October 9, 2007

9/11 Truth and Division: Disinformation, Agent Provocateurs, and False Adversaries

9/11 Truth and Division: Disinformation, Agent Provocateurs, and False Adversaries

By Arabesque

The subject of this essay is divisive.[1]  In fact, it’s about divisiveness.  In response to the problem of divisive posts at 911blogger, Reprehensor wrote:

911blogger.com has been used as a tool to identify and amplify wedge issues that divide 9/11 skeptics and researchers, and this has occurred primarily in the comments area.[2] 

Divide and Conquer: History and Purpose

Why do people attack each other?  There are several reasons and many attack with deliberate intent.  In fact, there can be ulterior motives for divisive behavior.  Historically, Divide and conquer was an intentional strategy used by the OSS during World War II:[3] 

Psychological warfare, as the term is used by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff ... comprises all moral and physical means other than orthodox military operations which tend to destroy the will and ability of the enemy to resist, to deprive him of support of allies or neutrals and to increase in our own troops and allies the will to victory. The implements of psychological warfare are: open propaganda, subversion, special operations (sabotage, guerrilla warfare, espionage), political and cultural pressures, economic pressures. The principal effects sought are persuasion, sympathy, terrorization, confusion, division and physical interference.[4]

This is not a new concept.  In the 1950’s, the ancient strategy of divide and conquer was continued in COINTELPRO, “an acronym for a series of FBI counterintelligence programs designed to neutralize political dissidents.”[5] FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, in a letter entitled Disruption of the New Left explained that activist groups would be neutralized through various means including “the instigating of or the taking advantage of personal conflicts or animosities existing between New Left leaders… hostility should be exploited wherever possible[6] According to Brian Glick, this would be partly achieved through infiltration, “[agents] and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit and disrupt… set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents.[7]

Does this happen in the 9/11 truth movement?  From historical examples and COINTELPRO, the possibility cannot be ruled out that these tactics would be used against current day activists.  Having this problem in mind, Barrie Zwicker commented about possible disinformation and infiltration within the 9/11 truth movement:

What’s needed is politically relevant education. Education about agents of all kinds, especially agents provocateurs, their history, who employs them, their tactics… While educating ourselves and others we can simultaneously actively combat agents of the state by refraining from engaging in the types of behaviour they employ to sow dissention: name-calling, rumour-mongering, insinuation. Especially specific name-calling. Refraining from this does not stifle vigorous discussion and debate, based on observable facts, statements and patterns.  Education drains the swamp. Most of [the] agents will stand out. It’s happening already. Other agents are deeper. Understanding their purposes and identifying them and dealing with them depends on more education yet.[8]

What is an agent provocateur?

According to Wikipedia:

An agent provocateur (plural: agents provocateurs, French for "inciting agent") is a person who secretly disrupts a group's activities from within the group. Agents provocateurs typically represent the interests of another group, or are agents directly assigned to provoke unrest, violence, debate, or argument by or within a group while acting as a member of the group.[9] Provocateurs “try to disrupt a group by creating discord between group members” in a deliberate attempt to get the targeted group to fight between themselves, rather than their intended opponent.[10]  This is the concept of divide and conquer.

What causes divisiveness within the 9/11 truth movement?  We can mainly summarize it in one word: Ad hominem.  This is how it works:

  1. Person A makes claim X.
  2. Person B makes an attack on person A.
  3. Therefore A's claim is false.[11]

The “attack” can come in the form of insult, accusation, or irrelevant commentary. In fact, one does not need to hurl insults to commit ad hominem.  Any commentary that distracts attention away from an argument to an individual belongs to this fallacy:

So here we have Cosmos who shows you he looks like he's trying to imitate Che Guavara or a member of the Sons of David baseball team. He's hiding behind a huge beard, looks like the Italian aviators in A Night at the Opera… Michael Wolsey, Visibility 9/11. He appears of course in shades, he's got some cool shades on, he doesn’t want you to see him.[12]

