Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Paul Craig Roberts' Paranoid Style

Crypto-Truther, Paul Craig Roberts is JAQing off about the events of 9/11.

He wants to know:

How did three World Trade Center skyscrapers suddenly disintegrate into fine dust?


How did massive steel beams in three skyscrapers suddenly fail as a result of short-lived, isolated, and low temperature fires?

Well, as a partial answer to the first, two passenger planes loaded with fuel crashed into the Twin Towers. which led to their collapses. One of those collapsed into the third skyscraper and set that on fire.

Of course, that makes the second slightly easier to answer too. The question is wrong. In fact none of the skyscrapers fell down as a result of "short-lived, isolated, and low temperature fires". As a former assistant secretary of Ronald Reagan I would have thought he'd be a bit more informed than that. WTC7 fell down after burning for seven hours and according to many reports the fires were not small or isolated.

Paul Craig Roberts is writing in response to a Washington Times article about AE9/11 Truth's recent "press conference". Of course, it would be cheeky to point out that none of the press turned up to it and that the Washington Times is not a real newspaper anyway, so I won't do that. Instead, I'll focus on the merits of his "argument" which is essentially to say that his compatriates are a bunch of complete idiots who'll believe anything.

There will always be Americans who will believe whatever the government tells them no matter how many times they know the government has lied to them.

Isn't there a logical contradiction somewhere in that statement? Americans believe their government even when they know their government is lying? It's a tricky feat to pull off.

...more than half of the U.S. population still believes the fantastic story that the Government has told them about 9/11, a Muslim conspiracy that outwitted the entire Western world.

What's so fantastic about it? A group of guys hijacked planes. It's been done before, many times. They hijacked them almost simultaneously. That too is not unheard of. Then they flew them into buildings. That bit was all but unprecedented but we certainly know people have attempted similar things.

What is it about what Roberts calls the Government story that he finds so incredible? Is it the Muslim thing? Surely he's not one of those people who think that Muslims can't fly planes or outsmart a "Westerner" yet I can't see what else he is alluding to that makes it so "fantastic".

Americans first heard of Osama bin Laden because the Bush regime pinned the 9/11 attacks on him.

What is this? Is he really saying here, that he first heard of Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks? Again, for someone who once had a high position in government one would expect him to have been better informed than that. Or maybe not.

Then suddenly last year a new 9/11 "mastermind" emerged to take bin Laden's place, the captive Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the detainee who was waterboarded 183 times until he confessed to masterminding the 9/11 attack.

What is he talking about? Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did not "suddenly emerge" last year!

This goes on and on for the rest of the article. With Roberts excoriating the "naifs" in his supercilious manner, ridiculing everyone for their stupidity while unself-consciously exposing his own ignorance throughout building up to an eschatological crescendo:

The morons in Washington are pushing the envelope of nuclear war.

The insane drive for American hegemony threatens life on earth. The American people, by accepting the lies and deceptions of "their" government, are facilitating this outcome.

Paul Craig Roberts has noticably been becoming ever more alarmist about the near future which reminds me of one of Richard Hofstadter's characteristics of the "paranoid style" in American politics:

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms—he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millenialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date for the apocalypse.

And yes, I hope to get round to finishing off my post on Hofstadter before the apocalypse.


Marylander said...

It's very depressing to see PCR slip into senility. He was among the first columnists I encountered who was both anti-war and at the same time conservative on the economic front. His hatred for Bush has sent him over the deep end. He wrote a few columns that really helped me understand the ideas behind supply side economics, and how Reagans economic policy was very different from Bush II's.
His biggest complaint, and the source of his conspiratorial thinking (in my opinion) is the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs. He basically thinks that a cabal of wall street financiers and CEO's are selling out the American Worker to bolster their quarterly earnings. There's some (a lot) of truth behind that sentiment albeit overblown by Roberts. Pat Buchanan shares most of these sentiments but doesn't subscribe to conspiratorial thinking regarding 9-11. Roberts went one step further to conclude that this group was instigating wars on purpose, presumably to benefit Israel and Haliburton.
He's an angry old man who lives his old age in a country very different from the one he grew up in.

For the record I subscribe to neither Buchanan's nor Robert's political or economic opinions, but I read both of their columns regularly. Unless the latter is foaming at the mouth about Israel or 9-11.

Marylander said...

Another thing, truthers routinely trot out this "how did they collapse into dust!" canard or make other claims about how the collapse looked suspicious. Really now, what is the collapse of a 100+ story sky scraper supposed to look like? And of course there were clouds of dust, clouds that obscured the larger chunks of debris that littered Lower Manhattan. It's such an intellectually dishonest question to ask.

angrysoba said...

