David Rovics latest blog on 911 received a lot of comment. Knowing him to be both the most approachable, centred and articulate bloke, I asked if I could send him a list of questions. I asked for questions from a variety of both activists and fans, 911 believers, atheists and agnostics. This isn't a real interview, just an emailed list of disparate questions but his responses are worth sharing.
Q) I've been downloading your children's songs from 'Davids Pirate Song Chest ' - what is Leila's favourite song of yours ?
A) The one she requests most is "Leila's birthday song," usually by saying, "happy to you? happy to you?"
Q) You made one of the most moving tributes to Brad Will, which remains about the highest praise Indymedia has ever earned by association. Do you ever post on Indymedia yourself or are you just reposted by your fans ?
A) I'm a huge fan of Indymedia, of the concept of it, and often of the practice as well. I only started writing essays less than two years ago on a regular basis, and mostly I just send them out to my email list and see where they end up, but I keep meaning to post them to my local Indymedia site in Portland, Oregon, which is a very active one.
Q) I've heard you and Utah Philips have been the official singer-songwriters for the Wobblies, and I've heard there is no such role and you are both just creative Wobblies. Please explain if such a post exist in the IWW ?
A) Such a post doesn't exist as far as I know ! But certainly Utah, myself and other musicians have long been members of and promoters of the IWW, both in terms of it's incredible history as well as it's present-day activities. Utah is, I'd say, the uncontested IWW minstrel of the planet, but it's an informal kind of thing as far as I know...
Q) Utah Philips voted in the last US election after a lifetime of not voting, saying "There are millions of people in the world who are affected by the actions of this government, and they can't vote in this election. I have no use for Kerry. I have no use for Bush. I don't like either one of them, but these folks can't vote in this election. They have to have people vote for them." Do you vote yourself and what do you make of Utah's decision ?
A) I think fundamentally, democracy is in the streets, and politics mainly happen because of what happens on the streets, ultimately. However, once a year it's easy enough to spend a couple hours in line at a voting booth. In local elections there are often very real choices. In state and national elections this is less the case. But I think it's fair to say that there IS a difference between, say, Barack Obama and George Bush, and I don't agree with the people who say it's better to vote for outright fascists because they'll galvanize the opposition better.
Q) Cindy Sheehan is running against Nancy Pelosi - do you think this is a good tactic and would you vote for her ?
A) Nancy Pelosi is a war criminal, like most of the rest of the congress, and of course I'd vote for Cindy anyday. I think it's a good tactic, to run against both republicans and "mainstream" democrats like Pelosi. I wouldn't want to see a leftwinger run against democrats like Maxine Waters or Dennis Kucinich -- but Nancy Pelosi, for sure.
Q) Norman Baker MP believes Dr David Kelly was murdered. This theory was ridiculed on IM-UK until a mainstream political figure investigated. Facts that the establishment now admit, like UK & US special forces operations in Iran, and prohibited weapons use in Iraq, were routinely dismissed as 'conspiracy theories'. Investigative journalism is speculative by it's nature. Do you think independent media should stick to reportage or encourage investigations too ?
A) I think reporting and investigating are both great. Jumping to conclusions based on investigations which have not led to conclusive evidence, but just to hypotheses and more questions, etc., is bad. It does us all a disservice, and cheapens the value of the real conspiracies that have been proven, such as the US government's many successfully- and unsuccessfully-executed conspiracies to overthrow various governments, kill elected leaders, push crack in the streets of Los Angeles, etc.
Q) Is there any form of censorship more awful than self-censorship ?
A) Hard to compare horrors. Dictatorships that engage in real censorship are pretty awful. "Democracies" that are controlled by self-censoring corporate media are really insidious, too. People who self-censor because they're afraid of sticking their necks out is also very dangerous and bad.
Q) I saw your interview with Attila the Stockbroker when he makes the point the US alternative and college scene is much more active than in the UK. Had you noticed that and can you explain it ?
A) I'm not at all sure whether that's true these days. I think he was more commenting on how little activism there is on campuses in the UK, and was reacting to the fact that we were getting a few decent gigs on campuses during tours we did in the US together. There's definitely some activism on campuses in both countries, but not nearly enough, and certainly in the US it was a much bigger activist scene on campuses in the 1990's than it is now, at least according to my subjective observations...
