by Vladan Cukvas
Slavoj Žižek once wrote a book titled “Living in the end times”. Although the title of this essay echoes some of the things Žižek identified as end times the essay is not about Žižek or about any of his books. I want to write about political dissidence and about the case of Niels Harrit, which serves illustrative purpose in this regard. The “who gives a damn” times is the setting in which the case of his political dissidence is placed. This setting may be said to be a part of our coming to an end and a few words ought to be said about it.
Despite standard definition of the term, the lists of dissidents provided by various sources suggest that the term is elastic enough to embrace different forms of dissent and different fates many dissidents had suffered throughout the history. One thing all these dissent forms and actual dissidents have in common is that the views they defend are not only in opposition to those held by the authorities, but their views, which are typically political ideas, were perceived by those in power as dangerous and potentially disruptive. However, for the past three decades or so, in the time described by many as post-ideological and perhaps even post-political, typical dissidents became the insiders who simply talk openly about government’s secrets. They became known as whistleblowers. A typical whistleblower is a former government employee, with access to classified documents, who at one moment in her life decided to quit doing the job which she no longer believes could be defended on moral grounds and is not afraid to disclose the government’s dirty little secrets. Edward Snowden is perhaps the most famous whistleblower today and the one whose defection wasn’t a matter of espionage, but a matter of personal and moral convictions.
Although engaged in some forms of political activism, whistleblowers are seldom the old style ideologists. They are not seeking fundamental political changes, but rather the restoration of state institutions to what they were originally designed to be, or simply an end to the abuse of the institutions. In any case, their activism is about promoting transparency of governance. Yet, the limited political programs they advocate are not regarded as a genuine political opposition, and they are often treated as traitors and criminals, which is very convenient for those in power.
Some “classical” dissidents, like Noam Chomsky, are outspoken critics of government´s policies and of the distorted and selective history writing done by politically correct scholars. At the same time they advocated certain political ideas. However the story of Noam Chomsky is instructive in one important sense. Despite his political activism, for which he is more famous than for his contribution to linguistics, he, unlike for instance A. Solzhenitsyn or M. Djilas, suffered no personal consequences whatsoever. On contrary, he has had a very successful academic career and some may insist that he should be disqualified as political dissident on this account alone. However, the dilemma whether to count him in reveals how effectively the establishment was able to fight dissent by giving it the credit it deserved on its own merit, while at the same time discounting the alternative views as utopian, personal and biased. In addition these views are being regularly drowned in non-constructive, confusing and pointless political pseudo-debates. They get marginalized and serve rather ornamental purpose for the establishment itself. This is standard tactics deployed by the mainstream media to silence the opponent by letting her speak amidst a noisy crowd. Thus, while some dissent is criminalized and persecuted in the old fashion way, some is silenced in a rather sophisticated way.
One question that comes naturally to mind is, why bother? Well, the fact is that for some time we have been living in a world of immense information flow (the information flood is perhaps better word) and all of this information is intended an audience. Controlling the information and its flow is about controlling the audience. More importantly, it is about influencing what the general population thinks and believes, since that is what eventually constitutes social reality.
Now, perhaps the most ingenious feature of this fight for the minds of people is not about controlling what technically cannot be controlled, namely the information flow. Cherry-picking of “good” and suppression of “bad” information is a strenuous and expensive strategy with limited success. The internet made this clear very quickly. Indeed, the internet was a true party breaker for the groups with privileged access to the media. But it was probably the internet that hinted to the possible solution. Whether designed for the purpose or not, a far more effective method proved to be the flooding of the audience with even more information in order to distract. In the flooding, the information is packed with entertainment of different kinds – reality shows, sport, movies, tv-entertainment, talent shows, etc. – which not only surrounds the informational content, but conveys it too. In this process any recognizable informational form (be it a political idea or anything) is soon lost the sight of. Hence, by carpet-bombing the audience with overabundant content (visual stimulus of different kind) the effect of confusing and duping the audience is effectively achieved. This method is based on a very simple idea that it is easy to get lost in the jungle. The ultimate goal of this strategy is, however, to depoliticize the public sphere, something which Carl Schmitt often pointed in his critique of liberalism. Once depoliticized, the audience becomes irresponsive to the deviant political massage as well.
The long term effect of this strategy is the numbing of the audience. Not only are people led to believe this or that, but they no longer really care about what they or others believe. The content of the information is faded in the background, and the flow of new visual and audible stimuli is what has become the main course. The dynamism of the input and the velocity of the flow have mesmerized or rather stupefied people, who became responsive to the velocity of the flow rather than to the informational content they are being fed with. In short, the obsessesion with quantity (intensity) rather than quality of stimuli has created addiction to the perpetual flow of “new” stimuli. The victorious moment of this essentially ideological struggle was the unison and yet unconscious singing of “who gives a damn” by the masses. This is though the ultimate defeat of humanity coming to its end.