I seem to remember reading some of his articles a while back and finding them to be quite thought-provoking whether I agreed with him or not but he seems to pushing his "Prophet of Doom" character well beyond parody. He's now been predicting a war between the US and Iran for several years and it still hasn't materialised.

This was him last year.

The thing is when he starts making stupid claims that no one knew who bin Laden was until after 9/11 and that no one knew who Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was until last year then he becomes very difficult to take seriously.

The claims that the Towers simply turned to dust and leaving out the fact that they were smashed into by hijacked passenger planes is also incredibly silly.

It's interesting that he's become something of a hero on the left. He regularly contributes to Counterpunch (I don't know how that sits with Alexander Cockburn's view that Truthers are nuts).

Marylander said...

I think many on the Left are just pleasantly surprised that not all right wingers are war-hawks. I'm guessing they never discuss economic or social issues!
It sounds to me like PCR is convinced that the US government is evil, maybe infiltrated by Mossad, and he will believe any claims that fit into this view.
There are quite a few former cold-warriors who feel that now that the cold war is over, we should disengage from North-East Asia and Europe. While I find many of their arguments persuasive, I feel that they ignore the potential threat posed by a rising China and a reemerging Russia, eager to reclaim it's strategic buffers in Central Asia and on the North European Plain. That is why I hope we arm the Poles to their teeth and think expanding NATO to its current borders was justified, though any further expansion would be unnecessarily provocative.
I don't know what to make of China yet. It's too soon to tell methinks.

angrysoba said...

There are quite a few former cold-warriors who feel that now that the cold war is over, we should disengage from North-East Asia and Europe.

Another one of those is Chalmers Johnson. He's quite interesting to read and far less shrill than Paul Craig Roberts. He wrote three books on the "American Empire". The first was called "Blowback" and it was published not long before 9/11 making it appear somewhat prophetic. His most recent one was "Nemesis" which predicts the end of the imperial project. I think it is too hyperbolic to call the US an empire and it can be bet that where "the West" withdraw their influence someone else will fill the gap. Even if the US is not perfectly benign it's clearly not perfectly malign.

But the reason for a lot of those on the right being "anti-imperial" is often down to the fact that they are isolationists. Pat Buchanan's recent book suggesting that Hitler had only relatively modest ambitions and that the West were to blame for not giving him what he wanted just seems absurd.

Then of course there is Michael Scheuer, the head of the Osama bin Laden unit. I can't work out exactly where he is coming from most of the time. Sometimes he seems to suggest that the US and the West generally has provoked radical Islam and failed to accede to bin Laden's demands. Other times he is ultra-hawkish as he was the guy who wanted to fire cruise missiles at any place bin Laden could have been and calls for carpet bombing of Muslim countries and to be less squeamish about civilian casualties. I actually have one of his books, Marching Toward Hell, which I haven't read yet as I was too put off by his extreme views.

angrysoba said...

Actually, here's Paul Craig Roberts' latest article. It seems better and there are certain things in it that are worth looking into. This makes me wonder if Roberts simply tailors his articles to his audience. When writing in Counterpunch he goes all anti-corporationy and we are shown money trails and cuts in social spending and occupations abroad, and when writing for conspiraloons he's full of strawman arguments about the lying MSM and the government etc...

One of the things he talks about here is one of his hobby horses about how there was no rigging of the Iranian election and that the protests were completely manufactured. Again, he talks about this as though the opposition movement to Ahmadinejad appeared overnight when there had been a long-term "reformist" faction and anti-hardliner leaders for some time.

What do you make of this?

babylon said...

"Again, he talks about this as though the opposition movement to Ahmadinejad appeared overnight when there had been a long-term "reformist" faction and anti-hardliner leaders for some time"

funded by $473 million annually, received by Bush from Congress for covert/black ops inside Iran. The US is working overtime to destabalize/interfere in Iran -- as it did in the past.

angrysoba said...

funded by $473 million annually, received by Bush from Congress for covert/black ops inside Iran. The US is working overtime to destabalize/interfere in Iran -- as it did in the past.

No doubt, but are you saying there is no genuine opposition to Ahmadinejad and that all the protesters are simply "Yankee-Zionist" stooges?

Marylander said...

