Reader response to my previous column on the 911 Truth movement caught me a little off guard. In retrospect, I should have expected it. After all, the Internet has been instrumental in mobilizing so-called "truthers" from all walks of life -- from first responders and structural engineers to architects and academics.
The majority of the comments my column generated were both supportive and positive. Moreover, a number of readers provided links to additional resources that further challenge the official story of the 911 attacks.
I also received feedback that was less enthusiastic -- again, no surprises. The implications of academic analyses and international news reports that challenge the veracity of the official story are deeply disturbing. As well they should be. Nevertheless, I believe it is important to make sharp distinctions between conspiracy theory on one hand and reasonable doubts on the other.
"The 911 Truth movement has raised fundamental questions regarding the attacks and the dominant media narrative that emerged."
For the most part, the 911 Truth movement has raised fundamental questions regarding the attacks and the dominant media narrative that emerged soon thereafter. The "official story" was later codified by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (a.k.a. the 9/11 Commission).
The 9/11 Commission Report has subsequently been the focus of truthers and likeminded skeptics. For example, the American Civil Liberties Union< recently obtained documents that suggest high-level Bush Administration officials warned off the Commission from pursing a particular line of inquiry into terrorist attacks.
In a letter dated Jan. 6, 2004, senior administration officials, including CIA director George Tenet, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put it bluntly: "There is, however, a line that the Commission should not cross -- the line separating the Commission's proper inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks from interference with the Government's ability to safeguard the national security, including protection of Americans from future terrorist attacks."
This is but the latest indication that the Bush Administration pressured the 9/11 Commission, effectively compromising its ability to develop a coherent and accurate assessment of the September 11 attacks.
These documents are not necessarily a "smoking gun" that reveals a conspiracy. Rather, the ACLU's findings raise serious doubts regarding the official story. And yet, this latest revelation has not received any traction in mainstream U.S. news outlets.
Instead, the American press corps is content to report dubious assertions from a number of prominent Republican politicians and party operatives.
As New York Times columnist Frank Rich noted recently, former White House press secretary Dana Perino and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani fired the "opening salvos" in an emerging disinformation campaign designed to achieve two related objectives. The first is to discredit the Obama Administration's foreign policy; the second is to revise the history of 9/11.
"The ACLU's findings raise serious doubts regarding the official story."
For instance, in the days following the foiled 2009 Christmas Day bombing aboard a plane in route to Detroit, Giuliani asserted, "We had no domestic attacks under Bush." Referring to the Fort Hood shootings, Giuliani continued: "We've had one under Obama."
In the intervening months, dubious assertions of this sort have intensified. Rich notes how Karl Rove's memoir and Liz Cheney's organization Keep American Safe are likewise engaging in revisionist history that lets the Bush Administration off the hook for the 9/11 attacks.
Curious, then, that the 911 Truth movement fails to get much traction in the American news media -- despite renewed interest in the movement among the international press corps. Meanwhile, the U.S. press corps dutifully records the revisionist history of a handful of influential ideologues whose motivations are both self-serving and disingenuous.
In short, Rove, Cheney and others are calling for a rewrite of recent US history. In contrast, the 911 Truth movement wants to reboot a flawed investigation into a historic event that has, and continues to have, profound implications for American democracy.
Kevin Howley is associate professor of media studies at DePauw University. He is editor of Understanding Community Media (Sage, 2010). He writes regularly on media, culture and politics at e-chreia.