This was written for the Magazine Global Outlook and published just before The Toronto International Citizens Inquiry into 9-11, Phase Two in May 2004 where I spoke about Phase One and the 9/11 Truth Movement.
My mentor, Bill Moyer, a strategist for Martin Luther King, author of Doing Democracy- The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements, has charted how all successful social movements go through eight basic stages, and shown the need for activists to play different roles in the various stages to advance their movement. Stage One is simply alerting the public that “There is a problem.”
Our challenge actually has been the size of the “PROBLEM.” 9-11 was a special operation designed to terrorize the American population, to shut down their rational thinking processes, and instill a sense of fear and insecurity. People did not want to “believe” that such a horrific event could have been orchestrated by their own government, to advance an imperial grab for resources and power, even if it was true. Those who questioned 9-11 were attacked from surprising quarters- “the leaders of the peace movement,” among them.
Thanks to the brave voices of grieving wives, whose husbands had been murdered, the government was forced to create the “Independent Commission,” which permitted the demands for truth to be articulated. However, the Commission’s very existence and mandate is to reinforce the official story, to justify the construction of the National Security State, to protect the American people from future attacks (which they guarantee will happen). Fortunately, the wives were sharp, and brave, and began asking questions that the government did not want to hear.
In support of the families, researchers, and a growing community of 9-11 activists, who felt the “War on Terrorism” was a “War of Terrorism” against the people of the United States and the world, agreed that a natural step in movement building was to get together. Conferences were proposed. The Canadians and the Californians decided to support one another’s efforts and organize “The International Inquiry into 9-11, Phase One (in San Francisco) and Phase Two (in Toronto).” Everyone hopes that Phase Three can be pulled together by New York activists this September, in New York City, where Bush has been planning to use 9-11 to launch his second bid for the Presidency.
This election year, with the Commission planning to present its findings in July, the time is ripe to make loud public statements- that more and more people seriously question the official story, and the credibility of the Commission.
There is tremendous diversity within the 9-11 movement, and a range of opinions about the who, what, why, how of 9-11, but the San Francisco Inquiry drew together those who agreed that the U.S. government and the media have not told us the truth about 9-11, that evidence has been destroyed, that a cover-up is in progress, and that evidence points to complicity at the highest levels of government. The opening press conference, drew attention to the failure of the U.S. military to intercept the “hijacked” planes, in violation of the most standard operating procedures, the strange behavior of government officials on the morning of the attacks, the conflict of interests of the “Cover-Up Commission,” and Ellen Mariani’s RICO suit against Bush and other high officials. Our “allegations” and the Inquiry were reported in several mainstream publications, and evoked a lame response from the White House- a spokesperson said, “the administration had fully cooperated with the commission, furnishing more than 2.3 million pages of documents and holding more than 100 briefings.” Indeed.
However, our purpose was multifold, the sharing of research, the strategizing, the encouragement of new collaborations, and the creation of space for witnesses to come forward with new evidence and information. The day following the Inquiry, a spontaneous meeting was held to create an international organization to help further the movement, and new projects were launched. Articles, radio programs, documentaries are being produced, and the ripple effect of the first Inquiry has already had serious impact which promises to grow in the months ahead. Clearly the movement is now well into Step Two of the Social Movement Process- proving the failure of existing institutions, and moving into Step Three- Ripening Conditions. This is where we are now, with at least thirty percent of the American public opposed to the “War on Terrorism’s” primary targets- Afghanistan, Iraq, a list of other countries, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.
The classic ‘story of the battle’ has turned into the ‘battle of the story,’ as the battlefield has become “the hearts and minds” of American/and increasingly world opinion according to media activist Patrick Reinsborough of the Smart Meme Project , (smartMeme works to combine grassroots movement building with strategies to inject new ideas into the culture.)
The government, the giant corporations (particularly the media corporations) have joined forces to create “The Story of 9-11” where a handful of “evildoers” directed by “Osama Bin Laden” from his cave in Afghanistan, struck terror in the hearts of the financial/military centers of Western Civilization. “Good Forces” have been bravely launched throughout the world to battle the Evil Terrorists wherever they may hide (particularly in Oil rich countries). This is the Myth, the Story, which the mainstream press has gone to great lengths to sell, to etch indelibly upon the public mind. Our challenge is to break that “illusion.”