Q) How you you balance campaigning against climate change and travelling between protests ? Can't most activists achieve more on any issue by protesting in the heart of the empire rather than by travelling to the frontline if they are already aware of the nature of the frontline ? Wouldn't most Iraqis sick of war protest in Washington if they could rather than Basra ?
A) I think there's great value in staying home, in terms of doing what I do (and what other activists in the US do) here in the US however, it's a very big country, and getting around without burning lots of carbon is very difficult, and would seriously hamper the efforts of people like me to do what we do. There's also value in performing or doing other work in other countries, and for sure there's great value in people from outside the US coming here to do organizing, performing and other work. I know many will disagree with me on this, but I think it's worth the carbon. I think this because we need structural change in this country and most of the rest of the world -- millions of people riding bicycles is going to be a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to save life on earth. We don't need leftists deciding not to fly -- we need the US government to virtually ban using airplanes entirely, and other governments around the world to do the same. And lots more.
Q) According to a couple of university studies, the domestic BBC were the British channel that showed the most pro-war coverage compared to anti-war coverage in the run up to the war, yet you seem to have a fondness for the world service. It might be subtler propaganda than Fox but the BBC is as independent of MI5 as Radio Moscow was independent of the KGB. Is that me being paranoid or is that you being an american with rose-tinted glasses because they've played a few of your songs ?
A) Well it's true, and a good point, actually, that they've played a few of my songs (though it would be an exaggeration to say they've played me often). This contrasts quite a bit with "public" radio or tv or commercial radio or tv in the States, which have entirely ignored me and most other similar artists of any genre. There's definitely a difference between BBC and it's US equivalents. This can also be said of public broadcasting in most of Europe -- it's qualitatively different from their equivalents in the US. This is not to say that they're not also biased in favor of the ruling classes -- they generally are, but they're much better than the shit we get here. I listen to lots of it, from both sides of the pond.
Q) People sometimes quote or link to Framptons "I'm a Better Folksinger than You" to poke fun at you. You name-check and link to RiotFolk, so I have to assume you have a sense of humour. I love the song, but especially for the fact you are obviously a better folksinger than him. Does being slagged / burned annoy you or make you giggle ?
A) I think the song is hilarious, and I think Tom and various other members of Riot Folk have written lots of great songs. I think Tom and others in the collective are a bit zealous in their orientation, and may not like me very much anymore. I hope they get over it, 'cause they're nice folks and good songwriters and performers, even if some of them are a bit quick to judge and a bit too obsessively pc for my tastes.
Q) Charlton Heston just died. Did someone remember to take his gun from his cold, dead hands ?
A) I hope so!
Q) Personally my favourite of your latest blogs was 'The Next Attack is Coming' but it wasn't commented on widely. Does that prove anything ?
A) I'm sure it's not proof of anything much. I'm fairly mystified by the process of which essays of mine get picked up and spread around and which don't.
Q) Are you aware Robert Fisk recently received a lot of hate mail when he expressed the mildest of doubts about 911 ? It is an interesting juxtaposition, you getting the same abuse for the opposite turn of opinion. [ I forgot to add the link for David ].
A) What did Fisk say? I think he's the greatest writer on the planet. I'm so bummed out that he hasn't written more books, because I've read them all and I wish there were more to read. He gets hate mail from everyone, I think he's great. Don't know what he said tho.
Q) Your previous blog criticised the peace movement for not respecting it's creative wing enough. I'd agree with that, but did that provoke as much of a response as your 911 blog ?
A) Both essays received more response than any other essays I've sent out, from different folks for different reasons. You can get a flavor of the various responses by looking in the comments section on Common Dreams and other places it got posted, I hear, though I've mostly been responding to (most of) the emails I've been getting, which are, as usual, a real mix of pro and con, tho certainly more con for the 9/11 essay, a fairly even mix of reasonable, civil responses and people calling me names. I think most of the people responding negatively are either misunderstanding something I wrote, or being defensive, or didn't finish reading the essay, or are stuck in a groove and can't break out of it -- that groove being the one where everything is either allegation vs. allegation, rather than questioning whether the whole conversation, especially in it's mud-slinging form, is worth having, and moreover, why are we having it.
