CHICAGO, June 4 — In the ballroom foyer of the Embassy Suites Hotel, the two-day International Education and Strategy Conference for 9/11 Truth was off to a rollicking start.
In Salon Four, there was a presentation under way on the attack in Oklahoma City, while in the room next door, the splintered factions of the movement were asked — for sake of unity — to seek a common goal.
In the foyer, there were stick-pins for sale ("More gin, less Rummy"), and in the lecture halls discussions of the melting point of steel. "It's all documented," people said. Or: "The mass media is mass deception." Or, as strangers from the Internet shook hands: "Great to meet you. Love the work."
Such was the coming-out for the movement known as "9/11 Truth," a society of skeptics and scientists who believe the government was complicit in the terrorist attacks. In colleges and chat rooms on the Internet, this band of disbelievers has been trying for years to prove that 9/11 was an inside job.
|The use of "society of skeptics", while sounding respectful, serves to reinforce the idea at the core of the primary strategy for dismissing challenges to the official story: that the people behind those challenges are part of a group with fundamental things in common. Once identified as a group, attackers need only highlight one of the many absurd claims advanced by any of a number of speakers at the Chicago Conference. Two examples are Morgan Reynolds' denial that evidence shows that jetliners hit the Towers, and Loose Change's insistence that no 757 hit the Pentagon.|
Whatever one thinks of the claim that the state would plan, then execute, a scheme to murder thousands of its own, there was something to the fact that more than 500 people — from Italy to Northern California — gathered for the weekend at a major chain hotel near the runways of O'Hare International. It was, in tone, half trade show, half political convention. There were talks on the Reichstag fire and the sinking of the Battleship Maine as precedents for 9/11. There were speeches by the lawyer for James Earl Ray, who claimed that a military conspiracy killed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and by a former operative for the British secret service, MI5.
|Because of scant coverage by outlets like the New York Times, few people are aware that in 1999, a jury awarded Coretta Scott King $100 for funeral expenses in a wrongful death lawsuit against Loyd Jowers and "other unknown co-conspirators". The jury found that "governmental agencies were parties" to the assassination plot. Respected international attorney William F. Pepper, who had marched with King for civil rights and to end the Vietnam war, proved direct complicity in King's murder by the Memphis police, the FBI, the CIA, and the 111th Military Intelligence Group.|
"We feel at this point we've done a lot of solid research, but the American public still is not informed," said Michael Berger, press director for 911Truth.org, which sponsored the event. "We had to come up with a disciplined approach to get it out."
|The "disciplined approach" included featuring the producers of Loose Change -- a film riddled with errors -- and Rick Siegel -- whose film, 9/11 Eyewitness, promotes the idea that helicopters destroyed the Twin Towers.|
Mr. Berger, 40, is typical of 9/11 Truthers — a group that, in its rank and file, includes professors, chain-saw operators, mothers, engineers, activists, used-book sellers, pizza deliverymen, college students, a former fringe candidate for United States Senate and a long-haired fellow named hummux (pronounced who-mook) who, on and off, lived in a cave for 15 years.
|I've known Hummux for two years -- as a competent sound and video technician. I didn't know that he had lived in a cave, but the New York Times managed to find and report this important detail. Amongst the lumberjacks, pizzamen, cavemen, and fringe candidates, the titles of professor and engineer lose something.|
The former owner of a recycling plant outside St. Louis, Mr. Berger joined the movement when he grew skeptical of why the 9/11 Commission had failed, to his sense of sufficiency, to answer how the building at 7 World Trade Center collapsed like a ton of bricks. It was his "9/11 trigger," the incident that drew him in, he said. For others, it might be the fact that the air-defense network did not prevent the attacks that day, or the appearance of thousands of "puts" — or short-sell bids — on the nation's airline stocks. (The 9/11 Commission found the sales innocuous.)
