Thursday, September 02, 2010

Activists as Knowledge Workers

Activists as Knowledge Workers
by

Donald E. Stahl

I: Types of Resistance



“Nothing strikes the student of public opinion and democracy more forcefully than the paucity of information most people possess about politics.”--John A. Ferejohn (“Information and the Electoral Process,” in John A. Ferejohn and James H. Kuklinski, (edd.), Information and Democratic Processes, (U. of Illinois Press, 1990), p. 3) “…most political information is too costly and of too little use for most of us to bother to try to acquire it.” (p. 13). “Political institutions are an expression of the division of labor: they permit small numbers of officials to regulate and direct social processes without having to consult regularly with the rest of us. In this sense, political institutions economize on the distribution and processing of information. We elect officials to learn about things that might affect us and then to act on our behalf as we would if we had the same information.” (p. 6.)

“The two simplest truths I know about the distribution of political information in modern electorates are that the mean is low and the variance is high.”-- Phillip E. Converse, “Popular Representation and the Distribution of Information.” (op. cit., p. 372).

“In the Knowledge Society, it is imperative that we learn how to make sure that the right information gets to the right people at the right time in the right form.”--Keith Devlin, Infosense: Turning Information into Knowledge, (Freeman, 2001) p. 199).





As Converse says in the quote above, it is a truism of political science that not many people are interested in politics, but those who are tend to be very interested. That this has been so for a long time is indicated by the fact that Pericles found it necessary to issue his famous warning about politics not ignoring you. The interested ones are what Converse in a previous, seminal article called ideologues and near-ideologues. Now, as I shall use the word ‘activist’ in this article, not all ideologues and near-ideologues are activists; i.e., not everyone who is very interested in politics is an activist. As the term ‘ideologue’ suggests, some people who are very interested in politics are less interested in propagating that interest among the relatively uninterested than they are in seeing to it that their fellow ideologues get things right. The former are what I shall here call activists; the latter may be researchers or theorists or planners or organizers or political correctors or connectors. Insofar as one addresses oneself to the uninterested one is an activist. Insofar as one addresses oneself to one’s fellow ideologues, one isn’t. In writing this article, I am not engaging in activism, since I am addressing only fellow 9/11 Truthers. This is a worthwhile thing to do, since we need to form an identifiable community in order to do what needs to be done, and a community can only be formed through mutual discussion, but it is not what I am here calling activism.

9/11 Truth, whatever its details turn out to be, is perfectly suited to activism, because it is a surefire way to make the vast uninterested majority interested, if only they can be brought believe it. It’s one thing to say, “Let George do it, I haven’t got time,” under ordinary circumstances, but it’s quite another thing to say “Let George do it,” when what he might do is kill your family, even for the best and most far-sighted of reasons. This is information that is certainly not “too costly and of too little use.”
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We should not think we are going to change permanently “the distribution of political information” in modern society. That is impossible, simply because of what Ferejohn above describes as the division of labor with regard to information. That division of labor forces itself on our notice. Information overload necessitates information triage, and as activists our job is to make sure our information makes the cut. I think everyone would agree that we should use all the tools we can in order to do this, and that includes scholarly knowledge about the human psyche, the mass audience, and recent discoveries and theories about knowledge and its transmission in society.

Let us distinguish information avoidance, information rejection or disbelief, information gathering, and information accessibility. The more accessible information is, the less effort is necessary to acquire it.

Information overload forces us to avoid information constantly. Everyone with an email account knows this. We see who a message is from, or what it’s about, and we decide instantly, “I want to know more about this,” or “I don’t want to know more about this.” We try to ignore commercials on television. We look around the edges of ads in newspapers, trying to find a scrap of news. We block out information which we expect to be useless, distracting and time-wasting. We carry appointment books so that we don’t have to keep relatively trivial information salient in our minds. The average stay at a website is rumored to be three seconds.

I just recently learned that Dell invites its customers to return their used-up ink cartridges to them for recycling, postage-free. I had been simply throwing them in the trash, because when new cartridges arrived I had what I wanted, and didn’t bother to look at the printed matter that came with them, though it was in my hand. This was information of interest to me, and quite accessible, but until now unnoticed.

On the other hand, information which we need for our particular situation often must be sought in many places and assembled with considerable effort. Even information which we know to be physically close may be inaccessible. A telephone directory which carried all the entries of a conventional one but was not alphabetized would be useless, even though the listing you want is “right there.” Online, a search that returns a hundred or more URLs is really only giving you as many as you have time for, starting at the top.

Each person wants something different from their telephone directory, but even if everyone wants the same thing from a document it is still possible for that document to bury the information, by means of fine print, obscure language, and sheer prolixity. Since this is so, it is also possible to claim that a lengthy document contains all the information relevant to you when it does not. Sometimes, making such false claims possible is the purpose of creating the lengthy document. As every rabbit knows, in the United States’ climate, you have to dig your own rabbit hole.

In theory, information in a speaking human’s brain should be more accessible than it is in a voice messaging system. Whether you go looking for information, or information comes at you in an unwelcome flow, sorting through it is the problem. A certain minimum contact is necessary. In order to avoid ads we must know that they are ads, in order to avoid emails from a certain source we must know that they are from that source¾¾or our email provider must know.

Devlin’s claim about getting the right information to the right people at the right time in the right form is something that few people would explicitly disagree with, but which they habitually ignore, especially in the 9/11 Truth Movement. Our debates about what to do with our information are based on the assumption that one size fits all. In fact, two questions are crucial in delivering our message: how much time is going to be available for the reception of the message, and who is the intended recipient? We will return to this point shortly.

Chomsky and other left gatekeepers allege that no one has the time to become expert in all the fields pertaining to 9/11 Truth, and consequently 9/11 Truth is a waste of effort and a diversion from the supremely important task of opposing the forces of darkness. Ruppert says that it’s a mistake to concentrate on physical evidence because it always can and always will be opposed by as many experts as the other side can afford to pay, and no one has deeper pockets than the government. Whatever the personal psychology behind Chomsky’s stance, objectively it faces directly backward. No other tool could conceivably be as effective as 9/11 Truth in restructuring the world for the better. Ruppert’s hard-earned disgust with expertise and technology ignores the facts that today no expert will challenge DNA evidence, the tobacco companies’ experts lost their war long ago, and. currently hired climatologists are in the process of wasting their employers’ money.

But handing someone a copy of Crossing the Rubicon and saying, “Here. Read this,” doesn’t work, because they just won’t do it. Sometimes, I know from experience, they won‘t look at videos either.

It is not that the relevant information is buried in Ruppert’s book. All of that volume is relevant to 9/11 Truth, and the picture it paints is essential to understanding, but it presupposes a commitment of time which simply is not going to be agreed to by very many people.

Catherine Z. Elgin's Considered Judgment (Princeton, 1996) has several features of interest to 9/11 activists. Some salient instances are her use as an example, "conspiracy theories about the assassination of President Kennedy" (p. 144), her recognition of the importance of emotion in the process of inquiry (pp. 146-169), and her discussions of Wittgenstein, Kuhn and Rorty, or what she calls "pure procedural epistemology" or "Knowledge by Consensus" (pp. 60-100), which more or less says that what is true is determined by common consent, since common consent determines what words mean. (One seems to encounter this position fairly often in broaching 9/11 Truth. Cf. Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-century England,
( University of Chicago, 1995)).

But through the book another theme recurs which is of more direct significance for us, especially with regard to the tension between the strategy of using physical evidence, and the juridical approach which Ruppert adopts of pursuing means, motive and opportunity: the theme of composition and division of evidence: “connecting the dots;” having “loose change” add up to something.


"Justification is holistic. Support for a conclusion comes not from a single line of argument but from a host of considerations of varying degrees of strength and relevance. Indirect evidence and weak arguments, which alone would bear little weight, may be interwoven into a fabric that strongly supports a conclusion. Each element derives warrant from its place in the whole." (p. 130).
"In forging connections among initially tenable claims, we integrate them into a mutually supportive network. This enhances their tenability, each being more reasonable in light of the others than it was alone. It also confers tenability on the sentences we annex, transforming initially doubtful claims into integral parts of an acceptable system of thought." (p. 104).
"It [constructionalism] can adopt considerations too poorly supported for perfect procedural epistemologies to countenance, secure in the knowledge that unwise admissions can later be rescinded. ... It requires weak reasons to be more tightly woven into the fabric of commitments than strong ones. But it allows that this can be done, that collective action can compensate for individual shortcomings. A constellation of weak reasons sometimes
constitutes a strong case." (p. 121).


