April 24, 2009

Avoiding Burnout - The "Big Tent"

"The 9/11 Truth Movement's Big Tent has functioned in a way that is antithetical to the process of science, as it does not recognize any process for invalidating theories." - Jim Hoffman

The big tent approach is one of the 9/11 truth movement's biggest pitfalls. This approach to activism is based on three basic premises: personal fallibility, the primacy of recruitment, and a disregard for the scientific method. In each case making people feel welcome in the movement is prioritized more highly than whether those people share core movement values, insights, and priorities.

Other social movement's such as the JFK assassination movement have been subject to the detrimental effects of this strategy and yet much of the 9/11 truth movement remains less than well informed about the present and potential problems caused by the adoption of this approach. There are even those who explicitly promote it, some of them knowing full well the detrimental effect it will have.

Many of us frustrated by the behavior of other activists and groups have dealt with those who passively or actively support the big tent strategy. Understanding a problem is the first step in dealing with it. So it's important for us to become familiar with why and how people justify their adherence to this approach.

"Everyone makes mistakes."

As 9/11 truth can take a significant psychological toll on us, we rely upon our movement peers not only for motivation but also for a certain level of emotional support. In the process we can develop feelings of affiliation and trust. No one likes to be criticized, and specifically not by people who we are turning to for a sense of shared purpose and optimism. For this reason it can be difficult to offer or accept constructive criticism.

And yet this movement requires critical thinking and a discerning approach to information and strategy. Progress is not achieved by advocating speculation or utilizing ineffective strategies. Everyone makes mistakes and so we should certainly be patient with those we trust, helping one another to develop a more nuanced understanding of the issues and more productive means of promoting our concerns.

Unfortunately, many are prone to limiting helpful critique in the interest of group solidarity. We might fear that our criticism will be viewed as disloyalty or cause a rift between people. We might feel that criticizing group leaders will undermine their authority. And yet without that criticism, factual and strategic errors will be repeated.

Our dedication to the movement must motivate us to speak up and make our concerns known. When we allow others to repeat mistakes we are participating in those mistakes. Respectful intervention is essential to movement progress.

"We need as many people as possible."

We all want the movement to grow. You can't have a movement without the people. And yet you also can't have a truth movement comprised of people who don't know what truth is, advocate concerns that greatly alienate others, or promote failing strategies. A great deal of unproductive behavior is tolerated because many believe that quantity is more important than quality when it comes to helping the movement grow.

The idea that we should have "civility & fraternal feeling towards all pro-truth voices" as Kevin Barrett has put it, is not practical or responsible. There are many reason for this, not the least of them being the fact that there are people trying to infiltrate and undermine the movement from within. When new people join our groups or discussion forums we should pay attention to their general level of sanity, their motivations, and the information they advocate. Without any sense of healthy motivations, practical strategies, and the boundary between fact and speculation we allow the movement to develop without any clear definition or boundary lines.

The idea here is not to purge the movement of those who disagree with us about specific facts or strategies. Those kinds of disagreements are healthy as they result in debate which tends to help the movement progress and adapt to changing circumstance and diverse audiences. But the movement has no need for bigots, extremists, or sociopaths. And only if we are paying attention to who we are working with will we be able to prevent these people from falsely or poorly representing the nature of our movement.

"Nothing can really be proven."

Whether due to ignorance or intentional disruption there are a number of people, websites, and groups in this movement that advocate speculation that is without logical merit or has been adequately disproven. And one of the primary methods used to maintain their inclusion in the movement is to blur the line between fact and speculation. As we can't prove that 9/11 was an inside job they suggest that anything unproven should be left on the table for public consideration.

This obscures an important fact. The primary basis for the movement's assertion of complicity or need for further investigation is very well founded documentary evidence. The movement also includes a lot of more ambiguous evidence that had not been effectively ruled out by some of the more flimsy aspects of the official story. But the assertion that we must continue to debate or worse yet promote speculation that has been effectively refuted by available facts is totally unacceptable.

The movement can't thrive without a definition. And central to the definition of this movement is an understanding and respect for empirical truth. The scientific method is key to the success of this movement as it is in our most logical reasoning that we are able to upend the official story and bypass the bias and skepticism of many of those who refute our claims. Central to the scientific method is attempting to disproves one's own hypotheses. That approach must inform movement strategy as it should be only the most well founded evidence that we put forward for public scrutiny.

I'll end as I began with a quote from Jim Hoffman.

"The fact that these values closely parallel the egalitarianism, tolerance of diversity, and coalition-building championed in populist and progressive social movements makes them difficult to criticize. However, unlike the application of these values to people in traditional social movements, the 9/11 Truth Movement's Big Tent applies them to ideas. Conflating the respect due people with the respect due ideas is a fundamental error at the heart of the Movement's failure to break into the mainstream thus far."

1 comment:

Arcterus said...

Great post. Very thoroughly displays the importance of focusing on factual validity over baseless speculation. Also, love the circus graphic.