In the span of twenty-two long years, people change, and yet, the memories of certain pivotal moments remain vivid, untouched by the passage of time. Near the anniversary of September 11th, I flipped through the channels, between US Open matches, and caught a preview for a show, highlighting fact and fiction about our nation’s tragedy. I’ve written on conspiracy theories that permeate the dark, often unsavory corners of the internet, from Q-Anon to fake moon landing theories. The undertaking leaves me baffled. It perplexes me even more when people get taken in for various reasons. But what if they’re not being deceived at all? Perhaps there is a depth of malicious intent beyond Q and his followers.
These days, I rarely post on Facebook and Twitter, preferring to carve out my own little niche to share my long-form content. I yell into the void, rarely wanting it to yell back.
On this humble digital site, I’ve never enabled comments, at least not for long. For the JPLA Newsletter, it’s a subscriber-only model to reply. But these conspiracy theory posts drive more traffic than they should, a crazy amount. With the comments held from view, I have a script now that purges them. For a while, admittedly, I used to peek at them.
Note, I am flooded with senseless stuff about how the landings were faked. The radiation makes being on the moon impossible. Gravity too, apparently. It’s wild. When it comes to Q, I get a number of ideas from hidden codes to CIA theories; turns out the all-knowing special ops agent has an American doppelgänger living in Singapore. Sigh.
But it is in the realm of conspiracy theories surrounding September 11th where I struggle. The theories spiral in various directions, each one suggesting a more grandiose plot than the last:
- The Neocons staged this; yet, I’m not sure those bantering about the word even know the true definition of the term.
- A video trick. Or Photoshop hack.
- An orchestrated controlled demolition.
- Insider trading theory, similar to the plot of “The Taking of Pelham 123.”
- Alleged involvement of Israel.
- There were no planes, only missiles.
Despite the audaciousness, whispers persist and find footholds. Reflecting, the political arena further complicates the landscape, with one faction leveraging these theories, knowingly or unknowingly, for their own gains. Talk of Bush letting this happen—he did this. Despite Congress approving the resolution to move into Afghanistan almost unanimously, people hide behind the untruths, claiming false pretenses.
The psychological dynamics surrounding these theories are not confined to the past or one party; they echo in the present, shaping narratives around recent events, including the happenings of January 6th.
Like many, I remember where I was over twenty years ago.
While at IBM, I was a road warrior. In the car, alone on the highway.
My wife called, letting me know a plane had collided with one of the two towers.
At first, I thought it was a freak accident. Then, a few minutes later, a second plane hit another tower. No accident.
I kept driving, trying to find a radio station with live updates. As I was a few minutes from a client site, I kept my appointment. By that time, the towers had collapsed. The meetings didn’t happen. I remember huddling around a small television on the wall with a crowd of others, our faces a canvas of shock and disbelief. The news blared.
I stayed most of the day until I had gathered the will to drive home. A somber affair, two-plus hours, tuning from one radio station to the next. Many heroes died. Families. Those caught in the collapse trying to save others.
Those planes hit the buildings. The towers fell. It happened. I watched the aftermath. Don’t let anyone try to spin another evil tale.
As President Bush said, “We learned that bravery is more common than we imagined, emerging with sudden splendor in the face of death. We vividly felt how every hour with our loved ones is a temporary and holy gift. And we found that even the longest days end.”
Let us remember not just the fallen, but the values that define us as a nation, the principles that guide our society, the moral compass that steers us away from the seductive allure of falsehoods and towards the light of truth, a beacon of hope in a world that has darkness. But, oh, it has light too.
And never let those who, with a wink and nod, amplify the evil and seductiveness of untrue whispers gain ground. Words are powerful. Ballots are too. Let us work to clamp down the chaos and foster a conversation rooted in truth and responsibility.
- Note, the picture was taken of Grand Central Station. My archive of NewYork pictures is missing, sadly, and I no longer have a shot of the memorial. It’s a site worthy of visiting.
- And again, remember this day, always.