February 17, 2008
by Kevin Barrett
I interviewed Steve Alten, author of The Shell Game, on 1/22/08, then interviewed his critic Wendy Campbell on 2/12/08. Both shows are available in the WTPRN archives. I will again interview Steve Alten this Tuesday, 2/19/08, 9-11 pm CT, http://www.wtprn.com]Steve Alten’s new bestseller The Shell Game was bound to be controversial. Alten’s thriller involves a White-House-approved neocon plot to stage a new mega-9/11 designed to trigger full-scale martial law and a war on Iran. The book shows how Arab patsies are set up to take the blame for the attack (just like on 9/11). It is peppered with references to such 9/11 truth advocates as David Ray Griffin, Mike Ruppert, Michael Meacher, and the Jersey Girls. No wonder Alten’s career is being threatened by insiders. No wonder the mainstream press won’t review his book.
Oddly, The Shell Game has also created controversy within the 9/11 truth movement. While many well-known figures have supported the book, a few have attacked it. What’s really odd is that of the three people I know who have attacked the book, all three admit they haven’t read it!
Why would 9/11 truth supporters attack a 9/11 truth book they haven’t even read?
Maybe it’s professional jealousy. The three people in question are in the alternative book and DVD business, and when they see a major marketing campaign revving up behind a New York Times Truth Jihad got half the marketing push The Shell Game is getting, I’d be able to pay off my debts, and Charlie Sheen would soon be playing me in a big-budget Hollywood extravaganza… bestselling author like Steve Alten…well, I hate to admit it, but I’m jealous too! Heck, if my little masterpiece
…but coming back to reality, which is more important: my own egotistical daydreams and frustrations, or the future of the world? Why should I waste time despising people who do what I do and make more money at it? Especially if their product can kick down locked doors and help open a market for mine? Shouldn’t I support anything with the potential to jump-start a wider discussion of 9/11 truth?
Okay, we’ve gotten over the professional jealousy. Let’s look at the substantive arguments against The Shell Game. The one that got the most play on the internet was Wendy Campbell’s piece The Shell Game” Just Another Zionist Scam to Stop 9/11 Investigation of Israel. Even though she admits she hasn’t read The Shell Game, Campbell somehow correctly discerned that Alten’s book is bereft of references to Zionism and Israel in general, and the controversial body of evidence allegedly relating Zionism and Zionists to 9/11 in particular.
How serious an omission is that? David Ray Griffin, the most widely-respected 9/11 scholar, has devoted very little attention to the Israeli connection, because he does not find that the evidence in this area to be nearly as abundant or compelling as the evidence implicating US military, intelligence and administration figures. While I would agree with Campbell and others that there is circumstantial evidence of an Israeli 9/11 connection and that this evidence needs to be discussed and investigated, not hidden away, Campbell wildly overstates her case. If Alten’s book is a “Zionist scam to stop 9/11 investigation of Israel” because it doesn’t deal with this body of evidence, are David Griffin’s books also “Zionist scams”?
Campbell’s phrase “just another Zionist scam” takes wrongheadedness to an uncommon level. For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Campbell is partially right, and that Alten, as a pro-Zionist American Jew, shied away from dealing with the dancing Israelis, Silverstein’s friendship with Netanyahu, the activities of Dov Zakheim, and related subjects because of his own sensitivities, his own worldview, his own partisanships and prejudices. Would that make the book a “scam”—much less “just another” Zionist scam? Hardly! Quite the opposite: It would still make Alten a very brave man, a man who is willing to risk his career and peace of mind in order to raise disturbing questions before a mass audience.
Ironically, it is Campbell who displays a “passionate attachment” to an idée fixe—a common characteristic of fanatical supporters of Israel as well as some of their opponents—while Alten, a Jewish supporter of Israel, is willing to step outside his comfort zone and think new and disturbing thoughts, engage in a reflective discussion, and consider the possibility that he may still have something to learn. During my radio interview with him, Alten responded to my critique of some of the facts and attitudes in The Shell Game by saying he would reflect on the attitudes and correct the facts. Campbell, as much as I admire her wholehearted devotion to the Palestinian cause, did not seem as willing to think things through, or to stray beyond her comfort zone of anti-Zionist sound bites.
Personally, I’m as anti-Zionist as the next Muslim. I think Wendy Campbell is mostly right about the Israel-Palestine question, and Steve Alten is mostly wrong. But I’m not about to let our different takes on Mideast politics turn into a wedge issue and split the 9/11 truth movement. Steve Alten and I agree on one very important thing: The official story of 9/11 is a crock, and overwhelming evidence suggests the President and Vice President committed high treason.
We also agree on another very important thing: The neoconservative perps may be plotting a new mega-9/11. If we don’t expose 9/11 by forcing a real investigation, we are setting our country up for total destruction.
That’s the message of The Shell Game. It is a vitally important message, a message far too important to be drowned out by bickering about the relative importance of the various possible motivations of the 9/11 perps: imperial expansion, war, peak oil, Israel, power and profits, neoconservative ideology, and so on.
As a Muslim co-founder of the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth, I am profoundly grateful that Steve Alten, a Jewish American whose attitudes fall squarely within the Jewish-American mainstream, has had the guts to put his career and reputation on the line in an effort to push 9/11 truth—an issue that makes many Americans, especially mainstream Jewish Americans, cringe.
The Shell Game is an amazing, unexpected gift to the 9/11 truth movement. Like many gifts, it may not be exactly what you yourself would have bought. But it is an extraordinary gift nonetheless. Steve Alten has put his own gift, his creativity, in the service of 9/11 truth. He has done what he can, knowing what he knows, feeling what he feels. He has given it his best shot. Even if you’re not a fan of genre fiction, even if you think Israel or empire or disaster capitalism was a bigger 9/11 motive than peak oil, even if you find his portrayal of Arabs and Muslims questionable (as I do) you owe it to yourself, and to the future of the planet, to do what you can to make The Shell Game a success. That success would open the door to a wide-ranging mainstream discussion of 9/11 and related issues. For whatever the full truth of 9/11—and none of us yet possess that full truth—the first step to figuring it out, and healing our wounded Republic, is to have the discussion. For that reason, and for his courage, I salute Steve Alten and pray for his book’s success.