The “who gives a damn” times
The main reason for depicting our times in such a way is the widespread sense of resignation, indifference and obduracy. This defeatist mode is as much a symptom of the end times as any biblical apocalyptic image that people may recognize nowadays. At times it reaches a pathological depth where not even the prospect of the time coming to an end can provide the arousal strong enough to wake an average westerner up. Indeed, we get bored by constant talk about tipping points and imminent ecological disaster. We might soon begin to crave for the catastrophe to come just to get the arousal, to get some action. We may long for something to happen.
The worrying thing here is not that the times of miracles and wonders are over, but that in some innocent and seemingly harmless way Agamben’s muselmanns may be walking amongst us like body snatchers. We soon may be suffering from collective depression and no one would be able to tell. Euphemistically rephrased, it is about being blasé, which is the most common symptom of postmodernism. A typical postmodern character is a withering spirit suffering from premature maturity, which is a serious condition of not knowing what to do with one’s life after the age of 18. Nowadays, the most common remedy for this is the perpetuation of one’s adolescence – rerunning the last year, the 18th one, ad infinitum. When this remedy fails the horrors of life become clearly visible.
Yet, somewhat paradoxically, when mixed with numerous distraction techniques the resignation has produced deeply ingrained fear that the time will come to a standstill as soon as we no longer receive our daily dosage of arousal, I mean distraction. It is the fear of the drug addict not having his shot.
The trickery of sustaining people in the state of passivity is really vicious. Not only are today’s drug addicts more demanding or more finicky, but at the same time they are somewhat paradoxically content with almost anything as long as it doesn’t last too long, doesn’t repeat itself in the exact shape. Millions in Europe stop breathing when the two Spanish football giants clash for the nth time on the green grassy field, but as long as it is not a rerun of the last year’s clash no one complains. (As if anyone could tell if it were a rerun.) The viciousness is about being choosy and having underdeveloped taste at the same time. It is about people being demanding and yet relinquishing all too easily. There is something capricious and irrational about the postmodern man’s needs and urges, and yet at the same time there is something comically predictable about them. He acts like a silly bank robber who goes through all the trouble of robbing a bank only to take a single hundred dollar bill. (Somehow it seems clear to me that they knew he was going to take only a single dollar bill, but the funny part was to see how far he was ready to go to get it) This lack of taste is ominous for any sort of genuine action, for any sort of engagement and grandeur. This is what happens when fantasy and creativity come to serve some very practical purposes, at times some base purposes. It is the sinkhole of morality.
It is in this state of mind, the state of constant dispersal and lack of focus, that we ever more often hear the phrase “who gives a damn”. Today in the information era this slogan is supplemented further with “Yah, yah, we’ve seen it before, we‘ve seen it all”. The show must go on and some sober soles are quite right in comparing today’s generations with the Romans in the years prior to the fall of the Roman Empire. We have come to live in Coliseums, suffering from the hysteria that surrounds the event. The “who gives a damn” is not only modern translation of bread and circuses, but it also captures the deeper aspect of people’s moral intuition being reshaped so as to accommodate violence, murder and theft as necessities of life. The spectacle has come to serve the religious function of redeeming, or at least of postponing the unbearable silence of inner emptiness. A short break between the acts to buy a hotdog is the longest we can manage without it. Is there really nothing worth stopping for, taking a second look, nothing sacred except the shows and games that are played with ever increasing velocity? This has become a rhetorical question today. And this is the end, beautiful friend.
Still, the end times are not what I want to write about, it is only the setting. The event I’m writing about is a trial that took place in Copenhagen on the march 12th 2015. It is closely related to the events of 9/11 and the main character is Niels Harrit. In the following I will take the liberty to recount the event as I saw it.
The story of Niels Harrit
It is hard to tell when an event starts, yet it is even harder to tell when it ends. Some events seem to exert their power over long stretches of time and are able to hold sway over the generations which don’t feel they belong to the time when the event took place. The 9/11 is one such event. It came over me with delay, like a tsunami caused by a very distant earthquake which I was on the safe distance from. That made me think that people’s destinies can be tied to one another like in the Gordian knot due to distant events. Yet, convinced that in the free world destiny can be defied, most of us embark on a journey with a rather certain sense of direction, believing that we are doing it on our own. This sometimes causes a comic situation like when I guy travels on the same boat to the same destination like other passengers but he, like some of his fellow travelers, prefers to be quiet about where he is heading. Today I no longer wonder that we ended in the same place, but I wonder why I, along with some of them, kept quiet.
