Kevin Barrett Responds To NY Times "Conspiracy Theories 101"

To the New York Times,

As the Islam 370 lecturer with controversial views of 9/11, I would like to weigh in on the side of Stanley Fish's misleadingly-titled op-ed “Conspiracy Theories 101.” Fish summarizes his position: “In short, whether something is an appropriate object of academic study is a matter not of its content — a crackpot theory may have had a history of influence that well rewards scholarly scrutiny — but of its availability to serious analysis.”

Fish is right. As university instructors, we are being paid to teach students to think critically, not to parrot our personal views or regurgitate received wisdom. I say this despite the fact that one of my most valuable learning experiences as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1970s was auditing the classes of the late Harvey Goldberg, a radical socialist firebrand whose lectures, delivered in an inimitable rant while stalking the stage and gesturing in the manner of Mick Jagger, could hardly be described as dispassionate critical performances. Goldberg is still a hero of mine, though I no longer fall within hailing distance of his ideology or teaching style.

So how will I teach students about "9/11 and the war on terror"? Fish writes: “Any idea can be brought into the classroom if the point is to inquire into its structure, history, influence and so forth.” In an introductory course on Islam, it is entirely appropriate to devote a week to inquiring into the structure, history and influence of the “war on terror” as it is perceived by Muslims as well as non-Muslims. The fact that somewhere between 60% (Pew, 6/2006) and 89% (al-Jazeera, 10/2003) of Muslims and al-Jazeera viewers respectively believe that the story of the “19 Arab hijackers” is a lie is interesting, and worthy of critical analysis and inquiry. Likewise, the fact that 42% of Americans believe that the 9/11 Commission Report is a coverup (Zogby, May 2006) and that half of New Yorkers believe that top US officials committed high treason and conspiracy to mass murder on 9/11/01 (Zogby, 8/2004) is worthy of critical analysis—in the New York Times as well as the academy. Since there are a great many critics of the 9/11 Commission Report who appear to be arguing rationally and citing evidence that is not easily dismissed, it is imperative that the full light of critical scrutiny be focused on their claims.

David Griffin, in The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions has critically analyzed the 9/11 Commission Report, using impeccable academic methodology, and found it so wanting as to be a ludicrous "571-page lie." This is a fact that all academics and critical thinkers need to come to terms with, whatever departments they teach in and whatever their personal political views. An honest and thorough critique of Griffin's The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions would be a useful enterprise.

Obviously I will not be able to do justice to the subject of 9/11 one week—which is fine, because the course is Islam: Religion and Culture, not Conspiracy Theories 101. Nonetheless I believe the two controversial essays I will be assigning from an academic book I co-edited and to which I contributed, 9/11 and the American Empire: Christians, Jews and Muslims Speak Out (Interlink, fall 2006: will be useful objects of analysis and inquiry.


Kevin Barrett
Coordinator, Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth
Member, Scholars for 9/11 Truth
Member, SPINE

"...I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda, I am for truth..." Malcolm X

"An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.
Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained."

"First they ignore you. Then they insult you. Then they fight you. Then you win."