20 of the most bizarre 9/11 conspiracies
20 9/11 conspiracy theories? You better believe it, cause none of them are true...
Bush was in on it, the media were in on it. The US government stuffed the Twin Towers full of explosives. Holograms disguised the missiles flying into the Twin Towers to make them look like planes. Most 9/11 conspiracy theories are so outlandish it's hard to even read past the headline.
They’re dreamed up largely by so-called “Truthers”, people who are determined to prove that there’s more to the atrocities of 9/11 than we’ve been told. While all the evidence firmly supports the official version of events, truthers and government sceptics still persist in peddling misinformation.
Even award-winning director, Spike Lee, veered into a truther trap recently, with the original cut of his new 9/11 docuseries reportedly containing interviews with conspiracy group members. After backlash in the press, he edited those out of the fourth and final episode.
Here are 20 of the most outrageous conspiracy theories to have surfaced over the past two decades.
#1: Jet fuel didn’t cause the Towers to collapse
What’s the theory: This is the OG conspiracy. Truthers claim the impact of the planes on the buildings wouldn’t have been enough to cause the Towers to fall.
Who believes it: Truthers who ignore the science, which we’ve explained below. You’re welcome.
Why it’s BS: It’s true that jet fuel can't melt steel beams, as fuel burns at temperatures up to 1,500°F and steel melts at around 2,500°F. However, steel begins to lose strength at around 600°F. The North Tower collapsed one hour and 42 minutes after the plane hit, and the South Tower, 56 minutes following the hit. Both attacks caused explosions with such intense heat, the weakened steel couldn’t hold any longer. Simple.
#2: Controlled explosions brought the Towers down
What’s the theory? Keyboard warriors argue it was a set of controlled explosives secreted inside the skyscrapers which caused their collapse. Puffs of dust spurting from floors prior to the collapse are cited as ‘proof’.
Who believes it? A forum user named David Rostcheck is the man who first suggested the theory, which blew up online in the days following the attacks. "Is it just me, or did anyone else recognise that it wasn't the airplane impacts that blew up the World Trade Centre?” he wrote on a now-defunct internet forum. His idea would go on to form the bedrock of much of the truther movement.
Why it’s BS: Experts have explained the puffs are the result of the floors collapsing in on each other, and the impact that the collapse had on the building’s windows.
#3: The phone calls on United 93 were fake
What’s the theory: Some Truthers believe the phone calls made by those onboard the doomed flight were somehow faked. Sceptics like the ones featured in this documentary speculate that victims said odd things, like calling their mums and introducing themselves with their first name and surname. Others believe accounts of long phone calls are faked as it would have been hard to sustain a call for over 10 minutes without the line dropping, due to busy call lines.
Who believes it? Now-defunct forum, Flight93Crash.com, as well as the consensus911.org website, were two leading destinations for discussions about this misinformation. The latter still exists.
Why it’s BS: 35 air-phone calls and two mobile calls were received by families and friends during the hijacking and various witness accounts testify to this. You can listen to a few of the heartbreaking calls passengers including flight attendant CeeCee Lyles left for their loved ones and make your own mind up.
#4: The media were in on it
What’s the theory? Journalists reported the collapse of the building before it had happened because media outlets were working with the US government to hide the fact it was an inside job. That old chestnut.
Who believes it? Scepticism about the media and their intentions is rife within conspiracist groups in general, so this theory is hardly a surprise.
Why it’s BS: Reporters were under huge pressure on the day to provide rolling coverage of these horrific attacks. Some news channels carried coverage for 93 hours straight. If mistakes were made it was due to the chaos and confusion of the day rather than anything more sinister. The BBC published this article in 2007 explaining what it’d been like for journalists on the day.
#5: It was an inside job
What’s the theory? The US government was responsible for the collapse of the Twin Towers. Yep. People actually believe this.
Who believes it? People who aren’t exactly fans of American democracy. These include everyone from far-right groups, to, erm, the Taliban. The latter rejected all suggestion Al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, was behind the attacks.
Why it’s BS: Al Qaeda admitted responsibility… and there was evidence of the extremist group planning the attack in the months beforehand. Forget Game of Thrones, this is next-level fantasy.
#6: United 93 was shot down
What’s the theory? The plane which crashed into a field in Pennsylvania was actually shot down by the US military.
Who believes it? A bunch of former aviation officials, who set up a private symposium following the attacks and reached a “unanimous” agreement. Among them was former Army Colonel Donn de Grand-Pre, who told right-wing radio host Alex Jones: "It was taken out by the North Dakota Air Guard. I know the pilot who fired those two missiles to take down 93."
