 9/11. He is threatened with retribution if he talks to Congress about this. [Fox News/Reuters, 5/30/02, more]
July 22, 2004: The 9/11 Commission Report is published. It fails to mention that a year before the attacks a secret Pentagon project had identified four 9/11 hijackers, including leader Mohamed Atta. The Commission spokesperson initially states members were not informed of this, but later acknowledges they were. [New York Times, 8/11/05, more]
2004 - 2005: A growing number of top government officials and public leaders express disbelief in the official story of 9/11. 100 prominent leaders and 40 9/11 family members sign a statement calling for an unbiased inquiry into evidence suggesting high-level government officials may have deliberately allowed the attacks to occur. [Various Publications]
Aug 9, 2006: A book by 9/11 Commission chairmen Kean and Hamilton outlines repeated deceptions by the Pentagon and FAA, including the timelines of Flights 77 and 93. CNN News: "The fact that the government would ... perpetuate the lie suggests that we need a full investigation of what is going on." [CNN, 8/9/06 , MSNBC/AP, 8/4/06, more]
2006-2011: Over 50 senior government officials, 100 respected professors, and 1,500 architects and engineers criticize The 9/11 Commission Report as flawed, and call for a new, independent investigation. [Officials, Professors, Architects]
And here is 60 pages worth of examples, all sourced and fact-checked by established media.
Why have these stories not been more widely reported, even among the so-called alternative press? Project Censored published an excellent investigative report looking into this issue of media censorship. Looking at a dozen news-worthy stories as case studies (including stories on 9/11) that were either not covered by the alternative press or were covered poorly, they examine why even much of the alternative press suffers from the same "propaganda model" that affects larger media conglomerates. "The propaganda model of news" that Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky outlined goes a long way to explain the abject moral and professional failure of most media to put their journalist principles ahead of political expediency.
Journalists can safely report on the above stories in isolation, but present them in their entirety and the "flak filter" that keeps other journalists in check will quickly have you branded a "conspiracy theorist," one of the most toxic and effective means of ensuring that self-censorship remains the norm.
If journalists did put all these dozens of mainstream verified stories together into a single narrative (something any journalist is physically capable of doing) it would be quite clear to their readers that questioning the official story and demanding a new investigation is more than a valid, rational, and respectable response to this information.
In fact, a number of the 9/11 Commissioners and other prominent government officials themselves have made statements claiming they don’t believe the government’s description of events and believe another investigation is necessary. But of course, these (obviously newsworthy) stories haven't been widely reported either.
All that said, many courageous journalists *have* stuck their neck out to cover this subject with greater scrutiny, and I applaud their decision to do so. In writing this article, it is my hope that the reader will come to respect this decision and see the value in it as well. I hope you'll come to see that reporting honestly on all sides of a story, no matter how taboo or politically costly, is the principled position that all media should be taking, if our media was not beholden to so many conflicting interests. Beyond that, I hope you will go a step further to do what you can to create some more breathing room in our culture for uncomfortable but necessary discussion.
A society which values the principles of democracy and freedom of the press should welcome such discussion. It should also be the first to defend this speech when it is under attack.