The Yoda of 9/11
It's late afternoon at a conference of 9/11 conspiracy theorists in Chandler, and Pat Curley's been batting away the intellectual softballs for a half-hour or so from a lady named Lynn Pentz, in town from La-La Land for the wingding that went down in February at the Crowne Plaza San Marcos.
Pentz, a rail-thin, pleasant, middle-aged woman with short, gray hair, started by giving Curley and a pal her spiel on a so-called citizens grand jury to be convened shortly in L.A., where some delusional members of the 9/11 "truth" movement were planning to investigate and possibly indict members of the Bush administration. Why? Because 9/11 was an inside job by the Bushies, of course.
Curley, a tall, unkempt roly-poly dude in dark prescription lenses better suited for a South American dictator, flicks away Pentz's putative proof that the official account of what went down on September 11, 2001, is tawdry government propaganda, riddled with lies and inaccuracies.
Pentz's arguments are hackneyed, and Curley sees every one coming like some slow-motion boomerang. Cell phones couldn't have worked on United Airlines Flight 93, the heroes' flight, so passengers couldn't have called their relatives, as the 9/11 Commission Report states. Bzzt! Wrong! Obviously, some cell phones did work. But the rest of the calls made from that flight were made from phones installed in the plane.
Pentz tries out a number of other conspiracy shibboleths: Those phone calls were faked using voice-morphing technology; World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein ordered the destruction of the lesser-known World Trade Center Building 7; some of the original 19 hijackers are still alive, perhaps sipping Coca-Colas in Morocco; yadda yadda yadda.
Curley's heard 'em all. The voice-morphing thing especially gets his goat, for reasons that'll be explained later. Curley's a walking encyclopedia of debunking lore. And Pentz, not knowing that she's speaking to one of the authors of the infamous Screw Loose Change blog (http://screwloosechange.blogspot.com), seems worried that she won't be able to convince this gent that he's on the wrong side of history. She asks him to view photos and charts she's brought, but Curley's impatient, ready to get home and blog the events of the day.
That's when Pentz achieves something other troofers (as 9/11 conspiracy believers are called by their detractors) have rarely, if ever, achieved. In an oddball aside, she leaves Curley tongue-tied by explaining for reasons known only to herself how she once witnessed the dark green stone on the ring she's wearing emerge from the hand of an Indian saint named Swami Kaleshwar. It's a "blood stone," she tells Curley and a bemused comrade seated next to him, with magical healing properties.
Pentz would later relate how she had, in her youth, traveled to India and had eaten peanut butter cookie dough that a famed miracle worker named Sathya Sai Baba had manifested from thin air. Apparently, Hindu mystics do this kind of thing all the time. The incident with Swami Kaleshwar occurred more recently, in the States. Seems Kaleshwar used ashes blessed by Sai Baba to make the stone in her ring.
As Curley noted in his blog that eve, tongue firmly in cheek, "It was the only time all day I didn't have a rejoinder." And so it goes for the Yoda of 9/11, a man most troofers love to hate. His days are tinged with profound weirdness and intellectual hand-to-hand combat. Wielding a keyboard instead of a lightsaber, he mercilessly carves up the Count Dookus and Emperor Palpatines of the 9/11 conspiracy movement, laughing all the way.
Along with co-blogger James Bennett of Seattle and SLC allies such as New York City's Mark "Gravy" Roberts, author of the painstakingly detailed Loose Change Second Edition Viewer Guide, Curley patrols a veritable Mos Eisley cantina of conspiracy mavens, kooky celebs, Holocaust deniers, nutty academics, anti-Semites, aged hippies, delusional twentysomethings, and cynical, Elmer Gantry-like opportunists, all of whom are united in their opposition to the official version of what transpired on September 11, 2001: that 19 al-Qaeda members armed with box-cutters and knives pulled off the most daring and destructive surprise attack on American soil in history.
Initially conceived as a rebuttal to the popular Internet documentary Loose Change, which, after its release in April 2005, helped disseminate these paranoid conspiracy fantasies to their largest audience yet, Screw Loose Change has since become the way station for everyone who is seeking sanity when faced with the wild distortions, half-truths, and outright lies of the 9/11 truth movement.