All this is tremendously plausible, and it highlights for us the important fact that a strategy for activism proceeding via this avenue is hobbled by having to use a multitude of different considerations. It takes time, patience and memory to come to a position from which one can say, “ALL these things can’t be coincidences.” PR and other advertising professionals have long known that mass audiences do not sit still long enough for very much information to be brought into play; and we have long known that individuals do not have much patience for what they do not want to hear.

Resistance to 9/11 Truth comes in different degrees, and it would seem to be measurable by how little time someone is willing to give it.



Those who are willing to accept free DVDs will probably look at them (and those who buy them certainly will), but those who are only asked to look at something, whether a book or an internet site, may or may not do it. Without a physical object as a reminder, a promise is quickly forgotten, just as a statement of fact, without some visible corroboration, is quickly discounted.

However, there are opponents of 9/11 Truth who are almost as much motivated as we are. They nit-pick, name-call and publish wherever they can, even counter-demonstrate and make videos. They are familiar with many of the facts of 9/11, but deny their significance. For these individuals, it is not how little time they spend on 9/11 Truth that measures the strength of their resistance, but how much. Perhaps ‘resistance’ is not even the right word to use in their case.


“Diana Ralph, a former American living in Toronto, is a social justice activist who has written a paper entitled ‘How to Dismantle the US Empire.’ … Her paper features an ‘Ally/Opponent Barometer,’ adapted from David H. Albert’s People Power: Applying Non-Violence Theory. It’s a rainbow chart. Adapting it to the struggle for 9/11 Truth, we see on the far left is a small wedge marked ‘9/11 activists.’ The next wedge up represents people opposed to corporate-agenda globalization, militarism, secrecy, covert operations, resource theft the whole neocon agenda. Then come student and peace groups, religious leaders, unionists, generally progressive people. Next is ‘the apolitical public,’ decent citizens who want to feel safe. At this point we’re halfway around the rainbow and now move into opposition territory, which includes ‘much of the public’ (‘educated by the media,’ as Ralph puts it, to believe the official story). Then we come to much of big business and government, followed by mainstream media, transnational corporations, rightwing politicians, and finally a small wedge marked ‘Bush administration, the military, CIA, FBI,’ completing the rainbow with those who control the pot of gold. The idea is to work on those who are already closest to your position, and try to move every wedge over one space.”


The general idea seems familiar: the nice/nasty continuum; the liberal/conservative continuum; and if we judge solely by our own subjective reactions, the continuum idea is plausible. However, judging by one’s feelings is often misleading, and the idea of smoothness may mask important differences.

Knowing how much resistance there is doesn’t tell you where that resistance is coming from. Knowing a little bit about types and sources of resistance can be helpful in avoiding premature generalizations and the unnecessary discouragement they can bring. I shall now describe some different sources of such resistance, some of them far more important than others. These facts help us identify different audiences, and frame our messages; or seek different audiences, accordingly. I shall divide them into social and psychological sources, and begin with the social.

Have you ever noticed how many people prominent in 9/11 Truth are retired? Of course you have. Just about the only other categories are the self-employed and the independently wealthy. There are plenty of government (and other) employees who pay the familiar price of telling conscious lies in order to keep their jobs. (Of course, there is a sliding scale of persuasion: job, freedom, life. Something for everyone.)

“The argumentation within the context of that particular newspaper at that time was the result of a pragmatic shift behind Labour as popular support among readers for the Conservative party dwindled. The Sun, quite simply, did not want to be on the losing side.” There is a dimension in which some social scientists measure people. It is the degree of social or ideological isolation they are willing to endure. They will join a movement, or admit to an opinion, only when a certain number of other people have already done so. That number is called their “threshold.” The number may be zero, or it may be “an overwhelming majority.” For some, and for businesses such as the Sun, what may be relevant may be not the number who have already adopted some position, but which way it looks like the wind is blowing.

Politicians are a prominent subset of those whose opinions are influenced by the way the wind is blowing. The vast majority of Washington politicians are keenly aware that they could never make as much doing anything else, and they are quite interested in hanging onto, or even upgrading, their six-figure sinecures. It’s not that they are averse to doing what’s right, it’s that they share the human inclination to do what’s right for them. Their real opinions are probably unknowable, (even to themselves) and even if they could be known, would be of no practical importance. We must make it possible for them, and help them, by our numbers, to do the right thing. In our democracy, we must lead our leaders.

Some people are members, or consider themselves members, of what various writers have called “the elite.” The elite are always a minority in any society, and membership of an elite is prized by all, members and non-members alike. Like other groups, elites have opinions, and members of an elite always have a relatively high threshold if the issue is one of importance, for they do not wish to be, or to seem to be, non-members. When it is a question of membership of an elite, appearance and reality may be the same thing.

No one disputes that 9/11 was carried out by a conspiracy, and elites are not conspiracies. But elites have strong motives to resist any sort of change, and the worldwide financial and political communities have every reason to be concerned about their U.S. members, and therefore themselves, if something like 9/11 Truth should get out. And, like conspiracies, elites tend to stick together against non-members, even when it is a question of outright crime. And we know that 9/11 was a crime committed by members of an elite. The existence of an elite is quite capable of explaining “cover-ups” all by itself, without needing to resort to the level of conscious conspiracy.

The owners and managers of the media certainly are to be considered members of the elite, and their employees at every level know what’s good for them. Many politicians aspire to become members of the elite.

Whether an ideologue is devoted to an issue, a candidate, a party, or a doctrine, being afflicted with an interest in politics constitutes its own form of pressure. It is as if each person were a gyroscope, but only the ideologue is actually spinning; and that makes it harder to change their slant. Whether devoted to a cause as a member of an activist group or as simply an armchair theorist and pedagogue, an ideologue has a salient interest, a dominant idea, which elbows aside all others.

In the case of political party activists, whether they are volunteers, staffers, or handlers, career considerations play a major role in the formation of their opinions, just like the politicians they work for, and other worker bees. The ideologies of professional politicians are rarely more than skin deep.

In addition to these social or external factors, the psychology of individuals also is important to our assessment of resistance. I now turn to psychological sources of resistance, which of course may operate on anyone, regardless of their occupational status.

The first, perhaps least important psychological source, I shall briefly describe like this: no matter how good a magician you are, if you show a card trick to your dog, he will not be impressed. That is neither your fault nor his. If he is not a member of your audience, he is still a valuable member of your family.

The second and third sources of resistance are the most prominent. I shall introduce them via some quotations having to do with the psychological process of defense, either in general or in some specific form. Cardinal Caraffa said to his uncle, Pope Paul IV, “Populus vult decipi. Decipiatur.” The people wish to be deceived. Let them be deceived. As Truthers, we say instead, “Let them be undeceived.” To do anything else would be to join those whom Dr. M. Scott Peck has called, “the people of the lie.”

“The process of defense nearly always utilizes two tendencies analogous to flight and the erection of barricades.” “It is important to remember that all defenses operate automatically and outside of awareness. Defenses are motivated, but they are not executed voluntarily. The average person does not know what defenses he is using, nor can he voluntarily stop using a defense if its presence is pointed out to him.” “The basic empirical evidence of repression is an inappropriate under-reaction to a relevant situation and indirect evidence that the repressed tendencies are actually present.”

I think most people have by now heard that there are some who maintain that the USG was complicit in 9/11. Some of them wonder about why those individuals maintain that, but don’t know much about why they would have gotten the idea, i.e., they know only what they have been told by the media. People like this, who have minimal information about 9/11 Truth, may be so either because they simply haven’t been exposed to anything more, or because they have exerted some small degree of effort, like Chomsky, not to be exposed to it.

Those who are innocent of 9/11 Knowledge and intend to remain that way are very likely to be what Bob Altemeyer has forever named Right-Wing Authoritarians. George Lakoff explains (in Moral Politics) how RWAs have come to have the political power they now have, and John Dean (in Conservatives without Conscience) explains that Lakoff in his book is talking about Altemeyer’s work.

By “Right-Wing Authoritarianism” Altemeyer means:

“…the covariation of three attitudinal clusters in a person:

1. Authoritarian submission:a high degree of submission to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives.
2. Authoritarian aggression:a general aggressiveness, directed against various persons, that is perceived to be sanctioned by established authorities.
3. Conventionalism:a high degree of adherence to the social conventions that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities.”


When Hayek denied that he was a conservative he probably meant, avant la lettre, that he was not a Right-Wing Authoritarian. Don Herzog contrasts the sort of conservative Hayek was with “the real ones.” “…conservatives today... I mean the real ones, the ones with the infamous social agenda, not those patrons of free markets and limited government who, despite their liberal-bashing, are just old-fashioned liberals…” Herzog’s real conservatives seem to be precisely those that John Dean contrasts with the real conservatives; the ones who have a conscience. The Youth Culture today may (or may not; I am no longer a member) have identified these Herzogian real conservatives, or Right-Wing Authoritarians, and named them “haters.” If they have, the name will not be appreciated.