Niels was on that boat. Allegedly a marginalized and tragic existence, a crackpot just like me, although I find nothing tragic about the societal margins. They are the only place where I can breathe freely. But he didn’t think so. He was on top, a respected man who earned the access to one of Denmark’s intellectual castles and used to move around it as if he owned the place. One day a journalist, who kept missing that boat and was too blind to see what anyone with little courage and brain should have seen, called him a crackpot and a marginalized and tragic existence. That day the story, as it usually happens, got unusual twist. These two men became court adversaries each defending his own cause. Needles to say I was attracted by what I deemed to be a more noble cause, because it had something to do with truth. More specifically, the truth about the 9/11.
It is now fourteen years since the event took place. In the USA it was the event; one of those milestone events which split history into before and after. In any case, it was the event that many historians regard as the event that changed the USA forever. Measured by its disastrous effect the impact of this event outside the land of the free was actually far greater. It was used as a pretext to launch two big wars against Iraq and Afghanistan with death toll measured in hundreds of thousands of lives.
In the US it triggered the revision of most freedoms and civil rights many Americans used to enjoy for decades. Under the lofty sounding name the Patriot act was passed, which overnight robbed the Americans of what their founding fathers fought for two hundred years ago. In a subsequent chain of laws that followed and issued from the Patriot act a de facto martial state came in force. This was accomplished with passing another law with patriotically sounding name (NDAA) which stripped away even the basic foundations of the constitutional state – habeas corpus. Among the US allies, of which Denmark has always been the most loyal, the events of 9/11 also served as the turning point that redefined issues of national security and foreign policy. It also served as the touchstone of loyalty, which the big brother on the other side of the Atlantic had to use occasionally to relief his paranoia. In short, the entire history got an additional spin due to three planes hitting three buildings on the day of the eleventh September 2001.
The event itself quickly turned into some sort of macabre reality show. This time, though, many Americans did give a damn, at least for a while. But not all of them did it in the same way. Remembering previous events of similar proportions some Americans remained sober and didn’t fall victim to the media hype that took place immediately after. They stayed calm and were able to see the obvious, which was that the official version of the event (strictly speaking it became official first four years later) simply didn’t make sense.
Right from the beginning there was something too perfect and yet too sloppy about the event that made its media-created account highly improbable. The security apparatus consisting of the best trained army in the world aided with no less than sixteen intelligence agencies, plus the federal police force and the equipment worth hundreds of billions of dollars faced nineteen hijackers armed with box caters and the security apparatus failed big time. The chances this could happen were equal to winning the lottery three times in a row with the minimum bet. But that is only where the mystique began. The two skyscrapers (the twin towers) built to withstand fire and plane impact collapsed due to damage caused by fire and plane impact. Not only did they collapse, but they got pulverized in the process. This wasn’t the end of the mystery. The third building (WTC building seven) collapsed as well, although it was not hit by a plane and had only minor fires on three out of its 47 stories. And not only did it come down, but it did it in a manner that unmistakably reminds of controlled demolition. And to make this rather strange story even more bizarre, the third plane (a Boing 757) piloted by a man who according to his flight instructor couldn’t be trusted to fly a small Cessna plane, made an incredibly difficult maneuver over the best defended area (which by the way is no fly zone) and smashed into the Pentagon building leaving the hole three times smaller than the plane’s own size. And the plane pulverized, leaving no traces whatsoever. There was also the forth plane, which crashed on an empty field in Pennsylvania after the passengers failed to reclaim it back from the terrorist. The story of the fourth plane could really be a story of true American heroism, if it weren’t for a few technical details like miraculous cell phones that worked at high altitudes. All of this happened in a time span of an hour and ten minutes while the US air forces were conducting massive military exercises.
This is only a fraction of the strange coincidences and virtually impossible things that took place on that day fourteen years ago. Needless to say, the official investigation launched four years later by the 9/11 congressional committee omitted almost all of it. Another investigation conducted by the NIST did a shamefully poor job. The investigators have not only limited the investigation up to the moment when conditions for the collapse were obtained, but they also refused to have their findings peer reviewed.
While the nation was in shock and the world anxiously waited for the response, a small group of Americans felt prompted to do their own investigation putting their expertise to good use. Over the time their number grew and soon they realized that there was something seriously wrong with the official account of the events of the 9/11. They started talking about it in public, they wrote books, and soon their word got spread over the Atlantic, reaching eventually the kingdom of Denmark. Along with their word a huge amount of evidence, including numerous video footage of the event uploaded on Youtube was suddenly seen in different light. This is the moment where Niels boarded the boat that I will eventually board myself a few years later.
