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A Stigmatized 9/11
Xenophobia, Confirmation Bias, and Historical Misappropriation within the Myopic 9/11 ‘Truth
Riley Nowokowski (25047405)
Dr. Alison Meek
American Studies 9301B
Conspiracy Theories in American History
8 April, 2014
“I must Create a System
Or be enslav’d by another Man’s”
The belief that 9/11 was an ‘inside job’ is one of the most prevalent conspiracy theories
to exist in American society and the greater world. Upwards to one-third of the American
population believe that the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 were either
perpetuated, or encouraged by the government of the United States. This paper does not seek to
dispel popular conspiracy theories. Rather, the aim is to try and understand the rationale, and
popularity behind believing in the 9/11 conspiracy theory. This essay seeks to fully comprehend
the impact that the 9/11 conspiracy has had on America and the larger world. Conspiracies often
appeal to large audiences, because they have been made widely available on the internet, they do
not require a large amount of knowledge (historical or scientific) to understand, and they
ultimately support a xenophobic, myopic world view. It will be argued that conspiracy theories
like 9/11 encourage it’s believers to immerse themselves in a search for confirmation bias, as
they seek to understand a world they deeply mistrust. Further, conspiracy theorists are engaged
in what Richard Hofstadter deemed the ‘paranoid style’ of American politics, in which the
interpretation of American history is emotionally personal. It will be noted that some 9/11
‘theorists’ like Carol A. Valentine and Alex Jones are able to use the popular conspiracy to
promote their own beliefs and further their celebrity status. Ultimately, conspiracy theorists are
unable to place the seemingly random event of September 11 within the American historical
narrative. By not placing the events in proper historical context, conspiracy theorists are able to
advantageously promote their own beliefs about the larger surrounding world. The 9/11
conspiracy movement is couched in languages of xenophobia, confirmation bias, and historical
The memories of September 11, 2001 have been etched into the American conscience,
and have remained there for more than a decade. The acts of terrorism that occurred on
September 11, 2001 seem tragically familiar to us now.1 On the morning of September 11, 19
members of the bin Laden terrorist network boarded four commercial jets at East Coast airports.
Each of the jets was headed on a “cross country non-stop flight, which meant that they all had
maximum loads of jet fuel on board that became the incendiary device when each slammed into
its target.”2 After the airplanes took off, they were “commandeered by the terrorists, some of
whom had received pilot training in the United States, and directed toward their targets.”3 At
8:45am, the first of the hijacked planes, American Airlines Flight 11, slammed into the North
face of the North Tower. Eighteen minutes later, at 9:03am the second hijacked plane, United
Airlines Flight 175, crashed into the south face of the South Tower. The attacks caused “both
[buildings] to collapse, killing nearly 3,000 people.”4 The third plane, American Airlines Flight
77, having taken off from Washington Dulles airport was flown into the side of the Pentagon,
killing 189 more people.5 The fourth, and final plane, United Airlines Flight 93 “crashed in the
western Pennsylvania countryside after passengers apparently thwarted the terrorists, who were
directing the plane toward Washington as well.”6 Donald M. Snow, author of September 11,
2001: The New Face of War? explains “it was, by far, the largest terrorist act ever carried out
Donald M. Snow, September 11, 2001: The New Face of War? (New York, NY: Longman,
Craig A Warren, “‘It Reads Like a Novel ’: The ‘9/11 Commission Report’ and the American
Reading Public,” Journal of American Studies 41, no. 3 (2007): 535.
Richard J. Gray, After The Fall, Blackwell Manifestos (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). 26.
Snow, September 11, 2001: The New Face of War?. 22.
David Simpson, 911: The Culture of Commemoration (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
Sandra Rollings-Magnusson, Anti-Terrorism: Security and Insecurity After 9/11 (Halifax, N.S.:
Fernwood Pub., 2009).
against American citizens on American soil and arguably the largest single terrorist episode in
modern history.”7 The impact of the attacks was immediate. Americans stood in awe as the
country seemingly came under attack. One reporter remembers: “No one’s talking. They
[onlookers] were just staring at each other with their arms dropped to their sides. A pin could
drop in the United terminal. No one’s saying anything … there’s several hundred people
standing around not knowing what to do and no one’s even speaking.”8
The American government quickly responded to the attack. In the days immediately after
the incidents, Americans reeled trying to understand what had occurred and why anyone could
commit such atrocious acts.9 The footage of the second airliner crashing into the North Tower of
the World Trade Center and the collapse of both structures that followed was replayed on the 24
hour news cycle over and over, and “disbelief turned to anger and the desire for revenge.”10
Within days of the attack the “bin Laden network was identified as the perpetrators, and the
‘war’ on terrorism was born…”11 Subsequently, attacks on both Afghanistan and later, Iraq, were
launched by the United States military. Or so this is how the official story is understood.
