By Frank Moher
The star journalists of 2007 didn’t work for The New York Times or The Washington Post or The Globe and Mail. They didn’t work for 60 Minutes or “W-5” or “The Fifth Estate.” The real star journalists of 2007 were the dogged, artless, perseverant investigators and writers, mostly amateur, who continued to pursue the story of what really happened on 9/11, because the above-named big guys and their kind continued to ignore it.
We’re talking about young people like Dylan Avery and Jason Bermas, who in November released Loose Change: Final Cut, the third iteration of their seminal 9/11 documentary. Though it’s not as flashy as the earlier versions, Final Cut is a meticulous assemblage of unanswered questions about that day — most of them, it seems, left purposely unanswered by the 9/11 Commission and other government agencies. At its best, it resembles the sort of investigative work that “60 Minutes” might once have done.
Then there’s the Citizens Investigative Team, again mostly young people, who actually went into the neighbourhoods surrounding the Pentagon to ask people what they’d seen.
The information they uncovered contradicts the official version of events that day, but the point here is that they did what the big organizations apparently can’t be bothered to do anymore, which is to burn shoe rubber in pursuit of a story.
Instead, the media behemoths initially swallowed the government story whole, and now, as it becomes increasingly insupportable, have simply gone silent. A few feints at investigation have been made: both The History Channel and the BBC have broadcast documentaries purporting to debunk 9/11 alternative theories. But in both cases, rather than doing any serious digging of their own, they simply drag out the editors of Popular Mechanics magazine, which three years ago published its own debunking article. This is an ancient media ploy: when you don’t feel like doing the work yourself, interview another journalist who claims to have done it already. Ignored is the fact that Popular Mechanics‘ take on the subject has itself been effectively deconstructed. Also omitted, inexplicably, is the CV of PM‘s chief “expert,” editor-in-chief James Meigs. Mr. Meigs was previously an employee of such hard-science publications as National Geographic Adventure, the movie fan-mag Premiere, and Entertainment Weekly. When somebody has street cred like that, you’d think they’d want to mention it.
In Canada, a few admirable attempts at giving play to alternative theories have been made: Maclean’s did so in May, 2006, and CBC TV’s “Sunday” a few months later. On the other hand, The National Post confines itself to running patronizing coverage of 9/11 conferences, and mocking media outlets who deviate from the official line, or who even let their columnists do so. The Post‘s reasoning is that various Al-Quaeda leaders, including Osama Bin Laden, have cheerfully admitted to being responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and that settles that. The fact that Bin Laden was once a CIA asset and, for all most of us know, might still be; that various secret services have almost certainly infiltrated Al-Quaeda, just as the FBI had infiltrated the conspirators who carried out the WTC bombing back in 1993; or that nobody has yet said anything to explain why World Trade Centre 7 imploded, is apparently too rococo to crack the Post‘s editorial page.
This “nothing to see here, move along” approach is shameful, not to mention pathetic. When hundreds, maybe thousands of experts — architects, engineers, physicists, ex-military officers, ex-intelligence agents, demolition experts, pilots, and others — are raising big, refulgent red flags about the events of 9/11, the mainstream media’s silence looks increasingly dimwitted. Media critic Barrie Zwicker chalks it up to deception; I’m more inclined to think it’s pure chickenshittedness. Neither looks particularly good on them.
Meanwhile, it’s been left to the kids and amateurs to pursue the biggest story of this young century. Good for them. But, given their limited resources and profile, all the worse for the rest of us. This is a job for the big guys. Their stand down is not only a let down — it’s a major breach of their covenant with the public. Or what used to be their covenant with the public, before they started acting yellow in more ways than one.