9/11 Truth: Analysis and Critique
I argue that while the 9/11 Truth Movement has had many successes and innovations, it has also been limited by it's sole purpose being the propagation of a narrative. The goals, strategy, and tactics of our activism should be seriously reconceptualized. The prevailing culture of the Truth Movement has become insular and needs to branch out into other revolutionary traditions which are already well established and have their own unique dialogues. I suggest that our activism should be reconceived as strictly a media movement rather than being the revolution itself so long as our sole goal is to spread information, and that Truth activists should participate in workshops for Non-Violent Direct Action.
My name is Vincent and I’ve been an active participant and organizer within the Tampa chapter of the Truth Movement since the fall of 2006. I write this on the weekend after the seventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks of 2001.
Before I say anything, I want to make it clear that 9/11 Truth has been an incredibly transformative force in my life, and that nothing can shake my doubt and criticisms of the official story nor my desire to seek justice for the true perpetrators of those murders.
Recently I have begun to reevaluate the strategy, tactics, and purpose of the Truth Movement. I feel obligated to share my analysis and critique with my fellow truth seekers, so that we can have an open dialogue about the future of our movement.
Part 1: The Truth Movement
First I want to pose a question: what is our purpose? What is our goal and how do we plan to achieve it? The most common answer, I think, would be “Truth and Justice.” To seek and spread the truth about 9/11 to everyone, free the minds of the apathetic, catalyze the masses, and finally hold accountable everybody responsible for this terrible crime, thus transforming our country and planet into a truly free society. Lofty, I know. But what else could one desire once faced with the awful truth?!
While passing out fliers for Loose Change: Final Cut this last Thursday, a young man on my campus said to me, “I saw the film, and I think there’s a lot to it. But it CAN’T be true!” I asked him why. “Because if it were true, it means that we’d have to burn down Washington, the economy would crash, and California would sink into the ocean!” While his response was meant to be humorous hyperbole, it reflects actual concerns that people are faced with once they accept the possibility that our own government orchestrated 9/11; that we are now morally obligated to revolt, and that revolution is the inevitable consequence of that truth being revealed.
We who consider ourselves “Truthers” have had to grapple with this overwhelming fact and all the terribly frightening thoughts that accompany its realization. But back to my original question, how have we been trying to achieve our goals. So far the short term goal has been to propagate the narrative of 9/11 Truth. In some ways we have had great success, and in others we have had considerable shortcomings.
Our successes include making the narrative of 9/11 Truth a significant part of popular culture and the common political dialogue. Despite the fact that the Truth Movement has been portrayed as fringe in the mainstream media, a huge percentage of Americans accept the premises of our narrative or at least doubt the official story, even if those people don’t participate in any sort of activism.
We have propagated our narrative through diverse and innovative tactics. Activist-generated media such as documentaries, YouTube clips (which are often, and rightly, the subject of much parody and ridicule), and anti-copyrighted material are all the hallmarks of our activism. The massive, decentralized production of DVD’s for $0.30 each, distributed for free, reflects our ability to create our own media environment and demonstrates a model for media distribution which other movements can and should adopt. “Truth Squads” have encouraged the traditions of actively engaging the average person in radical political dialogue, and confronting government criminals in public.
Our shortcomings, however, have also determined the character of the widely accepted version of our narrative and the current culture of the Truth Movement. What is commonly referred to as “The Rabbit Hole Effect” has validated the mainstream media’s portrayal of Truthers as “wacky conspiracy theorists.” Along with the notions of the New World Order come a preexisting culture of right-wing extremism, racist and xenophobic nationalism, and a tendency to accept almost any conspiracy theory which is presented to one who has been “woken up”. This is especially prevalent in the core groups of 9/11 organizers, and unfortunately this is the culture which newcomers are often immediately introduced to when they come to local 9/11 meetings.
Chemtrails, mind control, Masonic and Illuminist cults, secret technology, and bio-pharmaceutical warfare – while each of these subjects is based on some truth to varying degrees, the incessant desire to “seek the Truth” (with a capital “T”) seems to progressively lower the standards of evidence and the ability to think critically and rationally for those who are doing the seeking. In our search to find an overarching explanation of the ways of the world, we tumble down the rabbit hole into the ever more obscure and fanatical culture of conspiracy until eventually we know way more about the shape-shifting, blood drinking reptilians who are really in control of The Matrix than is useful or reasonable.
This all comes back around to the issue of narrative. Probably the most fascinating aspect of the Truth Movement is diversity and depth of the narrative. The narrative is diverse with respect to things like LiHOP and MiHOP, planes or no-planes, thermite or directed energy weapons. The narrative is deep with respect to the question of ‘how deep does the conspiracy go?’ Who really knew everything that was going on? How does “waking up” relate to the spiritual realm? Is there actually a shadowy group of men planning the New World Order or is this simply the end result of the global corporate capitalist system? This diversity and depth is a result of the fact that the primary purpose and activity of the Truth Movement is the generation and propagation of a narrative.