Google Loose Change and Screw Loose Change is the sixth item that appears (the fourth, if you remove duplicates). Currently, SLC is netting 1,000 to 1,500 unique visitors a day, with 700,000 unique visitors and 1.7 million page views since Curley's first post on May 1, 2006. No longer a straight debunking site, SLC has evolved into an up-to-the-minute news and information portal focused on critical reporting on the 9/11 truth movement, with humor, irreverence, and a general disdain for troofers.
"It's perverse," notes Curley regarding the almost symbiotic link between the conspiracy believers and the success of his blog. "I certainly don't want to encourage the growth of this movement, but at the same time, we're not making any money off this. We don't have any advertising."
Curley occasionally talks about shopping a book proposal on the movement he's opposing, but for the most part, he seems content being a die-hard blogger of a subject that fascinates and occasionally enrages him. A self-employed real estate analyst and bachelor who enjoys playing in Texas hold 'em tournaments that offer gift certificates for grand prizes, he revels in the infamy, attention, and kudos the site brings him. Infamy from the troofer set. Attention from media outlets like the BBC, Time, Vanity Fair, and U.S. News & World Report, which have interviewed him, cited him, or praised the blog.
Fox News talking head Michelle Malkin has called SLC "the single best clearinghouse on the Net for fighting the tinfoil-hat brigade." Malkin's blog also verbally decapitates 9/11 nutters. But troofers also pay close attention to SLC, as is demonstrated by SLC's countless mentions on various troofer sites. Troofers regularly comment on SLC blog posts and often feel compelled to mock Curley and his blog like when someone created the fake blog "Screw Loose Change Exposed" in March, pretending that Curley and co-blogger James Bennett had parted company.
More recently, Korey Rowe, one of the three Oneonta, New York, twentysomethings behind Loose Change, awarded SLC a sort of reverse endorsement after he was arrested for his alleged 2005 desertion from the U.S. Army. Following his release from civilian custody, and en route to hook up with his old unit in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Rowe filmed a short statement for the official Loose Change Web site. In it, he addressed SLC speculation on his enlistment status, announcing to Screw Loose Change bloggers, "I'm not going anywhere."
At the top of the "Official Loose Change Blog," there's also a link to something called the "Screw Screw Loose Change" blog. Yet when contacted for this story, Loose Change secretary/flack Kristy Kissner claimed that, despite Rowe's video message indicating otherwise, "We really don't pay attention to [SLC] a whole lot. They're really not worth a comment."
Funny, because a cursory search of the Loose Change site produced numerous mentions of Screw Loose Change or SLC.
According to Kissner, a third and final version of Loose Change is in the works by the boys from Oneonta, but that we should not expect this much-promised, theater-bound final cut until the end of 2007 or the beginning of 2008. Asked about Rowe's situation with the military, Kissner hadn't a clue.
"We've only heard from Mr. Rowe once or twice," she explained. "He doesn't really know. He knows what he was allegedly charged with, and that's all we know."
So Rowe "doesn't really know" if he's a deserter or not, but he and his pals want to tell the world how things really went down on 9/11. Head spinning yet? Welcome to Yoda's world.
For all the Star Wars geeks out there, we know the Yoda analogy isn't exact, so spare us the e-mails pointing out that it was Obi-Wan Kenobi who went to the Mos Eisley cantina, not Master Yoda. Nor is Curley a dead ringer for the diminutive, green Jedi Grand Master.
Rather, Curley's 6-foot-2 with a paunch and a frame that looks like it may have once been athletic, and could be again if his new bicycling regimen holds up. Aside from his expertise in the ways of mental warfare, there's another Yoda parallel: The north Phoenix home in which he dwells could double for the swamp planet of Dagobah, where young Luke Skywalker first encounters the feisty mini-maestro of the Force.
"I'll give you my excuse," chuckles Curley, as he gives a tour of his grungy digs. "I gave the maid the decade off."
Of the house's five rooms, only the guest bedroom, where Curley keeps most of his collection of 3,000 comic books, looks habitable. The kitchen's stacked with dirty dishes, and his living room's decorated in the mode of early post-Katrina. For those who recall The Odd Couple sitcom of the early '70s, imagine Oscar Madison's laundry-strewn bedroom writ large. Out back is a huge, walled yard populated mostly by sun-browned weeds. At age 52, Curley's never been married, and his pad definitely lacks the domestic touch.
