French Newspaper Liberation Covers the 9/11 Truth Movement
"September 11th, 2001: The Religion of Conspiracy"
A translation of "La Religion du complot" by Laurent Mauriac
Published Friday, September 8th, 2006 in Liberation
[rough-and-ready translation by Kevin Barrett, http://mujca.com]
September 11th was a coup d'etat. That is what the large poster leaning against the wall says. It is also what these one hundred New Yorkers think, as they gather on September 3, in front of the poster, in an East Village auditorium. Some wear buttons reading "Investigate 9/11", others "Expose the fraud".
As on every Sunday evening, the group New York 9/11 Truth is holding an informational meeting. On the program are extracts from the next version of the documentary Loose Change, which has garnered millions of spectators on the Internet since spring 2005.
The arguments, already known to all, are re-sifted in new testimony by experts and independent journalists. Thus, it was not an airliner that smashed into the Pentagon (not enough debris, a virtually intact lawn, and too narrow a breach in the wall); it was not the melting of the steel that caused the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers (their structure was too formidable for that) but a controlled demolition by explosives placed in the buildings. Conclusion: the American government (or an entity controlling it) conspired to organize the attacks of September 11 and to thus justify its operations in the Middle East.
"To educate people"
Now, five years after the drama, as the United States prepares to commemorate the attacks, the conspiracist movement has mushroomed with the multiplication of websites, books, films and conferences. "It has really taken off recently," explains Janice Matthews, director of 911truth.org, the principal national organization questioning the official version. "We try to keep pace with our own success." According to a survey carried out in July by Scripps Survey Research Center, a research center of the university of Ohio, 36 % of Americans think that it is "somewhat probable" or "very probable" that the government took part in the attacks or authorized them. But these results drop when those polled are confronted with the conspiracist versions of events. No more than 16 % think explosives, and not the planes and fire, caused the collapse of the two World Trade Center Towers.
The East Village meeting also has on its agenda the program of the September 8th to 12th mobilization. A "peaceful" demonstration at Ground Zero, the scene of the drama, is proposed. There is debate. The meeting ends in confusion. A participant tries to convince the audience that it is necessary to go to Ground Zero on the 10th, "when Bush is there," and not on the 11th. A young activist seeks to convince the participants to take to the street "to inform and educate people." A score of them end up agreeing. They slip on tee-shirts on which one can read: "The real conspiracy theory is the government's version." Then they go up 11th Avenue distributing their leaflets.
This disorderly, swelling procession is the image of the movement. Initiatives abound just like the theories and the Web sites promoting them. "It is a grass-roots phenomenon, people launching do-it-yourself projects," explains Nicholas Levis, 41 years, a New York activist who works as a translator in his spare time. "We lack organization, which is both a strength and a weakness." He himself finds that documentary Loose Change does not present the facts, but recognizes that it has played a decisive part in the movement.
"At the beginning, it was a fictional film about people discovering the truth," says Korey Rowe, the 23 year-old producer of film. "But, as we went along, we discovered more and more evidence until finally it became overwhelming. We had no choice but to make a documentary." (Co-director) Korey Rowe had been in the army and served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Dylan Avery, the 22-year-old director of film, was then a waiter with Red Lobster, a restaurant chain. The budget of documentary was minuscule: 2 000 dollars for the first version, created on a laptop. Released on the Internet in April 2005, the film has spread at a phenomenal speed. Korey Rowe estimates that more than 75 million people have seen it. "For every DVD sold, we distribute three of them free and 20 people see it on the Internet," he explains.
It is in American universities that the documentary has excited the most interest, thanks to students spreading the word. Director of Scripps Survey Research Center Guido Stempel estimates that "the success of these theories is related to increasing mistrust with respect to the Bush government, its lack of credibility and its penchant for secrecy."
That is also one of the arguments most often used by the activists: "Why should we believe the government about this when it lies about everything else?" asks (Les) Jamieson, coordinator of New York 9/11 Truth, at the end of the meeting in the East Village. The conspiracists all remember their "turning point," the conference or reading that led them to join the movement.
"Once that you believe in it, there's no going back, you devote your life to it" says Janette MacKinlay, a 58 year old artist. She lived across from the Twin Towers at the time of the attacks and regards herself as "a survivor." She started to doubt in August 2004, at a meeting in San Francisco, by listening to two Members of the 9/11 Commission, created to shed light on the attacks. "They did not answer any questions. I had the impression it was a cover-up." Se then read a book by David Ray Griffin, a theologian considered as a reference by the conspiracist movement, and "informed herself." Since then, she is the one who has been organizing conferences. "I am a patriot," she says. "I am trying to fight this policy of fear they're subjecting us to."
Kevin Barrett, for his part, describes himself as "a skeptic with respect to the official versions of the great historical events." But this academic specialist in Islam did not take the plunge immediately: "There was initially an emotional effect. People were not able to react rationally." His turning point also came after reading, then passing extensive time on the Internet. "It is the base of communication between people who share information about September 11," he explains.
The principal national organization, 911truth.org, has no name other than its internet address. It links groups in 38 States, survives on individual gifts and pays a salary to its director, 45 year old Janice Matthews, an unmarried mother of six children living in Kansas City.
Another notable organization, Scholars for 9/11 Truth aims at giving academic respectability to the movement by publishing a review on the web. "The goal is to organize researchers," explains Kevin Barrett, one of its members.
"Historically, conspiracy theorists are often people who have succeeded in university careers," observes Mark Fenster, co-author of a book on conspiracy theories (1). Kevin Barrett is today in the center of a polemic because of a course on Islam he teaches at the university of Wisconsin. Steve Nass, a Republican representative, demanded his firing due to his ideas about September 11th. The university administration decided not to buckle.
Mark Fenster distinguishes two categories of conspiracy theorists: "There is a core group persuaded that Bush knew. And there is a much larger segment of the American public that thinks the government has not told the whole truth, and is expressing its dissatisfaction. But they do not necessarily buy into all of the alternative versions." According to him, the dispute about September 11th is part of a tradition of questioning the great historical events in the United States, beginning with the Kennedy assassination.