April 19, 2005

A standing ovation at the University of Wisconsin for a speaker who argues that Bush orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.

The Daily Cardinal reports:
Theorists bent on exposing falsehoods in The 9/11 Commission Report maintain the attacks were a conspiracy led by the Bush administration, as UW-Madison students heard Monday at an event sponsored by the Muslim Jewish Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth.

The event, broadcast on C-SPAN, featured Christian theologist David Griffin, Ph.D, and his interpretations of the alleged Sept. 11 conspiracy theory.

Griffin's speech addressed his own compiled evidence that suggests the attacks were not only known about by the United States government and military, but orchestrated in order to expand an "American empire" allegedly based on oil and power.
Student quote:
"I definitely endorse his theory,"
Here's the report from the other student newspaper, the Badger Herald:
[M]uch of the audience appeared sympathetic to Griffin, rewarding him with a standing ovation at the conclusion of the lecture.
UPDATE: A reader sends this link to the March 2005 issue of Popular Mechanics, which methodically debunks the various 9/11 conspiracy myths.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And here's the report from the Capital Times::
David Ray Griffin asks the tough questions about Sept. 11, contending U.S. officials had some knowledge of what was coming and possibly orchestrated the attacks.

Griffin, whose book, "The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11," came out a year ago, drew an enthusiastic standing ovation from the majority of the 400 or so people who packed his lecture Monday night at Bascom Hall.

A retired Christian theologian, Griffin, 65, taught for more than 30 years at the Claremont School of Theology in California.

His comments Monday night were directed at religious people, who he said need to respond to Sept. 11 - and the American empire that has ensued - based on the moral principles of their religious traditions.

Drawing laughter from the crowd, Griffin said he had in mind principles like: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors' oil" and "Thou shalt not murder thy neighbors in order to steal their oil."

While Griffin noted that his books and talks have not received attention from the mainstream media, C-SPAN had a cameraman at the event and plans to air the lecture at a future date. Madison's public access cable television station, WYOU-TV/Channel 4, meanwhile, will air the talk at 7 p.m. Thursday.
UPDATE: Let's look closely at the journalism here. My son John Cohen writes:
I noticed this from the Cap Times article you linked to today:
"Americans interpret the events of Sept. 11 in one of four ways, Griffin said: ... A second group accepts the official line but thinks Sept. 11 has been used opportunistically by the Bush administration to extend the American empire. People who hold this view often believe that America's response to Sept. 11, which has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, is far worse than the attacks themselves, he said."
Notice how it's not clear who is saying that "America's response to Sept. 11" "has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths." It sort of seems like they're just reporting on what Griffin said, because the sentence ends with "he said." But that's not necessarily the case: you could also see it as a parenthetical remark that the Cap Times itself is inserting into their paraphrase of Griffin's view. (And of course they don't question the assertion.)

I didn't read the whole article, but just glancing over it I noticed that the Cap Times seems to take every chance it can to slant its wording to suggest that Griffin has credibility (not that this is surprising). One example:
"Griffin also made a case that the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings was brought on by thousands of explosives placed throughout each of the buildings."
Saying someone "made a case" isn't quite saying that they made a good case, but it implies that they at least made a reasonable case.

Also, your excerpt of the Daily Cardinal says:
"Griffin's speech addressed his own compiled evidence that suggests the attacks were not only known about by the United States government and military, but orchestrated in order to expand an 'American empire' allegedly based on oil and power."
This should read: "Griffin claimed that his evidence suggests....” When they refer to "his own compiled evidence that suggests..." they're saying that the evidence actually suggests what he claims it suggests. (And even just using the word "evidence" is kind of slanted.) (And it's just comical that they qualify one part of the sentence with the word "allegedly," as if they're being objective.)

I know I'm being very nitpicky about wording. And any of the things I'm pointing out might be just sloppy editing. But why is all of the sloppiness slanted in the same direction?
For shame!


Uncle Jimbo said...

This relates directly to your post yseterday on rudeness. Didn't the left used to be about peace and love and understanding. The lack of civility that permeates a large portion of the left, even beyond the activists, is sad.

It is a very self-defeating attitude that breeds the acts and sentiments you mention. It also drives reasonable folks away because hate doesn't feel good or sell well to most.

I enjoy watching the Deaniac wing pull the Democrats left, but it will certainly cost them votes in the middle. I wrote a piece on the demographics of Dean's supporters at madison.com discussing how MoveOn and Michael Moore and those folks alienate moderates.

I hope I give my kids the reasoning power to see beyond pitiful conspiracy theories. They already deconstruct TV ads so they have a start.


Uncle J

Walter said...

