Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Paging Terry Gilliam, or Why Mother Jones Can’t Have It Both Ways
By Jarek Kupsc - Writer/Director of The Reflecting Pool
The October 2008 issue of Mother Jones (Special Election Edition) deals with the devastating legacy of the outgoing Bush Administration and the problems it has imposed on our democracy. A “New Hope” warms the horizon, melting away the Wicked Witch of the West (Bush, in green-face, on the cover), and so it seems the climate is finally favorable for an all-out assault on the Bush junta. One might assume that September 11th, 2001, would be an obvious point of attack. Unfortunately, Mother Jones chose instead to bash the 9/11 Truth Movement—and by extension anyone who questions the official narrative.
In an article “The Truth Is Out There: In search of intelligent life in the world of 9/11 Conspiracy Theories” (p. 95), Dave Gilson states that “the 9/11 truth movement’s narrative is just as maddeningly inadequate – and unimaginative – as the neocons’.” Aside from the article being factually inaccurate, Mr. Gilson’s self-defeating thesis is astonishingly easy to dismantle – with the help of his own words.
Mr. Gilson singles out my recent movie, The Reflecting Pool, as an example of “the exalted Googlemaniacs who form the truth movement’s brain trust.” However, the author fails to explore this and other generalizations any further. Neglecting to mention a single book or an academic paper on the subject, Mr. Gilson is oblivious to the fact that over 400 architects and engineers in this country alone have questioned the official explanations of the collapse of Twin Towers and WTC 7. Moreover, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which promoted the hastily researched “Theory of Pancake Collapse,” has ultimately retracted its findings, stating that NIST is “unable to provide a full explanation of the total collapse” (NIST, Sept. 27, 2007). In other words, the government itself doesn’t even know how two planes brought down the Twin Towers. Google this, motherjoneser.
When Mr. Gilson derisively writes that “a common Truther refrain is that they’re “’just asking questions,”’ he conveniently fails to mention which questions are being asked. If Mother Jones purports itself to be “smart, fearless journalism,” why didn’t they send their best investigative journalist (so long it’s not Mr. Gilson, please) to find out what motivated Mr. Larry Silverstein to purchase the lease on the Twin Towers six weeks before the attack, knowing that the property has never brought in any profit since its opening, and was an environmental hazard due to asbestos? Why would the most successful real-estate developer in the country commit such a business blunder? We know that Mr. Silverstein didn’t openly plan to demolish the structures, so why did he secure the right to rebuild WTC in his contract? I want to know the answers.
To his credit, Mr. Gilson agrees that “due to official stalling and stonewalling, the full story of September 11 remains a work in progress.” But again, this disturbing statement doesn’t warrant any further explanation on his part. “Work in progress?” Where is the work, and where is the progress? As far as the government and the media are concerned, the case is closed. Mr. Gilson continues his sly remarks on the 9/11 Commission Report: “The 9/11 Commission’s official account glossed over uncomfortable questions but read like a page turner.” Again, no further extrapolations on Mr. Gilson’s part as to what these “uncomfortable questions” were. Perhaps these uncomfortable questions are the ones that the 9/11 Truth Movement is asking, that millions of people are asking, and that The Reflecting Pool reiterates. For example, why did Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld become, a mere four months before 9/11, the first civilians in charge of controlling hijacking intercepts in NORAD’s forty-three-year-old history? Why were at least four well-documented War Games being conducted on 9/11, resulting in the insertion of false radar blips on Air Traffic Controllers screens? The former Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta, testified he had heard Vice President Cheney re-affirm “the standing orders” in response to Flight 77 approaching the Washington, D.C., airspace. What exactly were these orders? I would like to know.
In his rambling narrative, Mr. Gilson attempts to prove that the 9/11 Truth Movement and The Reflecting Pool miss “the real lesson of the Bush administration, which is not that a secretive cabal runs the White House, but that its diabolic intent has been trumped by staggering incompetence. Seven years on, the neocon notion that imperial power can reshape reality has been fully exposed as a fantasy.”
