[Marxism] Truthers convention

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 23 18:26:34 MDT 2010

(This blog piece mentions a guy named Sander Hicks, who used to be 
subbed to Marxmail. A very charming and interesting fellow, before he 
went off the deep end.)

August 23, 2010, 5:14 pm
Truth and Conspiracy in the Catskills

A small gathering of 50 or 60 people; roughly 95 percent white, 90 
percent male, a few blond-haired kids, average age 45, all nodding in 
assent as a series of speakers explains that our government is 
conspiring against us and fabricating massive lies in order to hide its 
own crimes and frighten us into giving up our constitutional rights and 

The Tea Party? Minutemen? Birthers? No, “Truthers,” left-wing conspiracy 
theorists who believe (among other things) that 9/11 was an inside job, 
that no plane hit the Pentagon, that Ted Olson did not receive a call 
from his wife, Barbara, shortly before she perished in the crash of 
Flight 77, that the anthrax scare was also a government hoax (although 
the anthrax was real and deadly), and that hurricane Katrina was the 
result of weather manipulation by racists or profiteers or both.
The thing about people who hold beliefs you find unbelievable (in two 
senses) is that they are in most other respects just like you and your 

Like many others, I was aware of these theories and aware too that a 
significant percentage of Americans (about the same percentage that 
believes President Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya) was at least 
partly persuaded by them. But on Aug. 15 I got an up-close look at the 
phenomenon when I attended a meeting of Truthers that just happened to 
be held in Livingston Manor, a small Catskill town about 20 miles from 
my house.

The thing about people who hold beliefs you find unbelievable (in two 
senses) is that they are in most other respects just like you and your 
friends. The parking lot of the facility housing the conference might 
have been a parking lot at any university: lots of Subarus and Priuses. 
The men and women were casually dressed, polite and friendly. I’m sure 
that on any other topic — the Yankees, the Stieg Larsson novels, the 
latest Julia Roberts movie — they would have been all over the place, 
but when the topic is 9/11 and the “official story” told by the 
government, they all speak and think with an impressive unanimity of 
opinion and with an equally impressive sincerity.

I was the only insincere one in the room. I didn’t announce myself as a 
columnist looking for something to write about. I let them think I was 
one of them. When a speaker began his presentation by asking, “Is there 
anyone here who holds to the official story?”, I didn’t raise my hand. 
When he followed up by asking whether anyone was on the fence, I raised 
my hand weakly, along with one other person who, presumably, was telling 
the truth. Technically, I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I felt 
dishonest and I was certainly being duplicitous.

I distanced myself from my discomfort by regarding the event as theater 
and inventorying the dramatis personae. They were straight out of 
central casting. Sander Hicks, the master of ceremonies, looked like an 
amalgam of Johnny Depp, Sean Penn and Matt Dillon; he kept things moving 
and implored “put your hands together” as each speaker came to the 
podium. Paul Zarembka played (and was) the left-leaning academic 
economist. He said, “The ruling class will do anything to keep in 
power.” The Rev. Ian Alterman preached gentleness, humility and respect. 
He said that those who have an investment in the official lies because 
that’s all they’ve ever heard cannot be approached in a confrontational 

But confrontation was obviously the preferred mode of Barry Kissin, the 
resident rabble-rouser who harangued the audience with the sins of 
elites who deliberately killed 3,000 of their own citizens and bullied 
“beleaguered countries” like North Korea and Iran. Nick Bryant tied the 
same elites to a massive network of pedophiles including almost everyone 
you’ve ever heard of.

The star turn was taken by architect Richard Gage, founding member of 
Architects & Engineers for Truth, a group, he said, of 1,200 experts in 
the area of the construction and destruction of tall buildings. It was 
Gage, the man of science and the scientific method (another stock 
character), who laid out the basic thesis from which everything else 
grew. The twin towers could not have been brought down by fire. A fire, 
however intense, would have left the steel girders standing, perhaps at 
an odd angle. The way the towers fell — in free fall, straight down, in 
only 7 seconds — shows clearly, Gage declared, that the cause was 
controlled demolition by explosives placed next to the support 
structures and detonated in a precisely timed sequence. In short, 
destruction from the inside by insiders and not by a rag-tag group of 
fanatics who were incapable of flying the planes they supposedly 
deployed with incredible skill.

Once this scenario is established, you have only to ask, first, who 
could have had the expertise to bring this off and, second, who had the 
motive to bring it off. Bingo! The government, which certainly had both 
money and materials and needed a pretext for starting two real wars and 
a metaphorical “war on terror” that could justify tight governmental and 
military control, torture, rendition and the passage of the Patriot Act. 
On this rock the house of the Truthers is built. Everything that comes 
up in the way of an objection can be explained by extending the basic 
assumption, by asking the question, “How did the conspirators get away 
with this one and pull the wool over everyone’s eyes?” It is always 

At the end of the afternoon and before the conference-ending dinner, I 
slipped away. I thought about identifying myself before leaving. I 
should have, but I didn’t. Instead I drove home to a small dinner party: 
my wife and I, another couple and a friend. I told them about what I had 
seen and heard. The man of the couple said that on Sept. 11, 2001, when 
he heard the news, “inside job” was the first thought he had, although 
he hadn’t bothered much with the thought since. Our other guest told us 
that her brother-in-law was even more a partisan of the 
“government-did-it” view than those I had listened to. I guess you never 

Note: An earlier version of this piece mentioned the wrong flight 
number; it has been corrected.

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