Niels Harrit was a scientist, and at the time still employed at the University of Copenhagen, teaching chemistry. Back in 2006, at the lecture given by Steven Jones he saw the footage showing the collapse of the WTC building 7, the one he never knew had collapsed. The video appealed to Niels’ intellectual curiosity and he became interested in the alternative views. Moreover, as he pointed himself, what struck him most was the easiness with which Danish state-run media as well as the corporate media has avoided talking about the building 7. Niels was a scientist and in addition to the abundance of good evidence defying the official story he, as a trained chemist, was able to assess forensic type of evidence. That’s what he did when in 2009 he joined a team of scientists that analyzed the dust collected from the crush sight of both the twin towers and the building seven. The paper produced by this international team established once more the presence of nano-thermite (traces of iron microspheres were found in the dust), suggesting strongly what was already obvious to most demolition experts, as well as to thousands of architects and engineers, namely that the explosives were used to bring down the building seven. Despite his insistence that the paper produced is just an academic note in the sea of evidence, he will probably be remembered for it as much as for his courage and resolution to defend the cause he believed was right.
The worrying thing about this type of explosives (nano-thermite) was that it was only available to the US military, which ruled out the outrageous idea, that the terrorists may have planted the explosives prior to the day of hijacking planes (this idea has never been entertained by the authorities or by anyone else as far as I know).
Thus, the 9/11 truth movement, which grew steadily in the USA, finally got the hard evidence confirming the theory it promoted. They have got the smoking gun. However, the troubling thing, as noted above, was that it stood clear that the US government or at least portion of it was involved in the events of the 9/11. It should be noted that the evidence collected thus far has not been able to conclusively pinpoint the perpetrators, nor has it been enough to substantiate any theory about what actually happened. Many skeptics have accordingly refrained from putting forward any theory. Yet, growing public suspicion was additionally spurred by the Bush and the Obama administrations’ reluctance to release the 28 classified pages from the congressional report on 9/11. Americans are still waiting for the release of the redacted pages.
The forensic evidence, however, didn’t make the officials change or soften their position. Why would it? Many people didn’t have time to doubt the official narrative, while some refrained from doubting it out of fear. Niels Harrit pointed out in an interview that as far as the academia was concerned, the 9/11 was taboo and mentioning it even at the lunch table could jeopardize one’s career. Many wouldn’t be able to handle the truth, which was reason enough to keep off the issue. For the majority, however, it was the application of the “who gives a damn” that worked well once again.
Yet, some people, like Niels in Denmark, continued to doubt it and they did it loudly. The authorities didn’t think that voices like his posed genuine concern and chose to ignore them. Later, they started employing various techniques of defamation and ridicule against various movements that began to get political dimension reaching beyond the event itself. That is how Niels became a crackpot. Søren Villemoes, a journalist writing for the Weekendavisen, did his share of intellectually shallow, but politically correct writing and called Niels a crackpot in an article that triggered the lawsuit. The article itself wasn’t about Niels at all, but in it Niels and the entire 911 truth movement was placed alongside the holocaust deniers and creationist, as a prototype of a mad pseudo-scientist. Although confronted earlier with similar accusation by other journalists, this time Niels decided to act. He sued the paper.
The first round in the City court went to the paper. But Niels wasn’t a quitter. He appealed the decision. The second round was set in the Eastern High Court. That was the moment I boarded the ship.
I didn’t have big expectations from the trial. The scene was set on a sunny cold day in March. A small courtroom could barely host those 15-20 souls who came to see the trial. Niels seemed confident and quite resolved. Perhaps even a slight trace of arrogance could be detected in his posture and in his movements. He showed no interest in the defendant and his lawyer, as if the case had nothing to do with them. In an important sense it didn’t, and everyone knew it. The three judges entered the courtroom and the session began. Niles was representing himself. I have always had a bad habit of thinking that people with interest in physics, chemistry and other hard sciences lack eloquence. Niels proved me wrong after only a few minutes.
In judicial terms the case was a libel suit worth merely 25.000DKK (roughly $4000US) in the amount of damages. But the money wasn’t what motivated Niels. Everyone in the courtroom including the judges new it. Niels’ intention was to argue that calling him a crackpot was not based on any sound factual findings, and as such constituted an act of defamation, which couldn’t be defended by referring to freedom of speech. In order to do that he had to argue for his view of the 9/11 and prove that his conclusions were based on sound science and on factual evidence. This meant that the entire stab representing Danish judicial system that day had to go through some of the hardest evidence proving that the official account of the 9/11 was false. And if Niels succeeded in legal terms, the judges would have to say that insulting a person who denies the official narrative of the 9/11 constitutes an offence in Denmark. This was a much higher stake, and the one that judges were aware of. In somewhat pessimistic spirit, I have felt from the beginning that they were nervous about this higher stake and will be extremely cautious in making their decision, for better or for worse.
