The stated belief that the United States government murdered its own citizens and military personnel on September 11, 2001 is, if sincere, proof that an individual possesses intractable misconceptions, hatred and disrespect for America’s history, culture, and ideals. If the belief is not sincere, then the claim that the Bush administration orchestrated (or allowed) the Twin Towers and Pentagon attacks is an effort to harm our nation by destroying its reputation and honor, dragging it into the swamp of other nations to which murder and dictatorship are traditional. The First Amendment requires that we allow these individuals, be they deranged, sinister, irresponsible or merely stupid, to deny what makes the United States unique and slander its elected leaders, but it does not require that we accord them respect or tolerance.
It was entirely appropriate for the U.S. delegation to walk out on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the United Nations last week, as he suggested that the U.S. plotted the attacks. But Ahmadinejad at least is openly attempting to harm the United States, which is (though far too meekly) opposing his nation’s outlaw policies. He is not an American; his comments are despicable, but they are not disloyal. Americans who spout the Truther poison have no such excuse. Their contentions, intentionally or not, do great harm to America at home and abroad. If the United States were a citizen, it could sue to make the slander and libel stop, and collect considerable damages. The Constitution, however, allows citizens to slander their country.
This particular slander is as damaging as it is offensive. Not only does it fuel Middle East mythology that encourages terrorists and anti-American sentiment, it confuses our under-educated, prematurely cynical young Americans, who may begin to believe that their leaders and their country couldbe capable of such a monstrous acts. They could not, of course. Over 300 years, the American process of choosing its highest-ranking leaders has infallibly filtered out anyone who could conceivably be called uncommitted to American welfare, success, and values. Many have lacked judgment, perspective, integrity or wisdom, but the worst of our Presidents, whoever they might be, were dedicated to idea of America and its mission to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all of its citizens.Had they not been so, they never would have achieved the office.
In order to believe that such evil has existed at the highest levels of the U.S. government, one must accept a hateful construct that turns American history on its head, and accept that the nation has been driven by greed, imperialism and racism above all other motivations, that the illusion of freedom is just that, and that American leaders are not only capable of every atrocity but also able to recruit eager henchmen for their nefarious plans. Only those who are ignorant of the real United States culture or filled with blind hatred could believe this. Radical ideologues like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky exploit the ignorance, and rabid partisans exploit the hate.
It is logical that Ahmadinejad would embrace the Truther slander, because it both resembles and supports his other conspiracy theory, that the Holocaust never happened. It resembles it because both rely on a complete absence of logic and a willful disregard for history; it supports it because each have their root in Anti-semitism. Like Holocaust denial, 9-11 conspiracy claims are only given strength by efforts to disprove them by launching investigations and hearings, as some misguided commentators insist on suggesting, to “end the matter” once and for all. (Not surprisingly, this is what the president of Iran wants.) It can never be ended, because “the matter” is hate and bigotry; the conspiracy theories are just manifestations of them.
The accusations disprove themselves, even as they reveal the mindset that generates them. Anyone who believes that an insane American leader would be able to find sufficient numbers of pliant, murderous Americans to execute such a calamity without inadvertently encountering one—or a hundred—who would take action to foil and expose the plot is so polluted by hatred and lies that nothing could convince him otherwise.
How do we react to the Truthers in our midst? We must not dignify them with argument or give them the privilege of civil discourse, because they have already abused their right to free speech with the equivalent of sedition. We shun them, just as we shun those who endorse views of racial supremacy, just as we shun the Holocaust deniers, those who advocate sex with children, and the subjugation of women. Such people cannot be trusted to hold high office in this country, because they do not respect or understand this country, and harm it with their vicious rumor-mongering.
The assertion that the U.S. government killed its own citizens on 9-11 is a mass offense to America’s institutions, achievements, public, ideals, and public servants, past and present, motivated by hate and stoked by bigotry. No punishable hate crime against an individual or group threatens as much harm to our society, and no expressed opinion is more dangerous to our future. Because of the same document, the Constitution, that the conspiracy theories insult, we cannot stop the slander, but we must never tolerate it.