America Through The Looking Glass

by David McGowan

April 8, 2002


In the immortal words of Lewis Carroll, things are getting curiouser and curiouser. If there has ever been a more bizarre presidential team in place at the White House at any other time in U.S. history, it doesn't immediately come to mind.

Consider, if you will, that we have a vice-president (and I use that term rather loosely) who has all but disappeared from public view without any kind of credible explanation having been given to the American people. It appeared at first as though Cheney's vanishing act was a temporary and cynical ploy that would allow George the Younger to appear as though he were actually running the show.

But six months have now passed and Dick has only been whipped out for a few passing photo-ops (and to do some arm-twisting in the Middle-East). Never before, even during times of World or Civil War, has such secrecy and security ever been deemed necessary. What possible explanation can there be for this? What credible threats is the vice-president facing?

The only possible danger that Cheney could find himself in would be facing impeachment proceedings for, among other things, his involvement in the Enron scandal and his questionable dealings with Iraq. (1) But that of course could only happen if we had a Congress that wasn't as fully corrupt as the White House team that they are supposed to provide checks and balances on.

Consider also that we have a president (and I use that term even more loosely) who is so intellectually challenged that before even losing the election he had already issued enough verbal gaffes to fill a book or two. He seemingly cannot open his mouth to utter an unscripted response without lapsing into almost complete incoherence, as though he received his English instruction via home-schooling by his dad.

On top of that, he has appeared in public no fewer than three times now with noticeably large bruises/contusions on his face. First there was the enormous bandage he sported in the dark days of the 'hanging chads.' Then there were the obvious contusions late in the year that would have gone without mention were it not for a reporter's question; only then did the White House hurriedly issue a claim that Bush had had lesions removed from his face.

And then we were treated to the sublimely comical story that our fearless leader lost consciousness while snacking on a pretzel and fell face-first into a coffee table (I could make a cheap joke here about the 'leader of the free world' being unable to watch TV and chew pretzels at the same time, but will refrain from doing so). And we were told that this is actually a very common occurrence.

Say what? In what parallel universe is this a common occurrence? What exactly is going on behind closed doors on Pennsylvania Avenue?

Is Poppy Bush trying to slap some sense into his brain-addled youngster? Is George hitting the bottle a little too hard ... just before hitting the floor? Is Stepford-wife Laura a closet dominatrix who sometimes gets a little carried away ("Goddamnit, Laura! How many times do I have to tell you? ... stay away from the face!")? Something is obviously not quite right here.

The media though doesn't seem to find anything unusual about the George and Dick Show. Nary a question has been raised about what exactly Cheney is doing in his 'secure' location. Bush's incoherent mumblings, brain-deadening jingoism, and stunning lack of knowledge about any issue of any significance are somehow presented as though the man has magically assumed presidential stature unequaled in U.S. history.

What the hell is going on here?

For the most part, just business-as-usual as the media performs its time-honored role of covering-up for the inadequacies and crimes of our 'elected' leaders. Yet it has become bizarrely surreal as the press struggles mightily to continue performing that function even while faced with an administration both arrogant and criminal almost beyond human comprehension.

How are we to digest the events of the last year? -- the wholesale theft of a presidential election, the massive give-aways to the largest and most corrupt corporations in the country, the largely unexplained and completely uninvestigated September 11 attacks, the declaration of open-ended war on much of the world, the rapidly escalating attacks on civil liberties and privacy rights ....

Millions are surely struggling to make sense of their world as the full extent of the corruption of the American political, economic and legal systems is increasingly laid bare. Denial is a fierce weapon, but it does have its limits -- even when aided and abetted by a 'mental health' community that hands out MK-ULTRA-derived anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs like Halloween candy.

How are we to make sense of a vast sea of media outlets all shouting the same lies and all failing to ask the most obvious of questions? How are we to account for an allegedly thriving 'alternative' press that takes at face value the official version of the events of September 11 -- pretending not to notice the gaping holes in the story? And how are we to make sense of the fact that the leading voices of the supposed 'left' have questioned the events of 9-11 only in terms of so-called 'blowback,' carefully avoiding questioning the underlying assumption that "Osama did it?"