Now I feel that I’ve established the context in which I can effectively communicate what I feel is the greatest shortcoming of the 9/11 Truth Movement: The sole goal of our activism is to convert people to our narrative (to “wake them up”) and encourage them to convert others. Beyond that, there may be the occasional confrontation of a government official, or the lobbying (begging) of so-called elected representatives, but nothing which comes close to the kind of direct action needed for the revolution which we all felt was so inevitable and necessary. When a person comes to our meetings, they are given all the facts of the narrative, as well as all the materials needed for spreading our message. They are invited to our sign-wavings and our film screenings. The entire culture of our activism thus becomes insular and narcissistic. The only thing of concern is the narrative, spreading it and defending it, even against itself (or some unacceptable version of it). Any notion of participating in other struggles, or learning about other movements past and present is either dismissed or discouraged. After all, what could be more important that exposing the truth about 9/11, right?
One of the unique things about the 9/11 Truth Movement, and what I feel is its greatest potential is that it is comprised largely of affluent, white, middle to upper-class American males who have become nearly completely disaffected from the establishment. These are the most privileged people in the entire world, and they want to fight globalization despite the fact that they are the ones who directly benefit the most from it (in terms of consumer goods and privilege)! Most Truthers have no experience in activism. They have no knowledge of the history of struggles for liberation of various people around the world throughout history, aside perhaps from a romanticized version of the white male “Founding Fathers” struggle against the white male rulers of the British Empire.
If there is anything that I want the reader to take away from this essay is this: There was already a movement fighting the New World Order long before 9/11 even occurred. It was called the Anti-Globalization movement. The various struggles against oppression have been long and diverse and the only way that we can be effective in our revolution is if we learn about them and join them. The Truth Movement likes to pretend that it has started the revolution, and because of that it has spent most of its incarnation reinventing the wheel of organized resistance. There already exists a depth of knowledge and experience so vast and wise that once you have “woken up” the only thing you should be doing is learning how to resist. Learn the history of tactics. Learn the history of the various ideologies of resistance. Learn the successes and failures of other struggles and movements.
There is a quote from George Orwell, “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” This notion that simply knowing the truth and talking about it is, in itself, a revolutionary act seems to justify the limited action of Truth activists. “There’s a war on for your mind! If you’re thinking, you’re winning!” Alex Jones tells us. To a degree these ideas are true. But if your dissent and dissatisfaction don’t materialize into physical resistance and disruption of the system, then the revolution is all in your head.
Truthers universally bitch about surveillance cameras, but how many of us are willing to actually take the responsibility onto ourselves to remove them without asking permission of the corrupt authorities who put them there? How many of us are willing to take direct action to disrupt the construction of the NAFTA Superhighway? We like to cry about our fellow white males being tasered or having their “rights” (read “privileges”) violated, but do we ever stop to realize that poverty-stricken black communities deal with police brutality and harassment on a daily basis? Do we ever stop and analyze how we ourselves participate in repressive authoritarian power structures? If we aren’t willing to analyze and alter the oppressive microcosms of our daily lives, how can we expect to have any meaningful effect on society at large?
The pitfalls of our conspiracy based narrative are twofold. First, it pushes the responsibility for oppression onto a small and intangible group of mysterious people (or reptiles) rather than onto our own relationships and interactions with other people, animals, plants, and social systems. Second, it disempowers the individual activist. Not only are the mechanisms of oppression far off, monolithic, and overwhelming, thus unable to be challenged by the average person, but it attributes far more power to the oppressors than they actually have. The results of these pitfalls can be seen in the Truth Movement’s reaction to protests at the DNC and RNC over the past few weeks.
Part 2: Other Movements
In Denver and St. Paul the culture descended from the Anti-Globalization Movement of the late 90’s, as well as the most recent incarnation of the peaceful Anti-War Movement mounted a series of protests and actions during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. The cities were provided $50 million each for security so that a heavily militarized police force could engage in violent suppression of non-sanctioned activity and an unprecedented attack on journalists from both the alternative and mainstream media.
When I showed a fellow core organizer from my Tampa 9/11 Truth chapter a video of police throwing concussion grenades and shooting rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd of protesters she pointed to a protestor with a bandana over their face and remarked, “So that guy in the mask is probably a cop, right?” “No,” I replied. “That’s just an anarchist.”
I found it unfortunate that - as a result of the insular nature of 9/11 Truth related media - none of the dozen Truthers I was with that day had any idea that street battles had been taking place in Denver and St. Paul for the past two weeks. But even more disheartening was the incessant notion that any and all people who were taking part in direct actions, or covering their faces were either provocateurs, agents, or “not real protestors.” Jason Burmas, covering for Alex Jones on his daily radio show remarked how successfully Truthers (the “real protestors”) had taken over a live MSNBC broadcast, and how those who were sitting down, blocking the streets, were doing nothing constructive at all. The Truthers showed all the other activists how to do a “real protest” according to Burmas.
Built into the DNA of the Truth Movement is the idea that governments stage attacks on their own people to justify using violence against their enemies. Of course this also translates to using provocateurs in protests to justify police violence. Because of this the Truth Movement has always been dedicated to peaceful activism. And that’s a great thing! Heightened awareness of provocateurs has even led to the outing of three police dressed as anarchists in Montebello during an SPP protest. We’re onto their game!
