In the absence of critical investigation by mass media, three young men challenged the official version of the American 9/11 events. Several other documentaries are following in its path. Who was the great conspirators? Is this critical filmmaking or too phantasmagorical?

Kim Bredesen

Bredesen is a freelance writer, based in Norway..

In May 2002 three young men Dylan Avery, Korey Row and Jason Bermas, all in their early 20’s and from the small town Oneonta in New York, had the idea of making a fiction film which would blame the terror attacks on September 11th 2001 on the U.S. government. But as they did more research on the subject, they decided that the plot was actually plausible. The fiction film then turned into a series of documentaries which assert that the official story of what happened on 9/11 cannot be true, and that the American government, in one way or another, was involved in the attacks.

This explosive message has touched a nerve globally. Millions have been gripped by the Loose Change-phenomenon by watching it on YouTube, by free downloading, streaming, cinema screenings or the occasional broadcasting on various TV-channels. Nancy Jo Sales wrote in Vanity Fair in August 2006 that the documentary “just might be the first Internet blockbuster”. A fourth version of the film was released this autumn. It is called Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup, and compares the events on 9/11to the German Reichstag fire and the attempted coup against President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. The price tag of this latest version was one million dollars, a big leap from the first documentary named Loose Change which was released in April 2005 and cost 2,000 dollars, financed mostly by Dylan Avery’s savings from working in an ice cream bar.

The budget rise has bought with it advanced graphics, editing and rare recordings from a range of American TV-channels. The argumentation and script have also become more sophisticated. The number of assertions about what happened before, during, and after the terror attacks on 9/11 has been reduced and refined in the progressive development of the four different versions. In the last version you will fortunately not find any lengthy depictions of how an airplane with a “pod” or missile underneath it rammed the Twin Towers, or how someone stole millions of worth of gold from vaults inside the skyscrapers during the attacks. The filmmakers have also let go of the odd claim that BBC somehow predicted the collapse of the third building, WTC7, located just across the street. Even though numerous changes have been made, the filmmakers have always been
true to a core set of claims: The Twin Towers and WTC7 collapsed due to controlled demolition, and there is nothing to suggest that an airliner crashed into the Pentagon or into the fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The filmmakers still suspect that several of the hijackers were “patsies” with connections to American intelligence and that Osama bin Laden was not the mastermind behind the attacks on 9/11.

Russian authorities were exposed for falsely blaming Chechens for the demolition of a tower block in Moscow in 1999.1)See also Andrej Nekrasov: Disbelief (2004). Many FSB (KGB) agents seemed to be involved.

The lack of resources and professional experience is probably why these filmmakers are having a hard time proving, through their chain of evidence, a similar scenario regarding the WTC-buildings. Loose Change is not a result of classical investigative reporting as such, where you are presented with statements from witnesses who can identify alternative perpetrators. The filmmakers have not found receipts from anyone buying the actual explosives or contracts with demolition teams. What you find in the last version of Loose Change is mostly circumstantial evidence, gathered from open sources. Does that make the material irrelevant? Not in my opinion. The reason is that the documentary does highlight several paradoxical events that deserve closer examination.

The film starts with an interview with Dr Abdel El M. Husseini, a specialist in the Arabic language, who finds the U.S. government’s translation of Bin Laden’s confession video very problematic since the translated text is not identical to the original statement. Another major issue in the documentary is the background and behaviour of the hijackers prior to the attacks. Who were these people? Mohammed Atta went to strip-clubs and drank alcohol although he was supposed to be a devout Muslim. Two of the hijackers lived together with an FBI-informant in San Diego, where they were paid visits on regular basis by Hani Hanjour and Mohammed Atta. And perhaps more importantly: how did the hijackers enter the country so easily without being noticed? These are some of the questions which the mainstream media has not taken seriously.

Loose Change is often viewed as promoting a paranoid and conspiratorial world view which cherry-picks facts and statements to suit just one specific hypothesis. Its critics view the documentary as still very much the work of fiction Loose Change was originally planned to be.

