What’s the Real 9-11 Conspiracy?

911Daily Breeze Wed. July 19, 2006

By Paul C. Campos

Recently I wrote a column that includ­ed an offhand comment about how I was pretty sure people who believed the u.s. government was behind the 9-11 terror attacks were pathetic lunatics living in basements whose Web sites got 10 hits per day. I’ve since heard from many such peo­ple, assuring me that they don’t live in base­ments, that they aren’t crazy and that their Web sites are very popular.

I was also encouraged to check out the “9-11 Truth” movement, for what I was assured was conclusive evidence of an unspeakably evil government plot. Having done so, I’ve discovered a number of inter­esting things.

First, the 9-11 Truth movement features

a wide variety of claims, ranging from the quite plausible (the government’s negligence prior to the attacks was not wholly displeas­ing to certain members of the Bush adminis­tration), to the wildly improbable (the WTC towers were brought down by controlled demolitions), to the certifiably insane.

The latter category includes claims that 9-11 was a plot to steal $160 billion in gold buried under the WTC (this theory is put forth in the film “Loose Change;’ which has purportedly sold 100,000 DVD copies); that no airplanes hit the towers (the theory here involves sophisticated holographic imaging equipment); and that the passengers sup­posedly killed on the four flights hijacked that day were all herded onto United Airlines

Flight 93, which landed safely in Cleveland before the passengers were transferred to a top-secret NASA facility.

If you’re curious, you can also find plenty of stuff about how it was all really the work of Satanists, or an elite secret society that was set up several thousand years ago by space aliens. (A morbidly amusing sidelight to the 9-11 Truth movement is that many of its members have become convinced that other members are either unwitting dupes or con­scious agents of the government, who are propagating obviously outlandish theories for the purpose of discrediting the move­ment as a whole.)

Anyway, in a couple of respects my com­ment was c1earlywrong: 9-11 conspiracy theories have gained quite a bit of cul­tural traction, and they’ve garnered a num­ber of at least superficially respectable advo­cates. (This group includes people like Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant treasury sec~ retary and Wall Street Journal associate ed i­tor; Brigham Young University physics pro­fessor Steven Jones; and Morgan Reynolds, former chief economist for the Department of Labor.)

Indeed, the most noteworthy aspect of the movement is its almost-complete invisibil­ity in the mainstream media. For example, my own ignorance can be explained by such facts as that, as far as I could discover, The New York Times has run exactly one story that even mentions the movement’s central claim: that the tower s were brought down bycontrolled demolition. (The story immedi­ately dismissed this as absurd.)

Which leads me to suggest a little theory of my own: Suppose that on Sept. 11, 2001, AI Gore had been president. And suppose that from the first days of the Gore administration plans had been drawn up to invade Iraq. My guess is that, within a few months, some of the less obviously crazy 9-11 Truth types would have found a forum for their theories on The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. The more unhinged advocates would start popping up on Fox News specials with titles such as “9-11: What Really Happened?”  In the blogosphere, academics like Glenn ” Reynolds would post chin-scratching rumi­nations, demanding a “truly independent investigation of these troubling charges;’ which would in turn inspire demagogues of the Michelle Ma1Idn variety to screech non­stop about “the biggest cover-up in American history:1

All this would bully journalists into writ­ing “balancedl’ stories about even the nut­tiest allegations, in an attempt to counter right-wing charges regarding how “lib­eral media bias” was keeping such allega­tions from getting the serious attention they deserved. And, eventually, 38 percent of the public would believe AI Gore blew up the World Trade Center. How’s that for a con­spiracy theory?

Paul C. Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado, wrote this column for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is Paul.Campos@Co1orado.edu.