Why Propaganda Trumps Truth

article in the journal,
, ["There
Must Be a Reason"
Osama, Saddam, and Inferred Justification,
Vol. 79,
No. 2. (2009), pp. 142-162. [
casts light on the effectiveness of propaganda. 
Researchers examined why big lies succeed where little
lies fail.  Governments can get away with mass
deceptions, but politicians cannot get away with sexual

researchers explain why so many Americans still believe
that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, years after it has
become obvious that Iraq had nothing to do with the
event. Americans developed elaborate rationalizations
based on Bush administration propaganda that alleged
Iraqi involvement and became deeply attached to their
beliefs.  Their emotional involvement became
wrapped up in their personal identity and sense of
morality.  They looked for information that
supported their beliefs and avoided information that
challenged them, regardless of the facts of the matter.

Mein Kampf,
Hitler explained the believability of
the Big Lie as compared to the small lie: "In the simplicity of their minds, people more readily fall victims to
the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves
often tell small lies in little matters but would be
ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.  It
would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal
untruths, and they would not believe that others could
have such impudence.  Even though the facts which
prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their
minds, they will still doubt and continue to think that
there may be some other explanation."

the sociologists and Hitler are telling us is that by
the time facts become clear, people are emotionally
wedded to the beliefs planted by the propaganda and find
it a wrenching experience to free themselves.  It
is more comfortable, instead, to denounce the
truth-tellers than the liars whom the truth-tellers

psychology of belief retention even when those beliefs
are wrong is a pillar of social cohesion and stability. 
It explains why, once change is effected, even
revolutionary governments become conservative. The
downside of belief retention is its prevention of the
recognition of facts.  Belief retention in the
Soviet Union made the system unable to adjust to
economic reality, and the Soviet Union collapsed. 
Today in the United States millions find it easier to
chant "USA, USA,
than to accept facts that indicate the need for

staying power of the Big Lie is the barrier through
which the 9/11 Truth Movement is finding it difficult to
break.  The assertion that the 9/11 Truth Movement
consists of conspiracy theorists and crackpots is
obviously untrue.  The leaders of the movement are
highly qualified professionals, such as demolition
experts, physicists, structural architects, engineers,
pilots, and former high officials in the government. 
Unlike their critics parroting the government`s line,
they know what they are talking about.


link to a presentation by the architect
Richard Gage, to a Canadian university audience:  
The video of the presentation is two hours long and
seems to have been edited to shorten it down to two
hours.  Gage is low-key, but not a dazzling
personality or a very articulate presenter. Perhaps that
is because he is speaking to a university audience and
takes for granted their familiarity with terms and

who believe the official 9/11 story and dismiss skeptics
as kooks can test the validity of the sociologists`
findings and Hitler`s observation by watching the video
and experiencing their reaction to evidence that
challenges their beliefs. Are you able to watch the
presentation without scoffing at someone who knows far
more about it than you do?  What is your response
when you find that you cannot defend your beliefs
against the evidence presented?  Scoff some more? 
Become enraged?

Another problem that the 9/11 Truth Movement faces is
that few people have the education to follow the
technical and scientific aspects.  The side that
they believe tells them one thing; the side that they
don`t believe tells them another. Most Americans have no
basis to judge the relative merits of the arguments.  

example, consider the case of the Lockerbie bomber. 
One piece of
that was used to convict Magrahi was a
piece of circuit board from a device that allegedly
contained the Semtex that exploded the airliner. 
None of the people, who have very firm beliefs in
Magrahi`s and Libya`s guilt and in the offense of the
Scottish authorities in releasing Magrahi on allegedly
humanitarian grounds, know that circuit boards of those
days have very low combustion temperatures and go up in
flames easily.  Semtex produces very high
temperatures.  There would be nothing whatsoever
left of a device that contained Semtex.  It is
obvious to an expert that the piece of circuit board was
planted after the event.

have asked on several occasions and have never had an
answer, which does not mean that there isn`t one, how
millions of pieces of unburnt, uncharred paper can be
floating over lower Manhattan from the destruction of
the WTC towers when the official explanation of the
destruction is fires so hot and evenly distributed that
they caused the massive steel structures to weaken and
fail simultaneously so that the buildings fell in free
fall time just as they would if they had been brought
down by controlled demolition. 

is the explanation of fires so hot that steel fails but
paper does not combust?

People don`t even notice the contradictions. 
Recently, an international team of scientists, who
studied for 18 months dust samples produced by the twin
towers` destruction collected from three separate
sources, reported their finding of


the dust.  The US government had scientists dependent on
the US government to debunk the finding on the grounds
that the authenticity of custody of the samples could
not be verified.  In other words, someone had tampered
with the samples and added the nano-thermite.  This is
all it took to discredit the finding, despite the
obvious fact that access to thermite is strictly
controlled and NO ONE except the US military and
possibly Israel has access to nano-thermite.

physicist, Steven Jones, has produced overwhelming
evidence that explosives were used to bring down the
buildings.  His evidence is not engaged, examined,
tested, and refuted.  It is simply ignored.  

Jones` experience reminds me of that of

Oxford professor,

the distinguished physical chemist and philosopher,

Michael Polanyi. 

Polanyi was one of the 20th century`s great scientists. 
At one time every section chairman of the Royal Society
was a Polanyi student.  Many of his students won
Nobel Prizes for their scientific work, such as

Eugene Wigner

at Princeton and Melvin Calvin at UC, Berkeley, and his
son, John Polanyi, at the University of Toronto. 

As a
young man in the early years of the 20th century,
Michael Polanyi discovered the

explanation for chemical adsorption.

