a book review
Can a liberal college professor bring vitality to the challenge-911 movement, or could his influence neutralize its spirit? David Ray Griffin’s The New Pearl Harbor has acquired a biblical status in certain circles of the 911 “truth” movement. Here in Portland, our 911 lecture series was called “Deconstructing the New Pearl Harbor.” This morphed into “The New Pearl Harbor Discussion Group.” (Your reviewer has participated in both groups.)
The New Pearl Harbor, Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11, by David Ray Griffin, (Olive Branch, an imprint of Interlink), 2004, trade paperback, no illustrations, 240 pages, $15.00.
Griffin admits in his introduction that it was not until the spring of 2003 that he dared to look at any of the evidence. “I was vaguely aware,” Griffin says, “that there were people, at least on the Internet, who were offering evidence against the official account.” But, Griffin says, he regarded these people as “conspiracy theorists,” “beyond belief,” “crackpots,” “loonies.” He confesses his belatedness with no shame; there may even be a touch of pride in his own innocence as a clean slate.
Griffin has held for thirty years a professorship at Claremont College and got his PHD there. His specialty is philosophy and religion, an unexpected disciplinary focus for a writer on this subject.
Mysteriously, Dr. Griffin’s resume’ shows no evidence of political writing or political activism of any kind or any other intellectual or empirical foundation for venturing into the most politically sensitive subject of our time.
Griffin remained steadfastly innocent of the proliferating 911 what-really-happened issues until clued-in by a fellow professor (female), whom he describes as a “sensible person.” (The Sensible Person, that paragon.)
The Claremont Colleges (Pomona, Scripts, Claremont, and Claremont-McKenna) have their joint campus in the town of Claremont, an insular, upscale suburb in the smoggy foothills of the San Gabriel’s, thirty miles east of LA. New Pearl Harbor is from the campus and of the campus. Little wonder then that Dr. Griffin’s professorial gestalt plays so well here in campus-studded Portland.
The title of professor Griffin’s book is deliberately ambiguous and coy. To grasp its intended meaning it helps to know (1) that FDR let Pearl Harbor happen, (2) that Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in his Global Chessboard (1997) that only another Pearl Harbor could con the U.S. public into accepting an invasion of Central Asia, and (3) that the neo-con Project for a New American Century is saying ditto today.
The term “Pearl Harbor” is indeed a mainstay of the vocabulary of the neo-con 911 propaganda script and was reiterated incessantly by officials and pundits participating in the TV brainwash on September 11th itself. “Pearl Harbor” is a loaded term, like “terrorist attack,” best excluded from loose use in any work of 911 truth.
“The New Pearl Harbor” could easily ride on the cover of a book by a Brzezinski or a Kissinger. Does this ambiguity allow the professor to navigate more easily in academic society than a right-on title like, say, “911 Was an Inside Job?” (That’s the book’s essential thesis, the author’s elusiveness notwithstanding.)
Is Dr. Griffin trying to have it both ways?
Having it both ways would seem to be the wish also in Chapter One, “Flights 11 and 175: How Could the Hijacker’s Mission Have Succeeded?”
What hijackers? ask I, who have the conviction that 911 hasd to have been pulled off robotically. Yet Dr. Griffin goes onn and on here, employing loosely the word “hijacker” in all its forms
That is, until you get to Footnote 32 (one of 94 in the chapter and 636 in the professor’s book.) Footnote 32 (page 175) is one of the longer notes, nearly a full page of 8-point type. In the obscurity of footnote 32, Griffin ventures diffidently into the robotic theory. He says, “There are many questions that I have not broached in the text.” (One wonders which other questions, and why.)
Then Griffin is writing knowledgeably, and with conviction, about the Global Hawk aeronautic remote-control technology. He comments on the impossibility of the alleged hijackers, actually using this term. How could they have performed these feats?
He supplies an item that I had not heard of before, that each of the errant flights had at least one passenger who was a senior official in Raytheon’s division of electronics warfare.
But the footnote becomes embarrassing as the author confesses, “the fact that I have not discussed these more radical challenges to the official account in the text does not necessarily reflect my judgement that they are not true.”
Radical challenges? Isn’t challenging the official story in any way a radical act? (Ask Bush.) Some challenges are more radical than others? These must be excluded? What are the criteria here?
(Griffin is not the only 911er shy about robotics. Do they think the field is obscure to the public? Guided missilery is old hat, as is radio control. The Predator robotic aircraft get lots of press in the Afghanistan war, and is now in the news for patrolling our southern border. In the military, automation is the big tech focus, especially in aeronautics. In the technology world, robotics is the hottest sector, as it is among experimenters and hobbyists.
