Thursday, September 10, 2009

9/11, Americans for Prosperity, and the Truth

To his credit, Dr. Phil Zimmermann, did us the courtesy of responding to our assertion that he was, in fact, a 9/11 Truther in an earlier post. Dr. Zimmermann's reply was polite and respectful and we encourage anyone who reads this blog to give it a look.

Nevertheless, we continue to have strenuous objections to both Zimmermann's beliefs on 9/11 and his relevance at the Americans for Prosperity tea party in Sheboygan. To wit:

Zimmermann writes:
I feel that the engineering video I have linked raises a lot of very interesting questions. I don’t want to believe that there is some dark conspiracy behind the attacks, but I can’t simply ignore such compelling evidence. If anyone who has watched the video can convince me of why the claims are not true I would be happy to concede the argument and remove the link from my site.

(emphasis added)
The video can be found here. The "questions" raised by the video (and multiple imitators) have been independently debunked by numerous sources. One of the most accessible was a special issue of Popular Mechanics that sought to eliminate any and every doubt that 9/11 was an "inside job." We encourage Dr. Zimmermann to take a look at it.

The emphasized sentence above reinforces Zimmermann's belief that the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11 was the product of "controlled demolition." This is a view that is antagonistic to accepted facts. It is a sign that someone does not comprehend the basic elements of an event with fundamental importance to contemporary discussion. We can wax philosophically about post-structuralism, deconstruction and the age old question "What is truth?" -- but civic discourse does not operate on that level. Saying "There is significant evidence that the 9/11 attacks did not take place the way the government claims" is like saying "2 + 2 = Pancakes:" it makes no sense.

This is no small matter because having such a belief testifies to the believer's ability to make reasoned opinions on other issues. Zimmermann goes on to say:
I do not claim to be an expert on healthcare, just someone who is passionate about helping others and promoting freedom and accountable government. [...] AFP is certainly not promoting me as an authority on the subject.
This last assertion is fundamentally false. Zimmermann was billed as a "resident physician at the University of Wisconsin Madison" and carries the title of "Dr." -- both of which carry connotations of authority and expertise in medicinal and health care fields to the average observer. Zimmermann may not have thought he was being used as a "health care expert" (in which case he should have known better), but Americans for Property sure was suggesting as much.

We have little doubt that Zimmerann's beliefs, misguided as they are, come from a sincere place and with the best of intentions to correct what he sees are grievous injustices in the world. But that does not make his worldview with regard to 9/11 any more palatable. Nor does it make his proposed remedies any less ridiculous.

Take, for example, his recommendation that Wisconsin secede from the Union. Zimmermann claims an Independent Sovereign Wisconsin would benefit from no longer being entangled in the United States' military adventures. Perhaps. Yet, what Zimmermann fails to understand is that an Independent Wisconsin would need to raise and support its own self-defense force, a task that would without question require universal conscription. So an unintended consequence of Zimmermanns's desire to de-militarize Wisconsin would be total militarization of the state. That's an absurd and self-contradictory argument.

This is just part and parcel of the entire secession argument -- which exists as a ludicrous solution to shedding Wisconsin residents of the "evil" federal government. In fact, all secession would do is create the need for more government. Who would regulate the nuclear power plant in Two River if Wisconsin didn't have access to the NRC? How would senior citizens get back the money they put into the Social Security fund? I realize this is the unambiguous goal of many conservatives and libertarians, but one doesn't need to live in a State of Nature to know that life is nasty, brutish and short -- one only has to live without the FDA.

Americans for Prosperity wants that world. They cloak their arguments up in patriotic rhetoric, use philosophically complex words like "freedom" and "liberty" like buzzwords because they are part of the American vocabulary, but what they really want is deregulation for the sake of enhancing profits -- and AFP is obviously not above using the ignorance of it's speakers to prey on the ignorance of its constituents. That should speak to their credibility as much as it does to Zimmermann's.