RWAs are found everywhere, but some professions attract them more than others. They tend to be fairly common among (perhaps a majority of?) policemen. Altemeyer says:


“Compared with others, authoritarians have not spent much time examining evidence, thinking critically, reaching independent conclusions, and seeing whether their conclusions mesh with the other things they believe. Instead, they have largely accepted what they were told by the authorities in their lives, which leaves them time for other things, but which also leaves them unpracticed in thinking for themselves.” “There was virtually nothing about themselves Highs [high-scoring RWAs] were unwilling to face and deal with, according to them. Yet when we told some High RWAs they were low in self-esteem, and that this had serious implications for their future, a lot of authoritarians fled from the news, not even checking to see if it was correct. And many Highs told us, point blank, that if it turned out they were more prejudiced than average, they did not want to be told.”


RWAs are good at ignoring what they don’t want to know, although this probably does not indicate anything about Chomsky. If you find you’re dealing with someone who just doesn’t want to know anything about 9/11 Truth, suspect an RWA. RWAs don’t need to learn anything about 9/11 Truth, because they know everything already. At least this appears to be the case at this stage of Truth’s disclosure. When it is more widely disseminated and deeply accepted, that may change. What will not change is their attitude to learning about themselves.

The sheer hatred shown by the counter demonstrators and video makers who oppose the NY 9/11 Truth group indicates that these individuals are RWAs who have acquired a small degree of Truth knowledge. Right-Wing Authoritarianism’s third component probably explains the opposition of such organizations as the one formerly called CSICOP to 9/11 Truth.


“…knowledge about the world is frequently mediated by parents, teachers, friends, etc. The most basic of all institutions, the family, plays a key role in the kind of knowledge acquired in the process of socialization.
It is one of my basic contentions, first, that knowledge acquired in mutual interaction with one or more relatively stable reference persons has a qualitatively different status for communication from knowledge obtained through books, television programmes, or short-term encounters of an ephemeral nature, like with shop assistants, bus drivers etc. and, second, that this qualitative difference is of special importance for the study of communicative interaction.”


Kreckel’s contention above applies to all persons. It may well be that RWAs attach even more importance to these reference persons, and their sayings, than Kreckel thinks is the norm. If so, in asking RWAs to believe us instead of the government, we may in effect be asking them to trust us in preference to their parents.

Remember that a great proportion of Truthers started out by trying to refute the evidence they were exposed to, and that Bill Christison spent “the better part of the last five years” opposing 9/11 Truth before he decided to find out what he was opposing. If and when RWAs come to believe their authorities have betrayed them, those authorities have no greater enemies. When talking with RWAs your goal should not be to convince them then and there, once and for all. Your goal should be to persuade them that the subject of 9/11 Truth is worth their time. Accomplish this, and you will have done a lot.

The field of salesmanship is full of rules-of-thumb. One of them is: it takes eight contacts to make a sale. Another is: when prospects avoid you it is out of fear, because they know you can sell them.

In general, but perhaps not invariably, RWAs flee or avoid 9/11 Truth information, those in denial repress or disbelieve it.

‘All day long we unconsciously selectively perceive the world about us. Man can prevent unpleasant perceptions by varying his attention and by wishful perceiving or thinking. Unconscious distortion of perception of external stimuli that arouse unpleasant emotions is called denial.”

“The American people know what they saw with their own eyes on September 11, 2001,” says Defense Secretary Gates. And both to Peter Jennings and to Dan Rather, it was so clear that the World Trade Center was being demolished by explosives that they blurted out that thought at the time.

In the 1950s a psychology professor, Solomon Asch, did some experiments on college students. He told them that he wanted to test visual perception, but that was a lie. He had them sit in a classroom with other students and showed them all some lines, asking which lines looked like they were the same length, but only one student was being tested at a time. The others were conspirators along with Professor Asch, and they deliberately gave wrong answers. The student being tested was always asked last, after having heard all the others say that it looked to them as though the wrong lines were the same length. The experiment was really to find out how many people, percentagewise, could be made to say that they saw what they didn’t see, just to go along with the crowd. The answer was: about one third. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asch_conformity_experiments

A college classroom is a relatively benign environment, at least compared to the situation that Winston Smith, the protagonist of 1984, found himself in. “ ‘Do you remember,’ he went on, ‘writing in your diary, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four’?” ’ ‘Yes,’ said Winston. O’Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended. ‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’ ‘Four.’ ‘And if the Party says that it is not four but five -- then how many?’ ”

How much the students believed what they said is probably unknowable, but the willingness to deny what is in front of your face is certainly something worthy of being noted. Mr. Lev Grossman says, “Granted, the Pentagon crash site looks odd in photographs,” but the fact hardly slows him down. “Loose Change [sic] appeals to the viewer’s common sense: it tells you to forget the official explanations and the expert testimony, and trust your eyes and your brain instead. It implies that the world can be grasped by laymen without any help or interference from the talking heads.” Or the other students, or the Party‘s officials and experts, functioning as designated “authorities.”

This sort of resistance may be the most deep-seated of all. When someone brags, “I saw Loose Change. Didn’t convince me,” or goes through all the material you give them and only comments, “Interesting,” and then changes the subject, you are dealing with something other than a psychological trait like Right-Wing Authoritarianism. You are dealing with a common human failing which cuts across familiar political divides, and which is just as likely to be found among progressives as among others. There really are people who, as Jack Nicholson said, just can’t handle the truth. If this is seen as discouraging, it shouldn’t be. It shows that the ability to call a spade a spade is not a progressive monopoly.

In the Q & A session after his videotaped lecture, 9/11: The Myth and the Reality, David Ray Griffin says that he has a “theological friend” who finds the evidence for 9/11 Truth “convincing,” but nevertheless “refuses” to believe it. The word ‘demonstration’ has roots in the idea of making something visible, quite literally, to the eyes. If you are dealing with a sighted person who simply refuses to admit what is in front of their face, perhaps sometimes the appropriate response is simply a gentle, “Shame on you.”

In Knowledge and Belief: An Introduction to the Logic of the Two Notions, Jaakko Hintikka discusses, “…among other things, Moore’s famous problem of ’saying and disbelieving’: Why is the sentence ‘p but I do not believe that p’ absurd to utter?” Following Moore, he points out that the sentence is not inconsistent with itself. He speaks on page 23 of being “inconsistent for you.” His response is to add the notion of “indefensibility” to that of inconsistency. “The general characteristic of indefensible statements is, therefore, that they depend for their truth on somebody’s failure (past, present, or future) to follow the implications of what he knows far enough.” (p. 32). At the time when Moore and Hintikka addressed such matters it could reasonably be doubted whether the phenomenon of indefensible statements like ‘p but I do not believe that p’ was common enough to merit really serious investigation. September 11, 2001 changed that.

“Unconscious distortion of perception” may manifest as “failure to follow the implications of what one knows.” Whatever proposition p may be, p certainly implies p, but it seems that the psychological phenomenon of denial can prevent following even that implication. A phrase of C. Wright Mills’ comes to mind: “hysterical obstinacy.”

About Griffin’s theological friend, one wonders what his theological opinion is of Sartre’s conception of bad faith.

Experience leads me to think it is likely to be a waste of time to discuss 9/11 with Mr. Grossman, or with anyone else who is so desperately frightened by the facts, or by the possibility of being in a minority, that he cannot admit what is in front of his face.

Barrie Zwicker’s Towers of Deception: The Media Cover-Up of 9/11 is the most extended discussion so far of what is really the most fascinating aspect of the 9/11 phenomenon: the denial it produces. Zwicker is a lifelong journalist, and that perspective is a valuable one for us (although he does (p. 337) mention letters to the editor as something activists can do; the “Letters to the Editor” section is read by only 7% of newspaper readers). His last chapter, “You and the Media: Ways Forward” expresses my own sentiments on the significance of 9/11 exactly.

Zwicker writes: “If we recognize that other people (and ourselves) involuntarily make up ‘facts’ on the spot, this equips us to better challenge them…when they hold forth on 9/11 without knowing what they’re talking about.” He refers to Stephen Pinker’s discussion of Koestler’s analysis of humor, and cites a newspaper report of research by Dr. Drew Westen showing “flares of activity in the brain's pleasure centers when unwelcome information is being rejected,” but he does not mention that “making up facts on the spot” is a well-known psychological phenomenon called “confabulation.” It is this tendency to make up whatever you need in a dispute which can be so exasperating for the Truther.