It can be observed that ad hominem is one of the most effective forms of disinformation because it engages individuals at the emotional level.[13] While anyone can employ ad hominem commentary, the 9/11 truth movement is especially noteworthy for its usage:

Another important aspect of how disinformation in the 9/11 Truth Movement functions is through the use of attack and vitriol. While all types of people—professionals, academics and average people—can resort to nasty or inappropriate personal attacks when defending or promoting theories which conflict, the 9/11 Truth Movement has been packed with such attacks.[14]

Agent Provocateurs emphasize:

  1. Attacking individuals for what they believe/advocate (ad hominem)
  2. Divisiveness to the exclusion of constructive debate; avoidance of civility and polite discussion
  3. The use of ridicule, divisive labels, sarcasm, accusations, and ad hominem to bait fights rather than constructive dialog.  As well, personal commentary, past battles, group associations, etc. are all highlighted for the purpose of divisive arguments
  4. Straw-man (often with divisive labels): distorting the position of your opponent in order to make them defensive and bait an argument
  5. A refusal to fairly debate or acknowledge contrary opinions/evidence and instead attack individuals for what they advocate

In short, an Agent Provocateur is an expert in ad hominem:

  1. Attacking an individual rather than critiquing their position
  2. Attacking an individual while critiquing/attacking/distorting their position

Accusation—the Provocateur’s Most Effective Weapon of Psychological Warfare

False and misleading accusations are frequently and effectively used by agent provocateurs.  The most common accusation within the 9/11 truth movement is that a 9/11 researcher or activist is an “agent” working for the US government:

…we're all agreed that Jim [Hoffman] is a disinformation creep, so now we're discussing whether he is actually a cointelpro agent, or whether he has some other motive.[15]

Accusations are one of the most effective weapons used by agent provocateurs for several reasons.  They can be used to:

  • Poison the well.  Shift attention away from relevant issues to personal battles and infighting
  • Attack the credibility of an individual or group; ad hominem 
  • Function as disinformation; create confusion for the audience.  Is this accusation true?  Could this accusation be true?  Is it likely to be true?
  • Bait intended subject(s) into divisive battles; potentially spreading to uninvolved bystanders—divide and conquer

False and misleading accusations employed by provocateurs are more effective when the given audience is less aware of relevant facts to make a judgment on their accuracy:

I have raised objections on moral, legal and intellectual grounds and I am categorically opposed to it. But he appears to be persisting in what might be described as a ‘hostile take over’ to control Scholars.[16]

To the uniformed, any claim or accusation could be interpreted as possibly true, creating confusion and uncertainty if relevant facts are unknown. Consequently, misleading and false accusations are effectively used by provocateurs to discredit, divide, and confuse activists.

To further explain, if someone is accused of a “hostile take over” and no credible evidence is readably visible, this is an accusation without confirmation or validation. Any assertion could be interpreted differently depending on the awareness of relevant facts to confirm or disprove the claim.  Those who do not examine information critically are more apt to accept misleading claims or accusations without seriously questioning or examining them.  This is a psychological trick exploited by many manipulative promoters of disinformation who prey on this human weakness.  Furthermore, this is especially true when the information comes from an authority; for example, the official story of 9/11. Disinformation entails the distribution of deliberately misleading information; accusations without confirmed sources or verifiable evidence qualify as such.

9/11 activists should be wary of any and all accusations that are not readily supported by credible evidence, facts, or documentation.  Ultimately, false and misleading accusations create divisiveness and encourage hostility.  Agent provocateurs can skillfully use false accusations to create an environment of mistrust, suspicion, and divisiveness.

Divisive Labels and Issues

Divisive labels function as ad hominem when they are used for the purpose of attacking your opponent and intentionally creating divisiveness.  Examples include: “Conspiracy theorist”, “Agent”, “LIHOP”,[17] “MIHOP”,[18] “Limited Hangout”, “Plane Hugger”, etc. 