Here is the
Report's passage on the stock trades:
Highly publicized allegations of insider trading in advance of 9/11 generally rest on reports of unusual pre-9/11 trading activity in companies whose stock plummeted after the attacks. Some unusual trading did in fact occur, but each such trade proved to have an innocuous explanation. For example, the volume of put options--investments that pay off only when a stock drops in price--surged in the parent companies of United Airlines on September 6 and American Airlines on September 10--highly suspicious trading on its face. Yet, further investigation has revealed that the trading had no connection with 9/11. A single U.S.-based institutional investor with no conceivable ties to al Qaeda purchased 95 percent of the UAL puts on September 6 as part of a trading strategy that also included buying 115,000 shares of American on September 10. Similarly, much of the seemingly suspicious trading in American on September 10 was traced to a specific U.S.-based options trading newsletter, faxed to its subscribers on Sunday, September 9, which recommended these trades. These examples typify the evidence examined by the investigation. The SEC and the FBI, aided by other agencies and the securities industry, devoted enormous resources to investigating this issue, including securing the cooperation of many foreign governments. These investigators have found that the apparently suspicious consistently proved innocuous. Joseph Cella interview (Sept. 16, 2003; May 7, 2004; May 10-11, 2004); FBI briefing (Aug. 15, 2003); SEC memo, Division of Enforcement to SEC Chair and Commissioners, "Pre-September 11, 2001 Trading Review," May 15, 2002; Ken Breen interview (Apr. 23, 2004); Ed G. interview (Feb. 3, 2004).Note the circular logic of this explanation. Because the Commission traced most of the purchases to a US investor with "no conceivable ties to al Qaeda", it concluded that the trades were "innocuous". It pre-supposes the very conclusion that the put options undermine: that the attack was the work of and known only to al Qaeda.
None of the other assertions of this passage have sufficient detail to support the contention that the trades were "innocuous". Were the shares of American that the investor bought on 9/10 of comparable value to the puts purchased on 9/6? What was the content of the newspaper faxed on 9/9, and who was it faxed to?
Such "red flags," as they are sometimes called, were the meat and potatoes of the keynote speech on Friday night by Alex Jones, who is the William Jennings Bryan of the 9/11 band. Mr. Jones, a syndicated radio host, is known for his larynx-tearing screeds against corruption — fiery, almost preacherly, addresses in which he sweats, balls his fists and often swerves from quoting Roman history to using foul language in a single breath.
|Here, Feuer anoints Jones as the leader of the "9/11 band", so that the whole "society" can be wrapped up in a single package.|
At the lectern Friday night, beside a digital projection reading "History of Government Sponsored Terrorism," Mr. Jones set forth the central tenets of 9/11 Truth: that the military command that monitors aircraft "stood down" on the day of the attacks; that President Bush addressed children in a Florida classroom instead of being whisked off to the White House; that the hijackers, despite what the authorities say, were trained at American military bases; and that the towers did not collapse because of burning fuel and weakened steel but because of a "controlled demolition" caused by pre-set bombs.
|Although Building 7 is mentioned above, Feuer does not inform the reader that it was a skyscraper on a separate block from the Twin Towers. Building 7 is not mentioned in this summary of "central tenets" set forth by Alex Jones, even though it's one of Jones' central points.|
According to the group's Web site, the motive for faking a terrorist attack was to allow the administration "to instantly implement policies its members have long supported, but which were otherwise infeasible."
|911truth.org describes the attack as an inside job and a false flag operation but does not use the language that it was "faked". Feuer's use of that language taps into a stereotype, cultivated by the 'no-planes' theories, that the "9/11 band" are obsessed with their theories but are callous toward the victims of the attack.|
The controlled-demolition theory is the sine qua non of the 9/11 movement — its basic claim and, in some sense, the one upon which all others rest. It is, of course, directly contradicted by the 10,000-page investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which held that jet-fuel fires distressed the towers' structure, which eventually collapsed.
Feuer is attempting to make the 911 Truth Movement into a one-trick pony.
