The conspiracy conspiracy?

Why hasn't the footage of the planes hitting the Pentagon been released, more than eight years after 9/11? It's not because the conspiracy theories are true, argues Murray Goulden, but because many of those in the corridors of power are happy for us to believe in them.

Politics - Posted on Wednesday, August 12, 2009 23:46 - 9 Comments


conspiracy-theory-6Murray Goulden

Away from the gaze of mainstream media and politics, there is a vibrant, growing subculture which holds both institutions responsible for the most heinous acts of brutality and deceit. It is political movement that, in size, dwarfs anything that might traditionally be labelled ‘radical’. The numbers in its ranks are impossible to know, but the youtube videos through which it channels its messages receive hits in the millions, as do the multitude of websites around which it is organised. The level of popular acceptance of some of its key tenets are known however, and they are striking. An Ohio University poll in 2006 found that a third of American’s believed the events of 9/11 were in some way abetted by the federal government, about the same percentage of American’s that voted Bush in for his second term two years earlier. Amongst young adults polled, those believing the official account of what happened on 11th September 2001 were actually in the minority. The ‘Truther’ movement, as they call themselves, is an elephant in the halls of power; a mainstream radical movement.

For those who are used to occupying the fringes of political thought, these are astonishing figures. Truther’s do not limit themselves solely to the events of one day in September either; under the New World Order (NWO) mantle they have assembled a dense scaffold of conspiracies encompassing all the major events of modern history, the current economic troubles included. The mainstream media’s unwillingness to report this phenomenon is perhaps understandable. Their discomfort in dealing with Truther groups should be no surprise, for Truthers hold dear assumptions that deny the media establishment its legitimacy. The reliance of the media on ‘official’ sources of information – politicians; security services; lobbyists; PR spokespersons – all are, by definition, rendered suspect by conspiracists. The media organisations themselves are too a part of this self-serving elite whose interest is not in justice or truth, but merely the promotion of the status quo.

In this, the Truther movement has much in common with other radical political movements, yet the radical should be careful of celebrating the success of it. Whenever one stops to consider the apparently concrete walls between the concepts by which we order society, one quickly finds the immutable to be nothing more solid than sand. Such is the case when separating the different systems thorough which we create, and act upon, knowledge. A religious church can quickly become a political movement; a political idea rapidly transformed into a scientific fact. Watching celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins, haranguing a Christian with fevered conviction as only a man witness to the One Truth can, one quickly beings to question who amongst the participants is the man of reason, and who the religious fanatic.

The appearance of the Truther cause as a political movement is similarly fluid. At the heart of all Truther accounts is, it seems, an overarching, invisible, omnipotent elite, engineering building collapses as easily as they engineer global economic collapse (of which they are also accused). These superhuman individuals appear to be gods in all but name. Truther’s readily engage in scientific analyses of the events of 9/11, yet such is the power and reach of the controlling elites, that any evidence contradictory to the Truther can be dismissed as lies, its proponents mere pawns of the powerful. In light of these characteristics, the Truther movements appears more as a secular, scientific religion.

We live in a time when mainstream political ideology encompasses nothing more inspirational than ‘triangulation’ and the race for the middle ground. Radical politics, meanwhile, is hamstrung by the complexities demanded by the numerous challenges it finds itself in opposition against. The difficulty of extracting a coherent message from the many actors which made up the recent G20 protests attests to this. The Truther movement is different however. The young, angry and inquisitive are easily drawn to revolutionary political movements, but here there is no abstract, nebulous ‘system’ tackle; no ghost to try and hurl one’s self against. Here, the bad guys are easily identifiable, for the secrecy in which they operate is paradoxically no barrier to their unmasking, whether it be the Bilderberg Group, Illuminati, Elders of Zion, or any of the other shadowy actors leading the march of the NWO. For such individuals, the Truther movement offers the authority of science and the certainty of religion to create a compelling ideology, and so its success in drawing activists away from more traditional radical movements is unsurprising. It has no need for the difficult questions of what should come instead of the status quo, for it only exists in opposition to what is. To offer answers to such questions would seem impossible, for the political and economic landscape which the traditional radical seeks to challenge is here rendered nothing more than a puppet show, a shadow on the cave wall. The true power is unseen. Furthermore, and of particular worry to the radical, in its invocation of adversaries of supernatural ability, it serves only to entrench the established order. How does an individual even begin to challenge a group capable of orchestrating what these elites are accused of, a group which exists outside the reality of mainstream culture, and so beyond its reach?

