A large number of America’s youth still believe the U.S. government may be hiding the truth about the terrorist attacks, according to a recent survey.
By Travis Mitchell
Nearly 10 years after Sept. 11, 2001, a small group of citizens is still pushing for an independent investigation and an official explanation into the day’s events, despite continued difficulty getting their views to take hold.
Often referred to as the “Truther Movement,” there is a small percentage of Americans who do not accept the official explanation for 9/11 released by the United States government. Supporters of this theory believe that the federal government either had knowledge of or planned the attacks.
Searching for answers“I’m still trying to figure out exactly what happened that day,” said Dylan Avery, director of the film “Loose Change.” The film alleges that the U.S. government is hiding the truth of what caused the the 9/11 attacks.
Avery, 27, said the process began in May 2002. After conducting research for a feature film about government skepticism, he changed gears and decided to make a documentary.
“The more I delved into the actual details of the day’s events and what had happened, one thing became apparent and that was that something was being held from the public,” Avery said.
The official 9/11 Commission Report said that the attacks were “inflicted by 19 young Arabs acting at the behest of Islamist extremists headquartered in distant Afghanistan.” According to the document’s Executive Summary, the report was executed with an independent, impartial, thorough and bipartisan mindset.
But Avery wasn’t satisfied by this explanation.
“I think the bottom line for all of this and the reason the movement exists in the first place is how little answers we received,” he said. Still, Avery wasn’t sure who to blame.
“I’m hesitant at this point to use the phrase ‘inside job’ or to say specifically that the [George W. Bush] administration pulled the attacks off,” he said.
“Loose Change” was produced by Korey Rowe, a close friend of Avery who joined the movement after returning from Afghanistan in 2002. It was during that time he began to re-examine the events surrounding 9/11. Rowe, also 29, joined the military in August 2001. Sept. 11, 2001, was his first day of basic training.
And yet, Rowe said he received little information about the events of 9/11 during training.
“I was pretty much in a media blackout for the next six months,” Rowe said.
He would collect spare change along the road while out on runs to buy the paper. Still, Rowe had few misgivings about the explanation of the attacks.
“I bought it hook, line and sinker,” he said. “It started to dawn on me that things weren’t really what they seemed. The closer and closer you look at [9/11], before too long you’re looking too close.”
The first version of “Loose Change” was released in 2005 as a 60 minute documentary. Since then there have been four versions of the film, viewed more than 5 million times on the Internet alone. Avery said the movement reached its peak in 2006, when between 2,000 to 3,000 supporters gathered at Ground Zero to raise awareness for their views.
A human reaction to tragedy
The Truther Movement is just one of several prominent conspiracy theories that gained popularity after the events of 9/11.
Historian Robert Goldberg has studied a wide range of American conspiracy theories. He said the theories about 9/11 run the gambit of politics and religion and include people who believe the attacks were orchestrated by the Jews, God or the government.
Goldberg, a professor at the University of Utah, said conspiracy theories are common with any large-scale tragedy. He explained that when any tragedy occurs, people try to understand the events. “They understand them with the fears in their minds,” he said.
Goldberg thought the tragedy and anguish of 9/11 would discourage the rise of conspiracy theories. “We had this real sense that we were rallying around the flag,” he said.
According to an American University School of Communication survey, 25 percent of respondents were familiar with the Truther Movement. The percentage jumped to 73 percent for people younger than the age of 25.
Both Avery and Rowe said that their first screenings were “full of gray hair,” but they credit the younger generation with spreading the movement and giving it more visibility, largely through the Internet and social media.
“The younger generation has definitely picked up the torch and has definitely helped carry it,” Avery said.
Goldberg says his research shows that age and gender are not a factor in whether or not someone believes in a conspiracy theory. “What seems to be key is a suspiciousness about government,” he said.
But Goldberg said that a rise in new ways of transmitting and communicating information has made it easier for conspiracy theorists to feed their own ideas. “What you have now is a series of echo chambers,” Goldberg said. “People go online to seek confirmation.”
There have been several responses to the points brought up in “Loose Change” and other popular conspiracy theories. One popular example was a special editorial report by Popular Mechanics magazine entitled “Debunking the 9/11 myths.”
10 years later, an uncertain future
Rowe hopes that the 10 year anniversary will be a catalyst to propel the movement forward, but that doing so will take new efforts from new individuals.
“If the youth don’t pick up the torch, then the movement will die,” he said. The people who have already been in the movement have done all they can do. “If the information does not continue to get spread, then unfortunately the movement will continue to shrink until it is no more than a far idea in many people’s memories,” Rowe said.
After years of championing the movement, Avery admitted to being “fried” out and needing to step back. And neither of them is sure where the future of the movement is headed.
“I certainly am watching things as they develop, but at the same time I can’t spend 16 hours a day thinking about this stuff anymore. It really just wears you down,” Avery said.
Goldberg said he wasn’t sure whether or not the 10 year anniversary would stir things up again, but he said he has noticed a decline in popularity across the board in 9/11 conspiracy theories. He also said that the very nature of conspiracy theorists is to never be satisfied with a resolution. “Conspiracy theorists don’t want to solve the solutions,” he said.
Rowe says a new explanation from either the U.S. government or an independent body is unlikely, but the goal of the Truther Movement has always been acknowledgement of alternative theories.
“I would just like an asterisk in [the history books] saying that there is a percentage of people that don’t agree with this theory and there are other theories that are out there,” he said. “Until that happens then we won’t be done and our mission is never finished.”