Q) You complained in your 911 blog about being heckled by 911ers, but isn't that a misplaced criticism of your fans. If you were heckled by anyone at gig I was at then the heckler would have been escorted out of the building or shouted down, probably by the people closest too him. Surely it is an artists fans responsibility to silence dubious hecklers ?
A) They usually wait til the end to get really obnoxious, because of course they know they might get kicked out of the room. This is not an isolated phenomenon, it's happening to lots of reasonably well-known progressive authors, performers, etc., I'm not sure how many. I'm not at all suggesting here (or in my piece) that the hecklers represent everybody else in the truth movement, just that they exist in fairly significant numbers, and that they're really annoying.
Q) It has recently come out that much of the 9/11 Commission report was based on "confessions" extracted via torture, see: A new analysis by NBC News reveals that more than a quarter of all footnotes in the 9/11 Commission Report refer to controversial interrogation techniques and How Karl Rove and Torture Influenced the 9/11 Report"
Have you read the 9/11 Commission report and in light of the recent revelations how reliable and how accurate a representation of the events do you consider it to be?
A) I have not read the report, but I tend to think that it was more trying to cover stuff up rather than get to the bottom of anything.
Q) In your recent article you wrote: "the CIA funded and armed Al-Qaeda and the Taleban". What evidence do you based this on and are you aware of the work that people like Nafeez Ahmed, Michel Chossudovsky and Peter Dale-Scott have done on this matter, for example:
A) I don't think Chossudovsky is particularly reliable, but no, I haven't read these articles. As for what evidence I base the U.S. support for the Taleban and al-Qaeda, it's all over the place. Read Robert Fisk, he spent lots of time in Afghanistan, he'll tell you all about it, among many others. I know it's annoying to you, dear questioner, but I'm not here to prove or disprove anything, I'll leave that to other people, like, for example, investigative journalists like Robert Fisk.
Q) In your recent article you wrote: "whether it was a terrorist attack carried out by US-trained Mujahideen that could have been prevented, or an entirely "inside job" carried out by Dick Cheney with the aide of computers and plastic explosives, as many Truthers claim".
Do you consider that it was "a terrorist attack carried out by US-trained Mujahideen that could have been prevented" and if so could you elaborate on what exactly you think happened?
A) I think it was a terrorist attack carried out by people who came from a certain milieu (al-Qaeda and certain other groups) who support this kind of tactic. The tactic isn't a new one, it's just a very dramatic example of the tactic at work. Why elaborate on what happened? It's a matter of the public record. A bunch of guys with a background in certain resistance movements with deep connections to the CIA, the Saudi regime, the Pakistani regime, the Taleban, etc., hijacked a bunch of planes and crashed them into very prominent buildings.
Q) When you wrote in your recent article: "For the cops among the Truthers (of course it's a matter of the public record that the FBI and other such agencies regularly write "newspaper articles" - propaganda or disinformation of whatever sort they deem useful which they disseminate through newspapers, websites, etc.), undermining the legitimacy of the progressive media is exactly their goal"
Do you have any specific stories or people in mind as being state sponsored disinformation or is this just an overall impression you have?
A) The FBI admits they do this, it's not an impression. The CIA does it too, by their own admission. This kind of thing was fairly recently a matter of debate in the Congress. I don't know who the agents are, it wouldn't work very well if we knew who they were, they'd have to change their names or something...
Q) And are you aware that the 9/11 truth movement itself has produced a considerable volume of material on disinformation, for example: TruthMove: Disinformation, 911 Visibility: Special Report: COINTELPRO, Jim Hoffman: Trojan Horses, Combating 9/11 Disinformation for the 9/11 Truth Movement, Mark Robinowitz: Disinformation.
A) Yes, of course, as it should! Legitimate researchers should call out wackos when they see them. It's a slippery slope, tho. Of course if the 9/11 truth movement is going to have any coherence as a movement, rather than as just a bunch of different isolated researchers, they'd better call out the people doing obvious disinfo. problem is, it's hard to tell who that is sometimes, because so many of the people doing more legit research are still jumping to all kinds of unsubstantiatable conclusions based on lots of interesting, but circumstantial, evidence. The ones who aren't doing that, but are really just doing research, tend not to associate themselves with the truth movement, but tend to just call themselves journalists.
