Jonathan Kay is the author of Among the Truthers, an anti-9/11-truth rant that devotes more vitriolic attention to me than to any other 9/11 truth movement figure, and libels me outrageously in the process.
So you wouldn't think that Jonathan and I would ever see eye-to-eye. But it turns out that we agree on a very important point: The "Islamic terror threat" has been grossly exaggerated. Amazingly enough, we also agree that "conspiracy theories" are getting out of hand!
Here is Jonathan Kay's response to my recent open letter trying to find common ground.
I would agree that Americans, and everyone else, overestimate the threat (to them personally) from terrorism — just as they overestimate the threat from airplane crashes, gun crime, and other forms of violent death (while underestimating the threat from, say, eating salty food or being overweight). I think they also overestimate the radicalism of American Muslims. I went to a hyper-conervative “anti Shariah” conference in Nashville a few months ago, and was shocked by how freaked out these people were. They seemed to think that an Islamist theocracy was about to take over Washington any day. I think that people in that kind of phobic, agitated state also fall into the category of people who can’t be argued with. It’s a phenomenon I see on both sides of the political spectrum — the radical, Islamophobic right, and the radical, anti-Zionist left.
Thank you for this sensible comment. I agree completely (and urge you to write some hard-hitting pieces along these lines) though of course I would disagree with you about which anti-Zionists are reasonable and which are not. I see most as reasonable, and most pro-Zionists as unreasonable, while you would presumably disagree - which is natural, since we disagree about whether Zionism is a reasonable enterprise.
Your critique of paranoia and scapegoating is not without merit. But what you're missing is that the biggest source of the problem is that many of the "conspiracy theories" you denigrate are true, or at least defensible based on the available evidence. "Conspiracy paranoia" is the natural result of a lack of transparency, not merely people's vivid imaginations.
I'm sure you will agree that the empirical evidence supports the truth of Smedley Butler's story about a near coup d'état during the FDR era. Yet none of the coup plotters was prosecuted. Congress swept high treason under the rug.
Was the coup plotters' impunity a fluke? Or do powerful criminals often, usually, or nearly always evade prosecution for their crimes? The rate of unsolved cases in ordinary crimes is very high - 90%-plus - which is actually understated, since the police are usually happy to "solve" crimes by making whatever case can be made, regardless of the innocence or guilt of their target. Errol Morris's film The Thin Blue Line makes this point beautifully; and the Monfils murder case here in Wisconsin is another classic illusration.
So when you admit that some conspiracies are real, but cite only "solved" cases, you are making an unreasonable inference: That crime is always punished, and treason never prospers. I suggest to you that the kind of people who gravitate to power are the kind of people who have little or no compunction about committing crimes that they believe they can get away with; and that their belief that they can get away with almost anything, especially "big lie" crimes so great that ordinary people can't imagine them, is generally accurate. When powerful people set up a complex crime, complete with a well-prepared cover story and a patsy to take the blame, the odds of their being caught drop to just about zero...even when they leave smoking-gun evidence, as they did with WTC-7 on 9/11.
Therefore, whenever a crime is committed from which powerful people or groups clearly benefit, we may assume that, regardless of what happens or doesn't happen in the courts, the newspapers, or the history books, the chances are fairly good that one or more of those people or groups authored the crime and got away with it. This harsh reality may be disheartening to those who worship at the altar of power - i.e. those who have not yet deprogrammed themselves from the primate instinct to kiss the purple rear ends of the alpha males. But it is also liberating, as the truth always is.
Unfortunately, it seems to me (and here I'm sure you will agree) that popular rumors of high crimes including the murders of JFK, RFK, FDR, MLK, JFK Jr., etc., coups d'état including Smedley's Coup, Bush's "October Surprise" in 1980, Bush's election theft in 2000, 9/11, false-flag attacks including the Gulf of Tonkin, Oklahoma City, the first World Trade Center bombing etc., and massive coverups of these crimes as well as other subjects including mind-control experiments, UFO allegations, child prostitution rings servicing the elite, wholesale computerized election fraud, banksters plotting a New World Order dictatorship, geoengineering through chemtrails, vaccine shenanigans and so on are getting out of control.
Your solution is to argue (without evidence) that none of these claims are true, and to ridicule your opposition. In the internet era, that won't work. Too much evidence pointing in the opposite direction is too easily available.
Cass Sunstein, who like us worries about the spread of "conspiracy theories," ups the ante. He argues that it may one day be necessary to outlaw conspiracy theories; but that in the meantime, the government should "disable the purveyors of conspiracy theories" and "cognitively infiltrate" conspiracy movements. For some reason, purveyors of conspiracy theories, including myself, have not been calmed and reassured by Sunstein's arguments against conspiracy theories. On the contrary, they have fueled our paranoia - undoubtedly because we are too perverse to grasp Sunstein's benevolent intentions.
So here is my solution: American glasnost. We should start from the assumption that for the powerful, crime usually does pay, and that a great many unacknowledged yet massive crimes and Big Lies undoubtedly clutter and degrade our history. Then, perhaps using a Truth and Reconciliation approach, we should make an all-out effort to get to the truth of all of the above claims as well as any other alleged "crimes and big lies of the powerful" that may come to our attention. Once the record has been corrected, and a more truthful history established, we should make an all-out effort to design institutions that will prevent or at least limit such abuses in the future.
I stand ready to serve as Commissioner of Conspiracies should such an attempt at glasnost ever take shape. And I would certainly consider appointing you Devil's Advocate or Anti-Conspiracy Czar should my duties include the delegation of such authority to someone congenitally incapable of believing that high crimes of the powerful ever escape prosecution in the courts of law or the pages of history.
Until such a day arrives, I remain