911: Griffin Reconsidered by George Trinkaus
A Review of
The New Pearl Harbor, Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11
by David Ray Griffin, Olive Branch, an imprint of Interlink, 2004, trade paperback
no illustrations, 240 pages, $15.00
Seen for what it is, 911 can put one into an ambivalent state of fight or flight. In considering the former, one asks, Me and what army? Which is to ask, Is there a movement, and what is its power? Can a liberal college professor bring vitality to the 911 truth movement, or could his example and influence neutralize its spirit? David Ray Griffin's The New Pearl Harbor has acquired in recent months a biblical status in certain circles of the 911 truth movement.
Here in Portland [Oregon], our 911 lecture series is called "Deconstructing the New Pearl Harbor" and our other meet-up is "The New Pearl Harbor Discussion Group". (Your reviewer has participated in both groups.) Griffin admits in his introduction that it was not until the spring of 2003 that he dared to look at any of the evidence.
"I was vaguely aware," Griffin says, "that there were people, at least on the Internet, who were offering evidence against the official account." But, Griffin says, he regarded these people as "conspiracy theorists," "beyond belief," "crackpots," "loonies." He confesses his belatedness with no shame; there may even be a touch of pride in his own innocence as a clean slate. Griffin has held for thirty years a professorship at Claremont College and got his PhD there. His specialty is philosophy and religion, an unexpected disciplinary focus for a writer on this subject. Mysteriously, Dr. Griffin's resume shows no evidence of political writing or political activism of any kind or any other intellectual or empirical foundation for venturing into the most politically sensitive subject of our time.
Griffin remained steadfastly innocent of the proliferating 911 what-really-happened issues until clued in by a fellow professor (female), whom he describes as a "sensible person." (The Sensible Person, that paragon.) The Claremont Colleges (Pomona, Scripts, Claremont, and Claremont-McKenna) have their joint campus in the town of Claremont, an insular, upscale suburb in the smoggy foothills of the San Gabriels, thirty miles east of LA. (Griffin's publisher, Interlink, is located in the collegiate hamlet of Northampton, Mass., the home of Wellesley.) New Pearl Harbor is from the campus and of the campus. Little wonder then that Dr. Griffin's professorial gestalt plays so well here in campus-studded Portland. The title of professor Griffin's book is deliberately ambiguous and coy.
To grasp its intended meaning it helps to know (1) that FDR let Pearl Harbor happen, (2) that Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in his Global Chessboard (1997) that only another Pearl Harbor could con the U.S. public into accepting an invasion of Central Asia, and (3) that the neo-con Project for a New American Century is saying ditto today. The term "Pearl Harbor" is indeed a mainstay of the vocabulary of the neo-con 911 propaganda script and was reiterated incessantly by officials and pundits participating in the TV brainwash on September 11th itself. "Pearl Harbor" is a loaded term, like "terrorist attack," best excluded from loose use in any work of 911 truth.
The New Pearl Harbor could easily ride on the cover of a book by a Brzezinski or a Kissinger. Does this ambiguity allow the professor to navigate more easily in academic society than a right-on title like, say, 911 Was an Inside Job? (That's the book's essential thesis anyway, the author's elusiveness notwithstanding.) Is Dr. Griffin trying to have it both ways?
Having it both ways would seem to be the wish also in Chapter One, "Flights 11 and 175: How Could the Hijacker's Mission Have Succeeded?" What hijackers? ask I, who have the conviction that 911 had to have been pulled off robotically. Yet Dr. Griffin goes on and on here, employing loosely the word "hijacker" in all its forms That is, until you get to Footnote 32 (one of 94 in the chapter and 636 in the book.)
Footnote 32 (page 175) is one of the longer notes, nearly a page worth of 8-point type. In the obscurity of footnote 32, Griffin ventures diffidently into the robotic "theory." He says, "There are many questions that I have not broached in the text." (One wonders which other ones, and why.) Then he is writing knowledgeably, and with conviction, about the Global Hawk aeronautic remote-control technology. He comments on the impossibility of the "alleged hijackers," actually using this term. How could they have performed these feats?
And he supplies an item that I had not heard of before, that each of the errant flights had at least one passenger who was a senior official in Raytheon's division of electronics warfare. But the footnote becomes embarrassing as the author confesses, "the fact that I have not discussed these more radical challenges to the official account in the text does not necessarily reflect my judgement that they are not true." Radical challenges? Isn't challenging the official story in any way a radical act? (Ask Bush.) Some challenges are more radical than others? These must be excluded? What are the criteria here? The footnoting of long-winded matter that belongs in the text is a dubious way to construct a book. This discontinuity would never pass my desk.