And how long can we cling to the futile hope that the Democratic Party is somehow going to ride to the rescue and get us out of this mess? The party whose two standard-bearers, "Animatronic Al" Gore and Joe "Jews for Fascism" Lieberman, have openly cheered the 'War on Terrorism,' all but demanded its expansion into Iraq, endorsed the preposterous notion of an 'Axis of Evil,' and given favorable reviews to America's new nuclear 'Posture'? The party whose congressional members, in both houses, have embraced nearly every reactionary appointment by the Bush regime, signed on to every openly fascistic 'security' measure that has come their way, given a huge thumbs-up to virtually unlimited military spending, and failed completely to voice even the tiniest protest over the flagrant theft of the election or to launch any sort of an investigation into the events of September 11?

And those are just a few of the Democratic Party's recent sins. Of course, our learned opinion-shapers insist that the Democrats' hands are tied -- hampered by the massive public support behind the Bush agenda. Opinion polls, brought to you by the very same media to whom lying is an art form, keep insisting that to be the case. And I have a couple of towers in New York that I can let you have for a real good price ....

The truth is that the Democratic Party, quite frankly, offers no resistance to the Bush juggernaut because they differ from their Republican counterparts only in that they give slightly more lip-service to social issues. And that, of course, is only posturing for public consumption.

Changing the party in charge of the White House and/or Congress isn't going to significantly alter the agenda. Everyone of any importance in Washington is on-board the war train for the long haul. And the notion that the war is being prolonged just to gain a Republican advantage in the 2002 and 2004 elections, propagated by many a pseudo-dissident journalist, is pure fantasy.

As has been made quite clear by a steady stream of official statements, this is a 'war' without end -- a war with the goal of wiping out any and all pockets of resistance throughout the world, including here on the home front, to the corporate and military elite's vision of a system of global fascism, and with the parallel goal of identifying false enemies to keep the American people too frightened, disoriented and disjointed to fight back against the encroaching police state. Doesn't anybody read Orwell anymore?

But I know how comforting it is to believe in the American ship of state. To believe in the two-party system. To believe in the Democratic Party as the party of the people. To believe that things will be OK again just as soon as the next election rolls around and we can get 'our' party back in charge. To believe that our obviously free press isn't really lying to us. To believe that 'this too shall pass,' and that we'll be back to 'normal' soon.

It wasn't that long ago that I was a believer.

But that was before I joined the ranks of those who inhabit a strange, hallucinatory world that is roughly akin to waking up every morning finding yourself trapped in a cheesy sci-fi film. Clicking on the TV, you find that the same lies that you just heard the day before are still spewing out. Turning the channel, you discover that everyone is telling the same lies, in the same way, using the same catch-phrases as though if everyone repeats them they somehow acquire some kind of inherent meaning.

No matter how many times you change the channel, all you hear is "war on terrorism ... axis of evil ... rule of law ... evil-doers ... weapons of mass destruction ... enduring freedom ... 9-11 ... 9-11 ... 9-11 ..."

You briefly ponder whether you might be a victim of some kind of practical joke -- an unwitting participant in some kind of new 'reality show.' But then you find that everyone else seems to believe the lies, or at least they pretend to. Could they all be in on the joke? And if this isn't a joke, then how come you seem to be the only one who can see so clearly that the emperor has no clothes?

You hear on the news that the key witness in the biggest financial scandal in the nation's history has been found shot to death in his car not long before he is to begin delivering his testimony. "Holy shit!" you say, "they're killing off witnesses in broad daylight." But no, the somber newscasters all intone, it was an unfortunate suicide.

"Ha!" you say, "nobody's going to believe that one. The shit is really going to fly now." You remember back to when Vince Foster supposedly committed suicide, and how the 'liberal' media had a field day with the story. "Payback's a bitch," you say to yourself. "The Dumbocrats are going to get some mileage out of this one."

