9/11 Conspiracy Theorist Heads for the Tall Grass

Readers who recall last fall's 9/11 debate in American Thinker between Professor James Fetzer, founder of the 9/11 Scholars for Truth, and me will be interested to learn that an actual confrontation was scheduled this Sunday on Irish National Radio .

It's a bitter disappointment to report that it didn't come off. The eminent professor (Distinguished McKnight University Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota, Duluth)  failed to answer his phone when the station called, leaving the conspiracy hound's end to be held up by a man who believes that the ship sunk by the iceberg in 1912 was not the Titanic but another vessel of the same name (a thesis new to me). I'd be the last one in the world to draw any disparaging conclusion concerning Fetzer from this.

The same can't be said of a news storythat appeared last Friday in the Phoenix New Times. From the exuberance of the prose I gather that the New Times is what used to be called an "alternative paper", a fact that doesn't seem to influence its reportage unduly. The pertinent part of the headline here is "Prof. James Fetzer Defends Anti-Semite". It seems that while attending a Phoenix-area congress of 9/11 skeptics, Fetzer chose to speak up for Eric Hufschmid, one of the godfathers of the 9/11 skeptics movement (Fetzer calls him a "pioneer"), author of the book Painful Questions and, not to put too fine a point on it, a notorious Holocaust denier. His website is full of sentiments such as
"The Jews are lying about the gas chambers and ovens";

"The Jews helped Hitler and the Nazi party get control of Germany"; and

"The Jews instigated both world wars."
And Fetzer's response to this?
"In my opinion Eric Hufschmid's work - his book Painful Questions, for example, is an exemplar of excellence in research... I realize that on various grounds, he's a controversial guy. That part I'm not addressing."
It's difficult to know which aspect to single out first - the assertion that Holocaust denial is "controversial" rather that repellent or odious, or the distinction Fetzer makes between one set of Hufschmid's ideas and the other. What are Fetzer's precise criteria? The stuff that attacks the Jews is bad, the stuff that attacks the U.S. is good? A six-year-old child could see through that style of reasoning. The Distinguished McKnight University Professor Emeritus doesn't seem able to handle it.

Nor is Hufschmid the sole problem. The other half of that headline reads
"Holocaust denier Eric D. Williams attends 9/11 Accountability Conference".
(They're nearly all named "Eric" for some reason. Why is that?)

Williams too is an author, of a book titled The Puzzle of Auschwitz. The message is the same as Hufschmid's: no gas chambers, no Holocaust. The New Times article features a picture of Williams, head shaven, in some sort of black paramilitary gear with what appears to be a holster hanging from the belt, giving hearty greetings to a "NY 9/11 activist". (Yet a third figure, Don Harkins, admits to defending David Duke in his newspaper, the Idaho Observer.)

Two points can be drawn from all this - one concerning the character of the people involved in this movement. No decent individual would share the same space, much less a podium, with the like of Williams, but there they all are (Fetzer included). Evidently Dylan Avery, part of the Loose Change skeptic contingent, refused to attend when he heard that Williams was involved, and for that he deserves credit. The others deserve nothing at all.

The second point is that this is a clear indication that the 9/11 skeptics movement is, as many of us have been saying for some time, simply another crank group with an agenda. Much as they pose as daring truth-tellers, defiers of hypocrisy, and rebels against a corrupt government, there we see them shaking hands with Williams and praising Hufschmidt. There's no way back from that point - once you dine with the Devil, you belong to him, and the 9/11 skeptics have dined long and well.

I may never get my confrontation. Fetzer may well be through as any kind of spokesman for the movement. But the 9/11 skeptics will roll on. They have the ear of the media, and there's little sign of second thoughts from that direction. The 9/11 skeptics are still a story, and will likely remain so. And that's a problem. The neo-nazis and Holocaust deniers have been looking for a bridge to the mainstream for years, and it appears that this movement has offered itself as such. According to the Pew Foundation, something around a third of the country's population is convinced by the skeptic's message. This can't be viewed with equanimity. Conspiracy theories have advanced from compulsion to hobby to threat. We will need to think long and hard on how to deal with them.

