pageok
pageok
pageok
Palestine and Mexico - Two Interesting Anomalies in the World Public Opinion Survey Data on Knowledge of the Perpetrators of the 9/11 Attacks:

Yesterday, I blogged about the recent World Public Opinion survey that gauged knowledge of the identity of the perpetrators of 9/11 attacks across 17 countries. For the most part, the distribution of responses in the 17 nations was about what I had expected. However, there were two interesting anomalies, one positive and one negative.

I. Palestine.

The positive anomaly is Palestine. 42% of Palestinian respondents correctly indicated that al Qaeda were the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. If you add in the 7% of Palestinians who named "Saudis," "Egyptians," or other Arabs as having also given correct answers, it turns out that almost half of Palestinians know who carried out the 9/11 attacks. This may not seem like an impressive figure; after all, 46% of Palestinians still claim that either the US government (blamed by 27% of respondents) or Israel (19%) were responsible. However, it is far better than comparable results elsewhere in the Arab world. For example, the WPO survey found that only 16% of Egyptians and only 11% of Jordanians realize that al Qaeda was responsible for the attacks. 54% of Egyptians and 48% of Jordanians say that it was either Israel or the US. These results are also consistent with previous surveys showing that the vast majority of respondents in several Arab countries as well as many European Muslim populations deny that the 9/11 atrocities were perpetrated by Arabs. The WPO results show that recognition of the true identity of the 9/11 perpetrators is far more widespread among Palestinians than any other Arab Muslim population ever surveyed on this issue. Interestingly, only 19% of Palestinians claim that Israel was responsible, compared to 43% of Egyptians and 31% of Jordanians; this despite the fact that Palestinians have far more grievances against Israel than do Arabs residing in these two other countries. What accounts for the difference between the Palestinians and other Arabs? It's hard for me to say; perhaps experts on the region can shed light on the answer. Whatever the cause, it is a mildly encouraging sign (emphasis on "mildly") that Palestinian public opinion is at least somewhat rational and therefore potentially amenable to one day living in peace with Israel and the US.

II. Mexico.

The negative anomaly is Mexico. Only 33% of Mexican respondents in the WPO poll identified al Qaeda as the perpetrators of 9/11; this number is statistically indistinguishable from the 30% who blamed the US government (1% of Mexicans laid the blame on Israel). Strikingly, a higher percentage of Mexicans claimed that the US government carried out an attack on its own citizens than did respondents in any other country except Turkey (36%). Ironically, there is far more recognition of al Qaeda's responsibility for 9/11 among Palestinians than among Mexicans, even though the former have far more reason to be unhappy with American foreign policy.

Obviously, I know that there is anti-Americanism in Mexico and that Mexicans have various historical grievances against the US government, some of them legitimate. At the same time, Mexico derives many benefits from its relationship with the US, including extensive trade, and remittances from the large Mexican immigrant population in this country. Certainly, I didn't expect this level of anti-American prejudice in Mexican public opinion on 9/11.

I strongly support free trade with Mexico and continued Mexican immigration and decry the recent nativist attacks on Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants. A positive relationship between the US and Mexico is, I think, very much in the interests of both countries. Before writing this post, I even wondered whether I should avoid highlighting the Mexican data, so as not to give more fodder to opponents of NAFTA and advocates of draconian restrictions on immigration.

However, the WPO poll results are a troubling indication that there is more irrational anti-Americanism in Mexico than I, at least, would have expected. That does not bode well for the future of US-Mexican relations. Perhaps specialists in Mexican politics and public opinion can shed more light than I can on the causes of this disturbing trend.

UPDATE: Various commenters on this and my previous post suggest that the Palestinians may simply be "proud" or supportive of al Qaeda's role in the 9/11 attacks and thus unwilling to deny it. This is theoretically possible, but unlikely. In virtually every survey, including the WPO survey, anti-Americanism and support for radical Islamism are positively correlated with 9/11 denial. In other similar cases, people who deny the reality of major atrocities or blame the victims for them overwhelmingly tend to sympathize with the perpetrators and/or hate the victims. For example, most Holocaust deniers are anti-Semitic. Most of those who deny the realities of communist mass murder are either communist sympathizers or at least people who think that communism may not have been as bad as the "capitalist" alternative.