But nobody says a word. No one on Capitol Hill, no one in the press corps. You mention to some co-workers that the suicide story sounds a little suspect, and they look at you as though you are wearing an "I Love Osama" button on your lapel as they robotically ask you if you've been to see Black Hawk Down yet. Realizing that you've blown your cover, you start nervously watching out of the corner of your eye for the goon squad to arrive and send you happily on your way to Guantánamo.

The Enron scandal, you quickly realize, is not going to be seriously investigated -- just as the coup-like nature of the election wasn't investigated, and just as the 'terrorist' attacks on Washington and New York aren't being investigated, and just like the anthrax attacks, so obviously timed to ratchet up the level of fear and outrage among the American people, aren't being investigated.

You absent-mindedly take note of the 'terrorist alert' warning color for the day as you ponder when this extended acid trip began and if and when it is going to end. What will it take to wake the American people up to the fact that there is something seriously wrong with this picture?

The mounting of a coup d'état in that diseased appendage known as Florida didn't do it. (2) Nor did the Supreme Court arrogantly ruling that the American people have no right to have their votes counted in a presidential election. (3) Nor the revelation that the Bush regime -- itself a shamelessly illegal, unconstitutionally-assembled government -- has established an even more illegal, secret and unaccountable 'shadow' government. And neither did the fact that military tribunals have been proscribed that have the authority to hand down anonymous death sentences based on secret evidence presented by government-appointed lawyers.

The indefinite detention of 'suspects,' held without charges in undisclosed locations and largely deprived of legal counsel, didn't do it. Nor the open talk of torturing these same 'suspects.' Nor the open admissions of an emerging surveillance infrastructure that goes far beyond anything Orwell ever envisioned. Nor even the deliberate leaking of the country's sociopathic 'Nuclear Posture Review.' And, as we have seen repeatedly in the past, mercilessly bombing yet another civilian population in yet another oil-driven military venture certainly didn't do it.

Is the control too complete -- control not just of information, but of thought? Are we so blinded by propaganda, and so desperately clinging to the basic human desire to view ourselves as the good guys, that we are fundamentally incapable of taking an objective look at the world we live in? Can the government get away with literally any lie, no matter how brazen? Is there no hope?

Or is the script of this particular Roger Corman flick somewhat different than what it appears to be?

What if you're not the only sane person left in a world gone mad? What if there are millions of others out there, all harboring serious doubts about the increasingly unpalatable servings of 'news' we are being dished-up? And what if the number of such individuals is growing every day?

What if the constant touting of Bush's alleged popularity is all part of a well-orchestrated psy-war campaign aimed at stifling dissent by intimidating doubters in the crowd into keeping their opinions to themselves, lest they be viewed as clinically insane for failing to interpret reality in the same way that everyone else purportedly does?

A campaign designed to make you feel, in other words, precisely as you now do: alone, isolated, frustrated, powerless, frightened and confused. A part of that campaign seems to involve, amazingly enough, efforts to taunt you -- to rub in your face your utter powerlessness -- by dropping tantalizing hints along the way, as though you are being dared to do something about it.

Wasn't it, after all, France's Le Figaro that dropped that little bombshell about bin Laden meeting a CIA operative in a Dubai hospital room shortly before September 11? And isn't Le Figaro owned by the Carlyle Group, whose investors and principals include the Bushes, the bin Ladens, and various ranking members of the national security infrastructure?

And wasn't it that mouthpiece of the far-right, the Wall Street Journal, that dropped the story about the stock market manipulations that occurred in the days immediately preceding the September 11 attacks?

And wasn't it a vice-president of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, itself a fully-integrated part of the military/intelligence complex, who initially identified the collapse of the World Trade Center towers as controlled implosions?

And wasn't it James Bamford (a man with uncomfortably close connections to numerous NSA operatives), working with Doubleday (a publisher not known for bringing the work of dissident authors to light), whose book -- released just five months before 9-11 -- revealed the details of 'Operation Northwoods' -- a purported anti-Cuban operation involving a staged provocation with marked similarities to the events of September 11?