The footnoting of matter that contradicts the text is a dubious way to construct a book. This discontinuity would never pass my desk. But editorial considerations aside, what does this say about the character of the author?
Most of Griffin’s 636 footnotes are not digressions but source references for this totally derivative work.
Griffin’s is the only 911 book on the market that is innocent of any original research whatsoever. Everything is second-hand.
The book is devoid of illustration.
Although the book affects scholarship, there is no common-noun index, just a perfunctory index of proper names, so access is limited for other 911 researchers.
Griffin’s sources, are principally Nafeez Ahmed, Paul Thompson, Thierry Meyssan, Michael Chossudovsky, and (thank God) Eric Hoffschmid. He also gives a nod to Michael Rupert and Barrie Zwicker. If Griffin has made any contribution, it is that he has condensed the ponderous work of Ahmed and Thompson, for readers of this kind of fare.
Griffin is very selective of his sources. The above-named are deemed acceptable; many others are not.. There are a number of interesting omissions — researchers whom Dr. Griffin has decided that (on the basis of criteria not supplied) lie outside the etiquette. Those who are under the influence of the professor tend to take these exclusions very seriously. A snobbery is encouraged. This is an underlying truth of the official 911 Truth movement.
Among those excluded are Jim Marrs, Alex Jones, Anthony J. Hilder, and David Vonkleist, to name a few. A common denominator of the excluded group is that, unlike the innocent Dr. Griffin, when 911 occurred, they all knew instantly what was coming down and where it was coming from. They also tend to take a greater interest in 911’s impacts on the U.S.A. (as opposed to Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.).The outcasts focus on the threat to the U.S. population by a reinforced police state and on the menace to the citizenry by the New World Order, phenomena they have studied and published on for many years.
Yet the excluded offer an analysis of the 911 evidence that is strikingly similar to that of Griffin and his bunch. Perhaps they are perceived as a bit audacious and raffish compared to this sedate professor of theology.
Liberals have traditionally dismissed activists like these as “right wing.” Please define. Today, if the neo-cons are “the right,” then how can those who oppose them 180 degrees also be “the right?”
In addition to their intrinsic worth, these researchers reach extensive constituencies by various radio syndications (as well as by public appearances, videos, and books), and some are themselves syndicated talk-show broadcasters.
The snobbery that excludes this group, along with all of their followers, can only weaken the movement. Divide and conquer, says the System, and this is exactly what snobbish Griffinism encourages and accomplishes.
Griffin rambles on positing all the usual questions and providing a credible summary of the familiar evidence available in all of the 911 books. About the Air Force failure-to-scramble (which evidence points to aninside job), about the controlled demolitions of the WTC towers and Building 7 (which points to an inside job), how flight 77 could not be what hit the Pentagon and why it hit the west wing (inside job), how flight 93 was probably shot down (inside job), and the president’s strange behavior that day (suggesting an inside job).
Griffin’s treatment of this familiar territory allows for the probability of complicity at the highest levels. Twice at least the coy author even uses the term inside job, but obliquely, as in, “If it was indeed a controlled demolition, of course, that would mean that the terrorists were able to succeed in their mission to bring down the WTC only because it was an inside job.”
(But what “terrorists?” The book is full of discontinuities like this.)
Also, obliquely: “Although the evidence that the collapse of the WTC was an inside job might mean that it was planned by private parties, the fact that the federal government allowed evidence to be removed suggests … official complicity in a cover up.”
At this point in the book, Griffin could drop his coyness and trot onward forthrightly on a steed called Inside-Job. This animal would have no problem putting its hooves down on solidly documented turf. All the foundation is there.
But no. Again the professor must have it both ways. This book is an exercise in doublethink. So in a part two, vaguely headed “The Larger Context,” Dr. Griffin gets on a horse of a different color for the rest of the ride, one called Foreknowledge.
Foreknowledge? But of course they knew. They did it!
In this part, Griffin does give a good analysis of Who Benefits? And a good summary of various agency investigations crushed by the administration. There is nothing here that would contradict a full-blast, candid position on Inside Job, but that’s just not the spin, not quite.
Instead, it sounds a bit like we’re back on the TV networks. The chapters are sprinkled with the vocabulary of the big-lie propaganda, the one he’s supposed to be busting here: terms like “terrorist attacks,” “bin Ladin,” “al-Qaeda, “Mohamed Atta,” and, yes, “hijackers” and “hijackings,.”
In just one instance here, Griffin feels moved to modify “hijacking” by “alleged,” not because of the robotics, mind you, but because here Griffin is citing those telling reports that at least five of the alleged suicide squad are known to be alive.