But editorial considerations aside, what does this say about the character of the author? Most of Griffin's 636 footnotes are not digressions but source references. Griffin's is the only 911 book on the market that is innocent of any original research whatsoever. Everything is second-hand. The book is devoid of illustration. There is no common-noun index, just a perfunctory index of proper names, so access is limited for other 911 researchers. Griffin's sources, are principally Nafeez Ahmed, Paul Thompson, Thierry Meyssan, Michael Chossudovsky and (thank God) Eric Hufschmidt. He also gives a nod to Michael Ruppert and Barrie Zwicker. If Griffin has made any contribution, it is that he has condensed the ponderous work of Ahmed and Thompson, for readers of this kind of fare.
Griffin is very selective of his sources. The above-named are deemed acceptable; many others are not. There are a number of interesting omissions. Researchers whom Dr. Griffin has decided that (on the basis of criteria not supplied) lie outside the etiquette. Those who are under the influence of the professor tend to take these exclusions very seriously. A snobbery is encouraged. Among those excluded are Jim Marrs, Alex Jones, Anthony J. Hilder, and David Vonkleist, to name a few. A common denominator of this group is that, unlike the innocent Dr. Griffin, when 911 occurred, they all knew instantly what was coming down and where it was coming from. They also tend to take a greater interest in 911's impacts on the U.S.A. (as opposed to Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.).
They focus on the threat to the U.S. population by a reinforced police state and on the menace to the citizenry by the New World Order, phenomena they have studied for many years. Yet their analysis of the 911 evidence is strikingly similar to that of Griffin and his bunch. Perhaps they are perceived as a bit audacious and raffish compared to a sedate professor of theology. Liberals have traditionally dismissed activists like these as "right wing." Please define. Today, if the neo-cons are the "right," then how can those who oppose them 180 degrees also be "the right?" In addition to their intrinsic worth, these researchers have extensive constituencies that they reach by various radio syndications (as well as by public appearances, videos, and books), and some are themselves syndicated talk-show broadcasters. The Griffinite snobbery that excludes this group, along with all of their followers, can only weaken the movement. Divide and conquer, says the System, and this is what Griffinism encourages.
Griffin goes on through his chapters to posit all the usual questions, providing a credible summary of the familiar evidence available in all the 911 books. About failure to scramble (which evidence points to an inside job), about the controlled demolitions of the WTC towers and Building 7 (which points to an inside job), how Flight 77 could not be what hit the Pentagon and why it hit the west wing (inside job), how Flight 93 was probably shot down (inside job), and the president's strange behavior that day (suggesting an inside job). Griffin's treatment of this familiar territory allows for the probability of complicity at the highest levels. Twice at least our coy author even uses the term "inside job," but obliquely, as in, "If it was indeed a controlled demolition, of course, that would mean that the terrorists were able to succeed in their mission to bring down the WTC only because it was an inside job." (But what terrorists? The book is full of discontinuities like this.) Also, obliquely, "Although the evidence that the collapse of the WTC was an inside job might mean that it was planned by private parties, the fact that the federal government allowed evidence to be removed suggests ... official complicity in a cover-up."
At this point in the book, Griffin could drop his coyness and trot onward forthrightly on a steed called Inside Job. This animal would have no problem putting its hooves down on solidly documented turf. All the foundation is there. But no, again the professor must have it both ways. This book is an exercise in doublethink. So in a Part Two, vaguely headed "The Larger Context," Dr. Griffin gets on a horse of a different color for the rest of the ride, one called Foreknowledge. Foreknowledge? But of course they knew. They did it!
In this part, Griffin does give a good analysis of Who Benefits? And a good summary of various agency investigations crushed by the administration. There is nothing here that would contradict a full-blast, candid position on Inside Job, but that's just not the spin, not quite. Instead, it sounds a bit like we're back on the TV networks. The chapters are sprinkled with the vocabulary of the big-lie propaganda, the one he's supposed to be busting here: terms like "terrorist attacks," "bin Ladin," "al-Qaeda," "Mohamed Atta," and, yes, "hijackers" and "hijackings." In just one instance here, Griffin feels moved to modify "hijacking" by "alleged," not because of the robotics, mind you, but because here Griffin is citing reports that at least five in the alleged suicide squad are known to be alive. Griffin has no scruples about shifting the language to meet any expediency.
Yet New Pearl Harbor is often cited as the "definitive" work on 911. Politics and language are inextricable, which is why the scrupulous use of language is so important in political discourse. Fuzzy language means fuzzy politics. Fuzzy politics is debilitating to any movement.
Griffin's fuzziness (his ambiguity, his equivocation) are compromises that he has evidently chosen in the interest of cultivating a persona of respectability for himself and his work. New Pearl Harbor's appeal may be largely due to the book's pretensions to respectability. Some 911ers may have been waiting for a respectable Griffin type to materialize before they dared to come out.