And what of the obviously deliberate, and curiously well-publicized, leaks of the so-called Nuclear Posture Review, of the existence of Dick's 'shadow' government, and of the proposed Ministry of Propaganda?* Why leave all these crumbs scattered along the evidence trail?

It's a little something the spooks like to call 'Mind War' -- more commonly known on the streets as 'fucking with your head.' They want you to feel as though you are stuck in the Twilight Zone. I believe Mr. Orwell referred to it as a state of "controlled insanity."

But even with the endless blizzard of propaganda -- coming straight at you from all directions, including from virtually every avenue of the media, 'news' and 'entertainment' alike -- there are clear indications emerging that there is considerably more dissent out there, considerably more questions being raised, than we are being led to believe.

As just one indication, several commentators have noted that Michael Moore's new book, Stupid White Men, is selling like hotcakes, despite the fact that conventional wisdom holds that there is currently no market for what is reportedly a fairly harsh assessment of America under a Bush.

Perhaps a more significant measure of the level of discontent and frustration among the American people was reflected in the shockingly low turnout for the recent California gubernatorial primary. As the Los Angeles Times reported:

"After the terrorists struck and the buildings fell, Americans united in a surge of patriotism not seen in a generation. On Tuesday in California, citizens were asked to join in what may be the most patriotic ritual of all, the celebration of democracy known as voting. Two out of three registered voters were no-shows." (4)

The article also noted that many eligible voters didn't even bother to register. The net result was that nearly four out of five eligible California voters opted not to cast a vote in the March primary. The Times further noted that the California election was a continuation of a post-September 11 trend:

"In Washington, for instance, turnout for the November general election -- which featured two ballot initiatives on taxes -- was 13 percentage points below the 1999 figure. Virginia and New Jersey elected governors in November, and turnout was down about 3% and 7%, respectively, from the previous governor's races in 1997.

"In Georgia, meanwhile, a special election to fill a state Senate seat was decided by just 3% of the electorate: 'It's always low in specials, but we usually get 15%,' lamented Georgia's director of elections, Linda Beazley. 'This is dismal. What's wrong with our voters?'" (4)

A concerted effort is made by the Times reporter to offer up any number of excuses for the dismal voter turnout. But three words in the article, uttered by a small-business owner in Fresno, pretty much said it all: "Politics are crooked." Or, to elaborate just a bit -- a large majority of citizens recognize that voting -- when presented with hand-picked, interchangeable candidates -- is not a true exercise of democracy, but rather an exercise in futility.

Perhaps one of the clearest indications that large sectors of the American electorate aren't buying the mainstream-media line is the fact that the decades-long effort to discredit and marginalize those dissidents derisively referred to as 'conspiracy theorists' has been stepped-up dramatically in recent months, by both the corporate media and the self-proclaimed 'alternative' press.

Prominent among those heaping derision on 'conspiracy theories' is The Nation's David Corn. Among other inanities, a piece penned by Corn makes the rather remarkable claim that: "Simply put, the spies and special agents are not good enough, evil enough, or gutsy enough to mount this operation ... Such an operation -- to execute the simultaneous destruction of the two towers, a piece of the Pentagon, and four airplanes and make it appear as if it all was done by another party -- is far beyond the skill level of U.S. intelligence." (5)

No ... an operation of that sort would clearly require a loosely-organized band of poorly-equipped cave-dwellers.

There's no way that the largest and most well-funded intelligence network the world has ever seen could pull off something like that. They may be capable of rigging foreign elections, routinely plotting and carrying out assassinations and coups, and 'destabilizing' the economies and political structures of various hapless nations, but it clearly strains credulity to posit that they could hijack a few planes.

They may have an enormous, secret and unaccountable budget, 'front' companies and organizations set up in every corner of the globe, and prominent mouthpieces installed throughout academia, the media, the legal community, the mental health community, the entertainment community, the medical community, and pretty much every other community that is in a position to influence public opinion; and they may control proxy armies and fascist (though certainly not 'terrorist') cells around the world, and they may have their very own private air force, but certainly no one would ever seriously suggest that such a vast intelligence network could pull off something of the magnitude of what the world saw on September 11.

