To the Editor:
I appreciate John Gravois's article on the recent 9/11 truth conference in Chicago, which I helped organize, almost as much as I appreciate the lunch Mr. Gravois bought me on The Chronicle's dime. A few items, however, stuck in my craw.
The headline "Professors of Paranoia?" and the article that followed reek of the kind of pejorative, loaded language that I have always taught composition students to avoid at all costs. Consider the expressions "paranoia" and "conspiracy theory." Some might indeed argue that it is paranoid to suggest that the so-called war on terror, like every other major foreign war America has fought since the Mexican War of 1846, was triggered by a manufactured incident.
But others would argue that it is far more paranoid to imagine that there are groups of Arab Muslim fanatics out there who are stupid enough to think that a 9/11 would help their cause, and insane and irreligious enough to commit suicide while slaughtering thousands of innocents in service to such stupidity, yet brilliant enough to defeat America's vast array of defenses. ...
Gravois uses the epithet "conspiracy theorist" repeatedly in his article. Labeling people with an insulting term that they themselves strongly reject is problematic, to say the least. The slur "conspiracy theorist" is not just pejorative and inflammatory, it is inaccurate when applied to only one side in the 9/11 debate, especially since no one person could have committed the crimes of 9/11. ...
Along with the loaded language and obsessive name-calling, Gravois offers a number of statements that are inaccurate or misleading, ... including an assessment of the contribution of David Ray Griffin: "So Mr. Griffin wrote his own book, trading on his authority as an academic. He called it The New Pearl Harbor. It was mostly just a synthesis of all the material he had read, tidied up by a philosopher's rhetorical skills."
Obviously The New Pearl Harbor is not "just a synthesis" of everything Griffin read on the issue, but a critical evaluation of the most important evidence offered by both defenders and detractors of the "Osama and 19 young Arabs" conspiracy theory. While Griffin does indeed "tidy up" this evidence in the sense of clarifying its objective status, he does so using his formidable analytical skills, avoiding language that could be called rhetorical in the pejorative sense. Notably, The New Pearl Harbor does not draw any firm conclusions from the evidence it considers, other than the obvious ones that a prima facie case for official complicity exists and that a genuine investigation is urgently needed.
Far more important than The New Pearl Harbor, however, is Griffin's second book, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions. In that book, Griffin proves, beyond anyone's conceivable reasonable doubt, that the official 9/11 Commission Report is a tissue of lies, half-truths, and distortions. ...
Gravois's evaluation of the 9/11 truth movement as a "fringe crusade" is perhaps the most egregious of the many willful evasions of reality in his article. Polling data suggest that a strong majority of the world's population — certainly the majority of those who have seriously considered the matter — does not accept the official account of 9/11. As an Arabist and Islamologist, I know very well that the October 2003 Al-Jazeera poll showing that 89 percent of respondents believe the U.S. government perpetrated the atrocities of 9/11 is a fair reflection of opinion in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and probably close to prevailing opinion in most of the rest of the non-European world. A recent CNN online poll showed that more than 80 percent of respondents believed the official account of 9/11 is a cover-up. ...
I invite Chronicle readers to join the majority of the world's population; a growing number of Americans; every single colleague with whom I have discussed the issue at the two institutions where I teach; and virtually everyone who has seriously, thoughtfully, and fair-mindedly considered the matter in supporting our "fringe crusade" for a genuine investigation of the crimes of September 11, 2001.
Associate Lecturer in the Language and Culture of Asia
University of Wisconsin
Part-Time Instructor in Human Issues