I once showed a gentleman a picture of the South Tower exploding, and asked him how a certain piece of it had managed to fall upward, as indicated by the trail of dust behind it. He simply replied, “But you see, the energy…the energy.” He was certain that there was a good government explanation, even though he could not tell me what it was.

Talking with people in denial, whether they are followers of Alexander Cockburn or of Rush Limbaugh, should be done with sensitivity to the individual. It is a cruel thing to take away someone’s blankie. Parental discretion is advised. But it is probably as well to state and show that you are indeed shocked by someone’s denial of what is in plain sight and you are by no means accepting it or regarding it as anything but pathological. You may be able to reach such persons through reason, but it is not a good idea to hold your breath waiting. The most effective tool to use with denial is the suggestion that this is NOT such a minority opinion after all, and you will really be safe even if you give in to “trusting your eyes and your brain instead.”

An interesting phenomenon is the cooperation of RWAs and those in denial. At this stage of the game, some RWAs need some small justification for ignoring 9/11 Truth, and those in denial can provide that by dealing with the evidence for them and pronouncing it “not credible.” A fine example is represented by the BBC‘s anti-Truth video, made by Mr. Guy Smith. Listening to Mr. Smith speaking with Alex Jones about 9/11 Truth, it is clear that Mr. Smith is in denial, and that he would not have undertaken the project without encouragement from someone else. The video can now serve, along with the Purdue WTC and Pentagon videos and other projects such as the NIST Report and the 9/11 Commission Report itself, as additional justification for avoidance. RWAs are unlikely to spend time on NIST or the Commission, and the time it takes to see a video should satisfy their consciences that they now know all they need to know.


The segment of the public we should concentrate on trying to reach is neither in denial nor fleeing from 9/11 Truth nor under any particular pressure from within or without, other than the pressure common to everyone of not having enough time. Rather than saying, like the authoritarian, “I don’t need to learn about that stuff. I know everything already,” it simply says, “Hey, just let me live my life. OK?” The resistance of the RWA and the person in denial is directed against 9/11 Truth specifically, because of its unpleasantness. The great mass of resistance we face is simply that of the great mass of the people¾what Ferejohn calls “most of us”¾who are used to having others handle the disagreeable business of politics for them. They are the “people at large” who have no such factors weighing on them. Most of them are what used to be called “wage slaves.” They are the prize we’re after. Joe Six-Pack may say, “It’s not my business” now, but when he finds out about 9/11 Truth, he will make it his business.












II: Types of Knowledge


Just as knowing about sources of resistance can be helpful, so can knowing about different types of knowledge, and the sorts of messages which are appropriate when trying to create them. The principal distinction we are concerned with is the distinction between the knowledge that individuals have and the knowledge that groups, as groups, have. But before we come to this distinction, let us first get out of the way a different one. Just as we began the discussion of resistance with a distinction between social and psychological sources, let us distinguish what someone may know “socially” (or “institutionally”) from what he actually knows.

”Some people in the community were found to possess two attitudes upon the same issue. These seemed characteristic of two types of situation. Logical and statistical evidence has been presented to argue that, inasmuch as the distribution of attitudes of the first type followed a normal distribution tendency, these attitudes reflected the personality choices of the individuals studied. In the second instance, the attitudes studied fell into a J-shaped distribution with the mode on the extreme of the attitude gamuts constructed. The latter type of attitude was found to associate with the possession of institutional ideology and has been termed an institutional attitude.
The first type of attitude seemed to be the reflection of a situation which has many elements which are either unloaded or never consistently weighted in the same direction. The response to such a situation demands an evaluation of all these factors. As in any case of compound probability the distribution here tended toward a central tendency.
The second type of distribution seemed to reflect a situation in which certain elements have taken on extra value and have become important enough to secure some degree of uniformity of response from those affected by them.
Now it was interesting to note that even in the second situation , where certain elements seemed to be weighted enough to cause a J-shaped distribution of those with the institutional ideology, the same factors seemed to have no such weighting to people at large. In fact a distribution of attitudes of those lacking the institutional ideology gave a personality distribution as just defined.
It seemed evident that there were situations in the community which would evoke the institutional behavior from the grouping which possessed the institutional ideology but which would only release a personality reaction from non-members.
This condition seems to give a background for the interpretation of many findings in the traditional literature. Willey, for instance, in his study of small town newspapers found a back fence and a public ethics of gossip. According to our interpretation, the back fence situation would allow people to gossip according to personality inclinations: one reticent individual might say nothing where another garrulous individual might say much. In the public situation the weighted factor enters and secures an institutional response.
In an urban life where the relationships are not so interlaced an individual might have one attitude for the Elks club, another for business and a third at the golf club.”


In other words, on the record, one knows this; off the record, one knows something else.

That said, let us proceed to what people really know.

Since we are knowledge workers, it behooves us to know something about how people come to believe what they do believe. Beginning with the study of individual knowledge, an excellent place to start learning about that is Keith Devlin‘s book, quoted above.

Devlin, nothing if not helpful, summarizes his book thus: “…if I had to distill from our investigations a single slogan that, if followed, would have the greatest positive impact on information management¾personal or in business¾I would have no difficulty. It’s this: Context matters.” (p. 199).

The first part of Devlin’s book may strike you as rather abstract and remote from our concerns, but the second part will show you why the effort was worth it. As he says, “…there is nothing as practical as a good theory.” (p. 206).


“…a conversation between two individuals may be regarded as a process whereby they cooperate to add information to a common pool. … The name linguists give to the common information pool for a conversation…is the ‘common ground’ for the conversation.” (p. 86).


Three

“…key contexts¾the background situations, the common ground, and the focal situation¾are regions of what we might call information space. … The purpose of a meeting [or a contact] can be regarded as the movement of items in the different background situations into the common ground. Such movement is caused by the participants jointly visiting that item in information space. A participant may take information within her own background and, by making a successful contribution to the conversation, put it into the common ground. (Making a statement that the others accept is an example of such a contribution.} Or she may use her words…to get another participant to take information from his background and put it into the common ground. (Successfully asking a question is an example.}” (pp.207f).
“The concepts of background and common ground are analysts’ inventions. In fact, it is misleading to think of the background and common-ground situations as cleanly delineated regions separated by a clear border.” (p. 90).
“…going from a two-person conversation to a conversation involving three or more people is so significant it is probably misleading to continue to use the same word ‘conversation’.” (p. 113).


Devlin provides diagrams of conversations involving both two and three persons, and shows that for three people, “Already the diagram is too complex to understand easily, and yet I have left off the focal situation.” Though activists as such certainly engage in two-person conversations, their main efforts are directed to much larger audiences. If the case of N = 3 is barely manageable, what can be made of the case where N = ~300,000,000?

Clearly, thoughts of a diagram are out of place here, and yet the ideas of background and common ground are still reasonably distinct and may be usable. Social scientists, especially political scientists, are used to dealing with such “conversations,” and their methods and approaches may be a propos. “…the common ground consists of common knowledge…”

In his fine essay, “The Truth About 9-11,” which introduces people to the subject, John Berkowitz says, “…if you accept that there are truths left unspoken by a government with an agenda, it should be a short leap to the hidden truths of 9/11. And there is a whole underground community to help you take that leap, called simply the 9/11 Truth Movement.” But what about the Movement is “underground?” So far from being underground, it has forced the corporate media to recognize its existence. If you wear a T-shirt saying “Controlled Demolition” now, no one will think you are that company’s employee.

He goes on to say, “Already as many as one third of Americans polled say they believe our government was involved in the 9/11 attacks, but this number must grow to a majority.” Yes, I agree, but even that will not be enough.

The worst danger the 9/11 Truth Movement faces is that of becoming an accepted, inert part of the public consciousness, allowed to exist in its own niche in public discourse in an encapsulated way, just as other minority opinions are tolerated so long as they threaten no conceivable imminent change. This is how the truth of the JFK assassination was contained. Even antiestablishment majority opinions can safely be tolerated as “open secrets” when “an individual might have one attitude for the Elks club, another for business and a third at the golf club.”

Surveys conducted by Louis Harris and Associates in 1967, 1975 and 1981 showed that about two-thirds of the people in the United States thought that the assassination of President Kennedy was part of a conspiracy, and in 2003 Fox News had Opinion Dynamics Corporation conduct a poll of 900 registered voters nationwide. With a margin of error of ±3 percentage points, 66% believed the assassination was the act of a conspiracy. This is a big enough majority to override a presidential veto. But, “Despite a majority believing there was a cover-up, there is widespread agreement that no additional inquiries should be done — 74 percent say the government should not conduct another investigation into the assassination, compared to 20 percent who think it should.”
http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_story/0,3566,102511,00.html

Everyone knows that O.J. Simpson is a murderer. And everyone knows that everyone knows it. Chuck Barris claims to have been a paid murderer for the CIA. The CIA did not vet his book, nor did he ask them to, as far as I am aware, nor did he suffer any unwanted consequences of his confession. In fact he may, like other murderers, have made more money from the confession than he did from the murders. Why? Simply because, although the information is as public as anyone could want, no one, (that is to say, not enough people) believes it, believes it enough, or realizes that (enough) other people believe it or will admit to believing it, or, as Schanck might say, will admit to believing it across the board, in all situations.