As yet another reason why alternative explanations of 9-11 are, in Corn's words, "absurd," "tripe," and "crap," he makes the bold claim that: "in the spy-world some things [are] beyond the pale." One of those things, insists Corn, is "kill[ing] an American citizen." (5) That would certainly take the wind out of the sails of many a 'conspiracy theory' -- if it weren't a statement totally unsupported by the historical record.

Corn has already been challenged in print by such writers as Stephen Gowans, Alex Constantine, and Michael Ruppert, who is identified in the Corn article as one of those who are promoting conspiracy theories "too silly to address." Corn has also, apparently, been challenged by many of his readers. In an L.A. Times opinion piece, he complains of the response to his missive: "I was besieged by people accusing me of being a CIA disinformation agent." (6) Imagine that.

Corn ends his diatribe on an interesting note: "Perhaps there's a Pentagon or CIA office that churns out this material. It's mission: distract people from the real wrongdoing." (5) There is little doubt that at least some of the conspiracy theories seeking to explain the events of September 11 have been put out as deliberate disinformation to muddy the waters. But when it comes to distracting people from the "real wrongdoing," few allegedly progressive publications do as good a job at that as does the one that Corn is associated with.

The L.A. Times piece, written by Gale Holland a few weeks after the Corn article was posted, is a particularly offensive attack on 'conspiracy theorists.' The article, entitled "Have You Heard About Osama's Cheez-It Stash?," is illustrated with oversized, side-by-side photos of Osama bin Laden and, naturally enough, Elvis Presley. The obvious and rather heavy-handed intent is to equate alternative explanations for the September 11 attacks with Elvis sightings.

Apparently the newspaper didn't have any stock photos of any 'alien grays' to accompany the article.

Holland refers dismissively to what he calls a "conspiracy lobby, a tiny but persistent subgroup spawned by the John F. Kennedy assassination" that is obsessed with "shadowy government agencies with Maxwell Smartish-sounding acronyms." (6)

As for how this "persistent subgroup" views September 11, Holland writes that: "In the misty climes where the far left meets the far right, conspiracy theories have begun to dominate the 9/11 rumor mill. The basic premise is that President Bush/ the CIA/ Big Oil either planned the attacks or let them happen to secure a U.S. oil pipeline/ take over the Middle East/ launch a one-world government." (6)

Well ... let's see now. Is it 'conspiracy theorizing' to posit that Bush, the CIA and "Big Oil" would work together towards a common cause? Is there any political family in the country with closer and more extensive ties to both the CIA and the oil industry than the Bush family? Isn't it only stating the obvious to note that this triumvirate shares common interests and goals -- goals that were in fact advanced as a result of the 'terrorist' attacks?

As for the pipeline, it is a well-documented fact that the U.S. has long harbored plans to build both oil and natural gas pipelines through the nation of Afghanistan. (7) It is also an established fact that the oil companies have long coveted having a 'stable regime' (which is to say, a regime under the direct control of the U.S.) in place before committing to constructing those pipelines. (7) And it has already been reported that those pipeline plans, which have languished in recent years, have now been put on the fast track. (8)

As for the Middle East, it certainly appears as though there is a major effort underway to destabilize the entire region -- currently being spearheaded by the U.S.-armed proxy known as Israel, but likely soon to be coupled with a U.S. invasion of Iraq, accompanied by general mayhem in the area. It should also be noted that oil-rich Central Asia is quite obviously slated to be brought under the control of the U.S. as well, with troop deployments and the building of military bases in the region accelerating rapidly. (9)

And as for the notion of a one-world government, what exactly does Holland think is the goal of all those "Maxwell Smartish-sounding acronyms" -- the IMF, the WTO, the CFR, the TLC -- if not to turn the planet into one global marketplace governed only by corporate spreadsheets -- a global marketplace that can be exploited and pillaged to consolidate all of the world's wealth into the hands of the few?