Near a lonely exercise bike, encircled by papers and assorted detritus, is the center of Curley's existence, the battle station where he spends 15 to 30 hours a week infuriating troofers and drawing fans, insults, and the occasional, vaguely worded death threat. He says he makes a "decent living" inspecting properties for clients and producing spreadsheets that show the return they can expect on their investments in local strip malls and other properties. But if he hit the lotto tomorrow, you've got to bet he'd be blogging nonstop.
"Blogging never interferes with work," states Curley. "Work interferes with blogging. There are some times when I just can't do anything, if I'm on the road."
Curley's blogging obsession predates Screw Loose Change and the 9/11 attacks. He started posting to Usenet.com in the mid-'90s, and his personal blog, http://brainster.blogspot.com, has been around since 2003, covering everything from politics and football to The Amazing Race. He also maintains a blog on Silver Age Comics (http://sacomics.blogspot.com), which is, as its front page states, "Mostly Dedicated to Comics Published from 1955-1970." All his faves are discussed on there Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, and the Spirit, a more obscure series that dates back to the '40s and was illustrated and written by comic legend Will Eisner.
As anyone can glean from his Brainster blog, Curley's a moderate Republican who supports John McCain in the GOP primary. And though he's voted mostly Republican in recent history, he did cast a ballot for Bill Clinton in '92 because, he says, he wanted to reward the Democrats for pulling the party toward the center. But he was adamantly opposed to Senator John Kerry's run versus George W. Bush in 2004 so much so that he authored a blog during the election called Kerryhaters ( http://kerryhaters.blogspot.com/), featuring the catch phrase "We're not Fonda John."
On Kerryhaters, Curley received notoriety for pointing out discrepancies in statements from Kerry concerning the candidate's disputed claim that he spent "Christmas in Cambodia" as a Swift boat commander in Vietnam. (Never mind that Kerry actually served in Vietnam, unlike Chickenhawk George. But that's another story.) Conservative talk-show host and blogger Hugh Hewitt credited Kerryhaters for breaking the item. "We went from 600 visitors a day to, like, 1,000 visitors a day almost overnight," brags Curley.
His next blogging brush with greatness saw Curley connecting with his eventual SLC blog partner Bennett, an MBA student and chief warrant officer in the Army National Guard who had his own blog, Chief Brief ( http://thechiefbrief.blogspot.com), covering political, economic, and other issues. In 2005, both Chief Brief and Brainster reported on mistakes made by liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in a piece on the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida.
"I posted on one part of it, and Pat posted on another part of it," says Bennett, 36, who's married with a kid and lives in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue. "The National Review picked it up eventually. Krugman had to run, like, three corrections on it. Anyway, that's how I found out about Pat's site [Brainster], because we both were involved in the same story. So I started posting some comments on his site. Basically, we started covering the same story. That's how we ended up talking."
Bennett served in Uzbekistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, the military response to 9/11 aimed at toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan. He shares with Curley a similar political philosophy moderate Republican to Libertarian. The two had not met in person as of the writing of this story. They communicate mostly via e-mail, though they did speak via phone once while being interviewed about SLC for a radio show.
Bennett recalls that, in 2006, Loose Change was on both of their radar screens, and their mutual interest in debunking the lies of Loose Change was the seed from which SLC sprang.
"Pat started talking [online] about the movie Loose Change in relation to the movie United 93," remembers Bennett. "The truthers were out protesting it and such. They were all saying this Loose Change is the movie they should be showing instead of United 93. And Pat was criticizing that. So I made a comment that, actually, this is kind of an interesting subject. That some people should look into this. It would be a good subject to blog about. So I actually started a blog called Loose Change, Loose Screws. It was too cumbersome a title, so Pat came up with Screw Loose Change, which is a little more aggressive, but it kind of flows better."
Curley identified closely with the heroes of United 93, who, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, attempted to take back the flight from the Islamofascist hijackers, who then crashed the plane in an open field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Though all 44 onboard were killed upon impact, the passengers stopped the hijackers from reaching their target of either the White House or the Capitol. In the aftermath of 9/11, it was one tale from which the nation drew hope.
