- /quiz: my answers to the 9/11 position quiz
- /Bayesian: my inexpert attempt at Bayesian analysis of a weakly-believed 9/11 hypothesis
I don't mind people having their own opinions.
I can deal with coming to separate conclusions about the same evidence, though I dislike it.
But when you can't even suggest an hypothesis without being branded a loonie, something is Wrong.
This is the situation we have now.
Why It Matters
For a decade, the official account of 9/11 has set the tone for foreign policy and domestic security. It has greatly reduced the degree to which one is allowed to question official statements without being ridiculed. Belief in that account enabled Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, excused many of Bush's (and now Obama's) criminal actions, and enabled the wars which helped destroy our economy and international reputation. It also enabled the creation of the TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and accompanying leaps of authoritarianism. It has enabled a stifling new atmosphere of secrecy and non-accountability in government. It has caused us to be in a state of "national emergency" for nearly 10 years now, when no emergency exists.
It bothers me a great deal that it is very difficult to even argue in favor of questioning the official account of 9/11 without being labeled a "conspiracy theorist", and the matter left at that -- as if that proved anything.
Even if I turn out to be completely wrong about this, I should be able to talk about it and discuss it rationally with others.
That's how we overcome our biases and preconceptions, and become less wrong, is it not?
How an Investigation Would Help
I think it would be a large step in the right direction. Obama refused to prosecute any of the Bush administration wrongdoers, and that is why many of them are still in charge. With proper investigation of 9/11, part of the tangled web of lies that led to the Patriot Act etc. would start to unravel, and some of those who benefited from those lies might finally be brought to some form of justice.
As it is, many people who buy the official story naturally see the whole package (Patriot, Military Commissions, multiple wars, torture, offshore detention...) as at least somewhat justifiable by the (fabricated) circumstances.
Take away the justification, and some people will rethink their conclusions on those issues. Not all, maybe not a majority, but some.
The "conspiracy theory" accusation also casts doubt on the whole idea of revisiting popular conclusions about history. Was Kennedy shot by a lone gunman? Was Pearl Harbor really a total surprise to the White House? Was the Maine destroyed by Spanish saboteurs? Did the North Vietnamese fire first in the Gulf of Tonkin? Maybe so. but we should be able to ask and examine the evidence without being accused of "conspiracy theorizing". What we think we know about history profoundly affects how we act in the present. If "what we think we know" is actually wrong, we may take actions which are very harmful and unjustified, without knowing it.
We need to make sure that "what we think we know" about history is as accurate as we can possibly make it. If there are significant doubts, they should be examined in all possible detail. They should certainly not be dismissed as crazy until sufficient evidence is produced to banish them.
To some extent, though, I would really just like to know the truth and have the matter settled. If the official story turns out to be essentially true, great -- then I can be less worried. If it is proven false, then people will have to stop making fun of "truthers" and "conspiracy theorists".