While these labels may or may not provide an understanding of the events of 9/11, they are also primarily used to create division by labeling individuals.  When this happens, their function shifts from their original meaning to divisiveness and ad hominem.  For instance, when used to label an individual, LIHOP is no longer a critical understanding of what happened on 9/11—it’s a divisive label to attack or even illegitimately discredit activists: “Don’t listen to what he says—he promotes LIHOP.[19]

Divisive labels such as these are used to highlight points of difference and instigate disruption and battles.  There is nothing wrong with disagreement if civil critique and dialog is allowed.  On the other hand, divisive and overly-simplistic and inaccurate labels are frequently used to avoid civility and to create division.  Divisive labels are among the most potent weapons of divide and conquer—whether or not those who use them realize it. 

Divisive Labels and Issues as Straw-man

Divisive topics abound in the 9/11 truth movement.  The single most notable and divisive issue is the Pentagon.  Many will agree to disagree with what happened at the Pentagon.  However, no matter what the subject, advancing knowledge and understanding is accomplished with civil and respectful discussion; without personal attacks or divisively labeling individuals as “agents”, “supporting the official story”, etc.  These kinds of labels shift debate away from relevant issues towards infighting and divisiveness. 

For example, to say that a 9/11 activist “supports the official story” at the Pentagon is a commonly used divisive straw-man label given to those who believe it was hit by a 757.  There are many 9/11 activists who believe that the “official story” of what happened at the Pentagon is absurd enough as it is—no missiles, global hawks, or unnoticed flyovers required.[20] From 911truth.org’s top 40 reasons to doubt the official story of 9/11:

3) Pentagon Strike
How was it possible the Pentagon was hit 1 hour and 20 minutes after the attacks began? Why was there no response from Andrews Air Force Base, just 10 miles away and home to Air National Guard units charged with defending the skies above the nation''s capital? How did Hani Hanjour, a man who failed as a Cessna pilot on his first flight in a Boeing, execute a difficult aerobatic maneuver to strike the Pentagon? Why did the attack strike the just-renovated side, which was largely empty and opposite from the high command?

Accusing 9/11 activists of “supporting” the official story because they believe it was hit by a 757 is a divisive straw-man.  This accusation can be used in an attempt to get 9/11 activists to fight with each other rather than emphasizing agreement that the official story at the Pentagon has many problems.  This is not a unique area of divisive disagreement among 9/11 truth activists.

Another example of a divisive straw-man would be to label someone who believes that the Pentagon was hit by a 757 as “LIHOP”, while ignoring the fact that elsewhere it was argued that Building 7 was destroyed by controlled demolition.  This is how divisive and overly-simplistic labels can be effectively used by agent provocateurs.[22] Of course, one does not need to be an actual agent provocateur to engage in provocateur behavior.  Straw-man assertions and accusations (i.e. “supporting the official story”) are frequently used to encourage divisiveness and defensiveness, baiting diversionary arguments and infighting.  If this fails, the provocateur hopes that others will agree with these straw-man assertions and join the divisive battle.  On the other hand, if a response is given the provocateur frequently has a ready supply of sarcasm, insults, and accusations to follow the initial bait and continue protracted and divisive arguments.  These tactics are even more successful when the intended subject hurls divisive language and labels back at the instigator; this is a tempting opportunity for others to join the divisive debate.  Often, those who join in are just simply offended by how someone responded to the divisive language.  Divide and conquer has commenced.

The Provocateur as False Adversary: Effective versus Ineffective Approaches

One important and overlooked function of the agent provocateur is their role as intentional distraction.  If provocateurs can successfully create adversarial conflicts, they function as false adversaries.  Their ultimate purpose serves as straw-man; deflecting valuable attention and energy away from intended opponents.

However, if ignoring a problem is more destructive than countering it, common sense dictates that an effective response should be taken.  For example, in the situation where a provocateur could turn to violent acts in a protest setting, harm relations between activist leaders, or cause impressive disruption—simply ignoring the problem could adversely harm activist groups.  As such, it can be observed that there are effective and ineffective ways of dealing with the issue of agent provocateurs.