Truther accounts of 9/11 feed on any perceived coincidence, mistake or unknown. Why was the US airforce running war games on the day of the attacks which confused efforts to respond to the hijacks? Why did the towers fall as they did, and when no skyscrapers have previously collapsed due to fire? Why was so little debris visible at the Pentagon crash site? The key assumption underpinning these questions, as one might expect from a religious account, is that complete knowledge of an event is possible, and that everything happens for a reason. There is little sign here of postmodernism; of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, or of Chaos Theory’s irreducible complexity. Instead we have only the ordered execution of labyrinthine plans. That many Truther explanations are in themselves more incredible than any official version seems to go unremarked. Is an account in which the towers were secretly wired with explosives really more plausible than the version which holds the impact of jumbo jets laden with fuel responsible for the collapses?

The actual specifics of Truther claims of 9/11 are so detailed, and various, that it is impossible to consider them in detail here. It is perhaps though worth acknowledging that, in the author’s own view, it is not impossible that elements of the US security services had foreknowledge of the attacks, and chose to let them happen to further their ideologies. This is, however, a world away from the idea of a fully orchestrated ‘inside job’, and the superhuman elite required to achieve such a feat. Regardless, I am more of the opinion stated by Chomsky: that in a sense it doesn’t really matter if 9/11 was an inside job. The conspiracy claims will never be satisfactorily answered, and merely distract from what we do know, which is that the Neo-Conservatives exploited the attacks to pursue their policies with lethal conviction for seven disastrous years, whilst a supine media did little more than flag-wave from the sidelines. Besides, as Richard Curtis’ Power of Nightmares shows so well, ultimately there is little more to separate Neo-Con statesman from Al-Qaeda operative than conventions of dress, and more comfortable living arrangements.

There is, however, one particular element of the 9/11 attacks that does stand out from all the smoke and debris of that day. Eight years after the attacks, we still await the release, by the US government, of footage showing the plane hitting the Pentagon. The decision to show the comically ambiguous two frames of footage from a nearby garage forecourt security camera, which may or may not show the nose of Flight 77, only adds to the confusion. It may be that this is evidence, as Truther’s state, that it was in fact a missile, not a plane, that struck the Pentagon. More likely, the US security establishment is unsold on the idea of showing the world its most potent symbol being struck a fearsome blow by a group of Muslim fanatics armed with Stanley Knives.

There is a third explanation for the non-appearance of these tapes, which brings us conveniently full circle. That some clear sighted individuals in the halls of power recognise that the Truther movement is a dead end, a useful sideshow with which to distract those most sure to be its critics. Truther’s are of course no homogeneous entity – there is no single Truther account, and there is no archetypical adherent. The Ohio University poll found though that “Members of racial and ethnic minorities, people with only a high school education and Democrats were especially likely to suspect federal involvement in 9/11.” One more easily associates these groups with radical than Republican politics, so why not allow the disaffected to disenfranchise themselves? Hand them the means to convince themselves of the unerring control with which you orchestrate events, whilst you in truth ham-fistedly bumble from one crisis to the next.

We have then a conspiracy conspiracy, designed to rob the radical left of foot soldiers by creating doubt and suspicion where there need be none.

Hey, its more plausible than the missile theory.

Further Reading:
The Obama Deception:
Loose Change:



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Sep 10, 2009 16:39

An interesting article. However, it’s hard to say as to whether ‘Truthists’ are willing to propose an alternative to the power structures they believe control world events. Many do have a vision of a fairer, more just society that would not conflict with many on the non-Truthist radical left. Nonetheless, I do agree that it does distract us somewhat from the consequences of events such as 9/11 and the financial crisis, but I think it’s even harder to say as to whether that necessarily means these conspiracies are a conspiracy.

student activist
Apr 19, 2010 3:53

Before I believe in something, I always say “who benefits from me believing in this?” As the article shows, those in power benefit from us believing in these consipracy theories. Whether they are true or not, they are definitely disempowering, All too often I’m having a radical, critical potentially pro-revolutionary discussion with someone who is often from the majority world/working class origins, and my heart sinks when I hear, just as I thought we were getting to the bit where we share out ideas about the forth coming revolution, “Yea but you know, we can’t *do* anything about it because it’s all set up by the illuminati/freemasons and they are the devil/control everything/are all related.” Let’s hope as the crisis of neo-liberalism deepens, people will begin to take action in their daily lives and, through doing so, be able to critically examine these theories before rejecting them.