In principle, anti-Semites could take the view that the Holocaust did happen, but that Hitler had good reason for doing it. In practice, that response is far less common than denial. The same seems to be true of the anti-American and radical Islamist reactions to 9/11.

FantasiaWHT:
Re: Palestine - maybe they're proud of Al Qaeda and aren't in denial about it?
9.17.2008 6:25pm
Ilya Somin:
Re: Palestine - maybe they're proud of Al Qaeda and aren't in denial about it?

Possible, but not likely. Support for radical Islamism is usually positively correlated with 9/11 denial, not the other way around.
9.17.2008 6:28pm
Ilya Non-Somin:
How do the rates of post-secondary education among Palestinians compare with other peoples who were surveyed?
9.17.2008 6:38pm
Gary Imhoff (mail) (www):
I would second FantasiaWHT's suspicion that Palestinian acknowledgment of Al Qaeda's responsibility for 9/11 is compatible with both a positive (they're not in denial) and a negative (they know who did it, and they glad) interpretation. The low percentage of Palestinians who blame Israel, however, is encouraging.

I find the Mexican attitude unsurprising, however. Why on earth should the US's toleration of massive law-breaking by illegal immigrants create a positive attitude toward the US in Mexico? Does a con man think more highly of an easy mark or of someone who difficult or impossible to scam? In the US, politicians and other elites think keeping an open border and opposing control over immigration is doing a favor for Mexico -- it is the "tolerant, progressive" position. In Mexico, both elites and the general public share a disdain, envy, and hatred for the Gringo superpower that is a convenient scapegoat, responsible for all the ills that befall their country.
9.17.2008 6:38pm
TomH (mail):
Completely unfounded, proabably trolling,among other possible theories -

Maybe in Mexico, and the other places where it is belived the US government was responsible for the attacks, the population has such an intense distrust of their own government and believe it is likely that their own governments would kill its own citizens for a propaganda stunt. Then they attribute similar attitudes toward the US government.

Of course, this is just a theory, and I have no data (and no time to look for it).
9.17.2008 6:40pm
Ilya Somin:
How do the rates of post-secondary education among Palestinians compare with other peoples who were surveyed?

As I noted in my last post, the data show that there is little or no correlation between education and 9/11 denial. The 2 countries with the highest knowledge levels in the survey (Kenya and Nigeria) have very low education levels.
9.17.2008 6:41pm
TomH (mail):
Based upon Ilya's last post - I would also anticipate no correlation between government corruption rates and knowledge levels.

By the way, the whole frame of the discussion indicates that attribution of the attack is in many ways an "opinion" as opposed to "knowledge." Or at most a disputed fact.
9.17.2008 6:44pm
CDU (mail) (www):
One possibility for the Palestinian results is a degree of disillusionment with Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda claims to be carrying out terrorist attacks, among other reasons, to help the Palestinian cause. However, attacking Israel's biggest ally doesn't seem to have produced the sort of results Palestinians want.
9.17.2008 6:46pm
TerrencePhilip:
As Ilya has noted before, there's no cost to an individual for clinging to an irrational but comforting political belief. Mexicans harbor deep resentments against the US, many of them have to live in great poverty, and it may make them feel better to believe absurd things about their neighbor to the north.
9.17.2008 6:49pm
TerrencePhilip:
By the way: you cannot help but marvel that anyone, in any country, still believes bin Laden was not behind the attacks when he himself admits that he was.
9.17.2008 6:52pm
ASlyJD (mail):

Re: Palestine - maybe they're proud of Al Qaeda and aren't in denial about it?

Possible, but not likely. Support for radical Islamism is usually positively correlated with 9/11 denial, not the other way around.


