By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
It's dark in the basement of St. Mark's Church and dark outside on a mid-December Sunday night, but inside they have seen the light. Among the 100 or so people in the room, many wear buttons that read "9/11 Was An Inside Job." Others grip the vital texts in their handsCrossing the Rubicon, The New Pearl Harbor, or 9/11 Synthetic Terror. Most in the largely (but not exclusively) white and male crowd can quote you the important passages from "Rebuilding America's Defenses" or The 9/11 Commission Report. A few can guide you through the details of concepts like "peak oil" and pyroclastic flow. All of them suspectand a few simply knowthat their government was somehow complicit in the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans four Septembers ago.
They are watching the new edition of Loose Change, a slick, witty documentary featuring a hip soundtrack and a rapid-fire assault on nearly every aspect of the "official" story of 9-11. The work of 22-year-old filmmaker Dylan Avery, Loose Change came out last year to take its place in a growing library of DVDs that 9-11 skeptics can own: Painful Deceptions, Confronting the Evidence, 911 in Plane Site, 9-11 Eyewitness. Shown in similar gatherings around the country and passed among likeminded friends, the films are what tie together the disparate ends of what many of its members call the "9-11 Truth movement." They unite Luke Rudkowski, an earnest Brooklyn College freshman, with David Ray Griffin, a California theologian who wrote The New Pearl Harbor. They link Les Jamieson, a web designer and coordinator for New York 9-11 Truth, with multimillionaire Jimmy Walter, dreamer of car-free, self-sustaining cities. And they bind a FDNY lieutenant attending his first Truth movement meeting with Michael Ruppert, the Crossing the Rubicon author who blames a fiancée's CIA-and-Mafia-linked drug running and arms dealing for helping to drive him out of the LAPD two decades ago.
It's easy to dismiss the odd characters. It's harder to ignore the regular guys in the room, or the polls showing that 49 percent of New York City residents believe the government knew about 9-11 before it happened, or the rock-solid certainty of these supposed doubters. "I'd love to be proven wrong. I would love for someone to come to me and say I'm full of shit. It hasn't happened," says Avery. "I have scientists on my side. There's so much evidence supporting my side, and the government's side has nothing."
Its name notwithstanding, the 9-11 Truth movement tells a storyand is a storyabout what happens when the government lies. Again, it's simple physics: For every action, there's a reaction equal and opposite.
Everyone has a September 11 tale about how we watched the events in "disbelief." But some people really didn't believe, and in the immediate aftermath of the attacks their doubts took form on the Internet on sites like serendipity.li, plaguepuppy.net, and Killtown. "They were a group of conditioned conspiracy theorists who have been around since JFK and before," says Steve Ferdman, now a 22-year-old marketing major at the New York Institute of Technology, who joined the Truth movement well after the attacks. "They knew how to get the ball rolling immediately. The moment it happened, the conspiracy theories were flying."
It wasn't long before the theories made it to Internet radioand to shows like The Power Hour. Host Dave vonKleist was no stranger to telling alternate stories: His wife was an early Gulf War illness activist, they fled Houston ahead of Y2K, and his three-hour show deals with subjects like depleted uranium and vaccine fears. On 9-11, he recalls, "I got on and said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, this is Dave and before we even say good morning, run to your VCR and start taping. America is under attack.' " As he sat glued to the TV that day, he grew suspicious when the networks went to the file footage of the tall Arab with the gun. "They were still talking about what kind of plane hit," he says, "but they sure as hell knew that Osama did it, and I said, 'Wait a minute.' " These doubts lay dormant for months until vonKleist happened upon Hunt the Boeing, a French website. France was an incubator for many 9-11 doubts. Thierry Meyssan's 2002 book L'Effroyable Imposture (The Horrifying Fraud) spawned deeper inquiries, including vonKleist's film 911 in Plane Site.
While the Pentagon story attracted people because so little was seen or known about that attack, the demise of the World Trade Center was burned in collective memory. Eric Hufschmid, a software designer from Santa Barbara, took the attacks at face value on 9-11 and even mocked the nascent conspiracy theories. "Then I started looking at it," he tells the Voice. "It was obvious something was wrong at the towers. They looked like they'd been blown up." He began contacting engineering professors, asking them to look into it, but none did. So he took up the cause himself, penned the book Painful Questions in early 2002, and produced the companion movie, Painful Deceptions, a few months later.