What exactly is an “open secret?”

The change we seek cannot be brought about by any one person. It must be accomplished by collective action. We seek to convey information not just to individuals, but to a large enough group. We seek to instill not just individual knowledge, but common knowledge.

One naturally assumes that if a person knows something, they know that they know it. One is tempted analogously, but falsely, to assume that if a group knows something, the group knows that it knows it. In fact, each one of the group may falsely believe that they are the only ones in the group holding the opinion.

In 1924 Floyd H. Allport broached the idea of pluralistic ignorance. Because the early date makes his observations so instructive, I shall quote him at length.

“Psychologically speaking, ‘the public’ means to an individual an imagined crowd in which (as he believes) certain opinions, feelings, and overt reactions are universal. What these responses are imagined to be is determined by the press, by rumor, and by social projection. Impressed by some bit of public propaganda, the individual assumes that the impression created is universal and therefore of vital consequence. Thus the impression of universality is exploited and commercialized both on the rostrum and in the daily press. Newspaper columns abound in such statements as “it is the consensus of opinion here,” “telegrams [of remonstrance or petition] are pouring in from all sides,” “widespread amazement was felt,” and the like.
During a recent visit of General Pershing to Boston there appeared a newspaper article inspired, perhaps, by a discontented faction of World War veterans. The following quotation will show the attempt of its author to magnify the personal grievance to one of civic interest. (Italics are by the present writer.)

The controversy which has been raging since the refusal of certain YD leaders to attend the mayor’s banquet at the ¾¾ this evening [30 out of 300 invited refused to come] has accentuated interest in the general’s coming, and Boston is perhaps more concerned over the character of the reception accorded him than in whatever he may do or say while here.

The reader who is not on his guard is likely to be seriously misled by journalism of this character. The allusion to the ‘concern’ of large numbers produces an unthinking belief in the importance of the statements made. The artifice, however, seems obvious enough when we pause to inquire how the reporter could possibly have known what Boston as a whole was ‘concerned over.’
The same deception lurks in flaring headlines. Our eye is caught by these ‘scare-heads,’ and we say to ourselves unconsciously: “This is big news: it is printed large to attract universal attention. Hence everyone else is looking at it as I am doing. That which everybody is interested in must be of great importance.” And we proceed, ready to be duly impressed with what follows. Newspapers which capitalize the illusion of universality in this way unfortunately have little to say that is fit to read. But the unscrupulous and sensation-hunting journalist has scored in securing attention and in controlling a portion of public opinion through social projection and the illusion of universality.”

Robert Louis Schanck, whom we have already met, was Allport’s student. He informs us,

“Dr. Allport has called situations where individuals are unaware of the attitudes of others, situations of pluralistic ignorance. …
An individual may project an attitude into other group members from observation of their reactions to speeches, conversations, etc. As a result of a feeling that this projected attitude is universal among the group members, the individual may then desire to conform to the group standard and adopt the projected attitude himself. In this way an entire group may maintain a public position in contradistinction to the private attitudes of the majority or over. In such a situation a dissolution of pluralistic ignorance is likely to result in the group members abandoning their public position and adopting their private attitude in public situations also.”

Robert K. Merton speaks of

“…one form of what Floyd H. Allport described as ‘pluralistic ignorance,’ that is, the pattern in which individual members of a group assume that they are virtually alone in holding the social attitudes and expectations they do, all unknowing that others privately share them. This is a frequently observed condition of a group which is so organized that mutual observability among its members is slight. This basic notion of pluralistic ignorance can, however, be usefully enlarged to take account of a formally similar but substantively different condition. This is the condition now under review, in which the members of a role-set do not know that their expectations of the behavior appropriate for the occupants of a particular status are different from those held by other members of the role-set. … .In some instances, the replacing of pluralistic ignorance by common knowledge serves to make for a re-definition of what can properly be expected of the status-occupant.”

Whether or not this is a generalization of Allport is of relatively little consequence. The expression is now standard for a group’s ignorance of what that group’s opinion really is.

No polls have ever been taken to determine what the public believes about what most people believe about the Kennedy assassination.

Though pluralistic ignorance was first introduced via the thought of a newspaper’s readership, it has tended to be studied in relatively small groups¾neighbors, for example¾where its existence tends to be surprising. If one thinks instead of really large publics¾cities, or nations¾its existence is not so surprising, because no individual can be linked to or connected with a majority of such a large group except through some medium; hence, the term “mass media.” If the private owners of such media wish to shade things to convey a false impression, nothing prevents them. They are not under oath, and apart from that there is no law against lying. Much less is there a law requiring the media to tell us what they do not feel like telling us. The magician Criss Angel can make himself disappear, but on September 24, 2005 the media easily made half-a-million people in Washington, D.C. disappear.

The media take pains to create the impression that they are subject to some sort of official sanction for dishonesty, and like to tell us how “trusted” they are, but they never hint that perhaps they will be sanctioned for telling the truth. They operate on a for-profit basis. If most of the time they wish to convey the impression that, say, the opinion that there was a Kennedy conspiracy is the opinion of a disreputable minority, they certainly can. (And they certainly do.) As this example illustrates, pluralistic ignorance is fairly easy for the media to create, and it is a very valuable tool.

It is valuable because of what Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann dubbed “the spiral of silence” in her 1984 book of that name. The spiral of silence describes how the perception of public opinion influences the willingness of individuals to express their own opinions, when they believe those opinions are a minority view. Without mentioning Asch’s work involving perception, she explores the reluctance of people to be seen as holding opinions which might subject them to sanctions. According to her, people have a sort of “sense” of what majority opinion is, and fear being isolated. The perception of public opinion thus acts as a sort of control on the expression of opinion. Whether such a “sense” explains anything not explicable through the mere existence of the mass media is debatable, but because the effect is real whatever causes it, control over perception of what the majority opinion is, is obviously a powerful weapon in the information war. Had the public been aware that most people thought as they did, would they have been so willing to let the Kennedy murderers get away with it?
http://www.12manage.com/methods_noelle-neumann_spiral_of_silence.html

What all this tells us is that it is not enough to contact and convince people. We must interest the politically uninterested, if only briefly, we must do it without the mass media, at least initially, and we must let everyone know that everyone else knows. We must make
sure that “a re-definition of what can properly be expected of the status-occupant” occurs, so that there is NOT “one attitude for the Elks club, another for business,” so that there IS “a dissolution of pluralistic ignorance” which results “in the group members abandoning their public position and adopting their private attitude in public situations also.” We must not be shy about our own use of “social projection” in order to let everyone know that, really, by now everyone does know, and so, why not just cut the crap?

Lt. Col. Dr. Kwiatkowski says:


"I have been told by reporters that they will not report their own insights or contrary evaluations of the official 9/11 story, because to question the government story about 9/11 is to question the very foundations of our entire modern belief system regarding our government, our country, and our way of life.
To be charged with questioning these foundations is far more serious than being labeled a disgruntled conspiracy nut or anti-government traitor, or even being sidelined or marginalized within an academic, government service or literary career.
To question the official 9/11 story is simply and fundamentally revolutionary. In this way, of course, questioning the official story is also simply and fundamentally American.”


All through the Vietnam War, the mass media told us that although those grisly images might seem discouraging, there was light at the end of the tunnel, and the U.S. was “winning.” However, there are limits even to spin, and when the U.S. withdrew the media could not hide that fact. It will be interesting to see how they spin their own complicity in deception when the worms finally turn.

The opposite of pluralistic ignorance is the idiomatically-misnamed notion of common knowledge. It is sometimes called “shared” knowledge, “mutual” knowledge, or even just plain “knowledge,” as when knowledge is said to be “socially constructed,” but ‘common knowledge’ has become entrenched; in various social sciences an area of common knowledge is called a “public.” If something is common knowledge in the relevant sense, then not only does everyone know it, but everyone knows that everyone knows it, and everyone knows that everyone knows that everyone knows it, etc. This broad characterization leaves many important questions unsettled. Must the individuals actually realize that they know that they know… an infinite number of times, or is it enough to know something which entails that they know that they know…; or that they know that they know something which entails that they know that they know…? Must the knowing all take place at the same time? “Evidence suggests that knowledge of other people’s knowledge takes longer to form than knowledge.” Must each individual know each other individual, or can you know that everyone knows without knowing everyone? What about “almost everyone?” What if we substitute belief for knowledge? Answering all these questions is not necessary for our purpose here; i.e., we need not define common knowledge as precisely as would be appropriate on a different occasion. We may take it here to be simply the absence of pluralistic ignorance. This is somewhat vague, but not vacuous.

