9/11 Truth and the New Populism

9/11 Truth and the New Populism


by Dan Canuckistan

Even as the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon
building in Washington, DC were still burning on September 11, 2001,
voices were already being heard claiming that the terrorist attacks were
actually an “inside job” committed by elements of the US government. At
first these voices were confined to the outer fringes of the internet
but, in the years following 9/11, this movement of sceptics has grown by
leaps and bounds. Conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones have attained
large followings, spawning imitators and raising millions of dollars. As
John Gartner noted in his Psychology Today profile of Alex Jones,

“Conspiracy thinking is embraced by a surprisingly large proportion of
the population. Sixty-nine percent of Americans believe President John
F. Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, and 42 percent believe the
government is covering up evidence of flying saucers, finds Ted
Goertzel, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University at Camden.
Thirty-six percent of respondents to a 2006 Scripps News/Ohio University
poll at least suspected that the U.S. government played a role in
9/11.” (Gartner, 2009)

A new industry of “9/11 Truth” documentary movies and books has
flourished, along with activist networks like ‘We Are Change’ that
physically confront prominent political or media figures in public
spaces (e.g. town hall meetings, book signings, etc…). And in the case
of Charlie Sheen, Rosie O’Donnell and others, well-known entertainment
figures themselves have been recruited directly into the movement,
providing an even larger platform to propagate these ideas. All this has
been bolstered by a vigorous network of alternative media, including
radio networks, news websites, magazines, and book stores.

Following the growth of 9/11 Truth from the ashes of the Twin Towers,
there has been the rise of even larger protest movements of both the
left and the right, which can be referred to as the ‘New Populism’. The
left-wing antiwar movement, led by key figures such as Cindy Sheehan,
Cynthia McKinney and Dennis Kucinich, has made its presence known in
mass protests around the country.

On the libertarian and conservative right, we’ve seen multiple protest
movements such as the Minutemen (anti-immigration), Oath-Keepers
(anti-government military, veterans and police), Tea Partiers (small
government/anti-tax activists) and a slew of organizations revolving
around the presidential candidacy of monetary reformer Dr. Ron Paul.
Paul, a congressional representative from Texas, shocked the American
political establishment in 2007 when a grassroots fundraising campaign
on his behalf (a “money bomb”) raised $6 million dollars in a 24-hour
period.

Other elements- most notably anti-vaccine and anti-global warming
sceptics- are harder to place on the political spectrum- having both
left and right-wing adherents. In his 2008 book, Ain’t My America,
author Bill Kauffman colourfully described these eclectic New Populists
thusly,

“Across the land, local governments are rejecting the Patriot Act, and
in a heartening number of cases these gallantly defiant cries of NO! are
coming from the libertarian West, in allegedly “red” states such as
Idaho and Montana. One cannot establish an empire on the ruins of the
Republic without sparking one hell of a reaction: Vermont now boasts a
lively and mediagenic secession movement that demands independence…”
(Kauffman, 2008, pg 234)  

The extent that these two social phenomena- 9/11 Truth and the New
Populists- are linked has been a matter of much controversy. New
Populist leaders like Sheehan and Paul have openly associated themselves
with 9/11 Truthers while not necessarily endorsing their ideas. But
what of the grassroots? There is much anecdotal evidence of extensive
overlap between the two camps but very little actual sociological
research appears to have been done on the topic.

So did the 9/11 Truth movement spawn, and does it currently inspire, the
New Populism? Based on an initial review of available literature, 9/11
Truth did in fact spawn the New Populism and is its core driving force.
Without the infrastructure and conspiratorial outlook of 9/11 Truth the
new protest movements would not have emerged in the manner and strength
that they have.

The significance of this is quite evident: these protest movements are
becoming increasingly mainstream and, therefore, have a powerful impact
on society and its politics. The Tea Party movement has become a
influential subculture that is upsetting the traditional political
parties, forcing prominent figures like former vice presidential
candidate Sarah Palin to woo its support. Although the Republican Party
establishment has been able to co-opt much of the “tea party” brand and
divert its militants, they nonetheless remain wary of the grassroots and
its potential to go off in unpredictable directions.    

This, in turn, has caused much fear and confusion among the media and
other elites, best expressed by pundit and writer David Sessions,

“The movement and individuals within it are incredibly emotional and
irrational, but seems to coalesce at a broad discontent with the status
quo and distrust of all parties in power, from Barack Obama to big
business. There are a number of valid reasons to be angry with various
agents of American power, but I can’t get a reality-based grasp on what,
exactly, this movement is angry about.” (Sessions, 2009)

With the recent worldwide financial crisis, monetary reformers such as
Ron Paul have achieved a new respectability in the financial media.
Policy related to global warming and public health (vaccines and
fluoride) have also been stalled due to New Populist pressure. To have a
better grip on what drives this new social climate of anger and
dissatisfaction- if it can indeed be traced back to scepticism of what
occurred on the morning of September 11, 2001- would surely provide
important clues as to where we are today and how things might develop in
the future.       

References

Gartner, John. (2009). Field Guide to the Conspiracy Theorist: Dark Minds.
Psychology Today. Retrieved December 26, 2009, from
http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200909/field-guide-the-conspiracy-theorist-dark-minds

Kauffman, Bill. (2008). Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of
Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism. New York:
Metropolitan Books.

Sessions, David. (2009) Toward a Theory of Tea Parties. Patrol. Retrieved December 26, 2009, from
http://www.patrolmag.com/sessions/1855/toward-a-theory-of-tea-parties

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