9/11 Conspiracy Theory Not as Popular as Ahmadinejad Sayshttp://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/23/911-conspiracy-theory-not-as-popular-as-ahmadinejad-says/?ref=world
As my colleagues Neil MacFarquhar and Liz Robbins report, at the United Nations on Thursday, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, claimed that “the majority of the American people, as well as most nations and politicians around the world agree” that “some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated” the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
According to Mr. Ahmadinejad, the attacks were staged “to reverse the declining American economy” and to justify a military presence in the Middle East “to save the Zionist regime” of Israel.
Mr. Ahamdinejad, who has also questioned the reality of the Holocaust, has apparently endorsed this conspiracy theory about the 9/11 attacks on at least two occasions earlier this year. In March, he reportedly told intelligence officials in Tehran, “The September 11 incident was a big fabrication as a pretext for the campaign against terrorism and a prelude for staging an invasion against Afghanistan.” The following month, he wrote to the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, to ask him to open an investigation into the attacks, claiming that they were “carried out as the main pretext to attack the Middle East.”
The prepared text of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks (embedded below) released by his government did not carry any footnotes, so it is unclear where he got the idea that majorities of Americans, or the citizens of other nations, endorse the conspiracy theory that Al Qaeda was not responsible for the attacks.
The most comprehensive international poll on the subject was carried out in 2008 by WorldPublicOpinion.org, a collaborative project of research centers in various countries managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, which asked more residents of 17 countries the question, “Who do you think was behind the 9/11 attacks?” Their answers were grouped into four categories: Al Qaeda; the U.S. government; Israel; other.
When the poll findings were published, Reuters reported, “the survey of 16,063 people in 17 nations found majorities in only nine countries believe Al Qaeda was behind the attacks.” But there were also no countries in which a majority blamed the American government. The researchers found the most support for the idea that the U.S. government was responsible for the attacks in Turkey and Mexico — but just 36 percent of Turks and 30 percent of Mexicans endorsed the theory.
While Americans generally buy into as conspiracy theories as much as people of other nations, polls have consistently found that most people do not endorse conspiracy theories about the attacks. Indeed, if most Americans thought Islamic terrorists were not behind the destruction of the World Trade Center, it would be hard to understand why so many of them are opposed to the construction of an Islamic center two blocks away from the site.
Links to several published polls on the question can be found in a Wikipedia entry on the subject. To take one recent example, in March, a poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion found relatively little support for a central contention of many conspiracy theorists, noting that, “Only 15 percent of respondents think claims that the collapse of the World Trade Center was the result of a controlled demolition are credible.”
Last year, Public Policy Polling found that just 14 percent of Americans agreed with the statement, “President Bush intentionally allowed the 9/11 attacks to take place because he wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.”
So, where did Mr. Ahmadinejad get the idea that most people in the United States and abroad believe that that American government staged the 9/11 attacks? Until someone asks him that question directly, it is impossible to say, but one possible explanation springs to mind: from the Internet. Regular readers of the Web can tell you that it would be easy to get the impression that most people on the planet believes in 9/11 conspiracy theories, particularly judging by the volume and intensity of what is written supporting that idea in comment threads and blogs.
But people familiar with the Web as a business know that only a vanishingly small percentage of the people who read articles and blog posts also submit comments. So, if Mr. Ahmadinejad has been spending time reading the comments beneath in blog posts, and takes them as an accurate reflection of global opinion, his statement today at the U.N. might make perfect sense, even while being almost certainly wrong.