Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Media

The "Tablet" Catholic weekly magazine has been completely
revamped over the past few months and is now usually a great read.
I disagree with some of its editorial opinions but overall
there are many interesting articles to peruse, not all of which
by any means, concern religious issues.
Take 9/11 and BBC TV. The Tablet 17th February 2007 commented:

[quote] To adapt the old saw, when a man stops believing in his government, he doesn’tbelieve in nothing, he believes in everything. The Conspiracy Files: 9/11 (18 February) is about the willingness of people in America, particularly, to pin the blame for the 11 September attacks not on a group of terrorists but on the US Government.The rise of the modern conspiracy theory
is often blamed on the internet, but this programme points to the assassination of PresidentKennedy as the source of the phenomenon. What the internet has done,however, is to make it possible for amateur investigators and theorists with modest resources to bring their ideas to a large audience; what’s more, their lack of professional qualifications or expertise is taken as the guarantor of their good faith and plausibility. This film does not impugn the conspiracists’motives; in every case, they appear to be true believers in the version of events they are propounding, however bizarre. Their plausibility, however, is less gently handled. The method of the conspiracy theorists is to pile up small discrepancies in the official accounts of an event, and to expose puzzling anomalies to the ignorant gaze of “common sense”. There is no doubt that much about the attacks is counter-intuitive. The way the TwinTowers fell did look astonishingly neat, as if they had been deliberately demolished rather than falling; and the plane that crashed into the Pentagon did appear to leave a very smallhole. From those beginnings, the theory builds step by step, passing almost imperceptiblyinto absurdity, as, for instance, when it suggests that the passengers on United 93,the jet that did not reach its target, were abducted by the Government. The intrigues supposedly surrounding 9/11 are vast and labyrinthine, and the programme cannot challenge them all. Instead it sticks to a small number of key points: the “controlled demolition” of the towers; the“small hole” in the Pentagon; the pattern of debris left bythe United 93 flight that crashed in Pennsylvania; and the supposed warning to Jews working in the World Trade Centre to stay away on the day of the attack. What it reveals, in every case, is that these things are easily dealt with by those whocome to the evidence with recognised expertise or who were present at the time. The leading theorists, on the other hand, are just that: a retired professor of philosophy; a radio presenter who considers the US Government an arm of a sinister “new world order”; and a 23-year-old amateur film-maker busy turning his internet conspiracy movie into a blockbuster for theatrical release. Their analyses are assembled from published quotes and news clips; they look less impressive when confrontedby real people willing to answer questions about what they were doing on that terrible day. The coroner who attended theUnited 93 crash flatly denies ever saying that there were no bodies at the scene; an air force pilot, accused of having remotely directed an airliner into the Pentagon, looks quietlybemused.The programme has the clever idea of asking a scriptwriter from The X-Files for his take on the conspiracists.The X-Files was an entertaining but fundamentally silly science fiction programme positing the idea that “the truth is out there”, hidden and waiting to be discovered rather than in the mouths of officialspokesmen. The writer, who also created a horribly prescient hijackers-crash-jetinto-Twin-Towers TV movie, duly points out that cynicism about the American Government has become pervasive. “One of our first instincts is that we are being lied to,” he says.
And it is hard not to agree that the Americanauthorities have fostered the conspiracytheories themselves, by slow and reluctant disclosure of the facts and, in a broader sense, by telling lies about the world. And yet, it’s along way from distrusting the Bush Government’s statements about Saddam’s weaponry to believing that it deliberately set out tokill 3,000 of its own citizens. The film stops its analysis of the conspiracy craze right there: but I wonder whether there isn’t something more distinctively American at work. From the time of their arrival in the NewWorld, the Puritans inhabited a symbolic universe, the real meaning of which was not availableto mere observers of purely surface events. The habit of looking deeply into things – sometimes perhaps too deeply – has never left them [/quote]

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