Observer Comment Extra
Why isn't the truth out there?
The willingness of journalists to accepts the establishment's view of the events of, and after, 9/11 is truly staggering, says Paul Donovan
Sunday October 5, 2003
One of the major weaknesses of journalism today is how easily some are seduced by power. The premier role of the journalist should be as a check on power, however, many seem to turn this dictum on its head and get greater job satisfaction as parrots of the official truth.
Nowhere is this tendency more prevalent than amongst Parliamentary lobby correspondents in Westminster. It has been the supine nature of many of these individuals that has allowed the likes of Alastair Campbell and co to become so powerful in spinning their version of events to the wider world.
There is much rubbish talked about spin when what it really amounts to is putting an emphasis on a story that is favourable to a valued contact and acceptable to the owner of the media organisation concerned. The easiest spinning comes of course when the interests of the source and the owner coincide.
The ease with which journalists are seduced by the powerful was nicely illustrated recently by Simon Hoggart in the Guardian. Writing the diary, Hoggart went into some detail as to why Dr David Kelly could not have been murdered. Justifying the depth of his analysis Hoggart stated "I mention this only because the internet mill, favoured by Michael Meacher in his researches into 9/11, will no doubt grind out more conspiracy theories." Hoggart continued, confirming his touching relationship with power, describing Lord Hutton's "soft, educated almost beguiling Ulster accent." In these few words Hoggart proved himself to be completely taken in by the establishment figure whilst dismissing anyone, like Meacher, who might suggest the whole train of events that led to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had more than a touch of coincidence to them.
For those who inhabit a world outside of the Parliamentary lobby, the views expressed by Meacher as to the way the whole 9/11 scenario and what followed so easily fitted with the Bush administration's agenda is anything but conspiratorial. In his piece Meacher quoted from sources across the media including the Times, the Daily Telegraph, Newsweek, the BBC and Time magazine. His crime for establishment journalists is in putting together the various pieces of information to come up with a credible rationale for what has happened over the past two years. The fact that the account seems so incredible is reflective of how poorly others in the have done their jobs in terms of informing the public.
Meacher is not the first to raise questions regarding the sequence of events post-9/11. John Pilger and Noam Chomsky have consistently exposed the truth and put the sequence of events of the past two years in context. Another is American writer, and former confidante of President John F Kennedy, Gore Vidal who in the Observer last year suggested that George W Bush will be impeached for his handling of 9/11 and events thereafter. In his excellent book, Dreaming War, Vidal continues to ask crucial questions that until recently have been swept under the carpet. He quotes at some length from retired US army veteran Stan Goff, who taught military science and doctrine at West Point.
Goff is astonished that people are not asking questions about the actions of Bush and company on the day of the attacks. As some will remember Bush went to a school on that day to talk to the children. In the US there is a standard order of procedure that once a plane has deviated from its flight plan - fighter planes are sent up to find out why. "The planes are all hijacked between 7.45 and 8.10am eastern daylight time. Who is notified? This is an event already that is unprecedented. But the president is not notified and going to a Florida elementary school to hear children read," says Goff. "By around 8.15am it should be very apparent that something is terribly wrong. The President is glad-handing teachers. By 8.45 when American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into the World Trade Centre, Bush is settling in with children for his photo ops at Booker Elementary. Four planes have obviously been hijacked simultaneously, an event never before seen in history, and one has just dived into the world's best-known twin towers, and still no-one notifies the nominal Commander in Chief."
At 9.03 the second plane crashes into the World Trade Center, Bush is told but continues with his school visit. Some 25 minutes later Bush tells the public what they know already namely, that there has been an attack by hijack planes on the World Trade Center. At this time there is an airliner heading for Washington but still no fighter planes have been scrambled.
At 9.35 one of the hijacked planes does a 360 degree turn over the Pentagon, all the while being tracked by radar. "The Pentagon is not evacuated, and there are still no fast movers from the Air Force in the sky over Alexandria and DC," says Goff.
This is the staggering story of the events of 9/11. No reasons have been given for the Bush administration's conduct on that day, no one has been brought to account. Yet from the tragedy that was 9/11 Bush has been able to deliver for his backers in the arms and oil industries. The President has also been able to portray himself as a wartime leader. This is the real story that journalists should be probing at and uncovering, not decrying the likes of Meacher who has at least had the guts to stand up and say what many have suspected for some time.
Other untold stories from around the time of 9/11 concern the failure of Bush to sanitise the area around the twin towers and the fate of the heroic firefighters. After a recent visit to New York journalist Mike Marqusee told of how when the World Trade Centre was hit, the shoddy materials used to build the structure back in the 1970s were spread far and wide. These materials included asbestos and other lethal substances. Rather than close down the area, where much of US business dwells, the Bush administration preferred instead to keep quiet and risk public health. The result of this piece of negligence will become apparent in future years.
As for the heroic firefighters who risked and in many cases lost their lives trying to save people from the twin towers building. Well due to budgetary cuts many are now being laid off. Some reward for heroes.
Hoggart and other comfortable journalists have some soul searching to do and repositioning regarding their relationships to the powerful. It is sad that people had to wait for Meacher to put together the strands of 9/11 and where were those expensively paid New York based correspondents on the public health and firefighter stories. The job of the journalist demands more than simply parroting official truths, the public deserve and should get better.