Originally from New Jersey, Curley discovered tangential connections between the lives of United 93's passengers and his own life. Todd Beamer, famous for his comment, "Let's roll," lived in the same town in New Jersey as Curley's sister. Jeremy Glick, "the judo guy" who helped lead the fight against the terrorists, had grown up in Upper Saddle River, near the towns of Allendale and Waldwick, where Curley was raised. He later learned that Glick was a comic book enthusiast, too, and that Glick's dad had worked with Curley's brother-in-law.
"It was kind of a touchstone for me, these little connections," admits Curley. "So whenever anything came out about United 93, I wanted to read it. I wanted to watch it. I had seen the A&E movie which was called Flight 93. And last year in April, the theatrical movie United 93 was going to come out. So I was looking around for reviews, and there were a bunch of posters on the Huffington Post who had gotten into the Tribeca première. They were all very positive. But I noticed in the comments section, all these Loose Change guys were spamming the comments saying, 'Oh, that's all a bunch of government propaganda. If you wanna know what really happened to United 93, you've gotta watch Loose Change.' I was like, 'Huh, I've never heard of this thing Loose Change. Let's go ahead and see what this is all about.'
"The first hour or so, I wasn't getting angry. It was just this is nutty stuff, you know? Then they got into the Flight 93 stuff and denying that and saying that the passengers' voices were faked, and I got furious. I saw red. So I said, okay, this is something I'm going to write a blog post about. So I wrote a post on my political blog, Brainster."
Everything flowed from there, with Bennett soon joining forces with Curley to oppose the slick falsehoods of Loose Change, which was made on a laptop in Oneonta by Dylan Avery, Jason Bermas, and Rowe. By all accounts, Loose Change continues to be an Internet sensation, with more than 10 million downloads worldwide, spawning a cottage industry of copycat 9/11 deniers: self-appointed experts who all seem to have their own little Loose Change knockoffs, Web sites, and books.
But Curley and Bennett remain undaunted.
"I'm offended that these people slander our country," Bennett notes. "Whether you like Bush and the administration or not, you still don't like people saying false things about them. History is history. I don't like people trying to alter history for their own egotistical motives, their own fears and motivations. It's something that we all share in common; it's not something someone should just be able to hijack."
Through the blog, they keep pols, celebs, and so-called intellectuals on their toes. If a public brainiac like Harper's editor Lewis Lapham, or historian Howard Zinn, dallies with the tenets of trooferism, SLC chastises them for taking "a bite of the apple." If a politician fails to reject 9/11 conspiracy theories outright, they're lambasted. If a celeb like Rosie O'Donnell starts spouting baloney about 9/11 being "the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel," she can expect to be spanked, and spanked hard. And when they discover that physicist and troofer Steven Jones' science is weak, or that he once fell for a far-fetched archaeological hornswoggle, they let him have it.
They also help keep the madness from spreading. When Virgin Atlantic announced that it'd inked a deal with the Loose Change boys to show the sham documentary on flights, SLC, along with other commentators, raised hell, and the plan was nixed. Along the same lines, when Irish public TV was planning to air Loose Change, Curley enlisted the aide of like-minded Emerald Isle bloggers, and soon the airing was axed.
"Those were real victories for us," says Curley, first smiling, then dour. "Unfortunately, we weren't successful in keeping it off Australian TV."
In some ways, a blog is better suited to addressing the ever-mutating prevarications and hothouse insanities of something like the 9/11 truth movement than is the mainstream media. Curley and Bennett aren't professional journalists, they don't have to pretend to be neutral, and they can be as snarky and offensive as they want. Name-calling and ad hominem attacks are de rigueur. Humor, invective, and ridicule are mandatory.
Truthers (as the conspiracy believers like to call themselves) are, of course, troofers. Mutton-chopped 9/11 conspiracy advocate James Fetzer is referred to as "Uncle Fetzer." Gold-star mama Cindy Sheehan, who's lately flirted with the "truth" movement? "Becoming Full-On Woo," reads one headline. "Yet Moron Rosie O'Donnell," reads another. Radio blowhard Alex Jones is dubbed "Old Leather Lungs," and on and on. The result is a far more entertaining read than you'll get in Time, Newsweek, or the Wall Street Journal.