Under the name “common knowledge,” the subject is usually given a more or less mathematical treatment, and appears in more or less mathematical contexts, but it has broad literary roots in R.D. Laing and David Cooper, Pirandello, and even, according to Laing and Russell Jacoby, in Feuerbach. It underlies Searle’s “institutional facts” and the objectivity of Popper’s “objective knowledge.”

“In about a quarter of the world’s languages, every statement must specify the type of source on which it is based¾¾for example, whether the speaker saw it, or heard it, or inferred it from indirect evidence, or learnt it from someone else. This grammatical category, whose primary meaning is information source, is called ‘evidentiality.’ “An inferred evidential refers to something based on obvious evidence which can be easily observed (even if the event itself was not seen). This illustrates two types of inference¾¾the one based on visible result, and the other based on reasoning, general knowledge and, ultimately, conjecture.” The general knowledge referred to here is our common knowledge.

It seems appropriate to think of common knowledge as a dimension, or a direction in which one can travel. If we think of common knowledge as our familiar three dimensional Euclidean space, individual knowledge(s) will then correspond to the curled up or “compactified” dimensions of twenty-first century physics.

We can ask two different questions about knowledge: 1.) who has it; or, in which head or heads is it located, and 2.) what is it about? The common knowledge we are concerned with is both located in multiple heads, and about knowledge that is located in multiple heads.

In his article on “Common Knowledge” in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Peter Vanderschraaf says, “The analysis and applications of…multi-agent knowledge concepts has become a lively field of research,”
http://plato.stanford.edu/search/searcher.py?query+Common+Knowledge


Some notion of common knowledge is common to the study both of multi-agent knowledge and of individual knowledge. The same instance of knowledge may be called individual knowledge because it is located in an individual head, or it may be called common knowledge because it happens to be knowledge of someone else’s knowledge. If A knows that B knows that A knows…that p, that is individual knowledge that A has, and if A knows that B knows something, then it follows that B does know it; so from the individual knowledge that A has it follows that B also has a certain bit of individual knowledge, and in this case it seems to be the same knowledge that A has; the same common knowledge, i.e., content, but not the same individual knowledge, i.e., the knowledge which is located here, rather than there.

Observe the difference between between simply disseminating knowledge as widely as possible, and making it common knowledge.

Elections are recently over. By far most political signs I saw simply had a candidate’s name on them, or such a message as “Vote for Joe.” What reasons did they give me to vote for Joe? None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. They made no risky claims for Joe which his rivals could conceivably show to be false, because they didn’t say anything at all about him. In fact, I can’t remember any that did. Isn’t this sort of advertising nonsensical? It’s not disseminating anything about Joe beyond the bare fact that he’s running, and that his name is Joe. Or is it? How many such signs I see gives me an idea of how much money his campaign has. That may persuade others to think that if he has so very much money, there must be a lot of people supporting him. It is at least not ludicrous, not out-of-the-question, for Joe to hold the office. He is a “credible” candidate. When money talks, what does it say? Very little, in fact, but what little it does say becomes, and is intended to become, common knowledge. As Elliott Spitzer is supposed to have said, “You can’t change the world by whispering.”

Contrast this situation with a reasoned presentation of the case for Joe’s being a better holder of the office than the other candidates. The more reasons presented, the more the case can be disputed by denying the factuality of those reasons. The more reasons presented, the more voluminous, specific and detailed the information becomes; and the more voluminous, specific and detailed the information becomes the less likely it is all to become common knowledge. Instead, if the various claims are disputed, what becomes common knowledge is the putative fact that Joe’s qualifications are controversial, i.e., subject to being controverted.

We must distinguish between simply spreading knowledge and making something common knowledge, simply because of the tension, the trade-off, between them. Michael Suk-Young Chwe marks the distinction by means of the terminology of content vs. publicity.

There is a limit to how much content can become common knowledge, first, because there is a limit on individual knowledge. One can’t be a doctor and a lawyer and a mathematician, and a philosopher, and a physicist, and an architect and a mechanical engineer, and a theologian, and a pilot, and have, as Alex Jones puts it, a Master’s in 9/11. Jimmy Wales doesn’t write Wikipedia all by himself.

But the limitations on common knowledge are much more severe than on individuals’ knowledge simply because the more recently acquired or specific a piece of knowledge is, the more doubtful it becomes that it is common knowledge, or ever will become common knowledge. Common knowledge exists in the social structures of primates and in the hunting parties of carnivores, and needless to say, what is common knowledge in these cases isn‘t, by human standards, terribly complex. Recall what Merton said about “a group which is so organized that mutual observability among its members is slight.” The prototypical situation in which common knowledge arises and persists is precisely one of mutual observability, or what Goffman named an “encounter.” It may well be that underlying the linguistic rendering of common knowledge as knowledge that X knows that Y knows that Z knows, etc., is an aspect of physiology involving mirror neurons.

Since this is so, perhaps it would be well to contrast ‘knowledge’ with ‘awareness’ in this context. Awareness arises in encounters, but one cannot encounter 300,000,000 people, so perhaps we should distinguish common awareness from common knowledge, and use the latter term only in connection with those mighty numbers wherein mass media substitute for sense perception.

“…we can assume that because of the division of labor role-specific knowledge will grow at a faster rate than generally relevant and accessible knowledge.”

Even in a society composed of people each of whom had all the above qualifications, there would be plenty of room for individuals’ doubts about other individuals’ knowledge. But having more content more widely disseminated results in somewhat more specific common knowledge. A more-highly-educated population will have more-specific common knowledge.

Does anyone think that the purpose of having a 9/11 Truther interviewed by some broadcasting Brownshirt is the dissemination of content? Of course not. The idea is rather to spread the simple impression that it’s open season on such heretics and that they are publicly-designated targets. Join in!

There is no question of content being “better” than publicity, or vice versa. In different situations and for different audiences, one is more appropriate, the other less so. Different strokes for different folks. Rather than the Movement as a whole leaning toward one direction or the other; we should think full-spectrum dominance. There is room for everyone’s contribution. That said, I think we would agree that up to now more has been done on content, on technical research, than on publicity; perhaps under Blake’s poetic assumption that truth is bound to make itself known.

The Truth Movement is unlike the Peace Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Gay Rights Movement, the Evironmental Movement, the Feminist Movement, and every other Movement I can think of in that it is much more content-based than publicity-based. Everyone knows that war is bad, but some people feel it is now necessary. The Peace Movement has nothing new to actually tell them that they don‘t already know, other than, “WE feel it’s NOT necessary.”

The Truth Movement suffers by being perceived as simply another antiestablishment congeries. RWAs especially see no need to learn about what we “feel.” Other Movements all carry with them some relatively new information, but the 9/11 Truth Movement consists almost entirely of new information, information that will change people’s behavior when they acquire it, and this fact tends to make us concentrate on developing content, sometimes at the expense of publicity. In other words, we talk too much to each other, and not enough to other people.

“Something will happen when enough of us know,” concludes that masterpiece video, 911 Mysteries: Part One. This is almost right. Of course, one can always take it to be true by definition: if nothing happens, that’s not enough of us. But what is important is not only that enough of us know, but that we are aware that we know, and that we are aware that there are enough of us; that we are, in a way, “on the same page,” or “together.”

Political publicists know the distinction between individual knowledge and common knowledge, between content and publicity, under the terminology of “high-impact” and “low-impact” communications, and emphasize them differently in different stages of a campaign. High-impact communications are more personal (door-knocking, phoning), low-impact are less (signs, mail).

It seems that RWAs will be more affected by individual knowledge; those in denial, whether on the Left or Right, will be more affected by common knowledge. If it seems you are dealing with someone amenable to reason, use content; the specific knowledge that constitutes our background knowledge as Truthers. If you are dealing with someone in denial, only an increase in society’s knowledge of 9/11 Truth is certain to move them toward more comfort in admitting the obvious. Do not address them as individuals. They are reachable not through content, but through publicity.

Assuming therefore that we are addressing people not in denial, we must reckon with the problem of time. We must present something, a piece of content, that is graspable quickly enough to capture someone’s interest, to convince them, not of 9/11 Truth, but that the subject of 9/11 Truth is worth looking into. We must present the most concentrated and hard-to-argue-with smoking gun (or guns) possible, and we must not be moved from that message.