Niels got 45 minutes to present his case. People in the courtroom watched the footage of the WTC building 7 falling down before Villemoes was questioned by Niels. After clarifying some linguistic issues regarding what Villemoes had said and meant, Niels tried to get him to acknowledge something which counts as basic knowledge in physics – that magnets attract iron. By moving a very strong magnet across the plastic bag containing dust from the crash site of the WTC Niels demonstrated that the collected dust contained iron (iron microspheres), which is specific for the WTC dust samples. The defendant refused to acknowledge that he saw anything in the first attempt, while in the second he meekly nodded affirmatively, but inconclusively. He exercised his right not to see. Judges reminded Niels not to insist so much on that little detail, and not to go hard on the defendant.
His second witness was architect Jan Utzon who was representing the Architects and Engineers for 911 truth. He was the expert witness and readily affirmed that no steel framed high-raiser collapsed due to fire and that the building 7 could only fall as it did if most or all supporting columns under the top floor were removed, so that there was nothing to slow or prevent its total collapse, suggesting strongly that the building was brought down by controlled demolition.
Then the second (and the last) expert witness came in, Per Hedegård, a professor teaching physics at the Niels Bohr institute, one of the most prestigious institutions in Denmark. Whatever he said or promised publically before the High Court trial (Niels denied knowing what Per’s testimony would be), the moment he entered the courtroom he was certain he will not say anything that might compromise him. That’s exactly what he did. He said nothing. His reluctance was obvious from the beginning and his body language, reminiscent of a scared rabbit, didn’t look good for Niels’ case. I guess Niels suspected it from the moment Per sat in the chair, but was perhaps the last one ready to believe it. (Per never really sat in his chair, but was moving constantly in it, hiding his gaze from everyone in the courtroom. I got the impression that he thought he was on trial.). His ability to avoid answering fairly simple questions reminded me of Mohammad Ali’s skill to avoid punches. It is amazing what performance a person can put on in order to save his career, which I find hard to believe was ever really threatened. At one point (out of desperation perhaps) Niels tried to corner him and get him to answer a single question, when the top floor collapsed at the speed actually a bit higher than free fall is there an excess of energy and where does it come from. In plain English, the question was whether the energy needed to bring the building down at the free fall speed could come from the top floor alone, that is, whether the building collapsed under its own weight. The rabbit-man was not stupid. He would never answer that question, not in the courtroom. Perhaps as a caricature of Galileo at his own trial, he would have murmured the right answer on his way out so no one could hear it. Instead, he began talking, mattering at times, about how the velocity of energy exceeds that of hard objects, and that nothing conclusive could be said from the fact that the building collapsed at the free fall speed. Suddenly all answers became too complex and unintelligible to a non-expert audience, to non-initiates. To the judges, if my initial guess about them was correct, Per was a godsend. They spotted an opportunity there, a loophole they can retreat to without technically losing the moral battle, if someone ever suspected that the one was fought on that day. They were allowed, at least as far as the procedure is concerned, to hide behind Per’s expertise, behind these complexities, but for him to do it was a lame excuse at best. If it weren’t for being so pathetic, the scene would look rather comic, almost cartoonish, like when a chubby character is trying to hide behind a broomstick. There it goes for divorcing civic virtue from civic duty.
Recalling the trial I later came to wonder what if Galileo had a witness to step in and support him, support his claims. That person would be in our world as great as Galileo, perhaps even greater in terms of moral courage and academic integrity he or she exhibited. That person of true grit would have made history. How many chances can a man get in his life to prove his moral dignity, his capacity to excel? Not many that really counts. It is just too sad and too unheroic when these chances get wasted. Even sadder is it when it happens in a courtroom, so the state becomes accomplice in a crime it did not allow to exist.
Niels wouldn’t just let go and tried again to get professor Rabbit to answer the question about the excess of energy, but the judge jumped to the rabbit-man’s aid and warned Niels not to insist on any particular answer but to let the witness speak by himself. And the witness decided not to say anything. Moments later he left the courtroom filled with worried gazes of people who were there to support Niels. Niels concluded his case by summing up the essence of his legal argument – whether the insult was based on anything factual or whether Niels’ own view was likewise based on good science and clear evidence.
The lawyer kept quiet most of the time, never allowing the talk in the courtroom to be about the WTC and the 9/11 more than necessary. In his closing statement he simply acknowledged the minimum requirement needed for one’s view to be called theory in ordinary parlance. On this minimalistic view Niels did have something like a theory and from the point of the official account, the theory was ludicrous, a crackpot’s theory. I have always feared and mistrusted minimalism, because it was by definition divorced from any genuine attempt to reach anything that may resemble truth. Sadly, it worked well in the courtroom. Anyways, this small linguistic remark was a cornerstone of his client’s case. It was premised on the claim that as long as we have the official account (whether we relate to it critically or uncritically is irrelevant) it will constitute the factual basis for passing judgments on others who do not subscribe to it. On this view the merit of other (non-official) theories need not be taken into account, only their conclusions.
