With a jackahmmer for the big chunks and a set of scalpels for the encrusted gems perhaps this dense, complex agglomeration of propaganda - ranging far and wide in the realm of ideological work from the bolstering of unthinking class contempt to orisons to American exceptionalism - could be dismantled, but it would be a shame to destroy a mechanism of such impressive intricacy:
We've never had an e-mail response like the one we got after Monday's segment with Stephen Jones, a professor in the department of physics and astronomy at Brigham Young University. Jones believes that the World Trade Center buildings were likely brought down by bombs, rather than by hijacked planes on 9-11. "Use of powerful, pre-positioned explosives in the WTC buildings would imply an 'inside job'," Jones writes in a paper available on the BYU website. "Clearly, we must find out what really caused the WTC skyscrapers to collapse as they did."
When one of my producers first told me about him, my first thought was: Stephen Jones is insane. And he may be. On the other hand, he does have a legitimate job and a responsible-sounding title. He's not living in the park, or writing me letters in crayon. How crazy could he really be? In the interest of open-mindedness, we booked him.
That was probably a mistake. Talking about 9-11 is a lot like discussing someone else's religion: You can do it, but you've got to tread carefully. Most of the time, it's best to stick to platitudes and move on. The subject is still too raw for debate, particularly here in the New York area. (The little town where I live lost six people on September 11th; the town next door lost more than 20.) Professor Jones wasn't up to the job. If you saw last night's show, you know what an uncomfortable six minutes it was. If not, I'll summarize: Jones was almost totally incapable of explaining his own ideas. By the end of the interview I understood no more about his hypothesis than when it began. He was an epically bad guest.
Yet - and here's the interesting part - he seemed to connect with a huge number of viewers. Some who e-mailed were offended that Jones would dare question the official version of 9-11. Some were confused by what he was trying to say. But the overwhelming majority wrote to thank me for my "courage" in putting him on, and to complain that we didn't give him more time to explain the conspiracy.
In other words, a lot of people seem to think it's possible that the U.S. government had a hand in bringing down the World Trade Center buildings.
Ponder that for a second: The U.S. government killed more than 3,000 of its own citizens. For no obvious reason. Then lied about it. Then invaded two other countries, killing thousands of their citizens as punishment for a crime they didn't commit.
If you really thought this - or even considered it a possibility - how could you continue to live here? You couldn't. You'd leave the United States on the next available flight and not come back. You'd have no choice. Continuing to pay taxes to a government capable of something so evil would make you complicit in the crime.
So of course most of the people who wrote to say they think the government might have been behind 9-11 don't really think the government might have been behind 9-11. For whatever reason, they just like to say so. Which as far as I'm concerned makes them phony and irresponsible.
Incidentally, we still have an open mind here on the Situation, even after Professor Stephen Jones. So if evidence ever does arise that the government lied substantially about what happened on September 11th, we'll be on it immediately. I promise.