The object of confrontation with a dialectical opponent is sometimes to change that opponent’s opinion; and sometimes the reason for the exercise is not to be found in the nominal addressee, but in whatever bystanders or onlookers there may be. Confronted with a real “smoking gun,” with a fact whose import cannot rationally be denied, a determined opponent with an eye to his audience has no real option except to shift the discussion away from it. With the huge amount of 9/11 Truth evidence which is publicly available, this is easy to do, while still seeming to stay on topic As we noted in connection with Elgin and Ruppert, this is one of the most effective ways of getting around the Truth. To counter it, we must limit our claims to a minimum. Remember that sorting through information is everyone’s problem, and in order to decide whether or not to delete (i.e., cut off) a message a certain minimum contact with it is necessary. That minimum contact must contain our minimum message, and it must be as strong as possible. Our smoking gun must also be our minimum message, and we must stay on message.

Consider the following, gratefully reproduced from the DFA Training Academy’s manual (Grassroots Campaign Training, Columbia, Missouri, April 14-15, 2007, p.20):

Stay on Message Exercise: “My dog has three legs.”
This exercise is simple. One person, the spokesperson, is charged with a simple message. Others in the activity are charged with getting the spokesperson off message, to fluster and distract. The message is “My dog has three legs.”

Sample Dialogue:
R: “Why are we here today?”
S: “We’re here because my dog has three legs.”
R: “Mm hm. Don’t you think there are more important issues to discuss?”
S: “The most important thing for this community right now is that my dog has three legs.”
R: “Given what we know about pre-war Iraq intelligence, where do you stand on the war?”
S: “Well, in my neighborhood, people are concerned about my three-legged dog.”
R: “But the American people want to know why we went to war on faulty intelligence.”
S: “I don’t know much about that, but my neighbors are asking why my dog has three legs.”

In my humble opinion, the obvious controlled demolition of the Towers and Building 7 is a good candidate for three-legged dog. “I don’t know about that, but my neighbors are asking, how does fire cause a steel and concrete building to turn into dust in ten seconds?”

A common way to get off the subject is by resorting to the ad hominem. A typical scenario for a Truth opponent is: 1.) refuse to look at the evidence; 2.) claim there is no evidence; 3.) attack the person. Any sort of controversy, whether in person, online, or what have you, creates its own small bit of common knowledge: I know that you just said p; you know that I just said q (in response to p); etc. Since this is part of the common ground it may seem to be relevant to an audience. Don’t let it. If someone says, “You’re a crazy conspiracy theorist,” don’t reply in kind, because that gives tacit permission for shifting the subject of the conversation away from 9/11 Truth, onto the participants. If you talk about them and they talk about you, what happened to 9/11? Don’t touch this tar baby. Keep in mind that although the person may not be willing to show that they have been swayed, they may have been, and if there is no counterattack from you there will be no personal score for them to settle, nothing standing between them and Truth. That will make it that much easier for them to convert. For your own mental health, just consider that although you haven’t moved them over the line, you’ve moved them closer to it. Incidentally, it’s good to keep this in mind when debating with other Truthers, too.

The above is by no means intended as a guide to all discussions, now and in the future. Rather, it is offered as advice for certain situations likely to occur as of this date.

Continuing in terms of Devlin‘s “information space,” it seems appropriate to think of common knowledge as a dimension, or a direction in which one can travel. If we think of multi-agent “common knowledge” as corresponding to the familiar four-dimensional world of daily life, individual knowledge- or belief-concepts correspond to the extra “hidden” or “compactified” dimensions of twenty-first century physics; or perhaps if individual knowledge corresponds to use-value, common knowledge will correspond to exchange-value. Some notion of common knowledge might serve as an explication of Dr. John McMurtry’s conception (in 9/11 and American Empire, Vol. I: Intellectuals Speak Out) of a “group-mind.” The group-mind’s self-awareness will consist of common knowledge among the minds that compose it. The Marxian notion of “class consciousness” suggests itself here.

Which is more important or “real” depends on your interests. The common pool of information created in a two-person conversation is through common knowledge located in both heads; in a many-person conversation, or interaction, the “group-mind” created is located in each of them.

The “background” knowledge of the 9/11 Truth Movement is simply what we know that the public doesn’t. It is what we are trying to put into the common ground. If we think of “the public” as our conversational partner, what is that partner putting into the common ground out of its background? So far, only the information that “some people think 9/11 was an inside job.” The reasons why we think so are what we are trying to add. Who are, or what is, the public? Who should we take as being the public?

It makes a big difference whether we think of that partner as speaking to us through the mass media or not, and it makes a big difference whether we think of the common ground as simply the content of those mass media, as there is a tendency to do. That tendency should be resisted.

Confirming the impression that the prototypical situation of common knowledge is one of mutual observability, Devlin discloses that beside verbally putting facts into the common ground, you can also physically put artifacts into it.


“One common and potentially effective strategy is to make regular notes on a whiteboard or a display pad as the meeting proceeds. … An analyst would say that the whiteboard is an example of a common artifact. Common artifacts provide information in such a way that it readily becomes common knowledge to everybody having simultaneous access to it. The whiteboard provides common knowledge because it is a public display, and thus everyone in the room can see one another looking at the board.
The use of a whiteboard is quite different from everyone in the room taking their own notes. You and I may see each other taking notes, but as the meeting proceeds, I cannot be sure what notes you have taken and you won’t know what I have written. So, even though we may have taken the same notes, the information in our notes is not automatically common knowledge¾that is, writing information in our individual notebooks does not make it common knowledge, as happens when that information is written on a whiteboard. This is the key distinction between a common artifact and a private source of information.”


As far as concerns our search for the most concentrated and hard-to-argue-with smoking gun possible, this is good news. What sort of artifact would be especially relevant to 9/11 Truth? To answer that question let us look at another book, this one by Fred I. Dretske, viz., Knowledge and the Flow of Information, (Cambridge, MA, 1982). He says:


“…consider the difference between a picture and a statement. Suppose a cup has coffee in it, and we want to communicate this piece of information. If I simply tell you, ’The cup has coffee in it,’ this (acoustic) signal carries the information that the cup has coffee in it in digital form. No more specific information is supplied about the cup (or the coffee) than that there is some coffee in the cup. You are not told how much coffee there is in the cup, how large the cup is, how dark the coffee is, what the shape and orientation of the cup are, and so on. If, on the other hand, I photograph the scene and show you the picture, the information that the cup has coffee in it is conveyed in analog form. The picture tells you that there is some coffee in the cup by telling you, roughly, how much coffee is in the cup, the shape, size, and color of the cup, and so on.
I can say that A and B are of different size without saying how much they differ in size or which is larger, but I cannot picture A and B as being of different size without picturing one of them as larger and indicating, roughly, how much larger it is. …
To say that a picture is worth a thousand words is merely to acknowledge that, for most pictures at least, the sentence needed to express all the information contained in the picture would have to be very complex indeed. Most pictures have a wealth of detail, and a degree of specificity, that makes it all but impossible to provide even an approximate linguistic rendition of the information the picture carries in digital form.”


How many time-wasting arguments about what happened to the Towers would be obviated if they were conducted with constant reference to a picture? Why do you think the media avoid pictures so assiduously? We need to put as many pictures before the public’s eyes as possible, accompanied by a small amount of text to lead the viewer as quickly as possible to the relevant features. In that way we address both the right and left hemispheres.

Pictures are another help in staying on message. Be very aware of the difference between physical and psychological considerations, as was touched on in connection with Ruppert. When you have pointed out the physical incompatibility of your picture with the government myth, expect an objection along the lines of , “They wouldn’t deliberately kill all those people,” and emphasize that you are not talking about anybody’s psychology, but only about the physics involved. Invite your interlocutor not to mix apples and oranges. Once they admit the physical facts they can draw their own conclusions. Use This is an Orange at
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3898962504721899003&hl=en .

In the absence of pictures we can also use our hands, moving up and out like the clouds of dust to remind people of what they have probably seen by now, albeit briefly: how the Towers crumbled outward on all four sides, from the top down, like a banana peeling; and let them know that NIST explicitly does not attempt to explain any of the features observed in those ten seconds, but simply relies on the vague phrase ‘global collapse‘, a label created to cover over the public‘s unawareness of the relevant video.

We also need to take account of Lakoff’s thinking on reframing, and the large store of knowledge acquired by trial and error in advertising and PR. A tiny word can make a massive difference. Do not accept the description of the Towers as “falling down.” They FELL APART (according to the Administration). We don’t have “theories.” Some individuals in the Movement have “theories.” What we have are pictures. The only real question in all of 9/11 Truth is: “How do you reconcile your words with these pictures?”