Although the trial was about a libel, the true issue was whether it could become a trial about the official story of the 911. No one in the 911 truth movement had any doubts that the importance of the trial was in the fact that the Danish state, its legislative branch, will have to take legal stance on an issue that has become politically very ticklish if not dangerous. It would be naïve not to see that Niels basically tried to smuggle some of his views about the 9/11 in the process in order to popularize the issue. In his statements issued after the High Court ruling he emphasized the importance of the fact that some of the evidence against the official story went into legal record in a country.
But despite Niels’s hopes and the 911 truth movement’s expectation the process was never really about those long gone events. Indeed, the refutation of the official 9/11 story was beyond the point, just like the evidence presented in the case. Judges didn’t hesitate to emphasize it during the hearings. What mattered is that the process itself was properly conducted. And the decisive argument in the case, the one the ruling was based upon, was in the end found within the legal conceptual frame. The judges managed to keep things separate and focus on their job of matching human agency with paragraphs (act sections). It is a peculiar epistemic task of deciding when an act can be criminally coded, without antagonizing (criminalizing) the criminal code itself in the process. This time it was a matter of interpreting the use of the words “crackpot” and “libel” against the context provided by Villemoes’ article. This type of situation always allows enough room for maneuver to come up with satisfactory end result. The end result was that despite some hurt feelings, no crime or offence has been committed in this case.
Hence, the trial reaffirmed what I feared it would, namely that we don’t give a damn what happened on the 9/11. That is neither our professional field of interest nor something the courtrooms should be places to decide upon. It belongs elsewhere. The read between the lines was that once the official narrative is established all officials have to stick to it. That is the (un)official policy. Sadly, the mantra of all conspirators is precisely that they need to trust each other. This kind of trust is though worse than trust on credit; it is induced trust, where everyone knows everyone else’s dirty secrets.
After the trial
The courtroom is a place of strict legal procedures that had to be followed. Like a game that is played for its own sake. Let’s be honest, there is something reassuring about it being so. The courtroom is the place where every person ought to enjoy legal safety. That’s what makes it different from street lynch. It may not be the court of justice, at least not every time, but it is still the court of law.
Yet, there are times when the courtroom fails to rise to the task that exceeds strict legal procedures. When this happens we learn that the court of law is not always the same as the court of justice, let alone the court of something nobler. The Eastern High Court was one such place on that cold March day. It was the place where truth was not supposed to be delivered.
Judges were excused, just like the rest of the population, by only doing their job and following the rules in the best spirit of a judiciary event. There is really nothing new here. Well, that was what bothered me and what made this story somewhat sad. We are all doing our jobs, and while we are doing them, the truth may die on the sidewalk, since it is nobody’s job, nobody’s business. But if our innocence is assured by only doing our jobs, then it was a bad bargain on the virtue market.
Indeed, something predictable repeats itself ever day around 5p.m. All those people who only gave a damn about their jobs since 9 o’clock in the morning no longer give a damn about anything for the rest of the day. They feel that they somehow earned the right to do so. Apart from this earned “right” not to give a damn, the truth had to compete with practical things like shopping, eating and watching reality shows. No wonder it loses every time.
Did we have the right to expect from the judges to engage in matters of public and cultural importance, to take into account values embedded in the fabric of society? Maybe we did if the alternative was to expect them to hide behind their jobs and duties and disregard the impact their judgment may have for the very foundation of their own culture. Really, who wants to be judged by a narrow-minded person? Do we not fear this?
The judges are not required to know physics or any other area better than the people who already are studying those areas. Nobody is. Yet, they are required to understand that although legality doesn’t exist outside the legislation (strictly speaking one cannot be guilty of something which exists outside the juridical framework), still, we may encounter human actions we deem morally despicable which are not criminal simply because they are legally uncounted for. The cannibal of Rothenberg revealed this more than a decade ago. What makes the difference is our perception of the ethical in every human action. Hence, the law can have shortcoming when it fails our moral convictions, the very same convictions which belong to the core of self-understanding of the society. The law is trumped by ethics every time. It came into being, because people wanted to legislate according to their moral convictions, and not the other way around. That’s what we all are required – to judge our actions from the moral perspective and not by employing alienated expertise. Now, although the Eastern High Court didn’t do it, I hope that the whole trial and the cause Niels stood for will be judged in ethical light by history.
Back to Niels. What makes him political dissident beyond single disagreement about an event is his placing of that event into a broader political perspective, which embraces conflicts that have been dominating the world for the past 60 years or more. It is the struggle between top and bottom, which is sold in the media as the religious fanaticism and ethnic rage. These two elements are exploited to the full at all levels – from the ideological (brainwashing and stoking xenophobic fears of foreign attack) to the practical (recruitment of those who do the fighting). It is at this point that Niels offers deeper understanding of the nature of social reality and history.