Scientific authority found the new theory too much of a
challenge to existing beliefs and dismissed it. 
Even when Polanyi was one of the UK`s ranking
scientists, he was unable to teach his theory.  One
half-century later his discovery was re-discovered by
scientists at UC, Berkeley.  The discovery was
hailed, but then older scientists said that it was
"Polanyi`s old error."
  It turned out not to be
an error.  Polanyi was asked to address scientists
on this half-century failure of science to recognize the
truth.  How had science, which is based on
examining the evidence, gone so wrong.  Polanyi`s
answer was that science is a belief system just like
everything else, and that his theory was outside the
belief system.

is what we observe all around us, not just about the
perfidy of Muslims and 9/11.

As an
economics scholar I had a very difficult time making my
points about the Soviet economy, about Karl Marx`s
theories, and about the supply-side impact of fiscal
policy.  Today I experience readers who become
enraged just because I report on someone else`s work
that is outside their belief system.  Some readers
think I should suppress work that is inconsistent with
their beliefs and drive the author of the work into the
ground.  These readers never have any comprehension
of the subject.  They are simply emotionally

I find puzzling is the people I know who do not believe
a word the government says about anything except 9/11. 
For reasons that escape me, they believe that the
government that lies to them about everything else tells
them the truth about 9/11.  How can this be, I ask
them.  Did the government slip up once and tell the
truth?  My question does not cause them to rethink
their belief in the government`s 9/11 story. 
Instead, they get angry with me for doubting their
intelligence or their integrity or some such hallowed

problem faced by truth is the emotional needs of people. 
With 9/11 many Americans feel that they must believe
their government so that they don`t feel like they are
being unsupportive or unpatriotic, and they are very
fearful of being called
  Others on the left-wing have
emotional needs to believe that peoples oppressed by the
US have delivered
  Some leftists think that America
deserves these blowbacks and thus believe the
government`s propaganda that Muslims attacked the US.

people think that if the US government`s explanation of
9/11 was wrong, physicists and engineers would all speak
up.  Some have (see above). However, for most
physicists and engineers this would be an act of
suicide. Physicists owe their careers to government
grants, and their departments are critically dependent
on government funding.  A physicist who speaks up
essentially ends his university career.  If he is a
tenured professor, to appease Washington the university
would buy out his tenure as BYU did in the case of the
outspoken Steven Jones.

engineering firm that spoke out would never again be
awarded a government contract.  In addition, its
patriotic, flag-waving customers would regard the firm
as a terrorist apologist and cease to do business with

New York today there is an enormous push by 9/11
families for a real and independent investigation of the
9/11 events.  Tens of thousands of New Yorkers have
provided the necessary signatures on petitions that
require the state to put the proposal for an independent
commission up to vote. However, the state, so far, is
not obeying the law.

are the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are
demanding a real investigation dismissed as conspiracy
theorists?  The 9/11 skeptics know far more about
the events of that day than do the uninformed people who
call them names.  Most of the people I know who are
content with the government`s official explanation have
never examined the evidence.  Yet, these
no-nothings shout down those who have studied the matter

are, of course, some kooks.  I have often wondered
if these kooks are intentionally ridiculous in order to
discredit knowledgeable skeptics. 

Another problem that the 9/11 Truth Movement faces is
that their natural allies, those who oppose the
Bush/Obama wars and the internet sites that the antiwar
movement maintains, are fearful of being branded
traitorous and anti-American.  It is hard enough to
oppose a war against those the US government has
successfully demonized.  Antiwar sites believe that if
they permit 9/11 to be questioned, it would brand them
as "terrorist
and discredit their opposition to the
war. An exception is Information Clearing House.  

Antiwar sites do not realize that, by accepting the 9/11
explanation, they have undermined their own opposition
to the war. Once you accept that Muslim terrorists did
it, it is difficult to oppose punishing them for the
event.  In recent months, important antiwar sites, such
as antiwar.com, have had difficulty with their
fundraising, with their fundraising campaigns going on
far longer than previously.  They do not understand that
if you grant the government its premise for war, it is
impossible to oppose the war.

far as I can tell, most Americans have far greater
confidence in the government than they do in the truth.
During the Great Depression the liberals with their New
Deal succeeded in teaching Americans to trust the
government as their protector.  This took with the left
and the right.  Neither end of the political spectrum is
capable of fundamental questioning of the government.
 This explains the ease with which our government
routinely deceives the people.

Democracy is based on the assumption that people are
rational beings who factually examine arguments and are
not easily manipulated. Studies are not finding this to
be the case.  In my own experience in scholarship,
public policy, and journalism, I have learned that
everyone from professors to high school dropouts has
difficulty with facts and analyses that do not fit with
what they already believe.   The notion that
"we are not
afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead"
an extremely romantic and idealistic notion.  I have
seldom experienced open minds even in academic discourse
or in the highest levels of government.  Among the
public at large, the ability to follow the truth
wherever it may lead is almost non-existent.

US government`s response to 9/11, regardless of who is
responsible, has altered our country forever.  Our civil
liberties will never again be as safe as they were.
 America`s financial capability and living standards are
forever lower.  Our country`s prestige and world
leadership are forever damaged.  The first decade of the
21st century has been squandered in pointless wars, and
it appears the second decade will also be squandered in
the same pointless and bankrupting pursuit.

most disturbing fact of all remains:  The 9/11 event
responsible for these adverse happenings has not been

Paul Craig Roberts [email
] was Assistant
Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan`s
first term.  He was Associate Editor of the
Street Journal.  He has held numerous academic
appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair,
Center for Strategic and International Studies,
Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded
the Legion of Honor by French President Francois
Mitterrand. He is the author of

Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider`s Account of
Policymaking in Washington
and the Soviet Economy

Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy
and is the co-author
with Lawrence M. Stratton of

The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and
Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name
of Justice
. Click

for Peter
Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts
about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.