If the very purpose of the provocateur is to engage in fake debates, disruption, and disinformation, an ineffective response would be to fall into the trap of engaging in what the provocateur is exactly attempting to facilitate.  Often, divisiveness with ad hominem attacks, accusations, and protracted debates are precisely what the provocateur desires.  But if the provocateur can significantly damage, distract, or discredit the 9/11 truth movement, action should be taken to effectively counter it.  While ignoring provocateurs is effective in most situations, in others it is not. 

Dialog and Critique versus Ad hominem

“In our movement there has to be a sphere of theoretical discussion, which has to be done in a business-like and respectful manner, without slander, without defamation, without ad hominem attacks on every page.”[23] Webster Tarpley

There is a distinct difference between ad hominem and respectful discourse.  The latter is emphasized in the Journal of 9/11 Studies by Kevin Ryan:

[We] hope to emphasize the importance of legitimate scientific discussion (which the Journal welcomes), as opposed to inappropriate personal attacks (which we do not publish).[24]

There is nothing wrong with disagreement.  However, we will never advance our knowledge and understanding if we are focused on attacking each other.  Because personal attacks work at an emotional level, they are very effective at poisoning the well and shifting the debate away from the relevant issues of 9/11 to essentially a mudslinging contest.  Actual critique and dialog effectively occurs when ideas are presented and responded to in clear and accurate language.  Weakly defined labels such as “conspiracy theories”, “LIHOP”, and “MIHOP” often result in confusion and straw-man arguments instead of debate and constructive dialog.[25]

Conflating Ad Hominem with Critique

As observed, one of the primary purposes of the agent provocateur is to disrupt and derail activist groups.  In 9/11, where the validity of facts, evidence, and explanations are so critical for the credibility of the truth movement, hostility to critique is antithetical to successfully establishing that the official story is false.  Consequently, one of the less obvious ways in which provocateurs can disrupt the 9/11 truth movement is to falsely conflate ad hominem with critique:

“[Jim Hoffman’s] stance on attacking those who don't agree with his take on the Pentagon is unfortunately very divisive.”[26]

In examples like these, provocateurs can falsely frame civil discussion, criticism, and critique of a theory as an “attack”.  This is a straw-man effectively used to shut-up dialog and critique by closing down and attacking legitimate criticism.  Jim Hoffman observes that, “[to] be successful [the] '9/11 community needs to create a culture conducive to critique… Yet… Abusers are tolerated… Rational critique is discouraged and reframed as… censorship… divisiveness… [and] infighting.[27] 

The scientific method depends on critique and peer review as noted by Jim Hoffman and others in the 9/11 truth movement.[28] Hostility to critique can only benefit weakly supported theories which function to discredit the 9/11 truth movement.

Although critique and dialog are essential for advancing our understanding of 9/11, it can also be observed that is impossible to have dialog with those who refuse to legitimately answer critique:

I do not find it necessary to respond directly to the interview criticism in either its original content or in the further criticism in the new letter. My line of research in furtherance of DEW causal theory has taken a different direction that neither benefits nor suffers from public criticism of the theory. Opinions on the matter differ and I respect those who have differing opinions.[29]

Similarly, evasion of critique through the use of straw-man arguments is another effective strategy employed by provocateurs to avoid legitimate dialog and debate.  This is particularly true when false explanations are being promoted deliberately. 

Agent Provocateurs, Divisiveness, and Unity

Dialog and unity is not always maintained through ignoring disruption and disrupters.  In fact, ignoring destructive behavior is often what allows it to be successful and continue without interruption.  Activist Ginetta Sagan says, “[silence] in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor.[30] For example, if you believed that there was insider complicity for the events of 9/11 and did nothing about it, would that result in constructive change?  Ignoring a problem rarely results in a constructive solution.  Michael Wolsey comments on the problem of disruption:

In the past, and using the mantra ‘for the sake of the movement’, it has been the practice to ignore these disruptors. What has ignoring these people done? Have things got better as a result of ignoring them? Have they gone away? On the contrary, like busy little termites, the have been slowly eating away at the foundations of our movement… We as a movement need to come together on how we handle such disruptors and re-evaluate the unwritten, failed policy of ignoring them and hoping they will just go away.[31]

Approaching a problem with the wrong solution doesn’t help either.  If the problem is divisiveness, it is not effectively countered with more divisiveness.  What are some possible effective strategies to effectively combat this behavior?

