It was twenty years ago today ..

31 Aug

… on August 31, 1997, that “the people’s princess” was killed by a high speed collision in Paris’s Pont de l’Alma road tunnel. I don’t know whether or not MI5, in cahoots with Sûreté and DGSE, engineered that collision. Neither, I suppose, do you.

Ever since my scathing assessment of ‘truthers’ for Off-Guardian on the fifteenth aniversary of 9/11, I’ve been wary of dismissing conspiracy theorists out of hand. While too many are lazy – forever pointing us at ‘irrefutable’ sources which often prove anything but; never advancing robust accounts of their own – this is by no means always the case. I learned the hard way that some at least are highly knowledgeable. Of itself that doesn’t make them right but does mean that if you take them on, as I did, on purely logical grounds – how many people were in on that conspiracy to mass murder? – you’re asking for trouble. Especially when, as with 9/11, some of the more knowledgeable are also sane, calm and to be respected. I owe myself and readers of my piece a comeback on the basis of more detailed reading of the evidence cited by ‘truthers’. It’s long overdue. What’s been putting me off is not fear of finding out I was wrong, and publicly saying so. I can do that and move on. It’s that the task of sifting so thick a soup of evidential claim and counterclaim has assumed, as tasks will, the status of tedious chore when there’s so much else going on in the world. Self indulgent of me, I know. A promise is a promise, even with no date on it. But given my output on things that matter at least as much, let none accuse me of indolence.

Back to Di though. On logical grounds alone*, claims of her having been murdered by orders from on high are easier to swallow than the 9/11 truther claims. They suppose – and this goes for JFK too – a simpler conspiracy, dependent on fewer actors prepared to carry their secret to the grave. A good piece by Kit in today’s OffGuardian echoes my own views:

… For the past week or so Diana … has been in every paper, on every channel. The BBC has a saccharine fluff piece, shallow as a puddle. The Daily Mail goes one step further into the absurd, publicising a “what if” novel, offering a version of reality where Diana survived. In the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland descends into self-parody by somehow contriving to use Diana’s anniversary to whine about Brexit (again), whilst Matthew D’Ancona makes the argument that maybe public emotion is bad and should be ignored. Hillary Mantel writes thousands of words about a person that never really existed …

Nobody, anywhere in the press, comes close to saying anything important. Nobody tries to tell the truth.

I don’t know what happened the night Princess Diana died in a car accident, along with her lover and her driver – nobody knows. It could have been an accident, it could have been something worse. But there are three important facts that are not contended:

18 months before she died, Diana wrote to two separate friends (one, her lawyer), stating that the Royal family would attempt to murder her by staging a car accident.

The death of Diana resolved a potentially awkward and unpleasant situation for the Royal family.

The press repeatedly published exaggerations and falsehoods about many areas of the case, whilst with-holding and ignoring other important evidence …

We should remember here that, below the pageant and sycophancy, we are speaking of one of the world’s most powerful families. As I say in my own comment to Kit’s piece, its power lies over and above that flowing from membership of Britain’s ruling class. It lies in such as the ‘constitutional right’ of the monarch to dismiss HER/HIS government. Those who take at face value our democratic trappings scoff: just a bit of harmless tradition, innit; not worth getting fussed over. This despite the armed forces also swearing allegiance to HER/HIS MAJESTY. If the monarchy really is just one big colourful tourist draw, well then, it won’t mind surrendering that ‘right’, will it?

Last word though goes goes to Mark Steel. When the indefatiguably ridiculous Julie Burchill told us Princess Diana was “a republican at heart”, this ever witty man pointed out that, since she’d wanted her son to be king, we’d have to place her on the moderate wing of republicanism now wouldn’t we?


* Of course, it is logically possible that 9/11 really was an inside job while Diana died in nothing more than an appalling accident, and Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. My point is simply that the first claim makes bigger demands on our credulity. Conspiracy theories are not “all the same”, and many have in fact been upheld. Think Tonkin. Think Saddam’s WMDs. Think Contragate. I for one believe that many aspects of the imperialist war on Syria, including sarin use at Ghouta 2013 and Idlib 2017 – where we already know accusations against Damascus to be at best suspect – will in due course be shown to involve conspiratorial collaborations of truly evil proportions.