To paraphrase Karl Marx, Curley and Bennett own the means of production. They're beholden to no corporate entity, so no one's pressuring them to be boring. They're also able to do something many full-time journalists in the old media would like to do, but can't: specialize.
Most reporters haven't the time to watch video after video, listen to hour after hour of skull-splitting lectures, peruse countless Web sites and suss out each writer's agenda, much less wade through slush piles of self-published conspiracy material. Nor would many mainstreamers see the value in documenting lunacies like those of ex-Clemson University engineering professor Judy Wood, who holds that "Star Wars beam weapons" took out the Twin Towers, or in revealing the slavish praise heaped upon Wood's idea by philosophy professor and professional blowhard Fetzer.
Certainly, pro-troofer blogs such as the all-encompassing 911blogger.com and the alternate reality of Alex Jones' Prisonplanet.com achieve something similar, but SLC is observing developments from outside the bughouse's fishbowl. Jones' posse and those at 911blogger.com still have their straitjackets on.
"To us, they're all insane," offers Bennett. "But, to them, there are different levels of bizarreness."
Indeed, there are LIHOPers, those who believe the government "let it [9/11] happen on purpose"; MIHOPers, who insist that the government "made it happen on purpose"; "no-planers," who assert that no planes were involved in any part of the attack; people who believe there was no plane at the Pentagon attack but, otherwise, there were planes. There are even "pod people," who cling to a notion, widely rejected in the movement, that one of the photos of United Airlines Flight 175 just before it flew into the South Tower of the WTC shows a pod or bulge on the underside of the plane near the fuselage.
Posters on 911blogger.com and other conspiracy theory sites angrily reject certain ideas, like those of the outcast no-planers. They sometimes even threaten violence against the likes of the no-planers and ban them from forums for fear of being tainted by their lunacy.
"I've said it before, but it's like the guy at the loony bin dressed up like Napoleon stating he's not the nut; it's the guy who looks like George Washington who's a nut!" says Curley, who then posits his version of Gresham's law: "The junk stuff drives out good stuff. Because the junk stuff is so much more entertaining."
Entertaining or very scary, depending on your point of view.
For instance, out on the furthest edges of 9/11 is former soccer player and erstwhile BBC sports commentator David Icke, who, in 1991, went on a popular British TV talk show and announced that he was the son of God, and that a series of natural disasters would ravish planet Earth. Initially written off as a raving loon, Icke rehabilitated his image by becoming a tireless public speaker, New Age guru and author of several books maintaining that a secret race of blood-sucking lizard people rule Earth. This reptilian global elite is the hidden hand behind all things that occur in the world, and it includes such notables as Queen Elizabeth II, former Canadian PM Brian Mulroney, Kris Kristofferson, and, uh, Boxcar Willie.
For Icke, these nefarious lizardoids are, in fact, the shadowy Illuminati of conspiracy lore, and their plan for global domination is laid out in the nefarious anti-Semitic hoax The Protocols of the Order of Zion. Though Icke was circulating this high-grade octane way before 9/11, the attacks on the Twin Towers have meshed seamlessly into his paranoid, sci-fi ramblings. George W. Bush? A lizard-boy, of course. The neocons in his administration? Might as well be a pack of Geico geckos. 9/11? It's all part of the plot, the curse of the Komodo dragons. As Icke himself states, "The Fourth Reich is not coming. It's here."
Naturally, all this bothers Jewish groups, like the Anti-Defamation League, which has made its displeasure with Icke well-known. Icke, in turn, has called the ADL "an Illuminati front." Icke is part of a virulent strain of anti-Semitism that runs throughout the 9/11 conspiracy crowd.
Linked from Screw Loose Change is Jon Ronson's brilliant little documentary David Icke, the Lizards and the Jews, part of a five-episode series for British TV called Secret Rulers of the World. In the Icke doc, Ronson interviews Texas radio crazy Alex Jones, the belligerent arm-flailing blowhard who's been battling the New World Order since the '90s. Jones is so wacky that Curley thinks he's one step from packing up and moving to his own private Guyana, followers in tow.
But get this: Icke's even too moon-batty for Jones, who himself believes that, once a year, the leaders of the world gather at Bohemian Grove in Northern California to perform Satanic rituals. Jones' descriptions of Icke sound much like the analyses of Jones from his critics.