It is fair to say that holding views such as Niels’ is very unpopular to the degree that still many people consider the topic of 9/11 taboo. The consequences which he suffered were not harsh, but the reaction of the public was quite disappointing. Any doubts such as his are to be ridiculed, unless ignored.
I admire his determination and his belief in what he is doing, but I cannot help thinking that he somewhat exaggerates the importance of the 9/11. Francis Fukuyama once said that global dominance of the western civilization was not due to its ideas being superior, but due to its superior use of violence. This is the truth every victim learns of her attacker, and if you ask the Empire’s former victims, you will learn that the 9/11 was one in a long chain of false flag operations, something they know all too well. In the eyes of the victims there is nothing special about it. For an average Afghani or Iraqi any event could equally well had served the purpose of destroying their countries. From their perspective even a non-event was good enough.
There is indeed something Tennessee Williams about the whole 911 truth movement, something that resembles a true American family drama. It reminds me of the situation when a child realizes (begins to strongly suspect) that her father, the one she loved and trusted, turned out to be a crook. Half of the world kept saying it for all these years, but the child refused to believe it until she caught a glimpse of a crime committed at home.
I also admire Niels’ insistence that we must tell the truth, because it is our only weapon. I should perhaps envy him for his optimism that once the audience has understood the massage, the truth will prevail. I sincerely doubt that truth has any social, moral or political power left in it. It is utterly devoid of motivational strength. The whole Snowden affair, just like the WikiLeaks affair before it, proved how little we give a damn about being spied upon or made suspects, or about the atrocities committed in our name. The audience just wants to be the audience, nothing more. After all, people paid to see the show, not to make it. The best you can do is to entertain them with your subject. Don’t bore them and do not expect any help from them. Tomorrow they will have to do their jobs, like they always did, so even the least demanding interactivity is off the menu, probably for good. S. Kierkegaard has long ago pointed to the prolonged and overstretched life phase he called the esthetics stage, the one most people favor. Not much has changed since that old skinny fellow roamed the streets of Copenhagen.
It is surprising that some zealous apologist of western democracies still consider political dissidence a freakish occurrence, a pathological mutation, or an oxymoron at best. Some deny its existence and anything that may resemble a dissident is never attributed to the state’s or even the mass media’s actions or policies. The dissent is a sign of the lack of decency, merit and debating culture, which implies that once you really take the opposing stance in an aggressive manner, you are banned for the reasons that are considered good reasons.
I already mentioned the information flooding and various distractions techniques as an effective method for combating dissent by switching off the recipient (the audience). However, the key issue has always been about the trust and the prospect of the ultimate moral corruption of the leadership has been the establishment’s trump card. It is the “cannot be true” card or “must not be true” card. The case is namely that leaving aside all the evidence in favor of the alternatives, there still remains one bitter pill to swallow, namely that those who we trusted had lied to us, made us fool, betrayed us and they turned out to be a bunch of pathological murders. This is a big mouthful to swallow for anyone, even for the skeptics. It is no longer a matter of good arguments against less good arguments. It is a truly Shakespearean case of to be or not to be. There is indeed something deeply existential in ditching one’s firmest beliefs and illusions, something as fearsome as Kierkegaard’s leap of faith. It feels like leaping into nothingness, or over a bottomless ravine at best.
For the 911 truth seeking community in general crossing this red line is a symbolic act of initiation. It is also the first and the last obstacle that keeps people away from even considering alternative views as regards the false flag operations. Once you are on the other side things do look differently.
Yet, they do not look easier or less confusing. Despite occasionally notable impact the 911 truth movement has made, the movement taken broadly looks like disorganized unity. The members of this community are divided among themselves as to which theory explains the event best. The disagreement quickly led to mutual accusations of subversive activities done on purpose with the goal of undermining the movement. Even some of the prominent members were accusing one another of being avatars, secret government employees pretending to be dedicated members while working against the cause. The purpose of the avatars is to create confusion and thereby discredit any theory coming out of the movement. This is what happened to Niels’ paper, which had numerous debunkers throwing themselves over it to no avail. Soon an alternative theory appeared with equally convincing scientific credentials behind it. The directed free energy weapon theory was put forward by Judy Wood and tried do away with the theory based on nano-thermite findings. A theory involving nuclear devices was also put forward at the expense of the other two. This is no surprise even if the movement was not infiltrated by avatars. People tend to disagree. The real danger, however, is losing the sight of a more important battle, namely the one that is essentially political.
Erase and rewind should be the principle goal, the one which starts with outlawing the NDAA and going back to the time before 911. Formally speaking the political goal is the restoration of the full scale democracy with human face. Although this battle can be defended on its premises, the events of the 911 seem to have come to play a role of a strategically important hill that has to be captured in order to win the battle. My worries are that this battle may end like in a scene from The Life of Brian, when members of two underground movements kill each other in a comically failed attempt of revolution. It is something the establishment could only cheer for.
