The events of 11 September, 2001 continue to resonate for most of us. It’s not a matter of never forgetting as much as always remembering. It also lingers for reasons that have very little to do with the horrific events of that day and, instead, deal directly with their shocking, sensationalized aftermath. Remember, we’ve gone to war because of it, turned our Constitution into a shell of its former self because of it, and played nation maker as an indirect byproduct of our desire to sweat out the enemy.
Now, nearly a decade later, memories haunt us like the twisted remnants of the Twin Towers, their significance continuously countermanded by declarations of support and pro-American prostylitizing. But for some, 9/11 is significant for other, more underhanded reasons. In the always compelling - if not usually logical - realm of conspiracy theory, the tragedy was nothing more than a staged coup, an outright power grab by a President and his insane inner circle to redefine the United States foreign policy for the next several years.
Pointing to previous despotic interventions on the part of position-mad politicians, the documentary Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup sets up a scenario by which George Bush, along with several highly placed members of his Cabinet, construct an elaborate cabal for a controlled implosion of the World Trade Center and a surrounding skyscraper. Evidence both anecdotal and visual is compiled, contradicting the “official version” of the day’s events. Coincidences turn into prearranged plotting (the sudden start of important war games on the same date as the attacks, the Federal agencies housed in the last structure) and illustrations from the past (Hitler and the Reichstag fire, Johnson and the JFK assassination) become validation for such a surreal, self-imposed catastrophe.
Like Oliver Stone’s evisceration of the Warren Commission, Loose Change hopes to dismantle the findings of the government’s own 9/11 tribunal, taking down the sequence of events, the men responsible, the motives for such a “stunt”, and the lack of any other explanation. They then pull out the most important and damning piece of proof they possess - a scientist who assures us that “explosive residue” and “nanothermite fragments” were found in the post-incident debris. Their argument sounds rational - reopen the investigation, follow the paper and rubble trail, and determine if four airplanes, several tons of jet fuel, and the structural integrity of the towers themselves could cause this kind of massive destruction - or in two cases, a lack thereof.
Indeed, where Loose Change wins a lot of points is in the presentation of the Pentagon/Pennsylvania cornfield discussions, two ancillary crash sites which yield little or no wreckage. While it doesn’t prove that two massive jumbo jets didn’t not smash into the side of a building or isolated farmland, the lack of anything remotely resembling a plane puts an uneasy spin on the surrounding conjecture. As Rescue Me‘s Daniel Sunjata narrates from a carefully crafted script director Dylan Avery, little lights start going off in our heads. It may be nothing more than a kneejerk reaction, a case of instant fault without benefit of all the facts, but it’s all Loose Change needs. From there, it can gather steam and discuss suppressed testimony, harmful hearsay, and any other kind of specious conclusion and, at the very least, gain our attention.
Yet what’s hardest about buying into Loose Change‘s conclusions, even if the intention is nothing more than to reexamine the case, is that there have been a great many post-tragedy attempts to illustrate what happened, outside a carefully orchestrated inside job. The Discovery Channel has delivered near definitive reports on the building collapses, arguing without much contradiction that a series of structural design flaws, including the rapid and sudden removal of the metal’s mandatory fireproofing, allowed the smoldering diesel to do its irreversible damage. Architects, other than the ones Avery speaks to, have also illustrated some construction missteps that may have helped in the buildings’ eventual “implosion” like freefall.
Of course, anything written above can and sometimes is used by Loose Change to support its theory, spun into a web so slick and a factual fallacy so compelling that you can’t help but get caught up in the hysterics. As with any situation that seems both unfathomable and unexplainable, Avery plays on our fears, both internal and external. He dismisses Al Qaeda and the whole Saudi/Bin Laden angle while drawing direct links to many in the Bush White House. Religious fervor and the increasing anger toward the United States in matters of Middle East policy are placated by interviews with individuals who heard “explosions” inside the various buildings on that fateful day. In fact, the overall insularity of Loose Change may be its greatest strength - and its most pejorative weakness. To forget the foreign landscape to forward an awkward and sometimes circular hypothesis misses the main purposes of the documentary format - instruction and insight.
Yet Loose Change cannot be shouted down, Bill Maher style, in simple hopes that its supporters go away. Indeed, we live in times when everything is suspect, from the simplest proposition to the most complicated multilayered circumstance. The internet fuels feelings of distrust and personal empowerment, making investigative journalism null and void in favor or blogsphere deduction and messageboard conclusions. Does Avery and his DVD narrative expose questions that should be looked into and addressed once and for all? Absolutely. For instance - Why did we ship all the WTC metal out of the country without inspection? Why was there no wreckage near the Pentagon or out in Pennsylvania? Were the foreign pilots really experts, or patsies as part of a bigger scheme? In our initial rush to judgment, certain conclusions became givens. Loose Change suggests there is still more to learn and it might just be right.
But again, being on the moral side of a subject doesn’t prove your position. It will take more than a few blow-up frames of the towers’ collapse and some casual conversations with witnesses to convince the family of a fallen soldier that he died because George Bush wanted to maintain his passive Presidency by any means necessary. It’s going to take a lot more than handy happenstance and easy alignments to turn a nationally televised incident into a wholly realized secret strategy. No one said for Avery and his ilk to be silenced. Their voice is one of concern, not crackpot history. But one must always be careful when treading on memory.
For many, that’s all that remains of 9/11. Take that away, and you upset the long settled balance. Loose Change clearly delights in such shakeups. Here’s hoping it can accept whatever happens - pro, con, or most likely, nothing. This is a very clever bit of cinema. But good does not automatically equal correct. Currently, all Avery has is motion picture proof, and that’s just not enough.