I believe Palestine is the only country that approves of Al-Quaeda's tactics. While many other Arab countries have support for Wahhabism amongst the populace, the government is very afraid of supporting the various Islamist movements. These movements often have violent overthrow of the local government as a priority, justifying that governmental fear.

Palestine is in the unique position of seeing Al-queada's tactics a close range without being its victim. Furthermore, it seems to believe that those tactics are effective. My memory recalls that in the Arab world, only the Palestinians celebrated the 9-11 attacks. Thus, the attacks were and perhaps still are a matter of pride.
9.17.2008 6:54pm
Deoxy (mail):
By the way, the whole frame of the discussion indicates that attribution of the attack is in many ways an "opinion" as opposed to "knowledge." Or at most a disputed fact.


It is disputed in the same way that the Holocaust is disputed. The perpertrators were picked out by intel, and their fellows publicly admitted doing it.

What else do you want?
9.17.2008 6:55pm
kmg:
A few comments regarding Mexico:

1. I was living in Central America and working with a human rights NGO in September 2001. The way that these Central Americans treated me was absolutely amazing. I am lucky to have the experience of finding myself in a foreign culture at a time of crisis, and having people just go out of their way to be kind to me, to express amazing concern.

As I was watching CNN en Espanol, a coworker started spontaneously telling me about how her neighbor's son hid under her stairwell for months after members of his family were "disappeared." Out of a population of about 8 million, 200,000 Guatemalans were killed or disappeared, in the vast majority civilians killed by the military/paramilitaries in the armed internal conflict. This war was put into motion after the CIA ousted the democratically elected president of Guatemala in 1954. Nevertheless, her response to me--Guatemalan to American--was really only one of exceptional kindness.

2. A few years later, right before the Iraq War (based on false pretenses: the US had about an equal role in planning 9/11 as Iraq did, that is to say, precisely none...) I was working in Mexico City. A lot of Mexicans I met at that time thought the US had intentionally inflicted this terrorist act on its own people. Within their realm of experience, this type of action by the US was conceivable--although it did not necessarily translate to hatred against the US people. It translated to sympathy with the American people for having such a horrible government. With the history of US support of coups/dictatorships in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti, Cuba, Uruguay, Argentina, and perhaps most significantly Chile, this seemed to be in the realm of possibility for them.

Let's remember that the US was very involved in Operation Condor and military dictatorships of the Southern Cone. The US supported Pinochet. Pinochet's planes crashed into the Moneda (Chile's version of the White House) on an early September 11 morning in 1973 in a coup that killed the elected president along with many civilians. It seems understandable that some Mexicans, who may view themselves as Latin American, trying to make sense of this tragedy and knowing a few facts:

1. The United States invaded Iraq through faulty information/downright lies

2. The United States supported Pinochet, who bombed his own house of government, killing many civilians

3. In Argentina, in a coup attempt against Peron in the 1950s, an air force general bombed the main plaza (the equivalent of the National Mall) on a day when civilians were out for a stroll, killing hundreds

4. The United States funded and supported Osama Bin Laden for many years

might jump to the incorrect conclusion that the United States was responsible itself for 9/11. Unfortunately, it's not out of the realm of imagination for a lot of people in Latin America.

However, the thing that I was extremely grateful for was that, on an individual, personal level, there was a deep desire for friendship with Americans. (I know this sounds kind of trite, but I found it amazingly true.)
9.17.2008 6:59pm
p. rich (mail) (www):
How do you conduct a valid survey in Mexico or any other third world country? What constitutes a "representative sample"? Surveys are a mature science (art?) here and in many other western nations (and still are frequently done badly or deliberately biased). I would seriously question any survey from the rest of the world, especially when there is controversial or political content.
9.17.2008 7:05pm
sbron:

I strongly support free trade with Mexico and continued Mexican immigration and decry the recent nativist attacks on Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants


I am curious as to why the Conspiracy does not (as far as I can tell) have a single Hispanic member? If Hispanic immigrants contribute so greatly to the U.S., one would think at least one Hispanic would be good enough to be accepted as a regular member of this blog?
9.17.2008 7:07pm
TomH (mail):
Deoxy - Don't get me wrong, I believe that AlQuaeda was responsible, but the fact that others believe different facts, make the facats "disputed" cf. summary judgment motion.