Nietzsche once wrote that one’s strength is measured by one’s capability to sustain parasitic forms. Applied to governance the strength is the question of how much beating the establishment can take before restoring to brute force. Western democracies have to be given credit in this regard. Instead of playing the ball hard, they opted for rigging the game. The invitation to play the rigged game is still advertised as freedom, as equality of opportunity. Yet, even in this ideological mirage one cannot fail seeing that both freedom and equality look crippled at best, if not entirely illusive. They are actually fake just like the whole game. Yet, the patronizing spirit residing over the unruly mob is rendered benevolent by the patrons themselves. It is indeed the virtue of governance to bless the sheeple with freedom watered down with safety concerns.
The establishment has its gatekeepers to make Nietzsche’s claim true in their own case. They have their ornamental critics, or avatars, depending on how you look at it. But they also have their sacrosanct views, their bibles and holy places, and they often consecrate some narratives (especially those glorifying their benevolence, victimhood and their patriotism) and any disbelief in those narratives is considered sacrilege or at times even madness. By doubting the official narrative of 9/11 Niels didn’t only vandalize one such holly place, but he crossed the Rubicon in what was portrayed as a crackpot’s outrage.
Is there really anything sacred nowadays? It is hard to tell, since in liberal societies anything by definition is liberated from the burden of being sacred. The only duty is to ensure that nothings gets too holly and that everything stays liberated so that it can be exchanged like goods and services in a society where the supply and demand are artificially created. Yet, seeing that the struggle is about the audience (winning the audience is a deeply ingrained democratic principle of power mode in most people) it looks that the one sacred thing is the audience. It must not be disturbed or bored. If someone gets the crazy idea to hustle the crowd and cause domestic disturbance, then he gets to deal with the good shepherd and his watchdogs.
Still, many would rightfully object by saying that since nothing is sacred, the audience is not sacred either. The sacred is banned from the dictionary, and the word is only used by historians to describe the ancients, the primitives. Yet, although we may not have anything sacred, we have from time to time our red lines that are not to be crossed.
Being a dissident is like becoming invisible for the second time, away from the cheerfully depressed crowd. There is an aura of loneliness about it reminding me of a shy streetlight on a deserted street. It originates from ostracism, something dissidents have often been exposed to. That’s why there has always been something wolfish about them. And yet, being a dissident has something to do with truth, it always had. Who would pay the price of being expelled from the crowd unless it was for the sake of truth, for believing what you know is truth. Even more the dissidence has something to do with being in truth with oneself, with who you are. That is one way for the nobleness to occur in pure form.
Going in the margin of societies to spot dissidence is a sign of social conformism and complacency, indeed of total decadence. Some might object to this by saying that this is trivially true, since by definition the dissidents are marginalized population. That is the problem with indoctrination; truth along with other valuable things becomes trivial. This could make a postmodern man cry, unless he cunningly finds the way out by pushing the bottom on his remote control and switches to another show, another spectacle, preferably one that doesn’t include truth and wants nothing from him except to not give a damn.
One may still wonder how it could be that we have the ability to not give a damn when it comes to politically sensitive and important issues. There is really no wonder here. Haven’t we had the same response to all the pictures of dread and horror of people suffering from famine, war, flooding, hurricanes etc.? There is really no room left for sensitivities or for any feminized virtue such as empathy. It is as if the messenger keeps delivering the message to the wrong address. There is part of us that may qualify as pathological killer, and that part doesn’t have a problem with the crime being repeated. One dead body decomposing by the side of the road, one skinny child with swollen belly – images like these get only one chance to affect us. Once they are repeated, we say that we have become aware of the realities of life and of the world we live in. This, however, is the most dangerous illusion, the illusion of awareness.
We rationalize crime and terror and it becomes part of us, of that pathological killer instinct that we possess. And that essentially defensive (survival) killer instinct is always on alert. How many times have we killed someone we didn’t care about because we could not to care, could care less? Many times I would say, and except for the first time it didn’t feel all that awful. How many times have we starved someone to death because we didn’t want to be bored to death by the bad shows that keep repeating the same imagery? We have done it too many times. Worse yet, we have become well trained in trusting pictures that we no longer can tell what is real and what is picture. It is no longer possible to say who we killed, and the crime thereby disappears as if by magic.
Continuing along this careless path we are being led into solipsism to look for the last residue of reality behind the imagery. In this solipsistic self-isolation, in this last castle of reality, the empathy found its resting place. All our subsequent actions will have to be governed by another law, a non-empathy law, the who gives a damn law.
No wonder then that who gives a damn has become the hymn of our times and the setting in which the story of Niels Harrit’s political dissidence unfolded.