Why it’s BS: The Air National Guard confirmed no plane capable of shooting down United 93 was in the region’s airspace at that time. While it's true that the order was given by Vice President, Dick Cheney, for United 93 to be shot down - to prevent further attacks - it was never actioned. During the hijacking, passengers onboard fought back against the hijackers before the plane crashed. Upon hearing that news, Cheney is reported to have said: "I think an act of heroism just took place on that plane."
Eye witness, Nevin Lambert watched United 93 crash into the field. “The conspiracy people can say what they want...,” he told CBS Pittsburgh, “but I know what I saw that day and that’s enough for me.”
#7: There weren’t actually ANY planes
What’s the theory? Missiles rather than planes were used to bring down the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. TV footage was then manipulated to make these missiles look like planes. Got it?
Who believes it? The no-planes theory is even contentious within the truther community but that isn’t to say it doesn’t have backers: its major proponent is Morgan Reynolds, a former chief economist under the Bush administration.
Why it’s BS: Planes crashed into the Twin Towers. Repeat after me...
#8: The Saudi government supported the hijackers
What’s the theory? Some victims’ relatives believe Saudi officials were connected to the attacks. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens, although the country’s government denies any involvement.
Who believes it? A lawsuit alleging the Saudi royal family’s involvement saw former Saudi officials questioned under oath earlier this year, but no information has been released by the US government yet. Lawyers for the victims and their families are planning to ask a judge to make the documents publicly available.
“The legal team and the FBI, investigative agencies, can know about the details of my dad’s death and thousands of other family members’ deaths, but the people who it’s most relevant to can’t know,” Brett Eagleson, whose father Bruce was a victim of the World Trade Center, told AP.
Why it’s BS: We’ll leave the US judicial system to decide this one.
#9: Israel was responsible for 9/11
What’s the theory? False claims that not one Jew perished in the Twin Towers attack fuelled this theory, powered by the anti-semitic trope that Jews can somehow exert control over world events in order to benefit themselves.
Who believes it? Far-right groups, white supremacists and other conspiracy theorists unite over this theory.
Why it’s BS: This is complete fiction. The US State Department revealed that somewhere between 200 and 400 Jews died in the attacks.
What’s the theory: Similar deal as with United 93. Minimal plane wreckage was found at the site of the Pentagon attack, other than a giant hole in the building’s wall, this led theorists to believe it was hit by a missile or drone.
Who believes it: French author, Thierry Meyssan, who wrote a book called The Big Lie claiming the Pentagon was attacked by a guided missile, is one high-profile believer. Also, sceptics on the reopen911.org website lead the charge. "How does a plane 125 [feet] wide and 155 [feet] long fit into a hole which is only 16 [feet] across?" asks a post on the publication
Why it’s BS: Believe the eyes of the eyewitnesses. A plane hit the building.
#11 The US military was in on The Pentagon attack
What’s the theory? That it was actually a plane that hit the Pentagon, but it was down to the US military giving the green light. Yep, the US armed forces are accused of thinking it would be a good idea to blow up their headquarters. Sounds like something out of Four Lions.
Who believes it? Most truthers. The idea that the military was in on the action propels other theories, like the controlled explosions theory, as that relies on the idea that insiders planted bombs in the Towers.
Why it’s BS: Why oh why would the US military wish to attack their own buildings and kill their own people? There is also absolutely no proof at all. Check the 9/11 Commission report, it shuts down any suggestion of an insider job.
#12: It’s all about OIL
What’s the theory? Truthers believe the US military sacrificed almost 3,000 lives to justify going to war with Iraq and Afghanistan. That allowed them, so the theory goes, to protect their oil interests in both countries and make big dollars.
Who believes it: All those government sceptics again. The ‘inside job’ narrative has many tendrils, reaching for pretty much any justification imaginable.
Why it’s BS: Capitalism belongs in the bin but that doesn’t make this true.
#13: The stock market was in on it
What’s the theory? That a high number of ‘put options’ - investments which pay off when stock drops in price - were placed on United Airlines and American Airlines in the days before the attacks. Were stock market workers given advance warning, with the aim of profiting from the devastation?
Who believes it: Wall Street firms initially reported suspicions about the behaviour of rival brokers in the days following the attack, CBS reported, which would have led to a pile-on from 9/11 cynics.
Why it’s BS: Business people are cut-throat, and ‘put options’ do exist, which are morally dubious. But the 9/11 Commission Report proved this inaccurate. “Exhaustive investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, FBI, and other agencies have uncovered no evidence that anyone with advance knowledge of the attacks profited through securities transactions,” it read.