However, many Americans, and many more abroad, do not believe the official story that is
reported and argue that the attacks were part of an internal government conspiracy to prime the
American people into urging for war abroad.12
Snow, September 11, 2001: The New Face of War?. 19
Kitty Coburn, “September 11, 2001,” CNN News Live, September 11, 2001.
Snow, September 11, 2001: The New Face of War?, 20.
Kent Roach, The 9/11 Effect: Comparative Counter-Terrorism (Cambridge; New York:
Cambridge University Press, 2011), 46.
Martin Randall, 911 and the Literature of Terror (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press,
James Petras, “9/11: One Year of Empire-Building,” Economic and Political Weekly 37, no.
34 (2002): 3509.
Only hours after the attacks had happened, the internet came alive with conspiracy
theories about the events. The first speculations that 9/11 was an inside job came from David
Rostcheck, author of the popular website serendipity.li, who created a webpage entitled The
World Trade Center Demolition and the So-Called War on Terrorism which is an attempt to
“demonstrate that the official story regarding September 11, 2001, is a fabrication and a
deception.”13 The second person to theorize about the attacks, on the same day of the events was
Alex Jones on his daily radio show The Alex Jones Show. Jones broadcasted for five straight
hours on September 11, 2001, above his usual 3 hours. The entire 5 hours of The Alex Jones
Show was a series of speculation from Alex and his callers focusing on the fear that 9/11 was an
attack from within the American government, an attempt to scare the American public.14
The Alex Jones Show was essential in the spread of the 9/11 conspiracy theory. Jones is a
hugely successful conspiracy theorist who boasts a considerable amount of followers willing to
believe every word he says. Jones has an extremely large following. His three-hour daily radio
show airs on more than 60 AM and FM radio stations.15 His radio show is syndicated nationally
by Genesis Communications, and “draws 2 million listeners per week.”16 Jones’ influence goes
further, however, as he has aimed to have as much of a presence in new media as possible.
Currently, Alex Jones has 261,000 twitter followers17 and his YouTube channel has 350,000
David Rostcheck, “The World Trade Center Demolition and the So-Called War on Terrorism,”
September 11, 2001., http://www.serendipity.li/wtc.htm.
The Internet Archive, “The Alex Jones Radio Show on 9-11-2001,” Community Audio
Archive, 2001, https://archive.org/details/TheAlexJonesRadioShowOn9-11-2001.
Jeff Bercovici, “Who Is Alex Jones, Anyway? Five Fun Factoids,” Forbes, September 01,
Alex Jones, “@RealAlexJones,” Twitter, accessed March 31, 2014,
subscribers, boasting an astounding 260 million views.18 In February 2013, Jones’s comScore19
estimated that Jones’ infowars.com received 2.14 million unique views and 20 million page
views per month.20 Jones has played a role in the production of 25 documentaries, including the
infamous Loose Change, the most famous film alleging the September 11 attacks were
committed by the U.S. government. Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon highlights the monetary gains of
Jones’ venture, explaining “on the very low end, we’d estimate over $1 million for web,
$215,000 for radio, and $1.5 million for paid subscribers for a not-too-shabby $2.7 million a
year.” Forbes author Jeff Bercovici explains in 2010 “Jones was taking in revenues of about $1.5
million per year, enough to support a staff of 15 and enable him to buy an $800,000 house and
7,600 square foot studio.”21 Alex Jones is an extremely successful orator, who has been able to
use his show to spread beliefs of the 9/11 conspiracy. Jones, among others, harnessed the power
of the internet to help propagate and influence the 9/11 conspiracy theory. Clearly there’s more
money in pedaling conspiracy theories than there is debunking them.
Both Rostcheck and Jones were the first to espouse their personal feelings about the
attacks on the World Trade Center. Their conspiratorial beliefs came to fruition less than 12
hours after the event happened. Within two days, the internet was buzzing with activity. On
September 13, 2001, Peter Meyer released his article The World Trade Center Bombing in which
it is argued:
Alex Jones, “The Alex Jones Channel,” Youtube, accessed March 15, 2014,
Online traffic numbers can be notoriously hard to track, the closest thing to an industry
standard is provided by a company called comScore.
Alex Seitz-Wald, “Alex Jones: Conspiracy Inc.,” Salon, May 02, 2013,
Bercovici, “Who Is Alex Jones, Anyway? Five Fun Factoids.”