A fantasy? It has been suggested that our current neocon-shaped reality is ever reminiscent of a surreal movie directed by Terry Gilliam (Brazil, anyone?). Mr. Gilson must be in complete denial to propose that our reality has not been reshaped by the Bush administration. He exclaims that the neocons are so dumb and incompetent, they couldn’t “pull off anything bigger than T-ball on the South Lawn.” Yet in the same issue of Mother Jones, in “Reign of Error” (p. 44), Gilson defies his own logic, offering a litany of Bush administration’s “biggest hits,” which would take years to undo, should anybody try. Such “fantasies” include, but are not limited to: the White House pressuring the EPA to downplay risks of breathing at Ground Zero; Gitmo’s grand opening and Bush’s pronouncement that Geneva Conventions don’t apply there; White House asking NSA to start warrant-less wiretaps; Colin Powell presenting phony Iraq intelligence to the UN; oil executives lying to Congress about a secret meeting with Cheney; and Halliburton’s winning a $7 billion, 5-year, no-bid contract in Iraq.
If this list, far from complete, implies “staggering incompetence” of the Bush administration, lets look at some other damage reported by Mother Jones in the same issue by his colleagues:
“Power Corrupts,” by David Cole (p. 39) describes the insidious, and legally difficult to reverse, power-grab of the administration, including the right to torture;
“Pursuit of Habeas,” by Jack Hitt (p. 37) bemoans the post-9/11 loss of one of the most basic human rights we have had: habeas corpus;
“America’s Most Dangerous Librarians,” by Amy Goodman and David Goodman (p.42), delves into the dangers of the National Security Letter (NSL) initiative, which allows for warrant-less investigation of just about anyone;
“Control Delete Escape,” by Daniel Schulman (p. 83) questions the motives behind the Bush administration’s attempt to hide their legacy by deleting White House email archives.
Calling such overwhelming changes in our lives “a fantasy” seems a bit flippant. Is all this a sign of “staggering incompetence,” or a deliberate, methodical and highly effective way of turning America into another form of government? Are these “fantasies” going to simply disappear with the new administration? The common stance taken by such influential intellectuals as Noam Chomsky or Gore Vidal, and readily echoed by lesser minds, is that the Bush administration is a bunch of bumbling idiots. They seem to confuse a cretin President with people whose agenda is slowly but effectively imposed on our failing democracy. (For the record, Gore Vidal is supporting re-opening of the 9/11 investigation.)
During our recent tour with The Reflecting Pool, I’ve been asked hundreds of times why a magazine like Mother Jones or Harper’s would not connect all the obvious dots in one solid 9/11 piece of investigative journalism, just like the editor of the fictitious Sentinel does in the movie. My answer, sadly, is always the same: even the so-called liberal publications have to draw the line somewhere if they are to stay in business. Shortly after the Telecommunications Act (Clinton, 1996), with the ongoing consolidation of media corporations, 80% of investigative journalists lost their jobs in the profit-boosting shuffle. What’s left are the unlucky few who have to play within the perimeters of safety, even if they, like Mother Jones, pretend to operate under the “smart and fearless” credo.
In the absence of investigative journalism in this country, I feel fortunate to have a 9/11 Truth Movement and any citizen who “just asks questions.” These are the people demanding a truly independent investigation of September 11th, 2001, and a big obstacle they face is mainstream media’s resistance to inconvenient facts. Five corporations own 5,000 TV and 14,000 radio stations in this country. As Mother Jones itself reveals in the October issue, the news are mostly nothing but scripted dispatches from the White House. We live in what some people call “delusional democracy.” Dealing with 9/11 issues openly and without fear can take us a step further to fixing some of the problems without resorting to false hopes that the new incoming administration will fix it for us in a jiffy. Putting a boogey-man picture of George W. Bush on magazine covers is fun and easy, but hoping that our problems will go away once he’s gone is as juvenile as Mr. Gilson’s rhetoric.
Let me conclude with another quote from the Special Election Edition of Mother Jones, which does a good job of illustrating the parallel universe of absurdity we have been living in under the Bush administration, and which Mr. Gilson dismisses as a mere “fantasy” supported by 9/11 Truth activists:
A Guantanamo Bay detainee “learned that one of the official reasons for holding him was because two years after he was seized a friend blew himself up, except that because of bureaucratic incompetence, it wasn’t his friend at all, who was alive and well and living nonterroristically back in Germany. Paging Terry Gilliam.” (Mother Jones, “Pursuit of Habeas,” by Jack Hitt, October 2008, p. 38).
Jarek Kupsc is the writer/director of “The Reflecting Pool”
Hats off to Jarek Kupsc for responding to the the gatekeeper "Mother Jones".
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