After six weeks on the French national best-seller list, the explosively controversial work of this Gallic analyst provocateur is now on sale in Quebec as his book hits the shelves for the first time in North America. The English translation, on US stands by the end of the month, should bring sound and fury. The working title of the translation is 9/11: The Big Lie.

In case you’ve not heard of Mssr. Thierry Meyssan, permit me to outline his career. In 1994 he founded the Paris-based Voltaire Network, a vocal civil liberties group who spent much time litigating against France’s anti-pornography regime. However, on March 11, 2002, he stepped into the European spotlight with the release of his 250p treatise L'Effroyable Imposture (The Horrifying Fraud). European bookstores couldn’t even keep it in stock: it became a summer smash hit in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria and Morocco.1 It is currently being translated into over twenty languages. Meyssan has already become a star speaker throughout the Arab world, his recent presentations in the United Arab Emirates playing to packed auditoriums. An excerpt from a recent speech in Abu Dhabi:
"One must acknowledge the evidence: it is impossible that the attack against the Pentagon on September 11, killing 125 persons, was carried out by a jetliner. The attacks of September cannot be attributed to foreign terrorists from the Arab-Muslim world - even if some of those involved might have been Muslim - but to United States terrorists."
This not-terribly elaborate thesis is now flying off the shelves in bookstores throughout Montreal; 12, 000 copies of the first printing already gone. Meyssan's premise runs as follows. Shadowy US military officials and a cabal within government were complicit in the terrorist attacks last year. No plane ever hit the Pentagon, but rather an air-to-surface missile was used to simulate the strike, fired by American fighter jets. The planes which struck the World Trade Center were remote-controlled by American right-wing militia groups working in concert with military insiders. Osama bin Laden is an agent of the US. And the hidden motive - for the conspiracy of skulking American insiders to mount and execute this machination – is those confounded Big Oil interests.

In a recent article in Harper's magazine entitled "Le Divorce: Do Europe and America have irreconcilable differences?" author Nicholas Fraser tackled European reaction to the attacks, he found in recent trips the phrase 'murderous stupidity' was on the lips of many - Danes, Dutch, Spanish and British. That is referring to America itself, not the attacks. Fraser also writes about seeing Meyssan on a primetime French news special, just as 200, 000 copies had been announced sold. Noted French critical brainiac Jean Baudrillard seems to have gotten this ball rolling just a month or so after the attacks themselves, when he outlined in an extensive essay how the events were far more symbolic than real, but that because Americans were incapable of separating fact from fiction, the delusional tragedy exploded across the world like a Hollywood blockbuster. 2

After taking all this in, it seems fairly clear it is rather the French who seem to be careening down the slippery slope from scepticism to sarcasm, sensationalism to sadism. Polling this past week indicates throughout North American there exists a growing majority who, while still wholly condemning the attacks as evil, now also assert that American policies abroad likely contributed to the attacks. At least however, this grounded in harsh truth, as opposed to conspiratorial denial or fabulous abstraction. US liberal pundit Michael Moore wrote the day of the attack, in a widely circulated email: 'when are we going to face the reality that we will be much safer only when we don't use the rest of the world to provide us with cheap running shoes.' A bit reductive, but real. Better a clear and difficult truth than a latticework of intellectual illusion. There is a wide gulf between criticizing US foreign policy and formulating a complicated revisionist fiction in which the victim becomes the 'real fundamentalist' threat. Taking a page from their neighbours, the Gallic minds seem intent on reinventing the political concept of historical denial. Let's hear it for the new United Europe, friends.
1 The only book to have sold better in the first week in France, incidentally, was Madonna's ego-montage Sex. Very intellectual. What’s worse is that even the sharpest of the Parisian philosopher-critics seem to have completely lost the plot in the past decade. And lest I be accusé let us hear from a few:
"The world has in effect become a fable. So therefore has what is said about it as well as what is thought about it. Being and saying, being and thinking are the same thing". – Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, "The Fable", p. 12, spinning a syllogism on the fairy tale quality of all reality.

"If interpretation can never be brought to an end, it is simply because there is nothing to interpret. This is not absolutely primary to interpretion because at bottom if everything is already interpretation. Each sign is in itself not the this that presents itself to interpretation, but the interpretation of other signs". – Michel Foucault, "Transforming the Hermeneutic Context", p.64, on the endless regress of every possible truth.

"The transition from signs which dissimulate something to signs which dissimulate that there is nothing marks the decisive turn. The first implies a theology of truth and secrecy (to which the notion of ideology belongs). The second inaugurates an age of simulacra and simulation, in which there is no longer any God to recognize his own, nor any Last Judgment to separate the true from the false, the real from its artificial resurrection, since everything is already dead and risen in advance." – Jean Baudrillard, "Select Writings", p.170, on how Catholic Sunday school breeds deep resentment for just about any claim of morality.
2 Baudrillard's best-selling book in Europe up until recently, incidentally, was called America, written in the late 1980s, in which he drives & takes snapshots from Manhattan to Disneyland. The 'simulacra' riff has since spawned a legion of post-modern organ-grinders and critical theory illusionists; each more snide, judgmental, and culturally superior than the next – until they go on to write their dissertation on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Their critique of American culture is ludicrously blinkered ( ... McDonald's, McDonald's, McDonald's ... ) - tantamount to me saying they only worthy elements of culture France has exported since the 60s were Roland Barthes, the Jeunet et Caro films and Laetitia Sadier. However, that would be an asinine elitism beyond any bounds of grace.

Sources: Ottawa Citizen, '9 / 11 denial book a hit in Quebec' p. A1, September 14, 2002. Harper's, September 2002, pp. 58 - 65. April 1, 2002, Globe and Mail, "French hot on theory Pentagon plane a hoax," A8.