7 Replies to “It was twenty years ago today ..

  1. Yep, waiting with interest for your reply to last year’s 911 articles.

    I respect your attitude towards it, even though I was very critical of the tone and content of your article at OffGuardian at the time. I agree that there are logical inconsistencies in some of the arguments made by the 911 Truth advocates, however, my take is that this is not unique to, or even especially common to so-called ‘conspiracy theorists’. I read it everywhere that people are trying to win arguments online and in the media.

    People are very willing to be dishonest, more interested in winning an argument than learning something or uncovering truth.

    • It’s a source of some embarrassment to me, mog, that I still haven’t delivered on my promise to revisit the 9/11 issue. That’s down to the reasons I give. So much to write about that badly matters: middle east, latin america, south china sea, ukraine/russia; then the theoretical stuff on the nature of imperialism and deepening my understanding of real economics. I don’t say that excuses me. A promise is a promise. But I do have a commitment to truth stronger than my ego. I’ve owned up in the past, and publicly, on realising I called it wrong. See my post on Islamophobia.

  2. My mention of dishonesty not aimed at you (it might have read that way).
    I wrote a piece at OffG as well last autumn. The over-riding point I was trying to make in it was that 911 has so many implications for understanding the other subjects that you (and so many others write about), yet at the same time, the usual skepticism and scrutiny of unsubstantiated goverment statements has been widely jettisoned. In their place has been a kind of silent acceptance of the offical story among almost all critical commenters on the subjects you mention.

    It is this alleged ‘taboo’ and its underming of our society’s capacity to think clearly that I regard as the greatest lasting legacy of 911. It raises huge epistemological questions.
    We have the formula : ‘The bigger the lie, the more people accept it.’
    ‘Its easier to decieve someone than to persuade them they’ve been duped’.

    My recommendations for study would be David Ray Griffin, Peter Dale Scott, Kevin Ryan, Graeme MacQueen.

    • Fair points all, mog – and FWIW, no, I didn’t read your dishonesty remark as aimed at me.

      I like the “easier to deceive …” maxim. I just might have to nick it for my masthead.

      Reading recs duly noted. Ta.

      • PS – I don’t think I ever abandoned my usual scepticism in respective of a ruling class I know capable of evil: evidenced by far larger losses of life in the shape of wars for profit sold to us as humanitarian or defensive. And I’ve always been open to the argument that official accounts of 9/11 contain glaring anomalies which lend themselves, however, to other explanations, such as covering up incompetence and venality.

        My resistance to 9/11 truthism has never been that our rulers couldn’t find a way in their warped thinking of justifying such evil in the name of a Greater Good which has the entirely coincidental side benefit of making them even richer, even more powerful. Rightly or wrongly I viewed the conspiracy charges as lacking prima facia plausibility on purely practical grounds.

        • ‘Rightly or wrongly I viewed the conspiracy charges as lacking prima facia plausibility on purely practical grounds.’

          FWIW – So did I, for many years, until I actually questioned the evidence. Such testimony is repeated over and over by advocates of 911 truth. People keep saying that initially, they uncritically accepted the official account as plausible and regarded anyone challenging that account as somewhere between eccentric and sinister. Then researching evidence changed their minds.
          This is the essence of the Big Lie idea – it relies on the apparent absurdity of suggesting that a plot to fabricate something as big and significant as 911, and the stigma of making such a suggestion – regardless of the evidence.

          I think I replied to your article last year by suggesting that you watch a documentary, titled ‘911 in the Academic Commnity’. I wonder if you watched it, and if not, and if you are earnest about researching 911, whether it would be a good place for you to ‘start’?
          It is not made in the vein of other 911 documentaries, being sober and scholarly, interviewing academics who speak as much about the issue of taboo as the evidential arguments themselves.

          As part of the anti-war movement, I still think that it is crucial to understand and have an opinion about 911 and related matters, as the wider (and bigger) crimes of foreign invasion, torture and military spending are dependant on inducing fear in the home population. We must understand this mechanism if we want peace. Researching 911 has changed my perspective on many things.

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