  1. Refuse to be a divider or engage in ‘agent provocateur’ behavior.  Avoid the use of ad hominem and divisive labels and “fight back” with reason and civility—not insults
  2. Counter the destructive behavior by offering solutions, respectful critique, and civility
  3. If possible, discipline the bad behavior through comment moderation, part-time and permanent bans, removal from speaking engagements, removal of links to websites, etc.  Complain to moderators instead of fighting with those who only want to fight
  4. Encourage dialog with those who will respond to critique.  Ignore those who will not respond to critique and are only interested in fighting
  5. Avoid accusations that can not be convincingly proven.  Instead, report facts and statements with an unbiased point of view to let others reach their own conclusions      

What is the goal of the 9/11 truth movement and how can we be diverted from this goal?[32] Ultimately, divisiveness disrupts progress towards another 9/11 investigation and justice. While civil criticism and analytical critique are essential for 9/11 analysis, poorly defined and divisive labels, accusations, and ad hominem attacks can only function only as evasion and disruption.  Jim Hoffman suggests that we need to establish basic guidelines of behavior within the 9/11 community to help create an environment that is sympathetic to our goal of justice:

If people are going to inject racism or ad hominem attacks and disruption—why do we waste our time opening our forums to people who do that? There should be these basic guidelines, norms that we follow, and I’ve seen so much resistance to establishing that kind of environment from some of the leaders of the movement. [It’s essential to have a] civil environment in which we can [critique each other] and show that 9/11 was an inside job… the nature of this 9/11 cover-up is—to inject nonsense into the investigation, surround our valid analysis of the attack that can be used in straw-man attacks in the Media, and to create this culture within the movement that is hostile to critique. Our challenge is to create a culture that has these guidelines that doesn’t accept this over-the-line, outrageous [behavior]. What people are making excuses for it, and what people are pointing it out? Maybe that’s a better indicator of who should be recognized as who is really contributing to this movement.[33]

Understanding the Psychology of Disruption

While it is human to be upset or angry, those who disrupt intentionally are on a mission.  They hope that moderators, those in control of forums, and everyone else will ignore their destructive behavior so that they can keep doing it.  They want to fight—they do not want to have dialog.  Their only purpose is to disrupt.  Their chief weapons are divisive labels, accusations, straw-man arguments, controversial issues, and ad hominem.    

The 9/11 truth movement is what its members make it to be.  Either we can work together by critiquing each other in a civil and respectful manner, or we can fight with ourselves indefinitely while the crimes of 9/11 go unanswered.  It is clear that staying silent or ignoring the problem of disruption will not effectively provide a solution.  While the approach of ignoring a problem allows it to continue successfully without interruption, there are ineffective and effective responses to counter disruption.  Establishing guidelines of behavior and protocol for when they are broken could easily and effectively combat this ongoing issue and would only help facilitate the 9/11 truth movement forward towards justice instead of endless and diversionary fighting. 

The agent provocateur is as virulent a form of disinformation that exists within the 9/11 truth movement.  Their ultimate purpose is to distract, discredit, and weaken the movement through the creation of false adversaries, disinformation, and disruption.  As such, these false adversaries encourage activists to fight between themselves rather than challenging their intended opponent.  Whether by intent or ego, those who emphasize attacking individuals rather than critiquing ideas in a respectful manner are working against the 9/11 truth movement, not for it

[1] A different version of this essay was published in the October 2007 Visibility9-11 Newsletter

[2] Reprehensor, Significant Change to Comments at 911blogger.com, http://www.911blogger.com/, July 3, 2007

[3] ‘IgnoranceIsntBlisss’, Above Top Secret, Lessons From The OSS/CIA: 9/11 ‘Disinfo’ Vs. ‘Actionable Consensus’, http://www.abovetopsecret.com/

