In 1951, psychology researcher Solomon Asch initiated a series of interesting, social psychological experiments. His studies show that, when put in a situation whereby everybody else in the room is making evidently false statements about blatantly obvious facts, a substantial proportion of subjects either start to doubt their own senses or wittingly join the choir, just to go along with the majority and avoid the trouble of having to take a controversial stand. The subjects of this experiment were randomly selected, and no pressure was exerted on them: answers that were incorrect or out of line with the majority, would suffer no other negative consequences than uneasiness or shame. This experiment possibly sheds some light on the way mainstream media have been covering the 9/11 attacks, and especially the many challenges made to the official account of this event. More broadly, it can probably provide some insight into how mainstream news outlets function on a daily basis, especially with today’s tense context increasing the pressure to conform on crucial issues.

Strange compliance. The first serious challenge to the official account of the 9/11 attacks was a French bestseller written by Thierry Meyssan, which mainly focused on the Pentagon attack. Meyssan argued that there was no evidence that the US Army headquarters had been struck by a plane. He also contended that both Twin Towers and WTC7, a third high-rise building that neatly collapsed to the ground – although this one was not hit by a plane – were brought down by controlled demolition with the use of explosive charges placed in advance. Such a scenario obviously implied some degree of US complicity at the very least, if not full organisation of what would then be a false-flag event, in which an enemy attack is simulated in order to justify some sort of reaction (in this case, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military budget rises and dramatic increases in domestic and global surveillance). Quite expectedly, the public and media outcry in the face of such outlandish accusations quickly became all but unanimous. Refutation of Meyssan’s arguments was made all the easier by the fact that his book appeared too early to be thoroughly researched, and most of his arguments were poorly supported. Strangely, instead of focusing on some assertions that could have been easily debunked, most journalists preferred to go ad hominem and scrutinise Meyssan’s character and background in order to discredit him. Very soon, in France, by some strange twist of logic and partly due to the concerted efforts of a small group of mostly neo conservative-linked media players, Meyssan’s views, and almost any challenges to the official 9/11 attacks story, become associated with Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism, a notion which regularly surfaces in French public debate whenever arguments run out. From then on, anyone questioning any aspects of the official story faced ridicule and exclusion from public debate.

This opportunity to ask tough questions around controversial subjects may be exactly what Western societies are gradually losing in the face of rising global terrorism.

 

Ignored, not discussed. Meanwhile, the 9/11 Commission, set up to prepare “a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11 attacks”, published its report. Although completely overlooking key elements of the event, such as the third tower that collapsed by itself, and any financial aspects, it was embraced by the mainstream press as the definitive account of the tragedy. In its aftermath, the media simply ignored any challenge to the official narrative, exclusively covering uncontroversial aspects pertaining to 9/11: architecture contests to find a replacement for the Twin Towers, the huge delays in the reconstruction of Ground Zero, bone fragments found on the roof of the nearby Deutsche Bank building more than four years later, recurrent commemorative ceremonies here and there, etc.

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