I was talking to someone about this the other day and they raised a good question, "Do you actually believe that President Bush would kill thousands of Americans as an excuse to get more involved in the Middle East?"

When I hear people blaming Bush for 9/11, I think it is because they hate him enough to believe the worst, that he could kill thousands to make a political point. This is yet another way to say "I hate Bush" and "Bush is Evil" without have the guts to come out and say it in a straight forward manner.

Abraham said...

Hmmm. Well, whatever you do, DON'T question their patriotism!

Airlifter said...

I have every confidence that at the Univ of Wisconsin, as well as here at the Univ of California, were I to announce that G.W. Bush was just the tool of a group of right wing extraterrestrials, there would be a significant number of students (and, unfortunately, faculty) who would seriously consider the possibility. Not because they really believe in ET's, but because they are willing to believe anything negative about Bush.

Julie said...

My current theory on conspiracy theories is here, prompted by a 1998 movie review for the X-Files movie that I found last year in an old paper. This story fits right into my working theory....unless this is all a conspiracy to bolster my erroneous thinking....

dub-sea said...

There's also a great editorial in that PM issue you link to.

The amazing thing about these conspiracy theories is how they completely invert Occam's razor -- the most complex, least plausible explanation becomes the most desirable hypothesis. (I posted about this in slightly more detail on my own site.)

Dave said...

I realize you bear no responsiblity for such inanities. But it does not speak highly of your university that such ideas find sympathy there. Of course, with all the BS going on at college campuses today it's hardly surprising. Should be surprising, but it ain't.

Kathleen B. said...

I really is just shocking that anyone would believe Bush was responsible for 9/11. There are some many terrible, and true, things to devote our time and effort into fixing.
Yet, I must take issue with the idea that such believers represent "the Left." They do not. While no one walks in lock-step, almost everyone I know or have known are "liberal" or "left wing", and I have never even heard of anyone believing such a theory, or that such a theory existed. And I pretty much read only what most would consider "left wing" news and blogs (except this one of course!). I am not saying such people do not exist, or that they don't consider themselves "left wing", I am just saying, in my opinion, it is a mistake to impute their views to "lefties" in general (or to Moveon or to Gov. Dean or to their supporters).

Ann Althouse said...

Kathleen: I note that only about 100 students/others went to the war protest last week. What's with 400 students/others showing up for this nonsense? I agree they don't represent the whole of the left, but I think it's a good guess that they are on the left. Could be some extreme, McVeigh-type righties too -- but a bit unlikely in Madison.

badger said...

Welcome to the Univ of Wisconsin, DAVE...where no ideas but yours should ever find sympathy.
None of that "continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found" 'round here.
Actually, I'm glad you don't think highly of my alma mater.

badger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Evan said...

I find it interesting that the Daily Cardinal report refers to Griffin as a "theologist," rather than the correct word ("theologian") which the Capital Times used. I guess we college students get so little exposure to theology these days that we don't even know the title of the person who generates it.

Uncle Jimbo said...

I think that there is a relatively small number of true believers on the left, what is sad is that there is a much larger contingent who fail to stay informed enough to not listen to the lies.

It's a potential train wreck for the Democrat Party. It might eventually lead to a third progressive party and relegate the Democrats to permanent minority status.

Since I saw another live link in comments I educated my lame self enough to use an HTML tag so here is the link to the Deaniac story and My wife's first skydive

I feel as smart as a 13 year old code warrior.


Uncle J

Pancho said...

Conspiracy theories such as these will always find a home with the naive, ignorant and just plain stupid among us. Not to mention those with an agenda.

Not Happy said...

After looking at some of your photos of Madison during the past week, I started to miss the place. Now I read this crap and I'm revolted by it again. This is the most deceptive article I believe I've ever seen in the Capital Times. (The State Journal isn't too good either, by the way. But they're slanted in the other direction.) They've printed biased news reports before, but I've never seen anything this bad. How do you respond to people like this? Is a letter to the editor even worth the time? Would the newspapers give any prominent attention to a thoughtful criticism of their reporting? It would probably be put in a small corner of the paper where no one would notice it.

IncredibleHallq said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
IncredibleHallq said...

How does a nut like this get to speak on campus? The article implies not a penny of the funding came from the university, which I hope is true. However, do they give anyone who wants to speak a venue, or do students need to get together X number of signatures on a petition, or does the faculty just decide? Which is it?

Ann Althouse said...

Halo: It sounds as though he was the guest of a student group. I don't know what the rules are here actually.

JK said...