Along with this mindset, though, comes a complete dismissal of any dialogue about militant direct action as well as the discouragement and down right repression of resistance beyond the symbolic protest or propagation of the narrative. Embracing a diversity of tactics is not possible in the atmosphere of paranoia and an unrealistic romanticization of pacifism a la Gandhi or Dr. King.
What made Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. successful revolutionaries in spite of their pacifism was their militancy. When the police told them to disperse, they didn’t. They were willing to take risks, to put their bodies on the line and suffer the blows of the truncheon because the alternative of allowing their oppression to continue was even more intolerable. Today’s protestors, for the most part, are not willing to take these risks. Our comfort and privilege depends on that oppression and so we are not as motivated to destroy it. Why should those in power be afraid of us if we are so ready to obey police orders? Why even bother sending police when the peaceful protestors are more than willing to protect corporate property from damage by militant radicals, yet are unwilling to intervene when they see a police officer brutalizing or arresting another protestor?
My point is that this is an ongoing dialogue that is taking place in revolutionary circles. Some people are fed up with waving signs and feel that there is an urgent need for more effective tactics which quite frankly may take people outside of their comfort zone and require them to take bigger risks. Some people feel there is an urgent need to elect representatives who will protect our civil liberties, or to run for office themselves. Quite frankly we need it all. We need people in political office, and we need people in the streets performing direct actions. We can’t have a revolution without it all and that is what is meant by “diversity of tactics.”
I think it’s awesome that the Truthers hijacked Chris Matthews’ show! We need that. But when I hear Truthers label all anarchists as COINTELPRO puppets, or “not real protestors” I realize that the 9/11 Truth Movement has become a dead end. It’s true that the FBI often implants moles or provocateurs in radical activist groups, but do you know what an even more effective tactic of theirs is? Once they get an agent in a group they start a witch hunt for agents! By undermining the trust and solidarity of a group and replacing them with paranoia and schism they are able to totally disrupt that group. Quite frankly, the police will find any excuse they can to beat protestors. Provocateurs are not needed, and the fear of justifying police violence shouldn’t even be an issue because theirs is the violence of oppression and cannot be justified.
Us Truthers need to branch out. Memorizing endless facts about the construction of steel buildings shouldn’t take precedence over participation in the dialogues of other revolutionary traditions. If you are concerned about moles and provocateurs, learn about “security culture.” If you want to stop the NAU and the NAFTA Superhighway, try to hook up with other groups who feel the same way, like Latin American liberation movements. Immigrants are not the enemy, they are an oppressed people who come to America because this is where their natural resources are being taken! Laborers have power, and we should work in solidarity with them. Our strength is in our humanity, and by forming relationships and human networks we can bring down the New World Order!
9/11 activists are inherently naïve to the existing culture of revolution, and our first and foremost duty should be to familiarize ourselves with it. Like the young man I spoke to on campus that day, we all realize the implications of 9/11 Truth. We recognize that the current oppression and genocide of global corporatism is intolerable and must be stopped at any and all costs. We recognize that revolution is necessary and inevitable.
The revolution requires the gamut of tactics and the participation of a wide range of diverse groups and ideologies. But if we have no vision, no direction, no purpose beyond “spreading the Truth” (propagating a narrative) then the Truth Movement has no future. If we alienate ourselves from those who should be our greatest allies then what hope do we have? Perhaps we should begin to organize workshops on Non-Violent Direct Action as well as Security Culture.
I propose that we reconceptualize the Truth Movement and it’s purpose as that of radical media. This won’t require any major shift in the organization or activities of the movement since that is pretty much all it does right now anyways. But by re-orienting our strategies and goals we can avoid our fate as a dead end movement. By embracing the pre-existing diverse culture of revolution and propagating their messages and narratives along side our own we can act in solidarity with our fellow freedom fighters and allow them the benefit of our successes and innovations.
I also feel that 9/11 activists should challenge the prevailing ideologies of right-wing nationalism within the movement. Strict constitutionalism should not be seen as the only alternative to global corporatism, and the romanticizing of the Founding Fathers should not take precedence over the recognition of the authoritarian, racist, and genocidal government which they created. We should actively seek out new and diverse ideologies of resistance, especially those relating to the oppression of people of color and the inherently repressive nature of hierarchical power structures. We should not demonize illegal immigrants, who are themselves victims of global corporatism and constant terrorization by a militarized immigration bureau, but rather work with them to create justice for everybody. We need to adopt a culture and ideology of resistance along side our narrative of 9/11 Truth.
Finally, I feel that Truth activists need to develop a more mature and practical analysis of power. Identifying oppressive and authoritarian relationships in our own social interactions is the first step to dismantling oppressive authority in the larger society. Blaming everything on a shadowy group of conspirators is impractical, and attributing these people more power than they really have makes us believe that we don’t have the power to stop them.
I’m sure I’ve upset a great deal of people by writing these things and I’m sure a few are already accusing me of being an agent. But I feel that all this needed to be said, and that the Truth Movement should take a serious reexamination of its goals and strategies. Hopefully this essay will ignite dialogue and catalyze participation in other struggles.