Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Osama Spectacle and the Silencing of Dissent

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I am one of a growing number of Americans who have serious doubts regarding the official conspiracy theory of what happened on September 11th, 2001.

I have written about this before and you will find links to those posts and to other resources at the bottom of the sidebar.

I have joined other religious leaders such as David Ray Griffin, John B. Cobb, Walter Wink, Carol P. Christ, and Marvin Ellison, in signing this statement. The above are religious authors who I respect for their theological work and now respect even more for voicing their dissent.

And now Osama bin Laden (we are told) has been killed in Pakistan, his body DNA tested, and buried at sea all before you can say 'media circus'. The bonus is that this all happens after Obama trumps Trump over the "birther" nonsense. Now the "birthers" and the "truthers" can be linked together as tinfoil hat wearing moonbats. If you see no difference between the two, then there is little I can say.

I don't expect, you, my progressive friends, to go there with me. It is a dark place. I have no interest in losing friends and allies surrounding those things we share in common. I don't insist on my views even as occasionally I feel the need to share them.

However, perhaps you have felt a pit in your stomach the past few days. Maybe it is the jubilation. Maybe it's the media frenzy. Maybe it is all of the dead left in our wake the past decade in supposed search of this individual and others in our endless "war on terror". Maybe it is the ongoing feeling of being duped but you aren't sure how or when. Maybe it is the feeling that if you express these feelings and don't chant "USA! USA!" your family members, friends, co-workers, or boss will stuff an American flag in your mouth.

A Tale of Two Tweets

What I find disturbing is the silencing of dissent. I have two stories. Both have to do with tweeting. Yesterday, Jeff Wattrick of reported on a tweet by John Conyers III, the son of Congressman John Conyers. The son of the congressman sent the following tweet:

Wattrick followed up on that contacting not only the congressman's son but the congressman himself. The congressman's office had no comment. This seems reasonable. As embarrassing as it may be for a congressperson, I don't think it is the business of elected officials to be responsible for things their relatives say. Wattrick wrote:
So, why does this matter?

For starters, yeah, it’s big deal when the adult son (with his own leadership aspirations) of a powerful Congressman claims the U.S. government was complicit in the bloodiest foreign attack ever on American soil. Try to imagine Senator Arthur Vandenberg's children claiming FDR had prior knowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack during or after World War II.

And for the record, MLive didn’t go looking for John Conyers III’s opinion. This isn’t “gotcha journalism.” We didn’t ambush him with a tape recorder or camera. He made the decision to broadcast his views on a public social media site for the whole world to see.

Conspiracy theories, particularly Conyers III’s brand, are becoming something more than mere nuisance. Skepticism is virtue, but not at the expense of reason.
What caught my eye were these last two sentences. If they "are becoming more than mere nuisance" then what are they? What are "more than mere nuisance"? Crimes? Is free speech "more than mere nuisance"? What are we to do about these nuisances who exercise their first amendment right? What exactly are you proposing, Mr. Wattrick?

We may not like "conspiracy theories". I certainly am no fan of the government's conspiracy theory. But people do hold them. If they hold them, they have the right to express them and as far as I am concerned, I have an obligation as an American citizen to defend that right.

The second tweet was featured in the sports section of today's Johnson City Press. Rashard Mendenhall, a professional football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, tweeted:

“We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”
I am with you, Mr. Mendenhall, along with nearly 1500 architects and engineers. Apparently, the Steelers felt the need to respond.
On Tuesday, team president Art Rooney II released a statement.

“I have not spoken with Rashard, so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments. The entire Steelers organization is very proud of the job our military personnel have done and we can only hope this leads to our troops coming home soon.”
What is happening here? Now Mendenhall and his tweets have turned into a media frenzy. Have we come to a period in time when not even sports figures are allowed to express dissent? Do those who fail to cheer the Osama Spectacle dishonor the family members of those who died on September 11th, 2001? Are those who express doubt and dissent regarding the government's storyline no longer Americans?

I hope we are not coming to that, but you might want to read the latest from David Ray Griffin before you decide.

