Monday, September 5, 2011


In a continuing email exchange about the future strategy of any kind of 9/11 truth movement, Charles Simpson alerts us to diverging uses of the idea of "myth" in an important on-line talk by David Ray Griffin.

Simpson notices that on the one hand, Griffin characterizes the official story as being intentionally raised -- by government and media -- to "mythic status", "mythic in the sense of an organizing narrative that defines collective identity, purpose and legitimacy." Such myth, both Simpson and Griffin observe, is not to be measured or refuted by empirical data, and is thus secure against any suggested investigation.

He criticizes Griffin for shifting ground from the "organizing narrative" definition of myth to a more trivial and colloquial one in which myth becomes simply "an empirically false account of events," and then proceeding in his lecture to disprove the official assertions with empirical data.

Consequently Simpson -- unlike Griffin -- concludes that the 9/11 truth movement should avoid its own version of scholasticism, "a too-narrow preoccupation with our own set of 9/11 facts", "a focus on forensic details" that "draws us in a cult-like direction away from others" -- since such details, such fact-checking, does not make sense or speak to a rhetorical/psychological public world beyond empirical analysis.

It seems to me that neither Simpson nor Griffin -- at least here -- have seized on the most important function of myth: not to hide, not to falsify, but to reveal. Any deep study of folk tales and parables show them to illuminate patterns so deeply built into experience as to be otherwise invisible.

Alberich wants to steal the gold from the bottom of the Rhine, and so do Cheney and Rubin and Obama and Geitner and Summers and...all of them, and the institutions behind them. But Wagner's Ring shows us much more than that people, politicians, and banks are greedy. In the 15-hour telling of the myth we come to perceive a web of interactions, the forswearing of love, the need to self-destruct, the relation of generations and lovers, bosses and slaves, the many questions raised by heroism... and much else. That is the difference between mere narrative and myth.

Seeing into myth involves audience awareness. Little children believe in the myth of Santa Claus, and then as bigger children, decide that the myth isn't true. But what do wiser adults make of myths, fairy- and folktales, biblical and other parables? They understand that these ancient story collections are not only not trivial, but are essential to a deeper understanding of the human and natural world. The dimensions of myth have to probed by those who understand it. That, it seems to me, is the function of the 9/11 truth movement -- not to move out beyond the "single-issue politics" of 9/11, but to responsibly explore the myth of it.

What does the 9/11 story collection, and the reactions to it, tell us about society and government, about science and Faustian striving, about individual and social psychology, about greed, love, fear, and heroism? The 9/11 mythos easily becomes a simultaneous focusing and broadening lens to see into these opacities.

But first we must understand these dimensions ourselves, master the empirical data and the rhetorical approaches, see ourselves as teachers of this story in its broadest and deepest context at levels appropriate to any given audience. Sometimes one can use empirical evidence to open well-guarded doors. Sometimes one has to start by discussing things at more personal or philosophical levels.

Right now the characters in our opera are predominantly the Alberichs of press and power, and a large population of in-the-darkness Niebelungen slaves, toiling underground and in the killing fields to fashion wealth for their dictators. By and large, Americans seem to believe much of what they're told about 9/11. Some largish percentage have been polled as not quite believing it -- but not enough to do anything other than become more cynical.

Our role is to move the Niebelungen above ground at least, cognizant of the possibilities and deeper meanings of this never-ending, no-limits story -- precisely by exploring the myth as myth, and bringing the underworlds into focus.

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