06 January 2010


I've written a lot about 9/11 on this blog, or about media that concerns itself with "debunking" or "deconstructing" the story of 9/11, if only because Operation Mockingbird is concerned primarily with the art of the conspiracy theory, and 9/11 has proved a fertile ground for conspiracy theorists and otherwise radical political writers, film makers and thinkers.  My relationship to 9/11 itself has been made strange by this arrangement, because it was something that I didn't give much thought to in the years following the attacks.  Since I have engaged with a particular subset of media which deals with 9/11 in a particularly biased way, it has been important for me to, at times, take a step back and clarify for myself what I really think about 9/11 and terrorism and the way it shaped American politics over the past decade, though none of this kind of thought or writing has appeared on this blog.

Anyway, this is relevant because I recently read Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill, which has been called a 9/11 book, and although that's a frightfully limiting description, 9/11 does figure importantly in the events and mood of the book, though, in a way that has nothing to do with conspiracy theories.  I read the book because after hearing how great it was for months and months and then seeing it on my parents shelf at home over the holidays, I figured I should just go ahead and read it.  I had mixed feelings about, but enjoyed reading it and felt that certain parts resonated with me.  As far as this blog goes, however, there was one passage that caught my interest, as a sort of example of the kind of thought inspired by 9/11 that might lead, though not in a direct way at all, to conspiracy theorist ideas, which struck me because it was embedded in a serious novel that treats the trauma of 9/11 more maturely than most things, whether they be YouTube videos or novels, have (of what I've read/seen).

Part of the novel deals with the dissolution of the marriage between the protagonist, Hans van den Broek and his wife Rachel, which occurs slowly after having to move out of their Tribeca apartment to a hotel uptown immediately following the attacks.  The novel takes a subtle approach to the dysfunction of their marriage, it isn't necessarily 9/11 or being foreigners in America or Hans' tendency toward indecision, but an unnameable feeling that results from those factors and others unknown.  However, in an argument between Rachel and Hans she explains that she no longer feels safe in America, and that part of her decision to move back to England is political.
She said, "Bush wants to attack Iraq as part of a right-wing plan to destroy international law and order as we know it and replace it with the global rule of American force.  Tell me which part of that sentence is wrong, and why."
The rhetoric Rachel uses here is obviously  reminiscent of the arguments that appear in many conspiracy theory films, but presented from the perspective of a rational woman ("a corporate litigator, let's not forget") with no motivation other than her own safety and sanity.  When I write about the arguments and rhetoric of most of the conspiracy theorists that I write about on this blog, I tend to do so with an ironic, condescending tone.  But I can't treat the character Rachel's paranoia this way, for obvious reasons.  Does her paranoia and the paranoia of someone like Alex Jones stem from the same emotional impulse?