IncredibleHallq: Why shouldn't he be allowed to speak on campus? Granted, I do think there should be some sort of selective process for choosing these speakers
(after all we can't let any nut job come talk), but what kind of academic environment would we have if controversial speakers weren't allowed to speak on college campuses? This is how debate happens. It's great!

On a semi-related side note, I know Universities tend to tilt to the left, but where are all the academic righties taking up faculty positions and offering to come give talks? I have a hard time believing they don't exist. Clearly they do -- see some of the comments on posts to this blog.

Joseph White said...

I think the conspiracy theory mindset is a substitute for religion. Conspiracy theorists don't like chance, or randomness. The idea that at any time or any place, a crazed terrorist could blow himself up right next to you, is a very frightening idea to some people. The idea that conspiracy theories are illogical misses the point; they are overly logical. In many ways it is more comfortable to believe that everything is controlled by a small group of people acting on understandable, if immoral, motives, than to believe that randomness, and chaos are a part of life.

Joseph White said...

"Comforting" not "comfortable". Sorry.

Old Patriot said...

I spent too many years in the Air Force watching things blow up to believe most of the conspiracy theories. That said, the US Government did some stupid things in the 1990's, so I can see how these things grow. While some of it is hatred for George Bush, there's a lot of it that's just paranoia of government itself, regardless of who's holding what offices. There's a significant minority in this country that can't accept the reality that some people hate us just because we're not them, and have to devise a different reason for these acts of terrorism against us. Unfortunately they divert and confuse those that are just poorly informed.

Airlifter said...

Relative to JK's "...where are all the academic righties taking up faculty positions and offering to come give talks?", I can't speak for UWisc (because I've never been there) but, here at the Univ of California (where the faculty is about 85%-95% liberal and less than 5% conservative (lower case letters are deliberate), a conservative speaker is seldom ever allowed to speak. (FYI, I fall into also tiny independent fraction.)

UC Fact 1: An avowed communist, who advocated the violent overthrow of the constitution, is not only allowed to speak, but is given a tenured faculty position at UC, because what they said is only "freedom of speech".

UC Fact 2: The students (and the more rabidly left faculty) tried to stop the then Speaker of the House of Representatives (Newt Gingrich) from speaking because allowing him to speak was not a free speech issue, but rather a "hate speech" issue.

I don't recall the constitution making any distinctions about "hate speech" when it came to free speech. So, doesn't preventing such speech (which is actually just speech they disagree with) constitute "prior restraint"?

The latest free speech travesty occurring within academia is to physically attack any conservative speaker who dares to show up at an "institution of higher learning". And yes, hitting someone with a pie (or anything else) is physical battery, at least here in California, under California Penal Code Section 242: "A battery is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.".

This type of incident does not meet a meaningful definition of civil disobedience since there will be no significant cost to pay. The perpetrators know that, with the possible exception of a token fine, they will pay no price for their crimes.

Gandhi broke the law to emphasize the injustices he saw in India under the British, but he was willing to accept the penalty for doing so. The current generation of civilly disobedient protestors do not think they should have to pay any price. After all, they are "on the side of righteousness" in these issues.

Despite what the administrations would like you to think, "academic freedom" and "freedom of speech" at many colleges and universities exists only if your ideas are politically correct. The really sad part of this is that those administrators either do not see this or, if they do, think it is proper.

Chris said...

I live in Royal Oak Mi. In our down town area, people have been posting laminated signs constantly that say "911 it was an inside job! get the truth at.." such and such dot com. I cannot for the life of me remember the website, but it is probably linked to these people. Sick Just sick.

IncredibleHallq said...

I never said he shouldn't be allowed use of the auditorium. I refered to footing the bill. I'm going to Madison next year, and the idea of my tuition dollars going to support such a guy makes me uneasy. If opposing groups could get together signatures (or make some other demonstration that there's a deman for the speaker), and get an opposing speaker pay for that would be the best thing for dialogue. That still doesn't make me totally comfortable with paying such a speaker's fees.

JK said...

IncredibleHallq: Part of attending an institution of higher learning is having to pay for groups/things you wouldn't necessarily agree with. Speaking as UW alum, a portion of your tuition will be put into a "pot" that all student groups get to use -- including the ones you don't agree with. Like it or not, this is the way it is. Think of it like the federal government: you have to pay taxes to be a citizen and your taxes go to all programs and services funded by the government, whether you agree with them or not. However, you do have a voice at UW (just as with the government). You can elect student representatives to manage these funds.

duff said...

All you have to do is review the evidence. The conclusions are inescapable. The only real conspiracy theory is the once promulgated by the Bush administration. I doubt that few of the previous posters ever took the time to look.
clinical neuropsychologist/neuroscientist