It doen't mean the other side is correct, just that they interpret the evidence differently, irrationaly and differently.

KMG - thanks for the data.
9.17.2008 7:08pm
ATM (mail):
The US never ever funded or supported bin Laden.
9.17.2008 7:13pm
TomH (mail):
BTW, it is just a belief founded on the interpretation of circumstantial evidence of varying quality from inferences to admissions. None of us here, I presume, have first hand knowlege or were present with the conspirators when the plans were being made or executed.

Even Bin Laden's admission can be believed to be a falsity (by the aforementioned irrational folk).
9.17.2008 7:13pm
Ilya Somin:
By the way, the whole frame of the discussion indicates that attribution of the attack is in many ways an "opinion" as opposed to "knowledge." Or at most a disputed fact.

I don't agree. The evidence for al Qaeda's responsibility is overwhelming. The fact that some people aren't aware of the evidence or choose to deny it doesn't change that. In some countries, large parts of the population deny the Holocaust. That doesn't make the Holocaust any less real.
9.17.2008 7:17pm
armchairpunter:
Perhaps it might be explained by considering that Palestinians are more likely to have some access to Israeli TV and Mexicans are more likely to have access to US TV...
9.17.2008 7:20pm
JK:
So what percentage of Americans think that Saddam involved in the planing of 9/11? Those in glass houses....
9.17.2008 7:22pm
LM (mail):
Palestinians are reputed (correctly or not, I have no idea) to assign greater value to education than most Arabs. Perhaps persistent Palestinian political instability also motivates them to be less less rationally ignorant.
9.17.2008 7:26pm
glenalxndr:
Unlike kmg, I traveled and lived extensively in Mexico City (and throughout South America) on business during the 1990's. I think I got to know both local business colleagues and government officials quite well (not much business can be conducted in Mexico without involving the government).

Through these relationships, I found a unique and heavily institutionalized distrust of the United States only in Mexico. Indeed, at times, this distrust bordered on visceral hatred.

According to virtually everyone I met, this position was because of the invasion of Mexico by the U.S. in 1847 (what we call the Mexican-American War), and the subsequent annexation of most of the current southwestern U.S. (California, Utah, Arizona, and parts of Colorado and New Mexico).

In fact, I found it almost universal opinion that, 150 years later, the people of Mexico felt that they had a completely legitimate claim to this land.

Contrary to Ilya Somin's reluctance to even discuss popular Mexican attitudes towards the U.S. (for fear of inflaming debate about immigration and trade?), I believe that recognition of the history between our two countries is a vital component of these debates.

I'm not the first commentator to suggest that this deeply-held Mexican sense of entitlement to large portions of U.S. territory explain much about current immigration and assimilation patterns. I've just experienced it first-hand rather than through research.
9.17.2008 7:45pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
There was a plebiscite in Guatemala, won by democratic forces supported by the US. The colonels couped it.

Latin America--including not only Chavez--has a terrific ability to screw itself up. Blaming the US helps keep the citizenry in line and the US left happy.
9.17.2008 8:09pm
chris znth (mail):
Why is it irrational to believe that the US was behind 9/11? What if the evidence comes out at some point. I don't see it as irrational. The comments by KMG, for example, paint a very rational picture of why Mexicans would doubt the official story. The conspiratorial version is just as rational as having blind faith in the official version, in my mind.

Is it crazy to give equal weight to both versions? Most Arab-Americans that I know believe it was an "inside job," but I wouldn't label their perspective as irrational. Just informed differently.
9.17.2008 8:21pm
Malvolio:
In fact, I found it almost universal opinion that, 150 years later, the people of Mexico felt that they had a completely legitimate claim to this land.
The whole "We stole it fair and square before you stole it from us, so it's ours" I've never understood, even as a moral point.

