Monday, March 08, 2010
By John Avlon
The Daily Beast
Photo: Associated Press
It was perhaps inevitable that the world’s most notorious Holocaust denier would out himself as a 9/11 Truther. This weekend, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pronounced the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, a "big lie," "a complicated intelligence scenario and act" and "a pretext for the campaign against terrorism and a prelude for staging an invasion against Afghanistan."
He echoed claims long made by one of the most virulent conspiracy theories to infect recent American politics—the Orwellian named 9/11 Truthers, who believe the attack was an inside job.
It is appropriate that Ahmadinejad used the phrase the "big lie," first coined by Adolph Hitler in Mein Kampf to explain the psychology behind propaganda campaigns of misinformation. "In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility," Hitler wrote, because "It would never come into [most people's] heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."
The Big Lie can be seductive. It masquerades as reason, even scientific inquiry, but it leads down a path confirming your worst suspicions about your worst enemy. Its proponents cast themselves cast themselves as populist truth tellers taking on powerful interests, but many are trying to profit personally or politically by stirring up fear and paranoia.
The Pentagon gunman John Patrick Bedell was an extreme example of an unstable soul who bought into these claims. But he is far from alone. Five years after the attack, a Scripps Howard poll found that thirty-six percent of Americans believed the federal government "either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action" because they "wanted to go to war in the Middle East." Sixteen percent thought the World Trade Center might have collapsed because of secret explosives—a claim made by Bedell in his online writings. Not long ago, purple "9/11 was an Inside Job" stickers were ubiquitous on New York City street-corners and in 2008 Truthers rallied around the presidential candidacy of leftist Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney as well as Texas libertarian Ron Paul, winner of this year’s CPAC straw poll....(Remainder.)