Many 911ers are desperate for any material that might convince their doubting friends, family, or co-workers, and thus deflect such persecutions as "conspiracy theorist" or "wacko." They would do better showing their friends Eric Hufschmidt's well illustrated book Painful Questions (it's even certified by Dr. Griffin), or Hufschmidt's video, or the videos of a bunch of others, whom Griffin censors out. People new to this kind of conspiratorial politics also may wish to soothe the nagging in their own psyches, their inner discomfort over this novel transgression into dark, taboo, and politically incorrect territory. Many are drawn to the professor in the wish that some of his respectability may rub off and ease the way. But is such self-consciousness and defensiveness healthy to the psyche of an individual?
The have-it-both-ways, politically-correct Griffinite position is an insecure spiritual footing and may require tranquilizers and antidepressants to maintain. One is better off letting go and allowing passage over the gap into where fearlessness and solidarity can be found. In an individual or a movement, energy cannot flow freely through self-consciousness and defensiveness. They are fundamentally debilitating and disempowering. And what about the wish for respectability itself? Can it be vitalizing, or is it poison?
So what has Griffin's respectability, coyness, snobbery, and scholarly posturing won for him thus far? A publisher (Interlink, 50 titles annually) not insubstantial, but hardly a household word. And a back-cover blurb from rad-lib icon Howard Zinn.
However, Dr. Zinn, in interviews, continues to spout nothing on 911 but politically correct "blowback." Dr. Griffin has won some access to the campus, but makes few public appearances of any kind. Someone in our discussion group contrived to get a tape of Griffin's lecture (at the University of Oregon, Eugene) aired on our local Pacifica FM (heretofore steadfastly silent on the subject) but only as a pledge-drive tease, interrupted every ten minutes by pitches for funds, and then cut short.
Our local New Pearl Harbor lecture person got his Griffin book review run (on page 14) in the local foundation-funded "progressive" paper, The Alliance, also chronically silent on the 911 issues. The publisher of this paper, which thrives on photos of sign-bearing protestors, came upon our 911 anniversary demo at the Central Library steps, us all in black with large graphic signs, but he walked on past us, as if we were invisible. Most notable among these token gestures, Griffin got his opus reviewed in the notoriously denialist The Nation, which, granted, could have rendered him invisible, like every other 911er. But the nasty reviewer paints him a "conspiracy theorist", a "crackpot," and "wacky," all the epithets Griffin's affectations of liberal respectability and scholarship are designed to deflect. The Nation would have to refocus its editorial priorities from top to bottom in order to accommodate the implications of 911 truth, as would Mother Jones, Utne, Z or any other of the foundation-funded "left."
But, given the way the money flows, this would be institutionally impossible. If Griffinism can only win token notice at best, is this dubious advantage worth the spiritual trade-off?
So, in his Part Two, Griffin abandons Inside Job, mounts a safer horse and gallops on toward his Conclusion, his final posture. This is, incredibly, a plea to the government for a "full investigation." The impetus for such a phenomenon would come from the Fourth Estate. "It is only when the press leads the way that there can be an official investigation," declares Griffin. OK, class, let's get this straight. A fascist military junta, on the heels of a stolen election, blows up 3000 people, then on this pretext goes to war in three theatres, one being its own citizenry, to whom it declares, "You are either with us or against us."
The junta threatens another national-security event bigger and uglier than 911. It squelches all police-agency investigations. It rigs two bogus official investigations. It conducts a cover-up and big-lie propaganda in the mass media and in the foundation-funded left media, both of which the junta has under its totalitarian control. All the above Griffin, in his own elusive way, has acknowledged in pages preceding. Still the coy professor is insisting that right action under these extenuating circumstances is to petition that same fascist government and its controlled media. Well, I guess that's just the sensible, respectable, reasonable, and grown-up thing to do. Had we but world enough and time ...
Is liberalism a true political position from which action can be taken, or is it just a psychological-adjustment syndrome, a tranquilizer that enables the more sensitive and thoughtful to live with the ugliness of our system of rule? From the well-schooled demographic that is particularly stricken with this syndrome, a liberal elite emerges: academics, bureaucratic professionals, think-tankers, publishers, broadcasters, pundits, and a steady crop of pathetic politicians (Liebermans, Schumers, Kerrys). They feed on the fires of true revolt burning in those whom they may cast out at any time for crimes of candor and spontaneous passion (the Dean scream). "What we usually call human maturity is some kind of resigned reasonableness" (Albert Schweitzer).
Griffin's posture is to acknowledge no particular conviction of his own (just asking these reasonable questions), but something like conviction often shines through. He claims to have no thesis, but the Inside Job one does shine through. He acknowledges no particular personal experience that flashed his consciousness into suspicion, although there must have been one. He is removed from any spontaneous ground in his own being and seems proud of it. This book, he postures, is just an intellectual exercise, objective, impersonal, balanced, scholarly. A crime under totalitarian rule is spontaneity itself, which is feared.
