Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Anatomy of a Lie

On the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I can recall a great example of how we are increasingly living in a “post-truth age.”

More than a national tragedy, 9/11 was a national failure.  As outlined in the 9/11 Commission’s Report the entire first nine months of the Bush Administration was marked by senior officials in the White House and Pentagon consistently and repeatedly ignoring growing warning signs that would later become crystalized the most famous presidential briefing ever, aptly titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike US.”  Much and more has come out about Bush’s fumbling of the looming attack, and a great Op-Ed piece in the New York Times yesterday does a great job summing it up.  In the aftermath, the Bush Administration would go into overtime trying first to prevent independent investigation, then defending its failures and finally being forced to tell flat out lies.  One example of this post-9/11 mendacity was leveled by Condi Rice before Congress, where she claimed “no one could have anticipated [that terrorists would use planes as weapons.]”  This is a lie and I can prove it.

This type of plot has repeatedly been used in popular fiction for decades before 9/11.
  • In the bestselling Tom Clancy novel “Debt of Honor” an ultra-nationalist Japanese terrorist flies a jumbo jet into the Capitol resulting in Clancy’s protagonist Jack Ryan becoming President.
  • The Stephen King novel "The Running Man" written under his pseudonym “Richard Bachmann” ends with a man on the run from a corporation trying to kill him for televised entertainment in a future dystopia getting revenge by flying a plane into its high rise corporate HQ.  It was later turned into the Schwarzenegger blockbuster “The Running Man” (the ending was changed for the movie).
  • The entire plot of the 1980 John Carpenter movie “Escape from New York” is dependent on Air Force One being flown into a building in a future New York where Manhattan has become a giant lawless island prison.  The President survives (in a futuristic escape pod that looks like an Easter egg) and Kurt Russell is sent in to rescue him.  This is a popular movie that is on cable pretty much every weekend and also has Isaac Hayes as the marauding gangster lord of the city.
So of course the entire 9/11 plot was in fact “imagined” by whole bunch of different authors in popular creative mediums.  Let alone the fact that this type of attack was in fact tried before.
  • A commercial pilot in 1994 tried to hijack a FedEx cargo plane to use in a suicide attack.  His motives were not political, he was a disgruntled employee who was going to be fired for lying about his flight experience to get his position.  He severely injured the crew but they were able to fight him off and land the plane.
  • One of the Columbine shooters wrote in his diary about fantasizing about doing such a suicide attack.

It’s amazing that no one has tried to point these basic things out in the media.  The fact is Condi Rice said something to Congress that is objectively false.  Yet even when this falsehood is easily knocked down shown to be simple evidence of the Bush Administration’s continuing push to rewrite history and cover up their failings, it is ignored.  Indeed it is treated as Gospel.  In the age of “post-truth” the saying of a lie, can make it true.  And no amount of research can bring the truth to light, at least outside of the world of blogs.

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