Do Information Science and Media Professionals Have a Duty to Provide Evidence-Based Information to a Questioning Public?

This essay was originally published by the international journal, Information for Social Change. It has been republished here with permission from the author.

Abstract: While it is recognized that through the use of meta-analysis and randomized controlled trials the standard of excellence in evidenced-based medicine (EBM) stands alone on a pinnacle, there is nonetheless an evidence-based methodology that can be applied across the board in other decision-making areas.  Though research into the events of 9/11 has not yet attained the rigor achieved by EBM, it is still possible to rank the research in this field according to evidence-based principles. This article explains the principles, points to sources that exemplify them, and argues the ethical obligation of librarians and journalists to advance those sources .

Ground ZeroNine-eleven has done more to change the world’s political landscape than any other event since World War II.

And 9/11 is far from over:  it triggered what Western leaders have declared an “endless” or “generational” war on terror.  Even President Obama stated in March 2009 that the Afghan-Pakistan border region “has become the most dangerous place in the world” for the American people.[1]

Increasingly, however, the official account of its cause has come under rigorous scientific scrutiny and doubt.  In Europe, strong media coverage followed the unchallenged 2009 discovery of high-tech military explosives in the World Trade Center dust.[2]

Given the enormous international expense, suffering, and death that continue to hemorrhage from the wound of 9/11, it is vital that librarians and media professionals acquire the knowledge and ethical support to perform their part in addressing the rising tide of doubt.

1. Is there good reason to doubt the official account of 9/11?

Though the imagery of the events of September 11, 2001, is profoundly etched in the collective human memory, there is a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting that these events were not brought about in the manner described by The 9/11 Commission Report of 2004.[3]

Harper’s magazine referred to the Commission’s report as:

“a cheat and a fraud. It stands as a series of evasive maneuvers that infantilize the audience, transform candor into iniquity, and conceal realities that demand immediate inspection and confrontation.”[4]

The 9/11 Commissioners themselves reported the obstruction of their mandate by the C.I.A., in a New York Times editorial:

“What we do know is that government officials decided not to inform a lawfully constituted body, created by Congress and the president, to investigate one the greatest tragedies to confront this country. We call that obstruction.”[5]

Indeed a vast body of evidence refuting the official account has been compiled in the encyclopedic work The New Pearl Harbor Revisited, which was awarded Publishers Weekly’s “Pick of the Week” in November, 2008.[6]

Its author, Dr. David Ray Griffin, was nominated in 2008 and 2009 for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on 9/11.

Dr. Griffin is controversial in the press, however.  In September 2009, the New Statesman cited him as number 41 of “The 50 People Who Matter Today,” complaining that his books had given “a sheen of respectability” to “one of the most pernicious global myths.”[7] The impact of the growing evidence – as revealed through 9/11 conferences, demonstrations, and public opinion polls – caused Guardian columnist George Monbiot to bemoan that “the anti-war movement has been largely co-opted in many places by the 9/11 Truth movement.”[8]

Though controversial, the persistent questions about the 9/11 Commission findings show that the matter is far from settled – indeed thousands of professional people are calling for a transparent re-investigation into 9/11, with full subpoena power.[9]

2. Why is it important that the events of 9/11 be properly understood?

The September 11th attacks have done more to shape world conflict in this century than any other event.  More resources are being committed to the resulting “war on terror” than to the foundational issue of the survival of our eco-system.  Additionally, the “war on terror” is being waged in the oil-rich Middle East, whose promise of vast oil supplies is delaying the development of alternative energy sources.

As we saw above, in the past year new scientific information has pointed strongly to the use of a high-tech military explosive (nanothermite) in the vertical free-fall collapses of the Twin Towers and Building 7.  Many firefighters heard explosions in the basements, and nine years later, organized firefighters are strongly urging a new investigation.[10] The cell phone calls from the airliners are now seriously in doubt,[11] and it has recently been demonstrated that Osama bin Laden probably died in December 2001.[12] The FBI, in any case, offers no evidence for his responsibility in the attacks.[13] The two 9/11 Commission heads, and its senior counsel, have declared that the Commission was lied to.[14]

It is therefore imperative that the truth about 9/11 be established with certainty.  It is urgent and essential that all professionals who convey information about 9/11 to the public be equipped with the best possible evidence, so that decision-making about our most pressing issues is based on sound knowledge.

3. Sound knowledge:  What is evidence-based practice?

Evidence-based practice is a methodology for clinical medical practice whose application has expanded, since it first appeared in the early 1990’s, to guide professional decision-making in many other research-based fields.[15]

Evidence-based medicine (EBM) is “a way of providing health care that is guided by a thoughtful integration of the best available scientific knowledge with clinical expertise.”[16] It integrates three streams of evidence:  patient reports, physician observations, and current research that is continually updated into clinical practice guidelines.

EBM offers the medical community a point-of-care gold standard of consensus on the diagnosis and treatment of each condition.  Where it is readily available, there is no longer any reason why a physician should claim ignorance of the best available information in the treatment of his or her patients.