Even while dismissing 'conspiracy theories,' Holland obliquely acknowledges the implausibility of the official 9-11 story: "Faced with the inexplicable, we seem to take comfort in irrational pseudo-explanations." (6) Or perhaps, when faced with the irrational pseudo-explanations offered by the state, we take comfort in searching for a more rational, logical explanation. Or, as Gowans has written for Swans: "Where the official conspiracy theory is so bad, other conspiracy theories rush in to fill the void." (10)

Also jumping into the conspiracy-bashing fray, the very same week that the L.A. Times opinion piece was published, was the allegedly progressive L.A. Weekly. A report by Ella Taylor purported to shed light on the KPFK controversy -- by declaring the "jewel in [the station's] crown" (11) to be Marc Cooper, the 'left's' leading cheerleader for the 'War on Terror' and an unapologetic supporter of the Warren Report.

Throughout the article, Taylor refers to anyone whose politics fall to the left of hers -- which is to say, anyone who is even vaguely progressive -- as "hard-line Marxists," the "Marxist left," the "far left" which spouts "vulgar Marxist doctrine," and finally as the "loony left." Exemplifying the "far left," according to Taylor, is "Amy Goodman's popular Democracy Now" -- easily the most honest offering the station serves up.

Singled out for derision in Taylor's tirade, as he was by both Corn and Holland, is Michael Ruppert, a former LAPD investigator who runs the From the Wilderness website (www.copvcia.com) and newsletter. In the Weekly piece, he is described as a "defrocked cop" and a "nutball conspiracy theorist." That title is bestowed upon him for the sin of having compiled a timeline of occurrences in the months leading up to September 11, drawn from respectable media sources, that all raise serious questions about the official version of events.

As for Taylor's hero -- Marc Cooper, one of Corn's fellow scribes at The Nation -- she notes that he "has received hundreds of e-mails insinuating that he survived the coup in Chile because he's a CIA agent who plotted the murder of his boss, Salvador Allende." (11) Imagine that.

The conspiracy debunkers are striking on other fronts as well. A website billing itself as the Urban Legends Reference Pages (www.snopes2.com) has skyrocketed in popularity in the post-9-11 world, largely due to numerous citations in the print and broadcast media (Holland's L.A. Times piece references the site twice). Along with purportedly debunking so-called 'urban legends,' the site has focused its attention of late on various September 11 'conspiracy theories.'

On television, cable's TNN premiered its new Conspiracy Zone in January 2002. The primary purpose of the show appears to be to make 'conspiracy theorists' the butt of jokes by the show's marginally talented host, Kevin Nealon, and by the show's almost entirely untalented celebrity guests, such as Gabe "Welcome Back, Kotter" Kaplan and Adam "The Man Show" Carrolla.

The most recent airing of the show, on March 31, 2002, featured an appearance by, of all people, Mike Ruppert -- to discuss the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy. Every effort was made to discredit the facts brought to the table by Ruppert (who came very well prepared), but the ringer brought in for the job, Ann Coulter, was clearly outclassed and reduced to repeatedly making the asinine assertion that "million-to-one coincidences" actually occur millions of times every day, and so we should expect to find numerous oddities and discrepancies littered throughout the RFK evidence.

Coulter is, by the way, the very same reprehensible individual who recently wrote in the National Review that America's response to the perpetrators of September 11 should be to "invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." More recently, princess Ann has been quoted as saying: "In contemplating college liberals, you really regret, once again, that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals by making them realize that they could be killed, too. Otherwise they will turn out into outright traitors." (12) Talk about your "nutballs" ...

The question that needs to be raised here is: why is all this energy being expended to discredit 'conspiracy theorists'? If we're just talking here about a few "nutballs" preaching to a "tiny subgroup," then why all the fuss? What possible threat to the purportedly rock-solid American system could such a marginalized group pose?

As anyone who has ever published material in this country that falls outside of the boundaries of acceptable dissent can tell you, the first response of the power structure is not to attack the messenger -- it is to ignore the messenger. If the publication receives no mention by the media, if it garners no reviews and -- as is virtually always the case -- the publisher lacks the resources and/or the opportunities to market the work, then for all intents and purposes the published material does not exist.

