Other than among associates of Feisal Abdul Rauf, one could well believe that 9/11 “trutherism” is largely a thing of the past. The main target of the “9/11 truth movement” was always, after all, the supposedly nefarious cabal otherwise known as the Bush administration. With the end of President Bush’s second term, the “movement” had lost its very raison d’être.
In the meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans have other fish to fry. But photographs from a rally that took place in Berlin on the anniversary of 9/11 suggest that 9/11 “trutherism” is alive and well in Germany.
In fact, what has come to be known as “trutherism” was widespread in Europe long before the “inside job” thesis had virtually any adherents in the United States. As discussed in my article “The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy,” the “inside job” thesis first appeared in the pages of France’s newspaper of record, Le Monde, only one week after the attacks. It was put forward there by a researcher from the prestigious National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), no less.
The first French edition of Thierry Meyssan’s would-be 9/11 exposé L'Effroyable Imposture – roughly, “The Terrifying Hoax” – was published merely six months after the attacks. It quickly shot to the top of the French best-seller list, with a reported 200,000 copies being sold in a matter of weeks. The publication in 2003 of an English edition under the title 9/11, The Big Lie passed nearly unperceived. It would, however, serve as one of the principal sources for the American “trutherism” that emerged some years later.
The German appetite for the “inside job” thesis was possibly even more voracious than the French. By summer 2003, the German book market was crowded with what would nowadays be known as “trutherist” literature, including a German edition of Meyssan’s opus and several native German offerings with titles like Conspiracies, Conspiracy Theories and the Secrets of 9/11, Operation 9/11: Attack on the World, and The CIA and 9/11: International Terror and the Secret Services. The latter was written by Andreas von Bülow, a former minister of research in the German government. It is presently in its seventh edition.
In 2007, the German public television network ZDF marked the sixth anniversary of 9/11 by broadcasting a documentary titled “September 11, 2001: What Really Happened.” The documentary gave a sympathetic – if somewhat inconclusive – hearing to the proponents of the “inside job” thesis. (See my article “America is Somehow to Blame: German Public Television on 9/11”.) An online poll linked to the broadcast is still available on the ZDF website. As of this writing, fully 67 percent of the respondents identify "George W. Bush" (27 percent) or "U.S. Authorities" (25 percent) or the "Armaments Lobby" (15 percent) as having been behind the attacks. Only 25 percent choose the fourth option: Osama Bin Laden.
“Regime change” in the United States appears not to have sated the hunger for “9/11 truth” in Germany. As documented on the German Gnurpsnewoel blog, “truthers” were out in force earlier this month at the “Freedom Not Fear” demonstration that took place on Saturday, September 11, in Berlin. The full collection of photos can be viewed here. (Hat-tip: Classless Kulla.)
The abundance of truther-themed signs is particularly striking, given that the demonstration had nothing to do, per se, with the attacks on the United States nine years earlier. Its ostensible purpose was to protest against alleged “excessive surveillance” on the part of “governments and businesses.” (An English-language “Call for Action” is consultable here.) But the fact that the organizers would choose to hold their rally on precisely September 11 – as if to negate or “challenge” the significance generally attached to this date – is perhaps no coincidence. After all, if 9/11 was an “inside job” and not the work of the “external” Islamic extremists typically held responsible, then all the more reason to reject “government surveillance.” Perhaps the protestors believe that the terror attacks of Bali, Madrid, London, Mumbai and so on were all “inside jobs” as well.
Most of the signs depicted are in English and require no explanation. It is as if the young German protestors have re-imported the old European conspiracy theories with the new American branding. But one sign is typically German. It reads “9/11 = Reichstagsbrand.”
The reference is to the February 1933 Reichstag fire, which was famously exploited by the Nazi regime to consolidate its power and persecute its political opponents. It has frequently been suggested that the Nazis themselves were responsible for setting the fire. The “9/11 = the Reichstag fire” equation has long been a preferred trope of Germany’s homegrown brand of “trutherism” – or what might better be called, in light of historical precedents, “9/11 revisionism.”
There is a certain irony in the fact that such 9/11 revisionism would abound at Berlin’s “Freedom Not Fear” demonstration. As German-language publicity materials make clear, the principal practical objective of the sponsoring organizations is to combat so-called data-retention laws. In March, Germany’s Constitutional Court overturned a German law implementing minimum data retention requirements laid out in a 2006 European Union directive.
As I have discussed here and here, the directive in question and the European laws implementing it have nothing to do with “surveillance.” They merely require telecommunications firms to save for a given time basic client data that they automatically generate as a matter of course anyway: the sort of data that helped American investigators to reconstruct the 9/11 plot and, among other things, its many connections to Germany.
John Rosenthal writes regularly on European politics for both old and new media. More of his work can be found at www.trans-int.com.