The fact that there are people, and more than a few of them, who are willing to deny that they see what they do see has been used to frame discussion of 9/11 Truth as “controversial,” when in fact it is no such thing. Lakoff points out that it is a mistake for progressives to concede to their opponents such framing as the phrase “tax relief.” I believe it is just as much a mistake for Truthers to concede that 9/11 Truth is controversial. The fact that someone denies that 2+2=4 does not make arithmetic a controversial subject, but the reputation of being “controversial” is used to deter people from looking into 9/11 Truth, by making them think, as Chomsky thinks, that the result will not be worth the effort.

We need to address rational others in something like the following terms:

When something falls, it falls in one direction. When something explodes, it explodes in all directions. Which did the Towers do? When something falls, it falls down, not up and not sideways. [Look at these pictures.] When an object collapses, it breaks into two or a few pieces. It does not break everywhere. The Towers were not made of sand, they were made of steel and concrete, and yet in a matter of seconds they dissolved from the top down like sand castles. Nothing “collapses” to dust. Steel doesn’t break, it bends; but it can be cut by oxyacetylene torches and the cutting charges used in controlled demolitions. Since innumerable sections of steel columns in the Towers were found in clean-edged pieces, were they instantly cut by oxyacetylene torches or by explosives? What sent them flying in all directions? Does a building that is simply falling down normally produce shrapnel? When a building falls on a human body, that body is crushed where it is. It is not turned to fragments of bone, which are then found on the roofs of other buildings. All these things are not controversial; they’re obvious. How do you knock down three buildings with two airplanes? “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”¾¾Orwell. What mental contortion will you not attempt, and what intellectual crucifixion will you not submit to, in order to have your dinner undisturbed?

Now let’s proceed to multi-agent information, and in particular to common knowledge. What Devlin’s book is to individual information, Michael Chwe’s book, Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination and Common Knowledge, (Princeton, 2001) is to multi-agent information (that is to say, indispensable). Its bibliography alone is worth the price of the book. Chwe’s book can be described thus: “game theory finds culture.” (p. 99). Though apparently a strictly academic work, it is full of practical information for activists.

Chwe says: “The best common knowledge generator in the United States is the Super Bowl…” I don’t think there ever will be a 9/11 Truth advertisement displayed during that event, so let’s see what else he’s got. He notes that in the French Revolution much use was made of “festivals,…and even planting liberty trees and wearing revolutionary colors.” As pictures are powerful tools in spreading individual knowledge, or content, gear and ritual (i.e., spectacle) are powerful in propagating common knowledge, or publicity. The Revolutionary tricolour echoes in the recent Color Revolutions of Central and Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. We should try to “be the media” by using unmistakable logos wherever possible, and, in general, being as visible as possible. In Evgeny Zamiatin’s We, the inspiration for Orwell’s 1984, the revolutionaries recruited and struggled simply by making their name, the Mephi, as widely seen as possible. We should emphasize our common opposition to the lie, not our individually incompatible versions of the truth.




III: Types of Persuasion


A salesman is a persuader, obviously. His efforts are directed toward a single, particular act which he wants his prospect to do: sign, or pronounce just once a tape-recorded “yes.”
The prospect either does or doesn’t do it.

A missionary is also a persuader. He may concentrate for the moment on getting his convert baptized, or to make a “decision,“ or pledged to send in $500, but his intent hardly stops there. There are many future pledges to send in, and many more decisions and actions he wants his flock to take.

Put in the terminology of professional politics in the United States, the salesman is engaged in a campaign. When he has your signature (your vote) the campaign is over. The missionary is engaged in building his base. He wants your vote again and again, not just this year. Campaigns end. Base-building is forever.

It is worth keeping this distinction in mind because different courses of action are appropriate to campaigns and to base-building. For example, in a campaign you do not waste time on people who are clearly unreachable. Whether you adopt a political or a religious stance in your efforts to persuade will depend on your assessment of the current political situation, and whether you think “another” 9/11 is in the works or not. Another important difference between approaches is this: whether or not the overt removal of the Bush regime is the final goal. A campaign focused solely on this and on the return of American troops will be over when those things happen. It will leave in place the secret mechanisms which allowed 9/11 in the first place, and perhaps the same Bush regime under a different name.


“Collective action has been studied in two largely disjoint approaches, one focusing on the influence of social structure and another focusing on the incentives for individual participation. These approaches are often seen as competing or even opposed. This article describes a simple model that tries to bridge this methodological division, using concepts from both social network theory and game theory. Here, a group of people face a collective action problem in that an individual wants to participate only if joined by enough others; exactly how many total participants are necessary are given by the individual‘s ‘threshold..’ Individuals are located in a social network, and each person knows the thresholds of only her neighbors in the network; each person has ‘local knowledge.’ People are strategically rational: they are completely rational and make decisions knowing that others are completely rational.”


So begins Michael Suk-Young Chwe’s article, “Structure and Strategy in Collective Action.” The concept of a person’s “threshold,” familiar to game theorists, will easily be seen to be relevant especially to those individuals in denial. Chwe and other game theorists are concerned with the actions people take, and in his article he calls the relevant action a “revolt.” For the purposes of 9/11 Truth, we are justified in assimilating such action to belief, just as Chwe is justified in making his assumptions of network location and rationality in order to proceed with his constructions. We may take the action in question to be the action of saying (publicly, across the board), “I believe people in the government were complicit in 9/11.” (For many of those in denial, simply to say this is to revolt.)

“The model makes three substantive points. … In this model, people with low thresholds, who are highly predisposed toward participation, are affected much more by social position than people with high thresholds. Intuitively, whether a low-threshold person participates or not depends greatly on whether that person happens to have some sympathetic friends, while a high-threshold person participates only if a great mass of people participate. Second, although widely scattering ‘weak links’ seem to be better for widespread communication than more involuted ‘strong links’ (Granovetter 1973), empirical researchers have found that strong links, not weak links, correlate positively with participation … Our model helps resolve this puzzle by showing that when thresholds are low, strong links can be better for participation. Weak links are better at spreading information widely, but strong links are better at locally creating the common knowledge, that is, knowledge of other people‘s knowledge, essential for collective action. Third, the model generalizes the threshold models of Schelling (1978) and Granovetter (1978) and shows that their finding that collective action is very sensitive to the thresholds of people ‘early’ in the communication process depends heavily on the assumption that communication is never reciprocal. When even a small possibility of reciprocal communication is allowed, collective action is fairly robust.”


‘Social position’ here means not identification by class but position in a social network showing who talks to whom. And since reciprocal communication is a much more realistic assumption than the opposite one, Chwe’s model is to that extent closer to being usable.







Appendix: On Knowledge by Consensus


“You are here because you have failed in humility, in self-discipline. You would not make the act of submission which is the price of sanity. You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.”
He paused for a few moments, as though to allow what he had been saying to sink in.
“Do you remember,” he went on, “writing in your diary, ‘Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four’?”
“Yes,” said Winston.
O’Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.
“How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?”
“Four.”
“And if the party says that it is not four but five -- then how many?”
“Four.”
The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston’s body. The air tore into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop. O’Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended. He drew back the lever. This time the pain was only slightly eased.
“How many fingers, Winston?”
“Four.”
The needle went up to sixty.
“How many fingers, Winston?”
“Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!”
The needle must have risen again, but he did not look at it. The heavy, stern face and the four fingers filled his vision. The fingers stood up before his eyes like pillars, enormous, blurry, and seeming to vibrate, but unmistakably four.
“How many fingers, Winston?”
“Four! Stop it, stop it! How can you go on? Four! Four!”
“How many fingers, Winston?”
“Five! Five! Five!”
“No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four. How many fingers, please?”
“Four! Five! Four! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!”
Abruptly he was sitting up with O’Brien’s arm round his shoulders. He had perhaps lost consciousness for a few seconds. The bonds that had held his body down were loosened. He felt very cold, he was shaking uncontrollably, his teeth were chattering, the tears were rolling down his cheeks. For a moment he clung to O’Brien like a baby, curiously comforted by the heavy arm round his shoulders. He had the feeling that O’Brien was his protector, that the pain was something that came from outside, from some other source, and that it was O’Brien who would save him from it.
“You are a slow learner, Winston,” said O’Brien gently.
“How can I help it?” he blubbered. “How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”
“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

October 17, 2004
Megalomania in the White House
Posted by Adam Young at October 17, 2004 02:53 PM
Ron Suskind on a meeting with a Bush aide in 2002:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
http://blog.lewrockwell.com/lewrw/archives/006267.html

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