Many of the most important investigators --
who have amassed mountains of compelling evidence that Feuer ignores --
do not endorse the demolition theory:
Nafeez Ahmed, and
to name a few.
Nor is it true that other challenges to the official story rest on the demolition theory. How many of the anomalies in the official story listed here depend on the demolition theory?
The movement's answer to that report was written by Steven E. Jones, a professor of physics at Brigham Young University and the movement's expert in the matter of collapse. Dr. Jones, unlike Alex Jones, is a soft-spoken man who lets his writing do the talking. He composed an account of the destruction of the towers ( www.physics.byu.edu/research/energy/htm7.html ) that holds that "pre-positioned cutter-charges" brought the buildings down.
|Jones' paper wasn't written as an answer to the NIST report. My Building a Better Mirage essay is a detailed critique of that report, and is one of the first results returned by searching Google using nist coverup. Feuer implies that Jones' paper is primarily about a theory of "pre-positioned cutter-charges", when in reality it is a set of observations and arguments exposing contradictions in the official theory.|
Like a prior generation of skeptics — those who doubted, say, the Warren Commission or the government's account of the Gulf of Tonkin attack — the 9/11 Truthers are dogged, at home and in the office, by friends and family who suspect that they may, in fact, be completely nuts.
"Elvis and Area 51 — we're sort of lumped together," said Harlan Dietrich, a recent college graduate from Austin, Tex. "It's attack the messenger, not the message every time."
|And one needs only watch Loose Change and look at how some of the organizers and speakers of the conference uncritically promote the film to understand why this marginalization is so pervasive.|
To get the message out, the movement has gone beyond bumper stickers and "Kumbaya" into political action.
There is a plan, Mr. Berger said, to create a fund to support candidates on a 9/11 platform. There is a plan to create a network of college campus groups. There is a plan by the British delegation (such as it is, so far) to get members of Parliament to watch "Loose Change," the seminal movement DVD.
|Getting members of Parliament to watch Loose Change would be a great way of reinforcing the idea that these skeptics are, in fact, completely nuts.|
It would even seem the Truthers are not alone in believing the whole truth has not come out. A poll released last month by Zogby International found that 42 percent of all Americans believe the 9/11 Commission "concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence" in the attacks. This is in addition to the Zogby poll two years ago that found that 49 percent of New York City residents agreed with the idea that some leaders "knew in advance" that the attacks were planned and failed to act.
Beneath the weekend's screenings and symposiums on geopolitics and mass-hypnotic trance lies a tradition of questioning concentrated power, both in public and in private hands, said Mark Fenster, a law professor at the University of Florida and author of "Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture."
|Did Feuer intend "mass-hypnotic trance" to supply different meanings to different audiences: the trance of media propaganda to the "truthers" and the trance of conspiracy theories to the mainstream?|
As for the 9/11 Truthers, they were confident enough that their theories made sense that on Friday, as a kickoff to the conference, they met in Daley Plaza for a rally (though some called it Dealey Plaza). They marched up Kinzle Street to the local affiliate of NBC where, at the plate glass windows, they chanted, "Talking heads tell lies," as the news was being read.
|In this condescending paragraph, Feuer implies that it is not just their family members who suspect that the 911 "truthers" are a little nuts, but also the truthers themselves. Feuer suggests that they finally summoned the courage of their convictions to go out into the bright light of day to face public scrutiny, but even then could only engage in ineffectual chanting that went unheard through a plate glass window.|
"I hope you don't end up dead somewhere," a companion said to a participant, hours earlier as he dropped him at the Loop. "Don't worry," the participant said. "There's too many of us for that."
|Feuer ends on a disparaging note. The 911 Truth Movement has been alternately ignored, distorted and disparaged, but no violent retaliatory measures have been taken against any of its members. Feur tries to establish the paranoid craziness of the group by suggesting that, despite the bland indifference with which they have been met, these nutty campaigners entertain fears of being knocked off because of the frisson it gives them to imagine themselves playing cloak and dagger with the "real forces" behind 911.|