Thousands of people died in the WTC bombing, and hundreds were killed in the attack
on the Pentagon. The enormity of this evil is made worse by its being perpetrated, not by
external enemies of America, but from within – by a secret group of traitors, for at least
forty years, has controlled the U.S. government behind a façade of democracy, which has
manipulated the American people and the leaders of other countries by the skillful use of
propaganda, and which must now be laughing and congratulating itself that its lies appear
to have been believed by almost everyone and its plans for complete domination of the
Earth are coming along so nicely.[sic]22
Meyer’s belief of a secret conspiratorial group within the government who perpetuate attacks to
gain further power is a common theme among most 9/11 conspiracy theories. Ultimately, Meyer
believes that “the bombing of the WTC was part of an ongoing plan (in effect since the Kennedy
assassination if not before) to destroy democratic government (what’s left of it anyway) in the
United States and replace it by a dictatorship.[sic]”23 Meyer is one, among many, who believe
that a small group within the government created, or encouraged the attack, to create a level of
public stasis, ultimately to create support for war abroad.
By October 2001, the internet was being swathed with different conspiracy theories about
September 11, 2001. An article by Carol A. Valentine entitled Operation 911: No Suicide Pilots
highlights the most fundamental arguments linked to the 911 conspiracy theory. The claims that
are raised by Valentine include (but are not limited to):
Remote controlled plans
No Hijackers actually involved
Downplaying of Hajour’s piloting skills
Passports found almost intact are fake
Flight 93 was shot down24
Peter Meyer, “The World Trade Center Bombing,” 2001,
Anonymous, “The History of 9/11 Conspiracy Theories,” accessed March 10, 2014,
Valentine’s article is widely cited by the 9/11 ‘Truth Movement’ as a strong argument that helps
support their claims. Carol Valentine is a significant figure in the 9/11 ‘Truth Movement,’ and
has released a number of self-published articles on her website. Valentine was one of the first to
believe that the videos of Osama bin Laden were a fake.25 However, couched in language of 9/11
conspiracy, her website serves as an anti-Semitic front. Valentine’s website introduces readers to
topics like The American Coup D’état and the War for Jewish Supremacy, Imperial Judacum,
and The Holocaust Irony. Mixed in with 9/11 conspiracy articles are a number of holocaust
denial and anti-Semitic pieces.26 Ultimately, within the language of anti-Semitism is a
xenophobic fear of the other. Xenophobia is a common trend among 9/11 conspiracy theorists. It
is a persistent belief that helps to fuel the 9/11 conspiracy. Authors like Carol Valentine purport
that there were no Muslims on the flight lists, and that the attacks served as part of a larger
Jewish conspiracy to dominate American politics.27
October 2001 was an incredibly important month in the world of 9/11 conspiracy
theorists. On October 21, 2001, one of the most important articles encouraging people to believe
in the 9/11 conspiracy was released. Jim McMichael released his article Muslims Suspend the
Laws of Physics in which McMichael raises the following claims:
Jet fuel cannot melt steel.
Black smoke indicates a died down fire, either low on temperature or starved for
The building falling into its own footprint (the tops should have toppled over)
Pulverized concrete / pyroclastic dust
The core of the building should have been left standing
Carol A. Valentine, “The Taliban Home Video,” Public Action.com, 2001, http://www.publicaction.com/911/hvideo.html.
Carol A. Valentine, “Operation 911: No Suicide Pilots,” Public Action.com, 2001,
Design loads, the towers should have been able to support the weight and impact
of an airplane.28
McMichael’s argument is one of the most commonly cited articles by 9/11 conspiracy theorists,
the site lead to the influence and creation of an entire community of conspiracy theorists. At the
end of McMichael’s article, he links to three articles, all written by Carol A. Valentine, further
connecting the scientific concerns of skeptics to the conspiratorial beliefs of a noted anti-Semite.
The power of the internet has been undeniable for Rostcheck, Jones, Meyer, Valentine,
and McMichael, it has helped with the creation of a conspiracy community, and has served as a
helpful tool for promoting their work. Authors could link to each other, providing a spider web
of conspiracy websites in an attempt to gain and provide a form of legitimacy. Gordon B.
Arnold, author of Conspiracy Theory in Film, Television and Politics explains “the internet has
been an especially powerful tool in promoting variations of a 9/11 conspiracy theory. Public
awareness of the claims has been highlighted by outspoken media celebrities, who have used
their fame to call attention to the supposed discrepancies…”29 The conspiracy has completely
taken over any other form of research or debate on the topic. If you begin typing “9/11” into an
internet search engine, one of the top five choices that is always returned is “9/11 Conspiracy.”
The internet is the most innovative tool to be introduced to propagate information about
conspiracy theories. Cass Sunstein argues “the internet produces a process of spontaneous
creation of groups of like-minded types, fueling group polarization. People who would otherwise
be loners, or isolated in the objections and concerns, congregate into social networks.”30
Anonymous, “The History of 9/11 Conspiracy Theories.”
Gordon B. Arnold, Conspiracy Theory in Film, Television, and Politics (Westport, Conn.:
Praeger, 2008), 167.
Cass R. Sunstein, Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide (Oxford, United
Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2009), 58.