An ethnography of 9/11 Truth

Regular readers of this blog know that I have posted about 9/11 Truth from time to time–here , here and here, and twice on Boing Boing during my guest blog stint (click here and here).

The Boing Boing posts especially inspired a lot of commentary on both sides of the issue, much of it quite emotional, some of it startlingly anti-semitic (Boing Boing swiftly redacted most of the really offensive stuff). Some of the commentary overflowed onto this blog (I moderate comments much less strictly than Boing Boing does) and can be found on the Bulletin Board and attached to the Boing Boing links. The Truther community is far from homogenous (“Truther,” by the way, is a name that most of them detest–I only use it for lack of a better term). Some members are indistinguishable from old-fashioned New World Order conspiracists; to them 9/11 is simply the latest evidence of treason on the part of America’s oligarchic plutocrats. Others are leftwing ideologues–they genuinely believe that the US is a fascist police state, or at best that a conspiratorial “deep state” exists within the constitutional republic, which 9/11 exposed to the light. They are frustrated that prominent leftists refuse to endorse their conclusions or offer them public support. Finally there are those whose interest is seemingly confined to the apparent enigmas and lacunae in the official story–except that so much of the “evidence” that they believe discredits it remains firmly entrenched in the realm of hearsay, anecdote, and assertion (for example, they focus on the group of young Israelis–supposedly with connections to Mossad–who were observed photographing and seemingly celebrating the destruction of the towers; on the thermite traces that were supposedly detected in the ruins; or how videos of WTC7’s collapse resemble a controlled demolition; eyewitness accounts point to explosions in the basements of one of the towers and WTC7; the supposed paucity of wreckage on the Pentagon lawn, etc.).

A day or two after my second Boing Boing post I received comments and then e mails from an Irish blogger named Damien DeBarra, a longtime contributor to (a vast collection of stories about UFOs, crytpozoology, crop circles, ghosts, ESP, etc.–what might be characterized as Forteana except that its approach is both skeptical and structuralist. As DeBarra puts it, “we’re not interested in UFOs so much as we are in UFO stories“). DeBarra is a student at the University of Edinburgh on the Msc. in e-learning course, currently doing the ‘Digital Cultures’ semester. He sent me the link to a lecture he’d just delivered in Dublin on the ethnography of the 9/11 Truth community as it is manifested in Internet documentaries; click here for a precis; here for the You tube videos of the presentation itself. Though I’m sure denizens of the 9/11 Truth world won’t relish being subjected to anthropological analysis, as though they were an exotic tribe, DeBarra’s presentation makes for fascinating reading and listening.

When I mentioned my dismay at both the level of vitriol and the implicit anti-Semitism of some of the other posts I’d received, DeBarra replied as follows:

I hear you on the anti-semitism thing. I mentioned this in the talk a bit….. Basically, a month or two ago a close friend of mine came at with the 9/11 thing and started spouting some stuff that was borderline anti-semitic. He’s not an anti-semite, but he had been so persuaded by what he was watching that he was starting to sound like one. I couldn’t help think of the story of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ from the late 19th century – the original viral urban legend and how the same nonsense seemed to be happening again.

I was sufficently shocked that I decided I was going to look at this again – for me the Jewish aspect of this is like a cancerous streak running through the underbelly of the narrative, just bubbling under the surface but not given full voice in most of the conspiracy theories.

I also get what you mean about the personal issues: I was back in Dublin last Friday (I live in London) and was explaining to a few folks in the pub what I was up to for my talk. 0 to 60 in 4 seconds on the rageometer. ‘What the fuck makes you such an expert?’. ‘You’re gonna get creamed’. ‘You’re a cynical bastard’ etc etc. Literally couldn’t believe my ears!

I’m used to people being pissed at me online (see but this is different – it’s vitriol of a level I’ve previously only seen from the Westboro Baptist Church. In fact that was what struck me the most – the almost religious defence of the 9/11 movies and theories. Theory, it seems, has hardened into dogma.

If I had any wit left I’d go the Robert Anton Wilson route and come up with some 9/11 ‘catmas’, but I’m losing the will to live from talking about it.

Anyway, I’ll let you know as soon as the blasted talk is uploaded online. In the meantime, I leave with this video which made me snigger like a schoolboy:

The You Tube link is to a College Humor sketch about 9/11 conspiracy theories that made me laugh too. Enjoy it.


5 thoughts on “An ethnography of 9/11 Truth

  1. Ugh. Back home from Ft. Collins, CO. “Liberal HQ” town. They serve sushi omlettes for breakfast. That’s how I know. Couldn’t find a cinnamon roll, only nutty muffins. Commies…
    Anyway, I inadvertantly was at ground zero for a few famous kooks. It is interesting the ethnology of truthers. My dad and I were speaking about what is the meaning of contemporary. I told him that “the herd” is viscous. That individually have these identifiers and where we think we are. But, as time moves, we can find ourselves in a different place entirely. I told him that the middle is somewhere between a Rasta playa and a skinhead. He laughed and told me he was old and to use his contemporaries to understand. I grinned and said, your center was somewhere between McCarthy and Alen Berg. It was almost like his mind hit a stump in the dark. The name took him back a few decades. We lived in Colorado and I have a dim memory. I remember asking him why the man was killed, why they hated him, why-why’s kids ask. Here is the link an article that describes the man who ran counter to Berg. It is interesting that McViegh is tangled in the mess too. Long after Berg’s murder. It is almost like the emotional rush is parallel to “it’s all fun and games till someone’s eye gets poked out”. Berg’s eye got poked out. Suddenly everyone had to really redefine who they were. Some in CO called him a martyr. The herd shifted and center moved by the mass individual introversion. Kinda wierd. I have read the Turner Diaries and it is a great(if dangerous) book to see how the audience in targeted via ethnology. If ever someone wants to understand how hate catches people, it is a good academic read(may give you nightmares). I think Berg was the first person I ever heard of who was killed for expressing himself. It was very hard to digest because I was so young and I believed everything my father told me. That America was a place where people were free. That “we had saved the Jews from the Nazi’s”. So Berg’s murder was illogical and hard to grasp. I was 9 years old.

    1. that’s an amazing link to Westworld; fascinating stuff. I talk about one of the founders of the Order in my book a little bit and I say a few words about The Turner Diaries, which I haven’t read all the way through but have sampled.

  2. Hello,
    again, 9/11 is a controlled demolition, per irrefutable conclusive scientific evidence. Also per common sense.
    Towers imploded, pulverized, fell down at a speed close to a free fall, 110 floors per second. In a very uniform manner.
    Nanothermite high explosive was found on the site. Molten steel. Cut up beams.
    All NOT possible other than masterpiece controlled demolition.
    Also, just plain visual examination leads to this conclusion.

    We need new, independent investigation.

    Petr Buben
    and yes, my comment, very similar to this, was censored out on boingboing.

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