As a practical point, it's absurd. If it weren't for the remittances from emigrants in the US-administered American Southwest, Mexico would starve. Do Mexicans collectively believe that a putative Mexico-administered Alta California would be more like the current US state California (i.e., wealthy) or more like the current Mexican state Baja California (i.e., poor)? If the latter, they should be glad that the US "stole" it and made it rich enough that they can emigrate there.

If, on the other hand, Mexicans collectively believe that Mexican Alta California would be the same fertile source of jobs and technology that California is, they should ... I don't even know, they should seek therapy, I guess.

I have a similar what-the-heck-are-you-thinking question about the Palestinian / Israel problem. While there certainly objections that can be lodged against Israeli conduct, what kind of drugs do you need to believe that the two parties are morally equivalent -- or, breathtakingly, that the Palestinians are the only aggrieved side? Walk around Tel Aviv for a day in keffiyah and then walk around Ramallah in a kippah, then get back to me on that.
9.17.2008 9:23pm
Malvolio:
Why is it irrational to believe that the US was behind 9/11?
Because it isn't true.

Yes, in the abstract, it is possible for governments to stage attacks against their own interests, usually to generate moral and legal support for aggression. Doesn't happen often, but it happens.

But it didn't happen in this case. This is probably the most investigated event in human history and there isn't a single piece of actual evidence that the real story is different from the official story and tremendous evidence the other way (including public uncoerced confessions).

If "irrational" doesn't meaning "believing in something against the weight of all available evidence", what could it mean?
9.17.2008 9:36pm
LM (mail):
chris znth,

Do you believe we landed men on the moon?

Why?
9.17.2008 9:39pm
SeaLawyer:

4. The United States funded and supported Osama Bin Laden for many years



That would be false.
9.17.2008 9:44pm
JB:

Maybe in Mexico, and the other places where it is belived the US government was responsible for the attacks, the population has such an intense distrust of their own government and believe it is likely that their own governments would kill its own citizens for a propaganda stunt. Then they attribute similar attitudes toward the US government.


When I was in Egypt, many Egyptians used similar logic to explain why they liked Americans but hated the American government. Since Egypt is so undemocratic, they were not surprised to find that in America the government would disagree so much with the people.
9.17.2008 9:47pm
JB:
My memory recalls that in the Arab world, only the Palestinians celebrated the 9-11 attacks.

The famous video circulated of them doing that was fraudulent, and was in fact a video of them celebrating something else years earlier. Not to say they didn't celebrate, but many people think they did on the basis of this video.

Palestinians are reputed (correctly or not, I have no idea) to assign greater value to education than most Arabs.


This is correct. The Palestinian diaspora (those who were lucky or good enough to go somewhere else) is almost as educationally successful as the Jews, in aggregate. This applies far less to those who remain in Palestine, however.
9.17.2008 9:52pm
Hoosier:
Re: Mexico, it's just a matter of percentages. The ones who like the US are all here already. That only leaves the cranks back home to take part in pols.
9.17.2008 11:17pm
Hoosier:
polls
9.17.2008 11:17pm
5L (mail):


Latin America--including not only Chavez--has a terrific ability to screw itself up. Blaming the US helps keep the citizenry in line and the US left happy.


So sad but so true. I also second the point made earlier that a poll done in a highly underdeveloped country like Mexico or a war zone like Palestine or Iraq has zero credibility. We can barely get the margin of error within 5% in the United States where there's actually a fairly accurate census. There is really only anecdotal evidence.

My experience with Mexicans and other Hispanics is limited, but I do speak Spanish and I did study abroad in Argentina while in college. I can't speak for Mexico because the only Mexicans I meet love this country for giving them a safe place to work and live. Argentines on the other hand are kind of an enigma. Their constitution is a near replica of ours, they glorify American culture, American tourists are welcomed with open arms, but Argentines more closely associate themselves with Europe.