Iran is a very complicated country. It's people are more advanced and desiring of democracy than most other Muslim countries. There is a very real conflict in Iran and it's a conflict within the establishment. The leaders of the opposition aren't some secular liberals on CIA payroll, they're Islamists who marched with Khomeini against the Shah in 1979. I'm sure we are fanning the flames wherever we can but this is a homegrown opposition movement. Many also do not approve of the increasing role played by the military in political affairs.
Iran has a very young population with a very high unemployment rate and a horribly neglected economy. Iran, home to the world's second largest Oil reserves, has to import gasoline. The potential to become the next Turkey or Malaysia is there in my opinion, but they need serious political reform and even the Islamists know it. Did you know they manufacture over a million cars a year? This isn't some backwards African country, its an educated scientifically literate society with huge potential.
While most Arabs associate Islamic parties with lack of corruption, Iran has proven this not to be the case. Corruption is widespread and everyone knows it.
Of course Iran's government and our domestic blame-America-first crowd will ignore these obvious facts about Iranian history and society and just assume that Ahmadinejad is some kind of saint and that evil America is trying to subvert his wonderful government. And Russia Today will be there to give them voice.
As far as Jundallah goes, this is another homegrown movement in Iran's remote Baluchistan province. The Baluchi people are Sunni and hate being ruled by Shi'ia Persians. Like most people in that part of the world, they hate being ruled by anyone at all (can you blame them?)
With or without external help they will wage war against the Iranian state. If they got some help from Israel, Saudi Arabia or the US, its just icing on their cake. People give the CIA way too much credit. I guarantee that Jundallah leaders know more about Iran's inner workings than anyone at Langley does.
And from a purely pagan viewpoint, Iran's military has American blood on its hands so if we take revenge, so be it.
I'd prefer we make peace with them, but I'm not in charge!

Marylander said...

I think I agree with much of his sentiment about Muslims being their own worse enemy. Arabs themselves are no better, let alone a religion encompassing 1.5 billion people and dozens of languages and hundreds of ethnic groups. But he and many who makes this argument always imply that if only the evil white devil wasn't interfering, we'd have Islamic unity. I think that's silly and contrary to the history of the region. Ironically, I think our aggression has done more to unify the Islamic world than anything else.
There's an old Arab saying "Me against my brother, me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against the world."

And for the record, its the PERSIAN Gulf, Arabs have a Peninsula and a Sea named after them, its only fair =)

angrysoba said...

There is a very real conflict in Iran and it's a conflict within the establishment. The leaders of the opposition aren't some secular liberals on CIA payroll, they're Islamists who marched with Khomeini against the Shah in 1979.

Yes, I agree. Certainly much of the opposition is made up that faction anyway. In particular Khatami and until recently Montazeri, although many Iranian secularists still hate them anyway for being Khomeinists. Of course, there are the more conservative opponents too such as Rafsanjani.

Then there are the communists, the monarchists, the separatists, minority groups such as the persecuted Ba'hai and the "protected minorities" the Armenians and the Jews and the Azeris and the Kurds. The picture of a monolithic country is, of course, wrong.

Last year, I read two books on Iranian history, Michael Axworthy's "Iran: Empire of the Mind" and, not long before the election, Ervand Abrahamian's "A History of Modern Iran". Axworthy's book is easier going and gives a pretty good summary of the current issues both from the Iranian regime's perspective and from that of its neighbours and the "satans" of varying sizes, The US, the UK and Israel.

I find it depressing to read one-sided defences of the Iranian regime in which Iran is always seen as the victim of destablization attempts and manufactured demonstrations, propaganda and demonization. If the US and the UK are funding groups to commit terrorist atrocities within Iran then I think it is inexcusable, but no one can claim that Iran don't fund terrorist groups themselves. In particular, Hizbullah and Hamas (as well as their own al-Quds forces).

Also, I am not sure what Roberts is saying about "PSYOPS" in that first article. It's a term I often associate with conspiracy theorists (although something that may well go on) but he seems to be using it no differently to the way in which we'd have used the term propaganda. If this is the case then he can hardly claim it is new or something that is only used by Western countries (Quoting Thierry Meysan is also something that should be done with extreme caution).

As for demonization, I can't think of any more fitting use of that term than when describing a country as "Great Satan" and/or calling for its death.

In fact, Axworthy opines on the "wiped from the map" debate that it was Iranian media which first translated Khomeini's saying as "wiped from the map" and no matter what kind of attempts to downplay the comment (apparently calling for Israel to vanish from the page of time was far milder) the slogan would be painted on banners draped over missiles making it pretty clear what was meant.

I certainly think that there are some highly bellicose commentators in the US and in Israel calling for strikes against Iran, but there are also some rather silly people who attempt to take the opposite side - Paul Craig Roberts seems to be one of them, but here's an account of another group of "useful idiots".