Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 and What They Want You to Believe

Seven years ago today, hijackers took over airliners in America. A few hours later, thousands of people were dead in the ruins of New York City's World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania.

Although many of the men were from Saudi Arabia, it wasn't a Saudi attack. Al Qaeda had made history with a coordinated attach against the United States.

And quite a few people think that's what They want you to believe.

Conspiracies, Convenience, and Comfort

Who the "They" is varies a bit across the globe. America, more specifically the American government, is a big favorite. So is Israel, at least in the Middle East.

As I've said before, when elections or other stressful situations shake the tree of liberty, quite a few loose nuts fall out.

In cases like the 9/11 attacks, I think that many people find the idea of an attack on that scale, by a group like Al Qaeda, unthinkable. These people could
  1. Take the information, re-evaluate their beliefs, assumptions, and values, and come to a new understanding of what the world is, and how it works
  2. Point to their preferred bad guys, assume that they did it, and then assume that They conspired to hide the truth by besmirching Al Qaeda
Option 2 takes much less effort, and isn't nearly as painful.

When I was growing up, quite a few Americans seemed to believe that 'the commies' were behind most of the world's ills. (If you're too young to remember the fifties, watch some M.A.S.H. reruns. Frank Burns is a played-for-laughs buffoon, but he's also a caricature of a real sort of person.)

Times change. The commies have been replaced by other bogey men: like the CIA, Bush, and Big Oil. But the general pattern is the same: make up your mind, then treat reality like a cafeteria. If you don't like something, you don't have to accept it.

An outfit called World Public Opinion did an opinion poll, involving people in 17 nations. They released the results yesterday:

(From World Public Opinion, used without permission.)

I like the graph, but some of those numbers are a tad hard to read, so I put a table together, to get a better look at the data. A couple things jumped out at me. The percentage of 'don't know' goes from 3% to 57% - quite a range. And, what I think is good news: the European nations polled seem to have dropped anti-Semitism, for the most part. 1% is pretty close to background noise.

The Middle East, on the other hand, has a fair number of people who think Israel is responsible for the 9/11 attacks. A very interesting follow-up on this poll would be finding out why so many Egyptians, and others, believe that the Jews attacked America.

I don't think that public opinion polls are useful for determining what's true, and what's not. I do, however, think that they can be very useful in learning how people view the world: and what parts of reality they accept; and what parts they replace with their own assumptions.

Al QaedaAmericaIsraelOtherDon't
Britain 57%5%1%12%26%
Palestinian Territories42%27%19%9%3%
South Korea51%17%1%9%22%
(Data from World Public


Anonymous said...

Brain, thanks a lot for sharing.

My concern is about the shape of the world after 7 years of the attacks which I think it became worse.

Another inquisitive point is what history shall the future generation read about this period? hummm

Anonymous said...

I was surprised to see so many mexicans think that the U.S government was behind 9/11, and we have millions of them flooding into our country. We definitely need that border fence.

Brian H. Gill said...


My pleasure.

I don't entirely agree about the shape of the world becoming worse since September 11, 2001.

What has happened is that Muslims who believe that they have the right to kill people they don't approve of have become very difficult to ignore. It's not a new phenomenon at all: Examples go back at least as far as the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Tehran by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and the 1993 bombing of the New York World Trade Center.

I put together a chronology last year ("Congress Must Decide Who to Protect Americans From").

In some ways, I see the current state of affairs as better than it was ten years ago. It's not as easy now to regard - and dismiss - Islamic (or other) terrorism as a political statement, excusable outburst from an oppressed populace, or manifestation of psychological angst.

Not that I wouldn't much rather that everyone be nice, of course.

Brian H. Gill said...


I really don't know about the border fence. And, the last I heard, the migration is going the other way: possibly because more jurisdictions are starting to regard illegal entry and residence in America as a criminal act.

As for being surprised about so many Mexicans thinking that the Yankees are behind 9/11: I'm not.

But then, I was around in the fifties, when a loud, if not large, segment of the American population was convinced that the commies were behind everything.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.