Getting Conspiratorial About 9/11: The Story You Won’t See This Week

by on September 9, 2011 · 8 comments

in History

It’s going to be intense over the next week or so as we are reminded repeatedly about the events of September 11, 2001. Outside of the local coverage (“Hairdresser Remembers 9/11” , et. al.), virtually every magazine, tv news show, newspaper and blog is running some kinda piece trying to find the right words to summarize how that fateful day has impacted our world. (The best national wrap-up is here in, of all places, Foreign Policy.)

“9/11” makes my gut churn. Literally. The horribleness of the attacks combined with my own childish reactions and sadness over what this country has become since that date make me wanna puke. But this isn’t another “I remember when” article. The intolerance that I see around me towards Islam, people who might be from the middle east and the willingness of a significant part of the public (and politicians) to yield to their darker impulses (revenge, torture, racism) makes me want to stand up and speak out against this insanity.

That’s why I’m going out on a limb here to tell you about people who are telling a story that I don’t believe—the 9/11 Truthers. In this era of intolerance and self-censorship I am standing up to say that they have a point of view that deserves a hearing. Their story is, in a nutshell, that the events of that day were somehow enabled, staged or planned as a Pearl Harbor-type event by forces with an evil agenda. Doubtless the SD911Truth event this Sunday won’t merit any of local media coverage. Even though I differ with the Truthers, I think this kind of “self-censorship” is just plain wrong.

Before you dismiss this line of thinking, realize that these folks have thousands of supporters: there are over one thousand architects and engineers who support their theories, plus sub groupings of scientists, academics, firefighters and explosive experts.  Their local supporters are screening a documentary film “Explosive Evidence: Experts Speak Out” at the Joyce Beers Center (Hillcrest, Vermont & 10th Sts.) this Sunday at 6:30pm.

I’ve have a fair share of experience with people inclined towards conspiratorial views of historic events and can tell you that they’re, for the most part, ordinary (and good) people.  Back in the early 1970’s, I did a coast-to-coast lecture tour (set up through author Norman Mailer, but that’s another story) that included showing the now famous Zapruder film, a fuzzy piece of home made film that raises plenty of questions about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  From Wikipedia:

The film’s 1975 broadcast on Good Night America ignited widespread public distrust in the findings of the Warren Commission. Perhaps the most controversial effect was the suggestion that an assassin or assassins other than Oswald were involved.

As a result of this tour, I met literally thousands of people who believed.  And I got to see the ugly underside of this movement, those who believed that only they knew the truth.  Any other point of view was, to their way of thinking, part of the conspiracy.  I soon discovered that, because I refused to attach specific blame to any specific group—the Mafia and the CIA were the leading contenders—my tour was obviously part of the coverup.

The parallels between the Kennedy Conspiracists and the 9/11 Truthers are plain enough to see once you’ve done a Google search or two. A few hardcore backers do a great job of discrediting lots of ordinary folk who just have questions.  People who’ve realized that truth in government is an oxymoron. And there are plenty of examples that don’t need a conspiracy theorist to spin them, like WMD’s in Iraq, for instance.

In the end there was just one question that I couldn’t get answered by those who knew: “what does it mean if you’re actually right?”  Some thought the government would collapse, others envisioned a popular uprising demanding the truth… but then what?  And there was no answer. Getting to the “truth” was the extent of their vision.

I’m sure that there are plenty of grounds to distrust the government’s accounting of the events of 9/11. But that doesn’t change what’s happened over the last decade. The thousands who died in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania won’t be coming back.  The election of Barack Obama, and his failure to undo any of the wrongs of the past decade proves that the national security/fear State that has emerged in the face of the perceived threats from terrorists is a permanent condition. The enormous sums of money that were squandered in Iraq and other “battlefields” of the war on terror are gone, never to be spent on the welfare of the people, or for that matter, accounted for.

Still, the people raising questions about 9/11 have a right to be heard. One can only hope that they start to make the connections about the rest of the conspiracies out there, like Republicans who are afraid of brown people, the demeaning of the public employees, the quest to “reform” education or the big lie of “Public-Private Partnerships” in San Diego.

Those schemes are in the present, and we can do something about them.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar RB September 9, 2011 at 10:03 am

This is the same conspiracy as was used against President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
It requires you to believe that government is competent enough to plan and hide a conspiracy ,while you get to see everyday how competent they are in running the economy and schools.
Hindsight is always 20/20.


avatar Seth September 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Agreed… there is also a vast difference between having some intelligence about what might happen and having the agency to prevent it. People thrown around these illuminati type arguments as if every detail of our lives was being controlled by a small group of elite, but the exact opposite is true. Our government has far less power to prevent and control these events.