A documentary called Screw Loose Change has been produced which counters every claim made in the Loose Change films. Another hallmark of how infamous Loose Change is, was made when the editor of Popular Mechanics, James Meigs, and his colleague David Dunbar, found it necessary to confront Dylan Avery and Jason Bermas in a fierce radio debate on Democracy Now! Other equally dismissive criticism of Loose Change has been voiced by George Monbiot in The Guardian and Mark Taibbi in the Rolling Stone Magazine, just to mention a few. There is no lack of resistance to the ideas presented in Loose Change. This became evident when Time Magazine devoted four pages on the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks on 9/11 to Loose Change and the 9/11 Truth movement. According to the journalist Lev Grossman, the documentary appeals to the viewer’s common sense because it implies that the world can be grasped by laymen without any help or interference. He nevertheless has serious doubts whether the filmmakers understand the implications of their claims: “Yes, the Pentagon crash site looks odd in photographs. But if the Pentagon was hit by a cruise missile, then what happened to Flight 77? Where did all the real, documented people on it go? Assassinated? Relocated? What about eyewitnesses who saw a plane, not a missile?”

For me these are all valid questions. I am not convinced at all by the explanation in Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup, that the passengers on the hijacked plane might have been part of the conspiracy since they all had a connection with the federal state or the military. Another major question which the film-team seems unable to address is a purely logistical one: how could the assumed explosives have been placed in the buildings? This angle should be explored, at least from the viewpoint of what practical limits a controlled demolition entails.

It is important to add that the debunkers may not always be right, either. One example is when BBC, in their debunking documentary The Conspiracy Files 9/11: The Third Tower, interviewed eyewitness Barry Jennings. In the documentary he denies having said that he stepped over dead bodies while fleeing from WTC7. But Avery and Rowe prove that this is not true, by playing an audiotape where he states just that. What did Jennings fear so much that he had to deny this fact? In the closing scene of the BBC documentary, Richard Clarke is given the role as a truth-witness who can guarantee that a 9/11 conspiracy is not possible in Washington since there are too many leaks in day-to-day politics. I find the statement dubious. Why should the assurances of a government insider be taken at face value after Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandal?

Fans of Loose Change gaze at the documentary with admiration and view it as a revolutionary act in itself. Some of its supporters have quite an impressive résumé. A few of them can also be found in the Italian documentary Zero: An Investigation into 9/11. This latter film was screened in the European Parliament on February 26th 2007, and contains statements from former EU-parliamentarian Giulietto Chiesa, author Gore Vidal and Nobel Prize laureate in literature Dario Fo – who all dismiss the official story about the events on 9/11.

Another documentary which shares the same s c e p t i c a l outlook as Loose Change is 9/11 Press for Truth. In this film we meet four widows of 9/11 victims with the nickname “The Jersey Girls”. These women were responsible for forcing former president George W. Bush into establishing the 9/11 Commission in the first place. In the documentary they describe how dissatisfied they are with the commission’s work and present a number of issues they believe have been ignored, among them how the air force was totally unresponsive on the day of the attacks. They also find it scandalous that no one was found accountable for the security failures in the run up to 9/11.

Large parts of the western press gladly swallowed the propaganda from George Bush about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2003. This should forever be a reminder that established mass media institutions can sometimes be fooled into denying or overlooking fundamental facts that are staring them right in the face. Let us hope that was not the case with the attacks on 9/11.

Loose Change is popular because it does not take for granted that all the causes of the neverending war on terror are known to the public. The documentary might not be a perfect creation, but it challenges the viewers to investigate and make sense out of incongruous elements in the official account of what happened on 9/11. Embarrassing it might be – three young men are doing the work experienced mainstream journalists are supposed to do. They have suggested that the foundation of western democracies is a true farce, and for this they have been locked out of the exclusive circles of accepted political sanity.


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References   [ + ]

1. See also Andrej Nekrasov: Disbelief (2004).
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