Distortions and delusions By Irfan Husain
Dawn, 03 Oct, 2009
National Geographic aired a programme about the 9/11 conspiracies the other evening. While it did not cover any new ground, it did painstakingly demolish many of the idiotic theories that have been doing the rounds for the last eight years.
What struck me most about the TV documentary was the ease with which a rumour can be spread compared with the time and expertise it takes to expose it as a lie. Literally millions continue to believe that the Twin Towers were actually brought down by thousands of explosive charges planted inside the building and not by the airliners that crashed into them. It took a crew of experts who brought down a building to demonstrate how ridiculous the conspiracy theory really is.
The camera took us to a condemned structure that was scheduled to be demolished, and then showed the team wiring up the place with explosives. The number and location of demolition charges had been precisely calculated in advance, and it took two days to place them, even though it was a three-storied structure. The Twin Towers, by contrast, were skyscrapers that would have taken weeks to wire up. To imagine that this could have been done secretly is to live at the very top of cloud cuckoo land.
One 9/11 conspiracy theory that became a favourite on the Internet the day after the attack was that all Jewish workers had escaped the carnage as they had been warned of the attacks, and therefore did not come to work that fateful day. This is supposed to prove the Mossad connection with the atrocity. However, nobody ever says how they jumped to this conclusion as employment records in the US do not mention religion. And yet there are millions of people who continue to believe this particular urban myth.
Just as these crackpot theories continue to do the rounds in cyberspace, all kinds of outrageous claims are made on TV and go unchallenged. Recently in Pakistan, a number of newspaper and TV reports claimed that the US embassy in Islamabad was about to get 1,000 Marines, apart from hiring the services of Blackwater, the private security outfit that has won infamy for its actions in Iraq.
Suddenly, talking heads across TV screens in Pakistan were nodding in unison. Nobody mentioned that Blackwater had changed its name to Xe. And certainly, no print or electronic journalist took the trouble to check with American diplomats. In fact, even when the embassy issued a clarification that no battalions of Marines were about to storm Islamabad, many continue to insist that there’s going to be a surge in their existing number. Perfectly reasonable people believe the embassy will be transformed into a bastion, and that Pakistani installations will be at risk.
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Limited options — Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi, Daily Times
The US focus on Balochistan - Najmuddin Sheikh, DT