Q) In your recent article you wrote: "For the more earnest elements among the Truthers, undermining the progressive media is also their goal, because they don't see it as being distinct from the corporate media anyway" And: "The people who are trying, with some degree of success, to undermine these basic endeavours of the progressive movement and the progressive media need to be exposed for what they are."
Are you aware that there are alternative media activists, who promote rather than undermine progressive media, who also don't believe the official story of 9/11, see for example this interview with two Indymedia activists about the 9/11 truth movement: - Truth Revolution Radio: Indymedia and 9/11 truth. Or do you think that it is impossible to be both a progressive activist and to question the official story of 9/11?
A) I think all people with brains should question all "official stories," whatever they may be. But to say "I know what happened" when you don't, or "I know who shot JFK" when you don't, or whatever, is doing no one any favors.
Q) You say the "Truth Movement” contains 'undercover government agents quite purposefully and systematically working to spread disinformation and sow confusion and distrust'. Why would they plant agents amongst the 911ers to discredit other movements when they are already planting agents within each movement to do that directly ?
A) I'm not sure how to answer that. I think agents are being planted in every movement, I think that's evident, as well as historically consistent with the behavior of the state apparatus during Cointelpro and earlier times, for which we have incontrovertible proof that agents were planted everywhere. I'm sure nothing's changed.
Q) In your recent article you wrote, in reference to your "Reichstag Fire" song: “In the song I also posed questions which I now feel have been adequately explained." While you have now had your questions answered there are still some people who don't feel that their questions have been answered, for example the outstanding questions from the Family Steering Committee: - Unanswered Questions. Do you think it's legitimate for people to continue to seek answers or do you tend to agree with the view that everyone should move on, as represented by people such as Michael Ruppert who recently has said: "September 11th is all but forgotten. No one wants to hear about it anymore".
A) I think people should keep asking questions, but not jumping to conclusions. For the record, I do not think all the questions I pose in the song have been answered -- but some of the bigger ones have, as far as I can tell. What happened with those put options? I don't know. did 19 arabs hijack planes, fly them into buildings, which then caused these buildings to collapse? Yes, I think so. Should this "official story" (if that's what it is) be questioned? Sure, why not. but don't lose the forest for the trees!
Q) Comparisions have been made between the killing of JFK and 9/11, for example this article by Peter Dale-Scott: - "JFK, 9/11 and War". And the view of Noam Chomsky of these two events has many similarities and his position on JFK has been harshly critisised by Michael Parenti in a talk on TUC Radio: The JFK Assassination and the Gangster Nature of the State and in his book Dirty Truths: Conspiracy Phobia on The Left. Do you think it is legitimate for people like Michael Parenti to be critical of Noam Chomsky in this manner?
A) I think it's fine for Parenti to be critical of Chomsky. I think they're both great, especially Chomsky. I don't know what he said, not gonna read all your references, you can't do an interview like that, sorry! I think, generally, that I agree with Chomsky's analysis about these things, which is basically, fine to ask questions, but there's plenty of horrific stuff we know about, no need to dwell on the unanswered questions, what's the point? Can't we just get on with overthrowing capitalism? It's been so well proven to be failing to take care of the needs of most people on the planet, or the earth itself, and moreover, it (in the form of the US ruling class especially) keeps killing millions of innocent people in wars for oil and power! Isn't that enough? Who cares why WTC7 came down? Who cares whether JFK was killed by a lone gunman, or by the Cuban mafia, or by the CIA ? I didn't like the CIA or the Cuban mafia before 1961 or after 1961! (and I was born in 1967, but that's beside the point.)
Q) A couple of issues that are controversial within the 9/11 truth movement are peak oil and climate change, with the people on the right, for example Alex Jones, advocating a "denial" position and those on the left, like TruthMove are very much in opposition to this, for example see their material on global warming and peak oil. Related to this is the on-going mass extinction of other life forms.
These issues, in addition to the ongoing imperial genocide in the middle east and the global economic meltdown were addressed in a talk by Nafeez Ahmed last November.
How do you feel, having a young daughter, about the prospects for life on the planet for the next generation and can capitalism be stopped before it's too late? Or is it essentially too late already?
Q) I don't know about all the articles you reference, but as to your question here, I think our only option is victory, and yes, it's possible. If I'm only saying that based on faith, then that'll do fine. I have faith in nothing else, no ideology or theory, but I have faith in struggle.