[4] OSS - The Psychology of War, http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/oss/ossmo.htm 

[5] COINTELPRO, http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/cointel.htm

[6] COINTELPRO letter from J. Edgar Hoover to Special Agent in Charge, Albany 5, July 1968. http://www.namebase.org/foia/fbi01.html

[7] Public Eye, Don't swallow the Deep Throat hype! http://www.publiceye.org/

[8] Barrie Zwicker, 9/11 Truth Leader on Disinformation and Infiltration, http://911blogger.com/

[9] Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agent_provocateur, accessed: October 5, 2007

[10] Sourcewatch.org, Agent Provocateur, http://www.sourcewatch.org/ 

[11] Nizkor.org, Ad-hominem, http://www.nizkor.org/ 

The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made.

[12] Arabesque, Webster Tarpley: Arabesque, Cosmos, Jenny Sparks, Jon Gold, Michael Wolsey, and Truthaction are “disinfo”, http://arabesque911.blogspot.com/

[13] Arabesque, 9/11 Disinformation and Misinformation: Definitions and Examples, http://arabesque911.blogspot.com/

Jim Fetzer explains why the ad-hominem is disinformation:

The third level of disinformation occurs by abusing the man (AD HOMINEM) in attacking the author or the editor of a work on irrelevant or misleading grounds that have little or nothing to do with the position the author or editor represents.

Jim Fetzer, Signs of Disinformation. http://www.assassinationscience.com/  

[14] Victoria Ashley, Steven E. Jones, A Physics Professor Speaks Out on 9-11: Reason, Publicity, and Reaction, January 14, 2006. http://911research.wtc7.net/

[15] Jim Hoffman, Personal Attacks Against Jim Hoffman, http://911research.wtc7.net/

[16] Jim Fetzer, An Open Letter about Steven Jones, http://www.scholarsfor911truth.org/

[17] LIHOP: Let It Happen On Purpose.  The hypothesis that 9/11 was intentionally “allowed” to happen.

[18] MIHOP: Made It Happen On Purpose.  The hypothesis that 9/11 was intentionally “made” to happen.

[19] Arabesque, Disinformation and the Misleading and False LIHOP/MIHOP Dichotomy, http://arabesque911.blogspot.com/

[20] Arabesque, The Pentagon Honey Pot, http://arabesque911.blogspot.com/

[21] 911truth.org, THE TOP 40 REASONS TO DOUBT THE OFFICIAL STORY OF SEPTEMBER 11th, 2001, http://www.911truth.org/

[22] Arabesque, Disinformation and the False LIHOP/MIHOP Dichotomy

[23] Originally broadcast on World Crisis Radio with Webster Tarpley, Sept. 9, 2006.  See also:

Michael Wolsey, 9-11 Synthetic Error: The meltdown of Webster G. Tarpley, http://visibility911.com/

[24] Kevin Ryan, News from the Journal of 9/11 Studies, http://911blogger.com/

[25] Arabesque, Disinformation and the Misleading and False LIHOP/MIHOP Dichotomy

[26] Jim Hoffman, 911 Mysteries—A Critical Review, Stigmatizing Critique, http://911research.wtc7.net/ 

[27] Ibid. Critique and Theories of the Attack

[28] Ibid. The Necessity of Critique

[29] Judy Wood, Reply to ‘Greg Jenkins interview Judy Wood: An Interview and Analysis’, http://www.journalof911studies.com/

[30] Ginetta Sagan, http://www.amnestyusa.org/, The Ginetta Sagan Fund

[31] Michael Wolsey, 9-11 Synthetic Error: The meltdown of Webster G. Tarpley, http://visibility911.com/

[32] Steven Jones, What is the Goal in the 9/11 Truth Community? Debates, or Justice? http://stj911.org/

[33] Arabesque, Cosmos on his radio show: Truth Action Radio: September 3, 2007, http://arabesque911.blogspot.com/.  Originally broadcast on Truth Revolution Radio with Cosmos, October 15, 2006.  Transcript by Arabesque.