Buenos Aires is called the Paris of America. This is easy to see because much of the 20th Century architecture there is French. Beyond that, Spain is viewed by many as the motherland, so to speak. Imagine if the UK was a socialist, populist, internationalist country like France. What do you think would be the impact on our politics? America would be totally different.

The same effect is at work in Latin America. Never have these people associated themselves with America like they do with Europe. As Europe's politics have shifted leftward, so to can it be expected that their former colonies follow suit. Obviously, Spain and Portugal make up the majority of immigrant ancestry in Latin America, but next comes Germany, Italy, and France. Latin America still looks to Europe, despite America's brief post-cold war popularity of the 1990's.
9.17.2008 11:33pm
Ken Arromdee:
The famous video circulated of them doing that was fraudulent, and was in fact a video of them celebrating something else years earlier.

Reverse urban legend. The video was of them celebrating 9/11.

http://www.snopes.com/rumors/cnn.asp
9.18.2008 12:21am
iolanthe (mail):
"Walk around Tel Aviv for a day in keffiyah and then walk around Ramallah in a kippah, then get back to me on that."

I have done the former (as a backpacker and as a fashion item rather than political statement). I can attest that precisely nothing happens to you. You do though set yourself up for the most thorough airport search I've ever had - 3 hours and everything bar the internal search. I've no idea whether this was because I fitted a profile (young, male, been in Syria, born in an Arab country) or this was some sort of payback for wearing the keffiyah. Either way, I suspect it does fall a long way short of a journey through Ramallah in a kippah.
9.18.2008 12:55am
autolykos:

2. The United States supported Pinochet, who bombed his own house of government, killing many civilians


This is just an untrue statement. Yes, Chilean military jets bombed the capital, but only 2 people died in the bombing (including Allende, hardly a civilian)... both by suicide. In total, about 40 people died in the coup. This obviously doesn't count the people who died later in the Pinochet regime, but that's not what we're talking about.

As for the Mexican point, there's a lot packed in there. While it's true that countries generally overreact when it comes to losing territory (whether it be Taiwan, Alsace-Lorraine or the Sinai Peninsula), I've always attributed it much more to little brother syndrome than a genuine grievance over the lost territory. At the time of the Mexican-American War, the US and Mexico were relatively equal by a lot of metrics. Afterwards the US became the prosperous nation in the world and Mexico became, well, Mexico. There's a lot of pent-up resentment there, which is why most Mexicans still don't bother to learn English and they had such restrictive rules against, among things, foreigners owning land.
9.18.2008 2:43am
JB:
Ken Arromdee,
Why so you're right. Thanks for the link.
9.18.2008 7:09am
Hoosier:
Ken Arromdee

Thanks for the link. That's useful to know.
9.18.2008 8:10am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I once visited the University of Guanajuato. IIRC, it was founded in the early eighteenth century. At which time, what was to be America was a few farming villages. Spain introduced law, universities, massive public works, and untold wealth of gold and silver was taken out of the jewelry mode and put into currency when we were still playing around with witches.
Latin America should have become a world power.

Didn't happen that way.

Plenty of room for resentment.
9.18.2008 9:43am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
I doubt Mexico is morning the lack of a mighty Spanish Empire to make it a vassel.
9.18.2008 2:50pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ryan.
Didn't say they were. Did I? Nope, checking, I didn't.

Point is, Latin America had a hell of a start over us. But all of a sudden, we're in charge. They lost. Not only lost, they lost with a century's head start. We're in charge. We need only cast a baleful look southward and governments fall, millions are impoverished, and we don't even break a sweat.
It's like the guy a year ahead of you in high school. All-conference linebacker, NHS, good looking. Goes out with the beautiful girls, but the genuinely nice beautiful girls, family has money. Interesting guy, pleasant to talk to, always ready to help out a classmate.
Of course you hated his guts.
9.18.2008 5:32pm