9/11 Conspiracy Theories Gain Ground, Study Finds
(CNSNews.com) - The idea that the Bush administration participated in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is not limited to fringe Web sites and conspiracy theorists, according to a poll commissioned by a Web site that promotes alternative explanations for the events of Sept. 11.
The poll, conducted by Zogby International for 911Truth.org and released last week, found that 31 percent of Americans do not accept the official explanation for Sept. 11 -- that "19 Arab fundamentalists executed a surprise attack which caught U.S. intelligence and military forces off guard."
Among that 31 percent, around 26 percent agreed that the American government "knew the attacks were coming but consciously let them proceed for various political, military, and economic motives." Almost 5 percent believed that U.S. officials "actively planned or assisted some aspects of the attack."
Among self-identified Democrats, 42.6 percent chose an explanation other than the official one, as did 19.2 percent of Republicans and 30.5 percent of Independents.
Those who doubted the official explanation also tended to be low-income, single, and young. They most frequently associated with a liberal or progressive ideology.
"The number of people who question is growing," Mike Berger of 911Truth.org, a leading 9/11 conspiracy Web site, told Cybercast News Service. "The issue is that there has not been mainstream media coverage of any of the anomalies, the omissions, the lies regarding what we know."
"The mainstream media have basically tried to dismiss anybody who raises questions," he said.
In addition to questioning the official explanation behind the events of September 11, other poll results indicated that some Americans are warming to the idea of alternative 9/11 explanations and reflected an extreme dissatisfaction with the Bush administration.
About 67 percent of those polled indicated they believe that the government should have properly investigated the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7, which was not hit by a plane and crumbled eight hours after the Twin Towers. Tower 7's destruction is seen as a smoking gun by many conspiracy theorists, who contend that the building was brought down by explosives.
Others disagree. According to a Popular Mechanics investigation of many prevalent September 11conspiracy theories, Tower 7 was only a block from the Twin Towers and the rubble produced from their collapse started a fire that ultimately destroyed the building. Nevertheless, many in the 9/11 Truth movement were unconvinced.
Further, 31 percent of respondents believe that impeachment proceedings should be brought by Congress against President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, or both. This number was most heavily concentrated among self-identified progressives and liberals, 60 percent and 52 percent respectively.
The poll is based on 1,000 telephone interviews conducted by Zogby International and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The new media
According to Berger, alternative explanations for 9/11 were generally ignored by the mainstream press and gained traction only through alternative forms of media, such as Internet blogs.
"Rather than being a passive receiver of information as we have been in the past, you're able to go on the Internet and choose your own sources of news and evaluate [that information] yourself," he said. "And I think it shows that the young -- the people under 30 -- have a much different approach to information."
The 9/11 Truth movement has established itself almost entirely on the Internet, the most popular source of news for the 18-24 age group, which overwhelmingly disbelieves the official explanation for the Twin Towers collapse.
By contrast, older age groups, which are far more reliant on newspapers and television news shows for their information, are more likely to believe the official explanation. Among persons 55-69 years old, only 24 percent buy into alternative theories. For those 70 and older, the number is the same.
Berger said he is hopeful that the poll numbers indicate a groundswell of anti-authoritarianism among the generation that will soon be running America.
"These are the people who will be either drafted or sent off to fight these wars," he said. "They have a stake to question what they're being told, and it looks like they're very good with their skepticism of what they're being told through official sources. And I think that's a really uplifting number to see and it portends of a more activist youth."
"These are people who have a real stake in the future. It's a majority, a supermajority," he added.
The Internet has also become a home for Web sites such as debunking911.com and 911myths.com, which challenge and allegedly refute many claims made by 9/11 conspiracy theorists. There's even an online peer-reviewed journal, "The Journal of Debunking 9/11."
Criticism has also come from older mediums. Popular Mechanics magazine published a special report and later a book tackling 9/11 conspiracy theories. Conservative talk radio hosts frequently ridicule members of the 9/11 Truth movement. Even Comedy Central's animated show "South Park" ran an entire episode contending that 9/11 conspiracy theorists were "retarded."
But if the poll numbers are any indication, public momentum is currently moving in the direction of 911truth.org.
"It's being [promoted] by activists, by people who looked at the research and said, our whole world is being turned upside-down by this event, which, to this day, we still don't know what happened," Berger said.
Make media inquiries or request an interview with Matt Purple.
Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-brief.
E-mail a comment or news tip to Matt Purple.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.