J.R. Dunn is a consulting editor at American Thinker.
Readers who recall last fall's 9/11 debate in American Thinker between Professor James Fetzer, founder of the 9/11 Scholars for Truth, and me will be interested to learn that an actual confrontation was scheduled this Sunday on Irish National Radio .

It's a bitter disappointment to report that it didn't come off. The eminent professor (Distinguished McKnight University Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota, Duluth)  failed to answer his phone when the station called, leaving the conspiracy hound's end to be held up by a man who believes that the ship sunk by the iceberg in 1912 was not the Titanic but another vessel of the same name (a thesis new to me). I'd be the last one in the world to draw any disparaging conclusion concerning Fetzer from this.

The same can't be said of a news storythat appeared last Friday in the Phoenix New Times. From the exuberance of the prose I gather that the New Times is what used to be called an "alternative paper", a fact that doesn't seem to influence its reportage unduly. The pertinent part of the headline here is "Prof. James Fetzer Defends Anti-Semite". It seems that while attending a Phoenix-area congress of 9/11 skeptics, Fetzer chose to speak up for Eric Hufschmid, one of the godfathers of the 9/11 skeptics movement (Fetzer calls him a "pioneer"), author of the book Painful Questions and, not to put too fine a point on it, a notorious Holocaust denier. His website is full of sentiments such as
"The Jews are lying about the gas chambers and ovens";

"The Jews helped Hitler and the Nazi party get control of Germany"; and

"The Jews instigated both world wars."
And Fetzer's response to this?
"In my opinion Eric Hufschmid's work - his book Painful Questions, for example, is an exemplar of excellence in research... I realize that on various grounds, he's a controversial guy. That part I'm not addressing."
It's difficult to know which aspect to single out first - the assertion that Holocaust denial is "controversial" rather that repellent or odious, or the distinction Fetzer makes between one set of Hufschmid's ideas and the other. What are Fetzer's precise criteria? The stuff that attacks the Jews is bad, the stuff that attacks the U.S. is good? A six-year-old child could see through that style of reasoning. The Distinguished McKnight University Professor Emeritus doesn't seem able to handle it.

Nor is Hufschmid the sole problem. The other half of that headline reads
"Holocaust denier Eric D. Williams attends 9/11 Accountability Conference".
(They're nearly all named "Eric" for some reason. Why is that?)

Williams too is an author, of a book titled The Puzzle of Auschwitz. The message is the same as Hufschmid's: no gas chambers, no Holocaust. The New Times article features a picture of Williams, head shaven, in some sort of black paramilitary gear with what appears to be a holster hanging from the belt, giving hearty greetings to a "NY 9/11 activist". (Yet a third figure, Don Harkins, admits to defending David Duke in his newspaper, the Idaho Observer.)

Two points can be drawn from all this - one concerning the character of the people involved in this movement. No decent individual would share the same space, much less a podium, with the like of Williams, but there they all are (Fetzer included). Evidently Dylan Avery, part of the Loose Change skeptic contingent, refused to attend when he heard that Williams was involved, and for that he deserves credit. The others deserve nothing at all.

The second point is that this is a clear indication that the 9/11 skeptics movement is, as many of us have been saying for some time, simply another crank group with an agenda. Much as they pose as daring truth-tellers, defiers of hypocrisy, and rebels against a corrupt government, there we see them shaking hands with Williams and praising Hufschmidt. There's no way back from that point - once you dine with the Devil, you belong to him, and the 9/11 skeptics have dined long and well.

I may never get my confrontation. Fetzer may well be through as any kind of spokesman for the movement. But the 9/11 skeptics will roll on. They have the ear of the media, and there's little sign of second thoughts from that direction. The 9/11 skeptics are still a story, and will likely remain so. And that's a problem. The neo-nazis and Holocaust deniers have been looking for a bridge to the mainstream for years, and it appears that this movement has offered itself as such. According to the Pew Foundation, something around a third of the country's population is convinced by the skeptic's message. This can't be viewed with equanimity. Conspiracy theories have advanced from compulsion to hobby to threat. We will need to think long and hard on how to deal with them.

J.R. Dunn is a consulting editor at American Thinker.