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September 30, 2010

The Post's Jonathan Kay attacks 9/11 truth seekers

Scott Stockdale

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In a September 25 opinion piece in the National Post, Jonathan Kay sets out to dispel the myths about "conspiracy theorists," - an all-encompassing term, regardless of the factual evidence presented in support of a theory.

In a Canadian Charger article Dr. Kevin Barrett, explains just how ridiculous it is to attack the credibility of anyone who expresses a conspiracy theory about 9/11.

“In fact, anyone who thinks 9/11 was planned and carried out by more than one person must offer a theory about what is by definition a conspiracy.

Therefore anyone who discusses responsibility for 9/11 is literally a conspiracy theorist.

Unfortunately, this universal and thus completely empty term is often employed as an ad-hominem insult by those who have no rational or empirical arguments to back up their own conspiracy theory that 19 Arabs with box cutters and a guy in a cave on dialysis did 9/11.”

Indeed, those supporting the official explanation attack the credibility of those who don't, ignoring the evidence. This is a rhetorical trick: when faced with an indefensible position, change the subject and/or attack the messenger. Meanwhile, those who doubt the official explanation for 9/11 attack the evidence and ignore the messengers.

However, Mr. Kay remains undeterred. He informs the readers that “having spent the last two years interviewing conspiracy theorists for a forthcoming book on the subject” he knows that the stereotype of a conspiracy theorist as an anti-social, mentally unstable nut doesn't hold. In fact, he says most conspiracy theorists he's met are high achievers.

“A typical specimen is Toronto scholar Michael Keefer, one of Canada's leading 9/11 conspiracists, who also happens to be a world-renowned scholar of Shakespeare, Descartes, and Marlowe.”

He proceeds to psychoanalyse these conspiracy theorists and, whether he's interviewed them or even met them or not, use a broad stroke to make sweeping generalizations about their psychological makeup, presenting no facts to support his conclusions, other than the fact that they don't agree with him on the official explanation for 9/11.

“What drives these people to their delusions? There are different psychological factors at play. Some conspiracy theorists are undergoing a mid-life crisis, or have experienced life-changing medical tragedies. Others are web addicts, who've lost the ability to discern legitimate news from internet flotsam.”

I wonder about Mr. Kay's credentials for characterizing distinguished Canadian University professors, or anyone for that matter, as delusional. During the Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton scandal, I saw well-known conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer being asked, in a televised panel discussion, if it were possible that Monica Lewinsky could be delusional.

With impressive credentials in psychiatry, including having been a resident and then a Chief Resident in Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital (1975-1978), and subsequently board certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Mr. Krauthammer knows of what he speaks.

I can still remember the emotion in his voice when he replied “delusional!” if she were that delusional she wouldn't be able to take care of herself and function on a daily basis in society.

Nonetheless, delusional is the term commonly used to describe those who doubt the official version of 9/11, with some; but certainly not all, or even a majority for that matter, suggesting that the U.S. government itself is responsible. I can certainly understand the many mainstream media commentators who say these accusations are hurtful and disgusting, especially if there were some truth to them.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kay continues with his psychoanalysis of those who don't agree with him.

“By far the biggest category of conspiracy theorist is what I call the failed historian. He is someone who views human history through a rigid and all-encompassing ideological template. Some are Marxists, others are Islamists or Chomskyites, or radical Tea Party conservatives, or white supremacists. Whatever the details of their belief system, they all have a shared need to reconcile everything they know about the world with their totalizing world view. A conspiracy theory is a tool that lets them do that.”

It's telling that Mr. Kay doesn't mention any neoconservatives in his list of the ideologically driven. Has there ever been a problem in the world that the market can't resolve, if government and its accompanying regulations would just stop interfering and give the market a free hand to function according to the way those who benefit most from it think it should?  Although the free market system is man-made, those who cherish it seem to think it's divine. Mr. Kay seems to think he and his like-minded colleagues are objective in their analysis while everyone who doesn't agree with them is subjective, often delusional. Isn't that the hallmark of an ideologue of any persuasion?

Canadians have long realized that  ideologies at both ends of the spectrum are incongruent  with the realities of Canadian life, for the vast majority of people. That's why as Jean Chretien said, Canada is a centrist country; and that's why a Waterloo area University professor's comment that Mulroney was too far right and Trudeau was too far left, still resonates with me.

I think this excludes me as one of the militant left-wing campus radicals, Mr. Kay describes in his article, “whose ideology requires him to trace every species of evil in the world to Washington or Tel Aviv.”

The other side of this argument, which Mr. Kay either seems to ignore, or is genuinely unaware of, is that it's difficult to find a right-wing media commentator who strays significantly from the government propaganda, of a conservative government, on any major issue. Perhaps I'm being too harsh in my assessment of these above-mentioned commentators because, after all, what is propaganda if not a clever blend of fact and fiction, making it difficult for anyone to distinguish the difference, let alone those with a heartfelt attachment to the ideology the propaganda supports.

However, I'm still shocked that, in his article, Mr. Kay refers derisively to those who doubt the official version of the Kennedy assassination as “left-wing conspiracy theorists.” He seems to be suggesting that 80% of the American public – the percentage who don't believe the official version - are delusional, but this shouldn't be surprising when one considers whose information Mr. Kay considers credible, regardless of evidence to the contrary.

One has to wonder why a major newspaper such as the National Post would print such drivel, but I'll leave speculation on that matter to better informed observers.

However, I think I now have a better understanding of why Paul Wells, former National Post columnist and currently columnist and blogger at Maclean's Magazine said – into the microphone at a public meeting in Waterloo, in response to a question I asked – that the National Post is “cartoonish” and “flag-waving.”

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