I am thankful today for 911 widow and activist, Kristen Breitweiser and U.S. Military Officers for 9/11 Truth, and the many, many others who are bravely voicing (and tweeting) their dissent.

These are the people who give me hope.


  1. Boy, this stuff gets tiresome. Not the questioning of history, but the guilt by association and the Klingon mentality that seems to be a part of our society that says anything a person says that isn't blandly mainstream must be punished to the extreme, marginalized, or brutally ridiculed. Personally, if Sally Kern wants to say something as stupid as "all blacks and women are lazy", go ahead. It's the ones like Phil Roe, who say they won't represent people who didn't vote for them that should get the ire.

    I've certainly had questions about whether ObL has been dead for years. Well, as far as I am concerned, he's dead now, in so much as he can no longer be used as the cash cow for funding the war on terrorism.

    He's dead enough that our administration(s) can no longer use him as an excuse to stay in Afghanistan and Iraq. They will either have to come up with a new reason or get out. That makes me happy, at least. And from everything I've heard, the same can be said of Al Qaeda as a whole. But that isn't due to our efforts in that "war"; that can be credited to the people in the streets of Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, and Libya. AQ has nothing to offer them, so it hasn't been invited to the party.

    So, does it really make a difference if he was dead before he is now dead, if you know what I mean?

    As far as tying "birthers" to "truthers," well, that's just crazy. I think it might be a conspiracy.

  2. It would be nice, now that he is surely dead if we could put an end to Empire's wars, but somehow, I remain skeptical.

  3. Well, yeah. me too.

    Like I said - they either have to come home or come up with a new "rationale." If Obama is smart, he will use this as a face-saving way to get the hell out.

  4. Whatever happened to "love your enemies"? Who needs a conspiracy theory? The reality is bad enough -- as I point out in my own blog (excerpt follows):

    Liberals may want to blame the presidency of George W. Bush for the economic, social, personal, and political devastation of these United States. But the Obama administration shows no signs of changing any of the disastrous, imperial policies that continue to feed the demon of war and revenge, which – as Matthew’s Jesus warns – “goes out and brings back with it seven other spirits more vile than itself, who enter and settle” in the house swept clean of God’s justice. These policies include targeted assassinations; extreme rendition; torture; the abandonment of habeas corpus, due process, and probable cause (Amendments 4, 5, and 6 of the U.S. Constitution). As if that were not bad enough, the economic, social, and political debt that has amassed as a result of an insatiable lust for blood revenge will be paid for by the widows, orphans, aliens, and the poor.

    We got him! Was it worth it?

    Matthew’s Jesus condemns “an evil and immoral generation” more concerned with piety and the letter of the law than with the kind of radical fairness that demands love for enemies. Sixty-seven percent of the U.S. population believes the U.S. is a Christian nation. President Obama’s poll numbers have gone up 11% since the announcement that bin Laden – public enemy number 1 – had been shot point-blank, by Navy Seals, under orders to kill or capture. “Resistance,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, “does not require a firearm.”

    What’s wrong with this picture?

  5. Now Mendenhall lost his endorsement deal with Champion

    Proving that corporations own our speech, at least the speech of athletes who are paid to play but not think or express opinions.

    Here is an important article, Shut up and Play? Patriotism, Jock Culture, and the Limits of Free Speech

  6. As for Mendenhall losing his endorsements, I am ambivalent. I don't have a lot of empathy for a guy who makes a few million less today than he did yesterday, but still makes millions.

    Two things come to me as being quite troubling, though: if a person in the public arena cannot speak freely, where he has the platform, the opportunity, and possibly the obligation to speak freely, where does that leave us poor saps? For now, it leaves us with the blogosphere and the street corner, where our voices get lost like a whisper on a windy day.

    Equally troubling is the fact that the asshole rich guy who owns the team feels he can speak for THE WHOLE TEAM when he says stuff like "The ENTIRE STEELERS TEAM supports the troops." Whether true or not, he should not be able to say such a thing. He may state that the BRAND supports the troops, just as Champion may say that it, the company, does not agree with Mendenhall, even as employees within the company may have differing views.

    Yet, he likely won't be reproached.