"That's the problem with David Icke," says Jones in the Ronson interview. "He's got a good line to a point, then he discredits it all. It's like a turd in the punch bowl. That's his job."
Jones then follows up with what must be one of the most un-self-aware statements ever uttered:
"He's either a smart opportunist con man, or he's completely insane, or he's working for [the New World Order] directly. But I tend to think he's just a con man who understands how things work and is just a real opportunist."
Part clown and part bully, Jones isn't easily dismissed, no matter how much you try. Jones' Austin-based radio show is nationally syndicated, he funds several Web sites that market creepy DVDs railing against the New World Order, Bilderbergers, the Illuminati, Bohemian Grovers, neocons, Dubya and so on. Interestingly, he was also the subject of a Ronson documentary wherein Jones infiltrates Bohemian Grove and discovers (drum roll, please) fraternity-like hijinks, including grown men peeing on trees and an innocuous symbolic pageant called the Ceremony of Care, which is about as sinister as the silly hazing scenes from the movie Old School. Yet in Jones' addled, deranged world view, he's uncovered the "ritualistic depravity" of a secret elite, an elite he practically salivates over as he describes every banal detail of their wooded shindigs.
Jones speaks in apocalyptic terms, threatening the leaders of the New World Order with his own version of The Turner Diaries' "Day of the Rope," making outlandish claims: The GOP is a gay sex cult; Bill Clinton was recruited by the CIA back in the late '60s; 9/11 was a pretext for an Orwellian police state; 90 percent of the firefighters in New York support the truthers; Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho was a "mind-controlled assassin;" the Ku Klux Klan sprang from the Masons; Masons worship Satan; illegal aliens will rise up and kill whitey.
As Curley has pointed out in posts to SLC, Jones often sounds as if he's bipolar. In one videotaped appearance at an Austin record store, where he's shouting his inanities to a small crowd, one shopper heading out the door yells, "You're full of crap!" This sets Jones off, and he almost breaks down bawling.
"I wish I was full of crap," he shouts back. "Every single day, every single morning, I have trouble going to sleep at night. Every single day, I wish I was full of crap!"
Jones would almost be as rib-ticklin' as a Benny Hill marathon if he weren't an icon in the 9/11 movement who's recently been named the "executive producer" of Loose Change Final Cut.
In 2006, he earned a bit part in the dystopian animated flick A Scanner Darkly as, well, a nutbar screaming on a street corner. He counts as his pals actor Charlie Sheen, also a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, and the elderly Gore Vidal, who seems happy when anyone pays any attention to him these days.
Also, presidential candidate Ron Paul likes to stop by the radio show from time to time. Within the past couple of weeks, Congressman Paul has elsewhere declared that he's not a troofer and does not believe 9/11 was an inside job. Still, Paul likes to kiss a little troofer tail, and he's apparently the fave of the college-age troofer set, who've picked him as their generation's screwball Eugene McCarthy.
Jones sponsors and promotes members of the New York-based group We Are Change, who spend their time confronting politicians, pundits, and public figures like Barack Obama, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, political consultant David Gergen, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, assaulting them with inane queries about 9/11 or Bohemian Grove and videotaping the results for use on wearechange.org, or Jones' infowars.com. The results run the gamut from ridiculous to disheartening to downright disturbing.
As for Curley, he usually posts the embedded videos as soon as the WACers post them.
Gingrich comes off looking the coolest. Asked about ex-military personnel who've endorsed the notion that "9/11 was an inside job" (there aren't many of them), Gingrich stares the questioner right in the eye and says, "They're insane." When the interviewer tries to follow up, Gingrich becomes more emphatic: "Anybody who believes that 9/11 was not an enemy attack is insane."
His interrogator scurries off.
At one of the Democratic debates, the WACers, including member Luke Rudowski, are waved away by Bill Richardson, dismissed by Barack Obama, and turned into verbal mincemeat by Delaware Senator Joe Biden. Still, the video of the event is off-putting. As they arrive at the debate, the participants in this "truth squad" pump themselves up by shouting through a bullhorn: "Ron Paul for President!" and "Hillary is a criminal!" and "John Edwards is nothing but Bilderberg trash!" This, even when it sometimes appears that no one is nearby. The interviews are intercut with bizarre illustrations of piles of skulls and pseudo-Masonic imagery.