There wasn’t even a bomb, or a weapon, per se. How hard would it have been to smuggle in a couple of pairs of boxcutters through regional airports in Portland, Maine, or Newark in the pre-9-11 world?

I do realize that they had some prior intelligence about the type of attack that took place, and that some of the hijackers were under surveillance (if not the CIA payroll, as Richard Clarke recently speculated), but consider that they also had a strategy of flooding the airwaves with fake chatter about fake threats prior to attacks, which would have made it very difficult to separate the wheat from the chaffe and determine the who, what, when, where and why in a timely enough manner to micromanage thousands of flights a day in hundreds of airports — especially given the rather limited resources at their disposal in the pre-9-11 world.

This is not to say that the neoconservatives didn’t hit the lottery that day in terms of being able to exploit those attacks to further their agenda, but I find this conspiracy theory distasteful in general and a serious underestimation of the operational abilities of al-Qaeda at that time. They attacked us with our own infrastructure, and knew exactly where our weak spots were.


avatar Scott Pearce September 9, 2011 at 11:26 am

Thank you for your article.

I’m a 52 year-old attorney with a ruling class education, which apparently did not take too well.

I agree with you that the social dynamics of the JFK case and 911 are strikingly similar. As one with substantial experience in courtrooms, I suggest that those who are interested in the pursuit of truth focus on the physical evidence. You don’t have to be a lawyer to see that the President’s assassination wasn’t investigated with half the care given to your typical murdered inner city pimp. All of the key physical evidence was deliberately mishandled and ruined.

What the JFK and 911 cases suggest to me is that our world is run not by elected governments but by military intelligence agencies. What ‘we’ have been doing to other countries around the world for decades has been done to ‘us.’


I suggest the answer is pretty simple: money and power. Wealth is concentrated in so few hands because those who feel they own the world also feel free to run it to suit their own interests.

Peter Dale Scott is a thoughtful Canadian poet and diplomat who has written a series of political books that I find thought-provoking and useful. He has coined the phrase “Deep Politics” to describe the power dynamics that are exerting power and influence beneath the surface.

As for 911, it seems to me that a proper investigation, in which Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld – and the military – have to answer questions under oath in public is the only serious way to begin to get to the bottom of what happened that day.


avatar Seth September 9, 2011 at 2:14 pm

The best term I have heard to describe conspiracy theories is “cultural graffiti”. People may have a need to put their mark on something bigger than themselves in order to help themselves process it.

I wouldn’t equate 9-11 with JFK at all. There were legitimate pieces of evidence about JFK that lent themselves to further questioning past the official story. The truthers are more equivalent in my mind to those who doubt the moon landing. I have heard the arguments and find them illogical.


avatar Scott Pearce September 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Concentrate on the physical evidence.

In 911, there was melted steel in the basement of both twin towers – and it stayed hot for a very long time after the incident. This is a fact nobody denies.

How do you explain the melted steel in the basements?

To characterize this obvious evidence of controlled demolitions as the intellectual equivalent of denying the moon landing doesn’t seem fair to me.


avatar Seth September 9, 2011 at 4:59 pm

I’m no demolitions expert, but I think the evidence shows that the towers collapsed from the points of impact, and not from the bottom — after which point, half the building was in the basement.

Speaking of 9-11 and basements, one of my coworkers at the time was at a meeting at AMEX’s headquarters, directly across the street from the WTC, and just a couple of hundred feet from the towers. She said that once the 2nd plane hit, everyone was evacuated into the basement of the building, where they sat until the South Tower collapsed. I can’t even imagine being underground just a couple of hundred feet away as one of the towers collapsed. Described the sound was unimaginably loud and terrifying, and said that they had to exit through all the rubble, while the North Tower still burned and jumpers from it landed right in front of them. Unfathomable.


avatar RErickson September 10, 2011 at 4:56 am

Most of the time I hear comments that tend to lead one to think that 911 came out of the blue, so to speak. But there is a history behind it. Think of the first 911 in Chile in 1973 when the U.S. government used state terrorism to overthrow President Allende and place Pinochet in power for decades. No on in America talks about the victims of that terrorist act.

There are also the histories of the neo-conservatives and the islamists. Watch the BBC program, “The Power of Nightmares” about the similarities between the two. These are actual conspiracies. So just because something is a conspiracy theory doesn’t mean it is wrong.


avatar Tim September 13, 2011 at 11:11 am

I dunnow. When a bunch of people who are a lot smarter than I are adament that there’s no way WTC 7 could have collapsed the way it did, and ditto with the towers, and add to that the evidence of nanothermite in the basement, I certainly wonder. I mean, these people are architects, engineers, professors, some of whom have left or been forced from their jobs while pursuing this. You wouldn’t think they’d bother unless they were sure to their core.


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