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The rebirth of conspiracy theories

One poll estimates that 42 percent of Americans doubt the official story on 9/11

In November of 1963, on a late fall day in Dallas, Texas, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. His death, violent, sudden, sent a paroxysm of emotion through American society. The sense of loss was profound, the grief palpable, lasting for months if not years. It still lingers, and those who were alive on that day and old enough to remember can still tell you where they were when they heard that John Kennedy had been killed.

What also lingers are the countless theories about what really happened, all predicated on the belief that we didn’t know then, and we don’t know today, the full story of the assassination. Many believe, with the conviction of the newly ordained, that there was a conspiracy: a second shooter, the involvement of Cuba, the Mafia, or a Washington cabal, and can cite with precision all of the nonconforming data that puts the lie to the “Warren Commission Report.”

September 11, 2001 was this generation’s November 22, 1963. And like the shooting of President Kennedy, there are scores of people who are committed to the idea that America still has not been told the entire truth about 9/11.

A 2004 poll by Zogby, found that 63 percent of New Yorkers under 30 believed that some in the government knew of the 9/11 attack in advance. A 2006 Zogby poll indicated that 42 percent of Americans believe that all of the facts regarding 9/11 have not been disclosed.

There are millions of links on the Web regarding 9/11, endless books and monographs written about the event, and countless individuals involved in a loose collective known as the “9/11 Truth” movement.

The information that emanates from this group can be unsettling and seductive.

Take the documentary film “Loose Change,” for example, a documentary investigating the “9/11 Commission,” appearing on the Web (loosechange911.com), with a reported 10 million viewings since its release. According to a recent article in “Vanity Fair,” 20,000 people a day have been logging onto the official Web site, and more than 50,000 have ordered the DVD.

“Loose Change” poses a number of provocative questions:

• Why were the black boxes from American Airlines Flight 111 and United Airlines Flight 175 never found?

• People interviewed after both Trade towers collapsed, to include numerous first responders, reported hearing post-crash explosions. Implicit in such anecdotal testimony is the question whether explosives were preset in the towers. Freeze frame images seem to show “squibs,” (puffs of smoke) coming from the buildings as they fell, indications to some that charges are being detonated, as would be the case in a planned demolition.

• Why was America’s sophisticated air-defense system hobbled in the first hours of the attack, seemingly unable to launch attack fighters, and once accomplished why were they sent in the wrong direction?

• There were reports that United Flight 93 actually landed at a Cleveland airport on the morning of September 11. ABC news affiliate WCPO later retracted that report. It’s still being investigated by the “Truth” movement.

• How did Flight 77 crash into the Pentagon without leaving any trace of its 124 foot wingspan? There has been wide speculation that what hit the Pentagon was not a plane but a missile. On May 16 of this year, the Department of Justice, at the request of Judicial Watch, released two Pentagon videotapes of the crash of Flight 77, reportedly showing the nose cone of the plane entering the picture. Truthers are not so sure. Check defenselink.mil/pubs/fpo/index.html to see the video footage.

During Ashland’s 4th of July parade, “9/11 Truth” folks marched in the parade, handing out information cards, and had a booth where they gave out flyers and DVDs. The small cards, titled “11 Remarkable Facts About 9/11” begin with what is referred to as the “mysterious collapse of the World Trade Center building 7. The handout says that “it is commonly known that the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, but did you know that a third World Trade Center high-rise building also fell that day? WTC Building 7, a 47-story steel-frame skyscraper located one block from the Twin Towers collapsed at 5:20 that evening, imploding in the exact same manner of a professionally engineered demolition. It fell straight down .... No mention (of building 7) is made in the ‘9/11 Commission Report.’” The card then points out that no fire has ever — prior to 9/11 — caused a steel frame building to collapse; the WTC steel was quickly shipped overseas; for fighter jets to be launched took over two hours; President Bush remained seated in front of the classroom long after it was known that the WTC had been hit; American Airlines and United Airlines stocks were traded as “put options,” bets, in effect, that were made prior to the attack; there were eleven warnings by other countries prior to 9/11; neocons, who would later join the Bush administration, concluded that another Pearl Harbor was needed to justify a massive military buildup; some of the alleged 9/11 hijackers are still alive and well and some may have trained at U.S. military bases; the Bush administration resisted the formation of the 9/11 Commission for 441 days.