Zimmermann's presence at the Sheboygan rally indicates one of two things to us. The first is that the organizers were so enamored at the idea of a doctor speaking against health care reform that they jumped at the first person they could find without properly vetting him. The second is that AFP was so happy that it got a doctor to speak against health care reform that they didn't care he was a 9/11 Truther or thought no one would notice. If the first case, then AFP is too disorganized to be considered a legitimate voice in the public discussion. If the second, then AFP is too craven. I suspect it was combination of the two and would like to see organizations such as AFP held accountable.

Towards the end of his reply Zimmermann writes: "This is a free country. We all have different views on issues and it is our ability to freely discuss our ideas that makes this nation strong." We couldn't agree more, but a variety of views doesn't make them all equal. As we noted earlier, we have little doubt that Zimmermann's intentions are good, that he has arrived at this views not by way of madness, but from a sincere desire to right the world's wrongs. That's never an easy thing to do, and sometimes can seem so daunting that there appears to be no other explanation than that the world is conspiring to keep good men down. But the world is a far more complicated place and answers are never that easy. We don't think Zimmermann should end his quest to make the world a better place, we just think he should try harder.

1 comment:

Phil said...

Too often people present their opinions as facts and leave no room for debate. This isolates people and promotes animosity. To label someone as a lunatic and claim that they have no place in a political discussion is not a constructive way to deal with difficult issues.

Many well connected government officials have written articles in the nation’s largest newspapers questioning the government’s position. Six out of ten of the 9/11 commission members have publicly stated that the commission did not get to the truth. Consider 9/11 Commissioner Max Cleland. He resigned from the Commission stating: “It is a national scandal; This investigation is now compromised”

The co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission Thomas Keane and Lee Hamilton wrote an op-ed in the New York Times stating that the CIA obstructed the investigation.

I don’t think it’s irrational to read this article from The Washington Post and have a few questions. Many commissioners were so upset about how they were being lied to that they debated referring the matter to the justice department for criminal investigations.

Are these members of the 9/11 commission lunatics? Should we prevent them from speaking in public?” People should not be so quick to judge others.

There are a lot of unanswered questions about 9/11. Anyone can set up a straw-man argument and knock it down to make the other side look silly. You may show that people who believe lasers destroyed the buildings are incorrect, but that does nothing to explain how the buildings fell to the ground at free fall speed. How 400,000 tons of steel offered no resistance to gravity and were shredded into dust. No pancakes at the bottom. 110 floors reduced to 4 stories of smoldering rubble and dust that covered the entire city. I am well aware of the popular mechanics article and it stays away from any serious issues like these.

On secession, the author states that since an independent Wisconsin would have to raise its own military, it would have to implement total militarization of the state. I find this logic surprising and I completely disagree. There are many countries that don’t have standing armies; Costa Rica and Iceland are examples. The other extreme from the author’s is that it is theoretically possible to have a totally demilitarized state. In a more likely scenario the Wisconsin citizens that are in the United States military would form the military base for an independent Wisconsin along with the National Guard. This would leave Wisconsin with, per capita, a very large military. Without the ambition for occupying other nations, we would actually require a much smaller military than we currently have. So I see no reason for total militarization of the state. On the contrary, I see the most logical change to be demilitarization.

The comment on being an authority is noted. I am a physician and I would likely not have been speaking if I were not. I understand this. If the author wants to make this argument, that is fine. I have been working in healthcare for over seven years and have more experience in the area than most people. Perhaps I should have said that I am not promoting myself as an authority. I am trying to share my experiences to help move the debate forward. There are good suggestions from many perspectives. Healthcare is very complicated. I am trying to discuss my point of view without alienating people who feel differently. Labeling yourself an authority implies that you are right, others are wrong and there can be no debate. But I do have opinions. I have a lot to say because I see patients every day who are struggling under our current dysfunctional system. I have dedicated my life to serving patients. I will take the author’s advice and will not give up on my quest to make the world a better place. I will instead redouble my efforts.