#14: It's written in the seismographs
What’s the theory? That analysis by seismographs - tools used to detect and record earthquakes - of the motion of the ground during the tremors from the morning of 9/11 show two distinct spikes, consistent with those produced by explosions. In Truther's minds - this reveals that bombs, rather than structural damage, caused the Towers to collapse.
Who believes it? The idea was originally shared on the conspiracy website, Prisonplanet.com, run by prominent American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. One poster believed he had evidence showing tremors offering “indisputable proof” that controlled explosions eradicated the Towers.
Why it’s BS: Experts proved that the seismographic evidence had been taken out of context. “There is no scientific basis for the conclusion that explosions brought down the towers," Arthur Lerner-Lam, a seismology expert at Columbia University, writes in the science and technology magazine, Popular Mechanics.
#15: More bombs...
What’s the theory? World Trade Center 7 is referred to as the “Third Tower”. Its proximity to the North and South Towers saw it also collapse on 9/11, just over seven hours after the South Tower fell. But sceptics argue it wouldn’t have collapsed as it wasn’t directly hit.
Who believes it? Richard Gage, founder of the Architects AND Engineers for 9/11 Truth, and software engineer Jim Hoffman, founder of the 9-11 Research website, are key proponents of the controlled demolition theory for WTC 7.
Why it’s BS: A government report concluded WTC 7’s collapse was due to severe structural damage. Another report on the subject in Popular Mechanics stated that “about 25 percent of the depth of the building was scooped out,” causing the building to fall.
#16: President Bush was in on it
What’s the theory: Three years after the attacks, it was revealed that in August 2001 the CIA briefed the then-president that Bin Laden was “determined to strike in US”. This gave rise to the theory that the president was somehow involved.
Who believes it: Controversial American writer, Gore Vidal, is among those who believe George W Bush turned a blind eye. He wrote a 7,000 word polemic called The Enemy Within propagating this theory. Vidal argued that Bush used the terrorist attacks as an excuse to invade Afghanistan and crack down on civil liberties at home.
Why it’s BS: While it seems Bush had a hint of Bin Laden’s intent that’s not the same as a time and date. While he might have been a flawed president, there is absolutely no proof he was responsible for 9/11.
#17: Steel was coated in explosive material
What’s the theory: Thermitic material, a chemical powder commonly used in bombs, was secretly applied to the steel frame of the Twin Towers, causing the collapse, as the explosion caused by the plane wasn’t strong enough.
Who believes it: Suspicious physicists, architects, and engineers, including geo-fusion expert Steven E Jones, the founding member of the conspiracy group, Scholars for 9/11 Truth organisation.
Why it’s BS: Retired WWF wrestler Jesse Ventura worked with the New Mexico Tech university to attempt to slice through a large steel beam using nanothermite, which produced flames and smoke but no damage to the beam. The Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center also tried something similar with conventional thermite, but couldn’t cut a vertical column that was smaller than those in the WTC.
#18: A high-tech energy weapon was involved
What’s the theory: Photos on conspiracist, Dr Judy Wood’s website claim to show the Twin Towers turning into dust in mid-air before they fell. Dr Wood, who used to work as a professor of mechanical engineering, calls the process “dustification, the process of turning a solid structure into powder in mid-air.” She claims that a high-tech energy weapon destroyed the Trade Center buildings.
Who believes it: Dustification competes with the ‘bombs took the tower down’ theory most Truthers clutch onto. Some physics buffs with a penchant for the improbable latch onto the fact Wood appears to have done a lot of scientific research that’s distinct from the typical 9/11 schtick.
Why it’s BS: Even HG Wells, who dreamt up War of the Worlds, wouldn’t dream up this shit.
#19: There was ANOTHER plane
What's the theory: A small, white plane was spotted shortly after United 93 went down, which caused online theorists to have a field day. The websites BlogD.com and WorldNetDaily.com shared the idea that an “electronic assault” was fired by the small plane, causing United 93 to crash.
Who believes it: The half-dozen witnesses to the plane shared fears that it was responsible for the crash, reported the Chicago Tribune at the time.
Why it's BS: There was indeed a plane spotted nearby, but the FBI confirmed it hadn’t caused the crash. "It got clearance to go low to get the coordinates of the crash," FBI spokesman Bill Crowley said, as was reported in the Tribune at the time.
Conspiracy 20: There are no 9/11 conspiracies
What's the theory: You heard us.
Who believes it: We do.
Why it's BS: This one is cold hard truth.