The documentary DVD handed out with the card, titled “September 11 Revisited,” spends a great deal of time interviewing structural engineers and academics, such as Jeff King, research scientist at M.I.T., who opines that buildings such as the WTC towers and building 7 would not have collapsed to begin with and certainly would not have pancaked in what looks to be a controlled demolition. The design of the two 110-story buildings mitigated against that happening, having been constructed to withstand multiple impacts of greater force and fires of greater intensity than that created by the airliners and their unused fuel. The film also chronicles numerous people who were inside the WTC saying they heard secondary explosions.

What is remarkable about the 9/11 “Truth” collective is how easily they make the leap from the above information to the conviction that a conspiracy of stunning breadth was in the works prior to 9/11 and that the government was complicit. Though the voiceover of the DVD never states it explicitly, implicit is the premise that the current administration was desperate for a second Pear Harbor, so desperate as to perpetrate this most heinous act. One individual, manning the Ashland booth, when asked, insisted that there is a global conspiracy to gain control of the world and 9/11 is but one step along a path which dates back decades. When asked why the media has all but ignored the information proffered, the emphatic answer was that they are part of the conspiracy.

To say that members of the administration and the military and the CIA (and on and on) conspired to kill more than 3,000 people in order to then position itself to engage the “Axis of Evil” and gain global control of the world’s resources is a stretch of stunning proportions. But, evidently, not too much of a stretch for the ad hoc groups whose numbers grow daily.


An Inconvenient Truth

Former Vice President Al Gore’s crusade to raise awareness of global warming, warning us we have only 10 years to try and avert a major catastrophic climatic tailspin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced. With wit, smarts and hope, Gore brings home his persuasive argument that we can no longer afford to view global warming as a political issue rather, it is the biggest moral challenge facing our global civilization. A Davis Guggenheim documentary

— PG for mild thematic elements/98m/F/Paramount Classics

— A Scanner Darkly

In a future where America has lost the war on drugs, a reluctant undercover cop is ordered to spy on his friends. He is launched on a paranoid journey into the absurd, where identities and loyalties are impossible to decode. A cautionary tale of drug use based on the novel by Philip K. Dick and his own experiences. Live action photography overlaid with animation (interpolated rotoscoping). Written and Directed by Richard Linklater (“Dazed and Confused”, “Waking Life”, “Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset”) Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder, Rory Cochrane

— PG-13 for some frightening sequences/110m/F/WB

— Prairie Home

— Companion

A look at what goes on backstage at one of America’s most celebrated radio shows. Singing cowboys, a country music siren, a gumshoe and a host of others hold court on their last show after being bought out. Directed by Robert Altman (“Gosford Park”, “Nashville”) Meryl Streep, Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Lily Tomlin, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Lyle Lovett, Lindsay Lohen, Virginia Madsen, Tommy Lee Jones, Maya Rudolph

— PG-13 for risque humor/105m/S/Picturehouse

— Clerks II

In this long awaited sequel to the 1994 cult classic, 33-year-old New Jersey mini-mart clerks and best friends Dante Hicks and Randal Graves have it made. They work with each other, slack off all day, and get paid for it. But when the local Quick Stop that has been their entire life suffers a cataclysm, Dante and Randal have to do the unthinkable - find new minimum-wage jobs. Now, they’re bringing their rapid-fire, one-liners, bad attitudes and unbridled love of fun at the customer’s expense to Mooby’s burger joint Written and Directed by Kevin Smith (“Clerks”, “Mallrats”, “Chasing Amy”, “Dogma”) Brian O’Halleron, Jeff Anderson, Rosario Dawson, Trevor Fehrman, Jennifer Schwalbach, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck

— R for pervasive sexual and crude content including aberrant sexuality, strong language and some drug material/98m/F/MGM

— Devil Wears Prada

— A small town girl in her first job out of college tries to navigate the waters of the high-powered fashion magazine world - while surviving her impossibly demanding new boss. Based on the 2003 novel by Lauren Weisberger. Meryl Streep, Ann Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Emily Blunt, Adrian Grenier

— PG-13 for some sensuality/109m/S/Fox

— Miami Vice

— Ricardo Tubbs is urbane and dead smart. He lives with intel analyst Trudy, as they work undercover to identify a group responsible for three murders. Sonny Crockett is charismatic and flirtatious until he gets romantically entangled with the wife of an arms and drugs trafficker. The intensity of this case pushes Crockett and Tubbs out onto the edge where identity and fabrication become blurred, where cop and player become one. Directed by Michael Mann Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Gong Li, Danny Trejo, Wes Studi, Naomie Harris

— R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/135m/S/Universal

— Water

In Hindi with English subtitles Set in 1938 Colonial India, against Mahatma Gandhi’s rise to power, a young girl is widowed and sent to a home where Hindu widows must live in penitence. She does not know that according to Hindu scriptures she is destined to live there for the rest of her life, for when a woman’s husband dies, she has three options. One is to marry her husband’s younger brother, two is to kill herself on his funeral pyre, and three is to live a life of celibacy, discipline, and solitude amongst her own kind. A fourth law permits a widow to re-marry but is not fully accepted. Her feisty presence deeply affects the lives of the other residents, including a young widow who falls for a Gandhian idealist.

Written and Directed by Deepa Mehta (“Fire”, “Earth”) Seema Biswas, Lisa Ray, John Abraham, Rishma Maik. PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexuality, and for brief drug use/118m/F/Fox Searchlight

— My Super

— Ex-Girlfriend

A man learns his high maintenance girlfriend is a superhero. When he breaks up with her, she uses her super abilities to torment and humiliate him.Directed by Ivan Reitman (“Six Days, Seven Nights”, “Dave”, “Twins”) Luke Wilson, Uma Thurman, Anna Faris, Eddie Izzard

— PG-13 for sexual content, crude humor, language and brief nudity/95m/S/Fox

— John Tucker

— Must Die

When three popular girls from different cliques discover they’ve all been dating the same school stud, they band together to seek revenge. Jesse Metcalfe, Brittany Snow, Ashanti Douglas, Sophia Bush, Arielle Kebbel, Jenny McCarthy

— PG-13 for sexual content and language/90m/F/Fox

— Pirates of the

— Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Captain Jack Sparrow dowes a blood debt to the legendary Davey Jones, and must find a way out of his debt or else be doomed to eternal damnation and servitude in the afterlife. Directed by Gore Verbenski (“The Ring”, “The Mexican”, “Mousehunt”) Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Stellan Skarsgård, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Naomie Harris, Jonathan Pryce

— PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images/151m/S/Buena Vista

— Ant Bully

— A young boy takes out his frustrations on the innocent ant hill in his yard. The ants retaliate by shrinking him down to ant size and sentencing him to live like an ant in their colony. Featuring the voice talents of Nicolas Cage, Bruce Campbell, Zach Tyler Eisen, Paul Giamatti, Regina King, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin

— PG for some mild rude humor and action/88M/F/WB

— Monster House

Three children realize a neighbor’s house is really a monster, but no adults believe them. Uses performance capture animation, as did “Polar Express”. Voice talents of Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, Kevin James, John Heder

— PG for scary images and sequences, thematic elements, some crude humor and brief language/91m/S/Sony

— Lady in the Water

A building superintendent discovers a fairytale creature (a “narf”) in his apartment building’s pool. As he falls in love with her, he teams with the other tenants to protect her from the deadly creatures who are after her. Based on a bedtime story Shyamalan made up for his children.

Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan (“Sixth Sense”, “Signs”) Paul Giamatti, Dallas Bryce Howard

— PG-13 for some frightening sequences/110m/F/WB