It is only if and when the information manages to find an audience despite the obstacles erected, despite being ignored in the hopes that it would just go away, that the second line of defense kicks in: destroy, by any means necessary, the credibility of the source.

We can only conclude from this then that 'conspiracy theories' are beginning to reach a much wider, and much more receptive, audience than the boys in Washington are comfortable with. And that which can't be ignored must be destroyed. Coupled with the depressed voter turnouts and the apparent hunger by the American people for books critical of the current agenda, it begins to look as though there may be a considerable amount of dissent bubbling just beneath America's tranquil surface.

That simmering anger and frustration can be gauged in another way as well -- by perusing the e-mails that are pouring in to websites that offer alternative 9-11 scenarios. The confusion, anger and fear is palpable in such mailings. They frequently begin something like this: "I have never considered myself to be a conspiracy theorist, but ...."

The desperation evident in such mailings is striking, as respondents struggle mightily to find answers to questions they never thought they would be asking. One such letter, drawn from my own mailbag, captures quite eloquently the spirit of such letter writers. It is reproduced here just as it was received:

"I am 52 years old, an Episcopal nun (formerly a professional musician and, before quitting my day job, a math teacher) and the executive director of a small non-profit organization -- an interfaith meditation center. I'm a pretty mainstream sort of person -- liberal on most issues and conservative on a few. I'm moderately well educated (master's degree), reasonably well read, and considerably well traveled -- having studied some in England and worked for years in both Ireland and South Africa as well as various parts of the United States. Until quite recently I considered 'conspiracy theorists' to be, at best, pathetically misguided and, more likely, suffering from paranoid delusions. I don't know what was the wake up call for me after September 11. Maybe it was Dan Rather prostituting himself on the Dave Letterman show. Maybe it was Time Magazine's photograph of Osama Bin Laden in evil red. Maybe it was watching unprecedented war powers handed to the executive branch with only one congressperson daring to utter a lone plea for moderation that hardly qualifies as dissent. Maybe it was that implosion of the towers that looked suspect from the get-go. I'm the only person I know who has actually read huge chunks of that so-called 'Patriot's Act' and it makes my blood run cold. I knew then that I was watching a coup inexorably unfold and I'm sick at heart.

"I've only talked about any of this with one trusted colleague who warned me that I was starting to sound like those crackpots who think the moon landings were faked. I don't dare tell him that I'm actually having my serious doubts about that too. (Why haven't we gone back in 30 years? Why has no other nation duplicated the feat?)

"I'm wondering if I'm losing it or finally seeing clearly. The magnitude of it all is devastating. The 'cognitive dissonance' is horribly painful. I understand why people turn off their faculties for critical thought and inquiry; they want to be able to sleep in their beds in reasonable peace.

"What do you propose that ordinary people like me actually do? I currently live in a very conservative part of the country where the flag-waving jingoism is nauseating."

E-mails such as this pile up in my in-box day after day, week after week -- awaiting answers that are difficult to come by. What, indeed, can ordinary people do to reverse the course we are on? How are we to begin to fight back against a system that few seem to even recognize as an enemy of the people?

The best advice that I can offer at this time to all those who currently inhabit The Twilight Zone is to let your voices be heard. Stop biting your tongues and begging off from engaging in political debates. You just may find that there are other non-believers around you who are just waiting for someone else to break the ice.

As much as appearances may suggest otherwise, you are not alone. There are many other non-believers out there, but they too are intimidated into silence. You will only find them if you have the courage to speak up -- if you refuse to be cowed by the propaganda war. Only then can grass-roots organizing begin to take shape.

Alone, you are powerless. But you don't have to be alone.

Gale Holland concluded his L.A. Times opinion piece with the following words: "Getting at the truth is tough, accepting it can be harder still. Paranoia is a lot easier." (6) Getting at the truth is indeed tough. And accepting it may be one of the hardest things that you ever do. But it is not paranoia that is easier; it is complacent acceptance of the inexplicable.

