Conspiracy Theories: Who attacked the Twin Towers on 9/11?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Conspiracy Theories

NYC Twin Towers on 9 11 and a 20 dollar bill folded to show the shapeThe horrific events of 9/11 are etched in the living memories of millions.

Ten years later, almost all Americans (97%) say they still remember where they were when it happened, according to a Pew survey. But everyone doesn’t agree with the official explanation of who brought down the World Trade Center.

If the official explanation is wrong, then who did it?

Members of the 9/11 Truth Movement—called truthers—believe it was a government conspiracy. A secret cabal in the government did it, or at least knew it was going to happen and let it. The “evidence” is contained in the photographic record of the event. Smoke and debris puffed out from the lower floors, evidence of a controlled detonation of explosives meant to bring the tower down.

The “why” of conspiracy theories differ. Perhaps it was to permit the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or to give an excuse for the expansion of federal powers and the invasion of civil liberties.

In The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory, Jesse Walker points out that the truthers were widely cited as an example of paranoia on the American fringe. In fact, the truthers were just a side show—the main show was widespread paranoia in the U.S., Walker argues. Officials and citizens saw terrorist threats and symbols everywhere. Walker quotes historian Richard Landes, who said of apocalyptic thinking, “everything quickens, enlightens, coheres … everything has meaning, patterns.”

One example Walker cites: In the wake of 9/11, a viral Internet email suggested that a prediction of the New York attacks could be revealed on U.S. currency. If you fold a $20 bill in just the right way, you get “an image that seemed to predict the planes hitting the towers.” Ridiculous, Walker argues, yet the email spread like wildfire.

Where were you on 9/11?

What theories did you hear?

Why do conspiracy theories thrive?

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