Griffin has no scruples about shifting the language to meet any expediency. Yet his New Pearl Harbor is often cited as the “definitive” work on 911.
Politics and language are inextricable, which is why the scrupulous use of language is so important in political discourse. Fuzzy language means fuzzy politics. Fuzzy politics is debilitating to any movement.
Griffin’s fuzziness (his ambiguity, his equivocation) are compromises that he has evidently chosen in the interest of cultivating a persona of respectability for himself and his work. New Pearl Harbor’s appeal may be largely due to the book’s pretensions to respectability. Some 911ers may have been waiting for a respectable Griffin-type to materialize before they dared to come out.
Many 911ers are desperate for any material that might convince their doubting friends, family, or co-workers, and thus deflect such persecutions as “conspiracy theorist” or “wacko.” They would do better showing their friends Eric Hoffschmid’s well illustrated book Painful Questions. (It’s even certified by Dr. Griffin) or Hoffschmid’s video, or the videos of a bunch of others, whom Griffin censors out.
People new to this kind of conspiratorial politics also may wish to soothe the nagging in their own psyches, their inner discomfort over this novel transgression into dark, taboo, and politically incorrect territory. Many are drawn to the professor in the wish that some of his respectability may rub off and help to ease the way.
But is such self-consciousness and defensiveness healthy to the psyche of an individual or to the cohesion and confidence of a dissident group? The respectable have-it-both-ways, politically-correct Griffin position is an insecure spiritual footing and may require tranquilizers and antidepressants to maintain. One is better off letting go and allowing passage over the gap into where fearlessness and solidarity can be found.
In an individual or a movement, energy cannot flow freely through self-consciousness and defensiveness. These are counter-energies that are fundamentally debilitating and disempowering.
So what has Griffin’s respectability, coyness, snobbery, and scholarly posturing won for him thus far?
A publisher (Interlink, 50 titles annually) not insubstantial, but hardly a household word.
A back-cover blurb from rad-lib icon Howard Zinn. However, Dr. Zinn, in interviews, continues to spout nothing on 911 but the politically correct “blow-back” theory.
Dr. Griffin has won some access to the campus, but makes few public appearances of any kind. Someone in our discussion group contrived to get air a tape of Griffin’s lecture (at the University of Oregon, Eugene) on our local Pacifica FM (heretofore steadfastly silent on the subject) but only as a pledge-drive tease, interrupted every ten minutes by pitches for funds, and then cut short.
Our local “New Pearl Harbor” lecture person got his Griffin book review run (on page 14) in the local foundation-funded “progressive” monthly tabloid, The Alliance, which is also chronically silent on the 911 issues. The publisher of this paper, which thrives on photos of sign-bearing protestors, came upon our 911 anniversary demo at the Central Library steps, us all in black with large graphic signs, but he walked on past, as if we were invisible.
Griffin did get his opus reviewed in the notoriously denialist Nation, which, granted, could have rendered him invisible, like every other 911er. But, alas, the nasty reviewer paints Griffin as a “conspiracy theorist”, a “crackpot,” and “wacky,” all the epithets Griffin’s affectations of liberal respectability and scholarship are designed to deflect.
The Nation would have to refocus its editorial priorities from top to bottom in order to accommodate the implications of 911 truth, as would Mother Jones, Utne, Z, or any other of the foundation-funded “left.” But, given the way the CIA and foundation money flows, this would be institutionally impossible.
If Griffinism is rendered invisible, and, when noticed, only gets smeared by the liberal establishment, is this dubious advantage worth the spiritual trade-off?
gimme a break
So in Part Two Griffin abandons Inside Job, mounts a safer horse and gallops on toward his Conclusion, his final posture. This is, incredibly, a plea to the government for a “full investigation.” The impetus for such a phenomenon would come from the Fourth Estate. “It is only when the press leads the way that there can be an official investigation,” declares Griffin.
OK, class, let’s get this straight. A fascist military junta, on the heels of a stolen election, blows up 3000 people, then on this pretext goes to war in three theatres, one being its own citizenry, to whom it declares, “You are either with us or against us.” The junta threatens another national-security event bigger and uglier than 911. It squelches all police-agency investigations. It rigs two bogus official investigations. It conducts a cover-up and big-lie propaganda in the mass media and in the foundation-funded left media, both of which the junta has under its totalitarian control.
All the above Griffin, in his own elusive way, has acknowledged in pages preceding. Still the coy professor is insisting that right action under these extenuating circumstances is to petition that same fascist government and its controlled media. Well, I guess that’s just the sensible, respectable, reasonable, and grown-up thing to do. Had we but world enough and time…
911 as history
Griffin treats 911 as if it were an isolated item from the remote historical past. He even refers to himself and some of his sources as “revisionists,” as if they were academics rewriting a long established historical text.