Apr 20, 2010 20:44

Nice try. The reason why there is so much anger about the twin towers is the physical evidence of explosive demolition. One tower was struck at the top by a plane…and the building turned to talcum powder. The BT Tower in Birmingham UK is a steel and concrete core building. It was built to withstand a one Mega-ton nuclear bomb. The WTC was if anything more sturdy with a massive steel and concrete core. The impact of a plane and low temp fuel fire on the 90th floor would AT MOST cause a partial asymetrical collapse of the top portion.
There are scores of accounts of huge explosions coming from the basement of the towers before the planes struck. But people have been silenced now by the authorities. Firemen who talk lose their jobs.
Was it easier for the US state/secret service to destroy the buildings than some blokes with AK 47s from Afghanistan? Well yes of course it was! They were the only people with a hope! Osama himself has said that he could not possibly pull off such a massive complex operation. Chomsky argues that if the state had done this, someone would have leaked the fact and the neo-cons would have faced a firing squad. Well they did. And they haven’t.
It matters hugely whether it was an inside job or not. Do we care whether Saddam had WMD? ‘We are where we are.’ Until the next time in ten years or so when we’ve all forgotton.
I also disagree that there is little difference between Neo-Cons and Al-Qaeda operatives. The Neo-Cons are openly waging aggressive wars in order to pillage the resources of foreign countries. Al-Qaeda is trying to defend those countries. To argue that they hate freedom and want to destroy our very way of life is a Bushism. Don’t get brainwashed by the propaganda.

Chris Bowles
Apr 24, 2010 14:25

Very well written article, your references and rhetoric are impecable. Its an interesting theory that the Truthers themselves are in fact ‘shills for the New World Order’, or at least centre-right conservative politics in America.
If indeed, as you suggest, Republicans have duped and encouraged the majpority into believing a falsehood of such grand proportions, this would represent a political move of such largesse as to suggest a conspiracy throughout all sections of the media, armed forces and politics. Political machinations on this scale appear not all that different from the original conspiracy theory which you dismiss.
Many other conflicts in history have been begun through falseflag terror operations (Spanish-American War, Manchurian Incident, Reichstag Fire, Gulf of Tonkin Incident, French-Algerian conflict, French-Indochinese conflict etc). Even if it turns out that all these people have deluded themselves in their new secular ideology, it would remain a step forward for democracy that individuals were beginning to question the status quo (to whatever degree) rather than finding out 50-60 years later that a government had tricked them into starting a war.

Aug 3, 2010 4:40

I’ve got the impression that Truthers and their ilk are usually people struggling to theorise structural/invisible forces, who revert back to intentionalist explanations, and/or are people with a strong attachment to the view that America, its culture, its constitution etc are basically good, who cannot reconcile this with the reality of US state behaviour.

This said: we need to remember that conspiracies *do* happen, and are often very clear after the event: Cointelpro, the Reichstag Fire, the Gladio / strategy of tension operations in Italy, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the abduction of President Aristide, the Ergenekon “al-Qaeda” bombings, and (probably) the Russian apartment bombings are all pretty much proven examples. It depends on the evidence I suppose.

Murray G
Nov 29, 2010 13:12

Only just found these comments, rather late to respond, but still…

I think my last line gives the game away – that I’m not at all convinced that my suggested ‘conspiracy conspiracy’ is accurate, it was a little tongue-in-cheek. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest, as Chris Bowles seems to have understood, that the Truth movement is orchested, to any significant degree, by the elites. As you say Chris that would be no more plausible than the Truther accounts.

What I intended to suggest is that the Truther movement is ultimately self-destructive, and that it is not too implausible to believe that some cynical, but clear sighted, individuals in power see it as a handy distraction, and so whilst not promoting it, are happy not to challenge it too much (eg release footage of the Pentagon attack).

I’m not convinced that right or wrong, the Truther movement is ‘a step forward for democracy’. I think its an entirely debilitating view of the world: that those who claim to hold power are simply puppets of shadowy forces entirely outside the democratic system. So why should a Truther engage with democracy? Also unlike radical politics, the Truth movement seems to have few if any answers, only grand accusations. I think its a movement that simply leads to cynicism and disengagement – just the things to allow the status quo to prosper.

Dan – thanks for a classic example of Truther scientific rhetoric. Throw up a load of barely related factual claims, and whilst everyone is blinded by them jump to a unsupported conclusion. I’ve found the best tactic in the face of this is to simply ask: what’s your version of events? How did 9/11 happen according to you? Because I’ve yet to hear a Truther account that doesn’t stretch credibility far more than the official account does.

Last point on conspiracies sometimes becoming truth (small ‘t’): absolutely. And I wouldn’t presume 100% certainty that 9/11 didn’t have underhand elements. But none of the examples given were on anything like the scale of 9/11, and/or took place in a country as open as the US (like all imperialists, it tends to export its most nefarious activities), and/or took place in the age of the Internet. The number of Americans who would need to be involved, the fact that it would have been their fellow citizens dying, the ease with which just one could whistleblow and get evidence into the public domain….

Dec 20, 2010 0:26

I have no idea what this article is on about. By calling something a ‘conspiracy theory’ it is automatically dismissed, regardless of how valid the evidence is. Because you do not believe the empirical evidence presented in front of you does not mean that ‘Truthers’ are not speaking the truth. Now few people in the know (see for example) presume to know exactly what happened or how it happened or who did it; the Truth (big T) that they know is that this did not happen as stated in the media and by Bush, simple.

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