In a true testament to the information age, just five whole years on from the events of September 11th 2001, ideas, questions and theories about what happened in New York have begun to ignite some coverage in the UK mainstream media, from the dead trees right through to the BBC, complete with more than a little heated debate. In keeping with most discussions about the events of 11/9, the debate has been highly polarised with the extremes of polarity demonstrated nowhere better than the recent treatises on the subject by Guardian regular, George Monbiot.
Monbiot’s first outing on the 11/9 front, A 9/11 conspiracy virus is sweeping the world, but it has no basis in fact, saw George entering the fray with a few shots across the bow of what is generically referred to as the 9/11 Truth community with a critique of a popular 9/11 movie that has taken the Internet by storm, Loose Change (1st edition, 2nd edition, and 2nd edition recut). The approach is flawed on several levels, not least of which is that the topics covered by Loose Change, or the assertions made, are not necessarily representative of the many questions that anyone might have about what happened. This, however, didn’t deter George and he proceeded with judicious use of condescension and a barrage of disparaging terms such as "gibbering idiots" and other emotive language like "virus", "disease" and "infect" to describe both the questions and the questioners, terms not required for Monbiot to have made the point he was endeavouring to make. In fact, it could be argued that avoiding the use of such terms might have added some much needed gravitas to his article by making it appear more balanced and less like a petty playground sniping match. 11/9 is after all a serious issue.
Monbiot’s first 9/11 article received a grand total of, wait for it, 777 comments which you can read here and inspired Mr Monbiot into a flurry of activity once again to ‘defend’ his right to an opinion in exactly the opposite way to the way he was seeking to deny the right to an opinion to anyone that disagrees with his particular worldview. The “gibbering idiots” had understood what Monbiot had written, took offence at being labeled and dismissed as such and some responded in kind with a few insults of their own, providing much needed fuel for Monbiot’s second diatribe directed at anyone with questions about the day that changed the world.
This time he took a slightly more aggressive and derogatory tone, demonstrably upset by the responses to his first effort. The response was ‘9/11 fantasists pose a mortal danger to popular oppositional campaigns’. To which the only logical response from anyone with a vaguely rational mind would be, “What popular oppositional campaigns?” – the Tories? The Greens? The BNP? Or Stop The War, who didn’t, haven’t and who, in all likelihood, won’t stop the next one either? Further, given the subheading of the article, “These conspiracy idiots are a boon for Bush and Blair as they destroy the movements some of us have spent years building”, the question more specifically must be, “Which popular oppositional campaigns that George Monbiot has ‘spent years building’?” Since either of those questions might meet with potted media-friendly, challenge-nothing answers, deliverable complete with customary middle-class whine, the next obvious question wouldn’t, nor could it: “What has the popular oppositional campaign, at least in part built by George Monbiot, here or in the U.S., achieved – say, since 11/9, that benefits the greater mass of humanity?” Thinking caps on, folks.
9/11 article two from Monbiot sees him teaching the ultimate lesson in doublethink and making a virtue of indignance, which is somewhat strange when you consider that Monbiot is the same man who just weeks after 11/9 wrote this little gem about the very same incident:
Gagging the sceptics
The US, founded to protect basic freedoms, is now insisting that its critics are its enemies... If we are to preserve the progress, pluralism, tolerance and freedom which President Bush claims to be defending, then we must question everything we see and hear. Though we know that governments lie to us in wartime, most people seem to believe that this universal rule applies to every conflict except the current one. Many of those who now accept that babies were not thrown out of incubators in Kuwait, and that the Belgrano was fleeing when it was hit, are also prepared to believe everything we are being told about Afghanistan and terrorism in the US.
There are plenty of reasons to be sceptical. The magical appearance of the terrorists' luggage, passports and flight manual looks rather too good to be true. The dossier of "evidence" purporting to establish Bin Laden's guilt consists largely of supposition and conjecture. The ration packs being dropped on Afghanistan have no conceivable purpose other than to create the false impression that starving people are being fed. Even the anthrax scare looks suspiciously convenient. Just as the hawks in Washington were losing the public argument about extending the war to other countries, journalists start receiving envelopes full of bacteria, which might as well have been labelled "a gift from Iraq". This could indeed be the work of terrorists, who may have their own reasons for widening the conflict, but there are plenty of other ruthless operators who would benefit from a shift in public opinion.
Democracy is sustained not by public trust but by public scepticism. Unless we are prepared to question, to expose, to challenge and to dissent, we conspire in the demise of the system for which our governments are supposed to be fighting. The true defenders of America are those who are now being told that they are anti-American.
And in one slickly executed fell-swoop, George Monbiot hoists himself deftly by his own long-established petard.
Of course, this complete about turn in Monbiot’s stated views is far easier to place into a useable and understandable context when one considers one of George Moronbiot's books, 'The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order', in which he outlines a New World Order, where notions such as Anarchism and Communism are very, very, very bad indeed and mustn't exist, no doubt because Mummy and Daddy would be very upset if a more equitable system than the barbarism of Capitalism manifested itself through the desires and actions of the people.
By way of additional context, the author of A Manifesto for a New World Order happens to be the same George Monbiot whose father, Raymond, is the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and Chairman of the National Convention as well as a big noise in the meat and poultry world, and whose mother, Rosalie, is a Conservative councillor who led South Oxford district council for a decade and is Norfolk County Council's Cabinet Member for Children's Services.
Monbiot’s approach to the many issues that surround 9/11 leaves a lot to be desired and is symptomatic of a much wider and deep-rooted problem among the established ‘left’; principally the belief that the greatest threat of terrorism comes from one man hiding out in a cave on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border and he -- and he alone -- has the wit, resources and ability to orchestrate an event with the military precision required to pull off 9/11.
Still, if nothing else, Monbiot has, seemingly unwittingly, led everyone into the murky and not-oft discussed world of 11/9 Class Politics. Let’s see if anyone picks up and runs with it.