When the 911 Team contrives the next national security event, 911 will indeed become academic. When the “homeland” goes code red, this period of vocalized dissent may prove, historically, to be just a momentary luxury.
This looks like a three-phase coup. Phase one: the 2000 election, phase two: 911, phase three: coming right up? September 11th is just one climax in an ugly process that is ongoing.
A bearded Russian gentleman appeared at the very first meeting of our local 911 discussion group. He said ominously, “You people just don’t know about genocide, how easily it can happen.” His observation went undeveloped. He did not return.
Are we not all on the same moving train? Is this train not inexorably rolling quite solidly on tracks laid down by the old neo-con fascist agenda? Prove to me otherwise. Griffin, whether he knows it or not, is riding on the same train as the rest of us. Is he not taking the same risks as other vocal 911ers? There on the insular Claremont campus, does he imagine himself exempt? Didn’t Hitler’s Brownshirts throw the professors into the cold lake?
The question now for the cognoscenti of 911 should be, “So 911 was an inside job. Now what?” Instead, Griffinism seems to encourage perpetual historical study, paralyzing the issue into another dilettante political fashion.
Is liberalism a true political position from which action can be taken, or is it just a psychological-adjustment syndrome, a tranquilizer that enables the more sensitive and thoughtful to live with the ugliness of our system of rule?
From the well-schooled demographic that is particularly stricken with this syndrome, a liberal elite emerges: academics, bureaucratic professionals, think-tankers, publishers, broadcasters, pundits, and a steady crop of pathetic politicians (Lieberman’s, Schumer’s, Kerry’s). They feed on the fires of true revolt burning in those whom they may cast out at any time for crimes of candor and spontaneous passion (the Dean scream).
“What we usually call human maturity is some kind of resigned reasonableness” (Albert Schweitzer).
Griffin’s posture is to acknowledge no particular conviction of his own (just asking these reasonable questions), but something like conviction often shines through. He claims to have no thesis, but the Inside Job one does shine through. He acknowledges no particular personal experience that flashed his consciousness into suspicion, although there must have been one. He is removed from any spontaneous ground in his own being and seems proud of it. This book, he postures, is just an intellectual exercise, objective, impersonal, balanced, scholarly.
Under the spell of Griffinism, the 911 movement itself has become institutionalized into an intellectual exercise: the University of 911.
A crime under totalitarian rule is spontaneity itself, which is feared. The well indoctrinated (the resigned and reasonable, the gentrified, the domesticated) learn to fear spontaneity, directness, honesty, and candor in themselves. Spontaneity and idealism get washed out in the name of “growing up.” Griffin’s compromises seem so very sensible and grown up.
the politics of gesture
In the practice of politics, the resigned and reasonable, having bargained away the idealism and spontaneous truth of themselves, are eager to crush that which may survive in others. Willfulness and calculation move into the hollowed-out self. A low standard of sincerity becomes acceptable. Back-stabbing lurks behind the amiable liberal surface.
A politics of gesture replaces true action. Left politics, then, becomes a series of futile but correct feel-good gestures: the letter to the sold-out congressman or editor, the petition, the demo, the teach-in. Round and round with the familiar old rituals, with no heart, no passion, and to no effect.
The politics of gesture leaves a big vacuum. One politics that moves in to fill it may be violent action. Many who advocate violence are just disgusted with the politics of gesture, starved for true action, and might be drawn into nonviolent action if it were true and not just symbolic.
a done deal?
Many issues which may burn on for years in other political spheres elude the milieu of resigned-reasonableness. Big-lie propagandas are rarely challenged. All the official media, straight or “alternative,” render some very challenging and relevant issues politically incorrect and hence invisible.
That is, until the system develops that issue into a fait accompli. Then it may be permitted to come out. An orthodoxy is established. The liberals then institutionalize themselves into an orderly opposition consisting of ineffectual gestures mixed with some compromised power-brokering.
The establishment and the phony-opposition need each other, as a disease-charity needs the disease, and thus it is guaranteed that the problem will never be challenged by true resistance.
A good example is media conglomeration, which was well on its way in the book industry in the mid-1960’s (on the heels of another coup called JFK) but did not become a fashionable issue until the 1990’s, thirty years too late. Today every other sentence in political discourse begins with “the media,” and we have foundation-controlled institutions, like Counterspin, FAIR, and Norman Soloman, that won’t touch the 911 big lie.
Is 911 truth itself becoming a liberal institution? Is the September 11th coup now, after eight long years, a fait accompli? Is this why Griffinism materializes, because the matter is settled, because it is a done deal?
The saddest thought of all.