Due to our American current cultural context, many people describe a meme as just the viral images and gifs that are so popular on the Internet today. But according to Ted Goertzel in his paper “Conspiracy Meme” (2011), a conspiracy meme is any “cultural invention that passes from one mind to another and thrives, or declines, through genetic selection” (pg. 1). Therefore, the video “9/11 Loose Change” also constitutes as a conspiracy meme, due to the fact that it provides research and evidence to support the claim that the United States government conducted, and planned the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001, and this video spread like wildfire on the Internet. Created by Dylan Avery, the video was made to showcase all of the information that he had uncovered while writing a fiction screenplay about the attacks of September 11th. After it was uploaded to YouTube in 2006, it immediately went viral; and was considered as one of the most viewed web videos of that year. With over 6 million YouTube views at the time, the effort branched out and sold an additional hundreds of thousands of DVD copies online through their website, in order to have a bigger platform. The reason that this video became so popular was because it effectively played off of the deeply rooted fear and distrust of the government that many people feel already by using a paranoid style approach. In the paper “Paranoid Style in American Politics” (1964), the writer Richard Hofstadter explains that paranoid style is “the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant…style has more to do with the way in which ideas are believed and advocated than with the truth or falsity of their content” (pg. 77).
After this video became viral, many other individuals and organizations joined Avery in exposing the government in regards to the attack, and to give more support to the conspiracy such as the organization The 9/11 Truth Movement.
Meanwhile back on YouTube, other individuals created their own videos on the topic, such as ones showing repeated footage of the actual planes hitting the building, which only made the following for this conspiracy astronomically more popular, and seemingly more valid. In addition to the claims Avery was making, other videos were providing evidence that the government was actively silencing people who tried to expose the truth such as the fact that people who were saying things contrary to the government were found out to be dead soon after, or went missing.
Especially right now with the government shut down, the American political climate is one that is the most polarized and distrusted than ever before. With historical events throughout the years such as JFK assassination, Watergate, and even the recent NSA surveillance, an increasing amount of people are starting to feel that the government is hiding things from the population and working only in their best interest. This fact plays a huge role in the reason these September 11th conspiracy theory videos have become so widespread. Whether or not you believe in this conspiracy, I do think that all of these claims do have some legitimate points that should be further questioned and examined.
Ted Goertzel (2011) “The conspiracy meme,” Skeptical Inquirer, 35(1).
Richard Hofstadter (1964) “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Harper’s Magazine, November.