Jeanette's other legacy
But Fitzsimons' principled record as an MP only compounds the recent error of judgement which saw her lend her support to one of the most obnoxious political movements to emerge in the West in the last decade. Last November Fitzsimons held a private meeting with Richard Gage, America's most prominent 9/11 'Truther', during his lecture tour of New Zealand.
Gage is the founder and leader of a group called Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, and a supporter of a closely-related outfit called Scholars for 9/11 Truth. Both organisations include numerous members of the extreme right, and in 2007 the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which monitors anti-semitism around the world, included Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth on its list of organisations that promote hatred of Jews and support for terrorism.
At his Wellington seminar Gage, whose claims to have worked as an architect for twenty years in San Francisco have never been verified, argued that the 9/11 attacks were an 'inside job' perpetrated by an elaborate conspiracy, rather than an Al Qaeda operation. According to Gage, who likes to illustrate his arguments by setting a few empty boxes up on a table and knocking them over, vast amounts of explosives were placed unnoticed in the basements of World Trade Centre's twin towers, making the 'controlled demolition' of the buildings possible. Gage believes that employees of America's federal government were induced to sacrifice their lives by flying planes into the twin towers in an effort to obscure the real cause of the collapse of the buildings. Matthew Dentith, the University of Auckland philosopher who has devoted several years to analysing the delusions of Gage and his followers, summed up the intellectual level of the 9/11 'Truth' movement when he said that all its claims 'collapse' as soon as they are 'prodded'. Blogger Giovanni Tiso, whose PhD deals partly with popular (mis)conceptions of science, attended Gage's Wellington talk and was struck by the sheer size of the conspiracy that the 'inside job' theory of 9/11 requires:
most of [Gage's] presentation consisted in fact of a broad range of wild speculations. And the pieces of evidence thus accumulated...collectively implicate in the conspiracy and the subsequent cover-up the following organizations (at my own and likely very incomplete count): the CIA, the Pentagon, the United States Government, all major media as far afield as the BBC, the owner and insurer of the WTC, ACE elevators and the security company responsible for monitoring the coming and goings at the buildings, plus - in an accessory capacity - the boards of the major banks, military contractors, oil firms and really anybody who stood to make money and gain influence from the economic destabilisation that occurred and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gage is cagey about the identity of the people who came up with the idea for the huge 9/11 conspiracy, but many of his supporters do not share his bashfulness. The Auckland-based conspiracy theorists who publish Uncensored magazine, for instance, blame 9/11 on a Jewish plot. The circle around Uncensored organised the appearance Gage made in an Auckland community centre, a few days after his Wellington gig. The Whangarei-based conspiracy theorist Clare Swinney, who blames Jews for ruining Hollywood and the media as well as staging 9/11, hails Gage as a hero, and vigorously promoted his visit to this country on a variety of websites. Along with several members of the Uncensored editorial committee, Swinney is a member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth.
Of course, Jeanette Fitzsimons could not be faulted simply for meeting Gage last November. False ideas should be confronted and criticised, especially when they are connected to a political agenda which is profoundly unhealthy. Matthew Dentith and Giovanni Tiso attended Gage's presentation because they wanted to criticise the man. Unfortunately, Fitzsimons did not have such honourable motives when she met Gage in Wellington.
Fitzsimons is far from being a critic of Gage. She had a private audience with the man before he gave his Wellington talk, had him sign her copy of his book, and complimented the work of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. When she was quizzed be the media about her meeting with Gage and her views on
9/11, Fitzsimons claimed that Gage had raised 'some unexplained matters', and said that she had 'an open mind' about whether the attack on the World Trade Centre might have been an 'inside job'.
Scepticism is often a virtue, but the evidence against 9/11 being an 'inside job' is so weighty, and the conspiracy alleged by 9/11 Truthers so vast, that it is simply not credible to keep an 'open mind' on the subject, any more than it is credible to keep an 'open mind' on the question of whether or not the Holocaust took place (it is not surprising that members of the Uncensored circle and many other supporters of Gage are Holocaust deniers). To suggest that the arguments of a Holocaust denier or a 9/11 'Truther' have some merit, and ought to be taken seriously, is to insult the serious scholars who have dealt with both subjects, as well as the families and friends of the victims of the Holocaust and of 9/11.
It is no surprise that Richard Gage was happy to grant Jeanette Fitzsimons an audience before his performance in Wellington. Almost all of the politicians who have endorsed the 9/11 'Truth' movement have belonged to small parties on the extreme right. The support of politicians like 'Commander' Bill White, the leader of America's Nazi Party, can hardly boost the credibility of the 9/11 'Truthers' amongst the general public. For Gage and his followers, the support of a high-profile, respected politician like Fitzsimons is a rare honour. On websites and at meetings around the world, 'Truthers' are hailing Fitzsimons' endorsement of Gage as a sign that their message is winning over the political 'mainstream'. Uncensored has hailed the Green Party's longest-serving leader as a hero of resistance to the Jewish-dominated 'New World Order'. Fitzsimons has become a poster girl for a movement mired in anti-semitism and paranoia.
It might be argued that Jeanette Fitzsimons' friendly words for Richard Gage are an aberration, and constitute a very minor blemish on an honourable political record. Fitzsimons' long career certainly gives us no evidence that she shares the anti-semitism and conspiratorial mindsets of many 'Truthers'. She is unlikely to be cheered by the endorsement of publications like Uncensored and people like Clare Swinney. But it is Fitzsimons' honourable record which makes her kind words for Richard Gage so pernicious. Whether she likes it or not, Fitzsimons' support for a movement dominated by anti-semitism is a part of her political legacy.
[In a follow-up to this post I'll discuss the endorsement of the cult leader and serial rapist Adi Da that appeared in the November issue of the Green Party magazine Te Awa, and consider why members of the Greens are promoting strange ideas like 9/11 'Truth' and 'Daism'.]