The decade since the hijacked 747s rammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon hasn't changed one thing. Millions of Americans still fervently believe that the 9/11 terror attacks were part of a well-conceived, well-planned, diabolical, staged act. A poll commissioned by the BBC found that one in seven Americans still thinks that 9/11 was a staged act. And even worrisome, one in four 16- to 24-year-olds thinks it was staged. The disbelief that 9/11 was the ghoulish handiwork of anti-American, hate-filled, foreign terrorists has been fed by a loud and pesky pack of professional conspiracy theorists who perennially see a sinister government hand behind any and every assassination, terror attack and even natural disaster.
The 9/11 attack, though, is the jewel in the crown for the conspiracy nuts. They've managed to convince the credulous that the carnage was part of a Machiavellian plot by a parade of the usual suspects -- George W. Bush, the GOP, the CIA, the FBI and the Department of Justice -- to wipe out civil liberties, impose a national security state, create a pretext for the quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorize the American people and strengthen the hand of the pro-Israel lobby in U.S. politics. Some of the more whacked-out theorists with an anti-Semitic bent even claim that the terror attack was part of a decades-old web of intrigue woven by international Jewish groups to dominate global politics.
Conspiracy theorists allege that explosives were planted at the WTC; that Jewish and Israeli Tower workers and occupants were warned the day before, supposedly by the Mossad (the Israeli intelligence agency) to stay away; that a missile slammed into the Pentagon; that the government hid the wreckage of the United Airlines plane that terrorists crashed in Pennsylvania. Every one of these theories has been debunked.
Yet as evidenced by the BBC poll, millions of Americans aren't convinced. And that's easy to understand. The American woods swarm with groups that fervently believe that government, corporate or international Zionist groups busily hatch secret plots and concoct hidden plans to wreak havoc on their lives. The Manchurian Candidate idea, popularized in books and countless movies and TV shows, has firmly implanted the notion that shadowy government groups routinely topple foreign governments, assassinate government leaders and brainwash operatives to do dirty deeds.
There are two other undeniable reasons that 9/11 conspiracy theories have so easily infected the popular imagination. Government agencies, such as the FBI, the CIA and INSCOM (Army intelligence), with the connivance of presidents, have often played fast and loose with the law and the rules of democracy. They have spied on, harassed and jailed thousands of Americans, from Communists to anti-war activists. The biggest, juiciest and most relentless target for government spymasters during the past decades has been African-American political groups, from the moderate NAACP to the radical Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam. In 2007 a fresh batch of publicly disclosed FBI documents showed that the agency waged a kinder, gentler, but no less illegal spy campaign against Coretta Scott King. The sordid and relentless campaign the FBI waged against her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is well documented.
The other reason for the paranoia about 9/11 was the fury that many Americans had, and still have, toward Bush. Many Americans are still convinced that the GOP hijacked the White House by rigging the votes in Florida in 2000, and that the GOP repeated the ploy in Ohio in 2004. This makes it easy to believe that government agencies will say and do anything to cover up and shield wrongdoing and misdirect Americans.
Bush, as other presidents who have found themselves in hot water with the American people for their domestic and foreign policy fumbling, was hardly averse to beating the war drums and fanning national security jitters to boost his poll ratings, secure public allegiance and increase his party's political standing. Bush may have done this with well-timed color-coded terror alerts. But bottom-of-the-barrel poll ratings at the end of his term, the wholesale back-turn that millions of voters did on the GOP in the 2008 presidential election, and the polls that show that a majority of Americans want out of Iraq and Afghanistan and are squeamish over further erosion of civil liberties are resounding proof that even if Bush had staged 9/11 to clamp a vise grip on power, it didn't work.
But, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the conspiracy theorists will again busily spin their well-worn 9/11 conspiracy myths. They will fall on fertile ground again because of government officials' long and at times disgraceful penchant for covering up and flat-out lying to the public about their misdeeds, conduct and spying. This is enough to insure that 9/11 conspiracy fantasies remain alive and well today, and likely will remain alive for years to come.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of "The Al Sharpton Show" on American Urban Radio Network. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly "Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour" on KTYM Radio Los Angeles, which is streamed on ktym.com, featured as a podcast on blogtalkradio.com, and presented as an Internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter @earlhutchinson.