The unfortunate reality though is that there isn't time for complacent acceptance. We don't have the luxury of taking the easy route. And maybe, just maybe, there are enough quiet dissenters out there to make a difference. And maybe, just maybe, our fearless leaders have overstepped this time -- overestimated the level of lies and corruption that they can get away with.

Those are, alas, very big 'maybes.' But now is certainly not the time to throw in the towel by standing mute. The stakes are far too high. Our children and grandchildren have to grow up in this world that is being created for them. They deserve far better. For their sake, it is time for all the non-believers to stand up and be counted. And to refuse to sit back down until our voices are heard. The clock is ticking ....


*  All of these leaks were, notably, disinformational. The premise of the Nuclear Posture Review, for instance, was that America's eagerness to unleash nuclear weapons came about in response to the September 11 attacks. Earlier documents reveal, however, that the United States has been itching to cross the nuclear threshold since long before last September. The reports of the establishment of a 'shadow' government implied that America hasn't long been run from behind the curtain. And the uproar over the proposed establishment of a disinformation ministry served to cloak the fact that the overwhelming majority of the news we already get is government approved disinformation/propaganda.  (back)



1.  Martin Lee, "Reality Bites: The Campaign Issue That Wasn't," San Francisco Bay Guardian, November 13, 2000  (back)

2.  David McGowan, "The Unelectable Son: Parts I, II, and III," The Center for an Informed America, November 10, 15, and 28, 2000  (back)

3.  David McGowan, "A Supreme Injustice: Parts I, II, and III," The Center for an Informed America, December 4, 12, and 13, 2000  (back)

4.  Jenifer Warren, "Election Turnout Hit a New Low," Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2002  (back)

5.  David Corn, "When 9/11 Conspiracy Theories Go Bad," ZNet, March 1, 2002  (back)

6.  Gale Holland, "Have You Heard About Osama's Cheez-It Stash?," Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2002  (back)

7.  "Testimony by John J. Maresca, Vice President, International Relations, Unocal Corporation to House Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific," February 12, 1998, Washington, D.C.  (back)

8.  Daniel Fisher, "Afghanistan: Oil Execs Revive Pipeline From Hell," Forbes.Com, February 4, 2002  (back)

9.  Patrick Martin, "US bases pave the way for long-term intervention in Central Asia," World Socialist Web Site, (wsws.org) January 11, 2002  (back)

10.  Stephen Gowans, "Conspiracy Theory as Received Wisdom," Swans, March 25, 2002  (back)

11.  Ella Taylor, "Family Feud: The Left Eats Its Own at KPFK," L.A. Weekly, March 22-28, 2002

12.  Patrick Martin, "Conference of US right-wingers hears call to execute John Walker," World Socialist Web Site, (wsws.org) February 27, 2002


David McGowan is a photographer, a contractor, a political essayist and a writer who lives in Southern California. He is the author of "Derailing Democracy: The America the Media Don't Want You to See" (March 2000, Common Courage Press, ISBN: 1567511856) and "Understanding the F-Word: American Fascism and the Politics of Illusion" (Writers Club Press, 2001) which was recently reviewed by Steve Gowans on Swans. McGowan maintains his own Web site, the Centre for an Informed America. This is McGowan's first contribution to Swans.


Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work on the Web without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © David McGowan 2002. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.


This Week's Internal Links

Shepherding Us Into History's Charnel House - by Stephen Gowans

The Time The Great Ogre Hacked And Spit - by Milo Clark

Peekaboo - by Michael Stowell

A Verbal Analogy - Mind : Body :: Illusion : Reality - by Philip Greenspan

The Untouchable Israelis - by Deck Deckert

An Open Letter To Jewish Americans - by Assaf Oron

What Price Middle East Peace? - by Dr. Alfred M. Lilienthal

The Immigrant Nation (Part I): Mother Of Exiles - by Alma Hromic

Food. More. Now. - by Jan Baughman

Orenda - Poem by Sandy Lulay

You're Dead Mister. Dead. - by Dalton Trumbo (Book Excerpt)


Published April 8, 2002
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