The WAC-pack catches up with David Gergen toward the end, and Gergen banters with its members, even though Rudowski asks Gergen if he worships Moloch when he visits Bohemian Grove.
"You come up there sometime. you'll enjoy it," kids Gergen. As Gergen walks away, Rudowski shouts that he's heard stories about "male prostitutes" up at the Grove.
"You've heard wrong," Gergen gently advises, cautioning, "You'd better get your facts straight."
What's Gergen's reward for indulging this? We Are Change posts a smiling photo of him immediately after he's off-camera, with the caption, "Pervert tried to hit on Luke."
WACers really have a hard-on for Giuliani, whom they see as having been in on the 9/11 attacks somehow.
In the spin room after a Republican debate in early June, troofer Matt Lepacek aggressively questioned Giuliani pollster Ed Goeas, was booted from the room, and was later arrested after essentially challenging a couple of cops to slap the cuffs on. The incident, which seemed an overreaction by the police at the time, hit the Drudge Report and was the talk of the troofer community, with Lepacek as the movement's new hero.
Curley thinks it's only a matter of time until some WACer takes it a step further and goes Taxi Driver on someone's ass.
It's intriguing that prototypical, foaming-at-the-mouth radio firebrand Alex Jones regards the Oklahoma City bombing as you guessed it an inside job by our own government. In his 2002 book, 911: Descent into Tyranny, Jones writes, "There are staggering amounts of evidence which we will cover in this book proving the fact that the government had prior knowledge and was instrumental in engineering the attacks on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City."
Staggering amounts of evidence? Similar claims are made by the troofers in defense of their 9/11 notions. The 9/11 Commission Report and the 43 volumes of the study into the collapse of the World Trade Center by National Institute of Standards and Technology are considered to be worthless whitewash by the troofers. The institute is studying the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7, which is often cited by troofers as proof that their claims are correct. But who are we kidding? No amount of evidence to the contrary will make them relinquish their core beliefs: 9/11 was an inside job; the Pentagon was hit by a missile or a drone plane; the collapse of the Twin Towers and WTC 7 were the product of controlled demolitions, and United Flight 93 was a colossal hoax.
The troofers don't really have any "evidence" on their side. They have arguments, anomalies, beliefs. The efforts of 9/11 researcher Mark Roberts are instructive. His Loose Change Second Edition Viewer Guide goes through Loose Change line by line, refuting nearly every assertion made by the filmmakers. He counts 81 errors of fact, and "345 instances of conjecture not supported by evidence, logical fallacies, uses of images that do not support the conclusions being drawn. And that's only counting errors of commission. The errors of omission are even more serious."
Roberts' full report is offered in a link right at the top of Screw Loose Change. Read it and you'll never take Dylan Avery and his fellow Loosers seriously again. Roberts has photos of the plane parts Loose Change says are not at the Pentagon crash site. He exposes dumb errors like the filmmakers getting the number of passengers wrong on United Flight 93, and refutes such lies in the film as "The Twin Towers came down in nearly freefall speed," by pointing out the obvious: photographs and video of the towers collapsing show debris from them falling faster than the bulk of the towers themselves. Additionally, he reveals one of the film's sources as being the anti-Semitic American Free Press and its discredited reporter, now felon-on-the-lam Christopher Bollyn.
Roberts, an avowed liberal, blasts the film for taking out of context and misinterpreting statements made by the coroner on hand after the United 93 crash, Wally Miller. Loose Change would have us believe no body parts or plane parts survived Flight 93.
But 1,500 human remains were found. All onboard were identified. And 95 percent of the plane was recovered.
Even more interesting was a face-off between Roberts and Jason Bermas and Dylan Avery when they appeared on the NYC cable access show Hardfire. Roberts very patiently and confidently blows the filmmakers back to Oneonta with an understanding of the facts that practically makes him the Obi-Wan of debunkers. It's during this debate that Avery makes a startling admission.
"We made that film essentially as a bunch of kids," explains Avery, now two years older than when his film came out. "That's the reality of the situation; we were a bunch of kids tackling a subject far beyond the scope of any one documentary. I would be the first to admit that our film definitely contained errors, it still does contain some dubious claims, and it does come to some conclusions that are not 100 percent backed up by the facts."