The anti-corporate globalization movement did not begin nor end in Seattle, but in Seattle the movement broke the media barricade. 9-11 has begun to draw the media spotlight, and the potential for a mass movement, Stage Four- the “Take-Off” Stage,” as well as Stage 5- Perception of Failure appear to be just around the corner. Michael Moore’s new film, “Farenheit 9-11” will be coming out soon; the Democrats while “challenging Bush” in minor ways, seem hell bent on supporting the official myth and targeting Al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia, “instead of Iraq.”
When the major myth fails, what is going to replace it?
With the “Take Off “Stage eminent, the attempt at damage control by the Power Elite is to convict Bush on a multitude of lesser charges, which won’t cast light on the complicity and support of the Democrats/other players in the whole drama. When 40% of the public opposes policies and non-violent demonstrations occur throughout the country, then the movement may be splintered or could move into winning the majority of public opinion. Stage Five- The “perception of failure” occurs when the roused public doesn’t see the immediate results of their actions/demonstrations, and the “powerholders” remain in office, numbers of people attending actions and demonstrations appear to be less. However, this is often when the movement is still growing, maybe not in the streets, but within the major institutions and organizations, involving ever larger numbers of people to address the problem, and place it on the political agenda.
Who will construct a narrative that is believable for the majority of people?
Official history refuses to recognize facts that inconveniently do not support the official narrative, facts are being rewritten, erased daily, in our current Orwellian world in order for the Big Lie to succeed. Fear and denial are still rampant. People who do not want ‘to know” refuse to contemplate facts, history, data that challenge their comfortable worldview.
To win over the vast majority, we must come up with a better story, one that resonates with ordinary people, that gently helps them to overcome their own fears, and engages them to move from being spectators to actors, and to discover their own power and strength. Stage Seven of Social Movements is Success- when the majority oppose current policies and no longer fear alternatives, for example shifting the resources out of the military to meeting human and environmental needs. Success means changing policies, changing powerholders, changing the system.
Our story is that ordinary people refuse to be scared or silenced by a desperate Power Elite that seeks to use War and Terror to crush dissent and to consolidate their Power and control over the Earth’s Resources. Ordinary people will not allow Tyranny to strip them of their Constitution, their Rights, for a false sense of security dependent upon Military Force and Technology. True security depends upon the respect of all human rights, not just those of the most privileged and powerful, who can attack the vulnerable, the poor, people of color, with impunity. War is terrorism; the hope for humanity and the future lies in respect for all life, truth, dialogue, cooperation, transparency, accountability, the values articulated to be at the heart of the American experiment- liberty and justice for all.
Power does not concede without a struggle, and there are attempts to co-opt and undermine all social movements, or to institutionalize minor cosmetic reforms, and allow the injustices, the atrocities, to continue out of public view. Stage Eight takes us back to the beginning, as all social movements are inextricably linked- Continuation to extend the successes and gains of the movement, oppose the attempts at backlash, promote a profound paradigm shift, recognize and celebrate our successes, and push onward to counter the problems which arise.
The tide has turned against a regime which is diametrically opposed to the deepest values the American people believe in, at odds with the world, shrouding itself in secrecy, lies, and the veils of national security, while flagrantly violating national, international laws, and committing war crimes. Our hope is that we can convince the public that the system which is being constructed brick by brick, a merger of state and transnational corporate power using military force and media to exert control over the world’s resources, is the Problem, and the greatest threat to Americans, as well as the world. The foundation of the biggest lie is the official narrative of 9-11, and the greatest threat to most dangerous empire ever seen is the Truth, which will wrench from them the last veil of legitimacy.
Americans do have a unique responsibility to rein in their own government, before its crimes, and the threat it poses to the rest of the world elicits help for “regime change” from other nations. The best solution we can hope for is non-violent impeachment through consciousness raising, and the demands of a brave vocal majority of good, honest, life respecting, ordinary people to hold their own government accountable for its actions, and its crimes.
This requires heroism on the part of ordinary people, who must show greater leadership than most public officials and the press have shown. Only a mass movement will give our public servants the courage to do the right thing, to get to the head of the parade, before they are trampled. Fortunately, we are on the side of truth, peace, justice, the aspirations of the world’s majority. We must use all our creative skill to be the change we want to see in the world, as we challenge the illegitimate rulers who have hijacked the United States, and are seeking to hijack the world.