The Magazine

Cynthia McKinney (D-Conspiracy)

From the January 3 / January 10, 2005 issue: She's back.

Jan 3, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 16 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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Former President Bush sits on the board of the Carlyle Group. The Los Angeles Times reports that on a single day last month, Carlyle earned $237 million selling shares in United Defense Industries, the Army's fifth-largest contractor. The stock offering was well timed: Carlyle officials say they decided to take the company public only after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Such ideas figure prominently in The Truth and Lies of 9/11, a videotaped lecture that Ruppert delivered at Portland State University on November 28, 2001. The lecture is 135 minutes long. It feels much longer. In it, Ruppert talks about the CIA, the Bush administration, the Carlyle Group, UNOCAL oil pipelines in Afghanistan, the Mossad, and--go figure--orange juice. The bottom line is that the Bush administration knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance and allowed them to happen for profit. Also, the "world financial system" is on the brink of "collapse."

In its apocalyptic overtones, in its internationalist plot, in its view that apparent enemies are secretly collaborating, Ruppert's The Truth and Lies of 9/11 is a textbook conspiracy theory. It is also a vehicle for Cynthia McKinney. She utters the penultimate line, and it's a doozy. "The American people," she says, "might have a criminal syndicate running their government."

"It's a sinkhole," said Chip Berlet, when I first asked him about these conspiracy theories. He sounded a note of regret about McKinney. "A lot of McKinney's complaints about the government are standard progressive fare."

But which ones? Her conspiracy theories, or her hard-left politics? In truth, the line between the two is increasingly difficult to discern. I bought my copy of The Truth and Lies of 9/11 last June, at the "Take Back America" conference for progressive and Democratic activists in Washington, D.C. In a ballroom nearby, in earshot of the bookstand where Ruppert's video was being sold, Hillary Clinton and George Soros delivered keynote speeches. A few weeks after the conference, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which glibly hints at possible government foreknowledge of the terrorist attacks, was screened for the Senate Democratic caucus at the Uptown Theater in Washington. The film received a standing ovation.

Maybe all of this helps explain why Cynthia McKinney got her seat back. Maybe when McKinney shared her disturbing theories about President Bush in 2002, she was not so much falling off the edge of progressive politics as anticipating it. And she shows no signs of slowing down. "I will probably get in trouble for what I've said to you tonight," McKinney told her audience at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in 2003. "But it won't be the first time I get in trouble for telling the truth. And I'll continue to tell the truth. As I have said before, I won't sit down and I won't shut up." Too bad.

Matthew Continetti is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.