But hey, don't take his word for it. Read Popular Mechanics' Debunking 9/11 Myths or watch the BBC episode of its series The Conspiracy Files, which takes on the 9/11 conspiracy theories and thoroughly trashes them. Or just tune in Monday, August 20 as The History Channel takes on the troofers with a new doc, The 9/11 Conspiracies.
Yet the movement continues to draw wombats to the tunnel, loons to the lake. Even the most respected of troofers, upon close inspection, end up having soiled pedigrees. The most august of the pack are retired theology professor David Ray Griffin, author of Debunking 9/11 Debunking, and Webster Tarpley, author of 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA.
Tarpley is the self-appointed historian of false-flag operations, covert ops in which the protagonists fly the flags of other countries to fool people into thinking they've been attacked or terrorized. The application of this theory to 9/11 is obvious. And the troofers adore Tarpley for it. One problem, though: For years, Tarpley worked as a political operative for cultish conspiracy nut extraordinaire, convicted felon, and erstwhile presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche, who used to peddle the theories that Queen Elizabeth ran the international drug trade and that Walter Mondale was a Soviet agent.
Griffin who's reminiscent of South Park's Mr. Mackey in the show's outrageous 9/11 conspiracy lampoon "Mystery of the Urinal Deuce" currently has the hottest 9/11 book on the market. It supposedly rebuts the rebutters of 9/11 kooks. Griffin argues that journalists, among others, have unfairly rejected the 9/11 conspiracy movement without examining its evidence. Griffin holds fast to some of the wackiest truther theories, like the one that all the calls made from United Airlines Flight 93 and American Airlines Flight 77 were faked with voice-morphing technology. Needless to say, the theory strains credulity, yet Griffin clings to it. Because to admit that the phone calls happened is to admit that the flights took place like the 9/11 Commission Report says they did.
Griffin is also the author of the lesser-known tome Parapsychology, Philosophy, and Spirituality: A Postmodern Exploration, in which he defends life after death, reincarnation, ESP, possession by spirits, out-of-body experiences and the paranormal, in general. As SLC's Curley points out, Griffin's argument that people unfairly make judgments against such claims is basically the same one Griffin trots out while attacking alleged media bias against 9/11 wackjobbery. Indeed, in a conversation for this article, he didn't shy away from that comparison.
"There's a big similarity because it's an extremely unpopular view," asserts Griffin. "There's an enormous amount of prejudice against it. But there's an enormous amount of empirical evidence in favor of it. The basic fact is that telepathy and clairvoyance do seem to occur in some cases."
This Shirley MacLaine-type stuff seems fairly benign, though it doesn't help the prof's position any more than if he donned a propeller beanie and made an argument for the existence of fairies.
Less benign is the ugly, persistent strain of anti-Semitism present in the movement since those first false rumors that 4,000 New York Jews skipped work on September 11, 2001, because they were tipped off by the Mossad that an attack was imminent.
Jew-baiter Eric Hufschmid has been with the movement since the beginning, writing one of the first conspiracy books on the market, Painful Questions. His eponymous Web site is filled with such disgusting assertions as "Zionists" are themselves behind anti-Semitism. Then there are pogrom-promoting suggestions such as, "Our military could also put an end to this Zionist cancer," right beside a photo of a dog in a yarmulke. Yet Hufschmid has been defended by troofer guru Jim Fetzer. And Hufschmid is regularly quoted in troofer documentaries, such as in the wildly popular 9/11 Mysteries by somebody who goes by the name "Sofia."
There was also the brouhaha in Chandler earlier this year, where Screw Loose Change and this newspaper exposed the fact that Holocaust denier Eric Williams was a key player in the organization of the 9/11 Accountability Conference. Williams is the self-published author of the Shoah-shirking book The Puzzle of Auschwitz and was, even after the controversy erupted, allowed to set up a booth at the conference, during which many present defended him.
But whether they're neo-Nazis, religion professors out to make a buck with a book, or those who dream up foul hypotheses like the one asserting that the dead passengers from United Flight 93 are really sunning themselves on some tropical isle enjoying fat stipends from the government for keeping their mouths shut Pat Curley and James Bennett have their mental lightsabers ready. Indeed, they believe the Force is with them.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.