The well indoctrinated, the resigned and reasonable, learn to fear spontaneity, directness, honesty, and candor in themselves, as Griffin has. Spontaneity and idealism get washed out in the name of "growing up." Griffin's compromises seem so very sensible and grown up. The Politics of Gesture in the practice of politics, the resigned and reasonable, having bargained away the idealism and spontaneous truth of themselves, are eager to crush it in others. Calculation moves into the hollowed-out self. A low standard of sincerity becomes acceptable. Back-stabbing can lurk behind an amiable surface.
A politics of gesture replaces true action. Left politics, then, becomes a series of futile but correct feel-good gestures: the letter to the sold-out congressman or editor, the petition, the demo, the teach-in. Round and round with the familiar old rituals, but to what effect? The politics of gesture leaves a big vacuum. One politics that moves in to fill it may be violent action. Many who advocate violence are just disgusted with the politics of gesture, starved for true action, and could be conducted into nonviolent action if it were true and not just symbolic.
Many issues which may burn on for years in other political spheres elude the milieu of resigned reasonableness. Big-lie propagandas are rarely challenged.
All the official media, straight or "alternative," render some very challenging and relevant issues politically incorrect, invisible. That is, until the system develops that issue into a fait accompli. Then it may be permitted to come out. The liberals then institutionalize an opposition consisting of ineffectual gestures mixed with some power brokering. An orthodoxy is established. The issue and the opposition need each other, as a disease charity needs the disease, and thus it is guaranteed that the problem will never be challenged by true resistance. A good example is media conglomeration, which was well on its way in the book industry in the mid-1960's (on the heels of another coup called JFK) but did not become a fashionable issue until the 1990's, when it was way too late. Today every other sentence in political discourse begins with "The media," and we have foundation-controlled institutions, like Counterspin, FAIR, and Norman Soloman, that won't touch the 911 big lie. Is 911 truth itself becoming a liberal institution? Is the September 11th coup now, after three long years, a fait accompli? Is this why Griffinism is now materializing, because the matter is settled, because it is a done deal? The saddest thought of all.
Griffin treats 911 as if it were an isolated item from the remote historical past. He even refers to himself and some of his sources as "revisionists," as if they were academics rewriting a long established historical text. When the 911 Team contrives the next national security event, 911 will indeed become academic. When the "homeland" goes code red, this period of vocalized dissent may prove, historically, to be just a momentary luxury.
This looks like a three-phase coup. Phase one: the 2000 election. Phase two: 911. Phase three: coming right up? The Team may be engineering a code-red election crisis as I write. September 11th is just one climax in an ugly process that is ongoing. Are we not all on the same moving train? Is this train not inexorably rolling still quite solidly on tracks laid down by the same old neo-con fascist agenda? Prove to me otherwise. A bearded Russian gentleman appeared at the very first meeting of our local 911 discussion group. He said ominously, "You people just don't know about genocide, how easily it can happen."
His observation went undeveloped. He did not return. Griffin, whether he knows it or not, is riding on the same train as the rest of us. Is he not taking the same risks as other vocal 911ers? There on the insular Claremont campus, does he imagine himself exempt? Didn't Hitler's Brownshirts throw the professors into the cold lake? The question now for the cognoscenti of 911 should be, "So 911 was an inside job. Now what?" Instead, Griffinism seems to encourage perpetual study, paralyzing the issue into another dilettante political fashion. We can chose for ourselves what literature we allow to influence us. Do we chose equivocation or candor? Censorship or spontaneity? Fuzziness or precision? Resigned reasonableness or passion? Snobbery or solidarity? Respectability or f-'em-if-they-can't-take-a- joke? Do we choose tokenism or effectiveness? Accommodation or resistance? Diffidence or confrontation? Gesture or action? Movement or paralysis?
George Trinkaus, email@example.com, wrote a TV review called NBC Spins 911. This article is also available as a free e-book download: http://www.teslapress.com/NBC%20html%20web%20version.htm. His bio is at "Who is George Trinkaus?" on teslapress.com.
"Why They Believe the Government: Left Denial on 911" by August West is at San Francisco Indymedia. "The Gatekeepers: Foundations Fund Phony Left Media" is at questionsquestions.net. The NPH Portland 911 discussion group meets Thursdays, 7 pm, at Laughing Horse Books, SE 36th and Division. firstname.lastname@example.org This article previously appeared at Portland Independent Media Center.
A copy of the entire Serendipity website is available on CD-ROM. Details here.
The World Trade Center Demolition and the So-Called War on Terrorism Reply to Popular Mechanics re 9/11 Serendipity Home Page