University of Wisconsin lecturer Kevin Barrett and University of Minnesota-Duluth professor James Fetzer took time Sunday afternoon to explain their Sept. 11 theory that has been the source of recent widespread media attention and legislative debate.
Barrett and Fetzer belong to a group called Scholars for 9/11 Truth, whose members believe the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by the Bush administration. The duo presented pictures, videos and sound bites as evidence throughout their lecture to support their point of view.
"If our research is correct," Fetzer said, "The American government has been practicing terrorism on the American people."
The UW folklore department sponsored the lecture, which attracted several media outlets. Director of the UW folklore program Jim Leary said he originally felt like he went out on a limb sponsoring Barrett and Fetzer's lecture, but is ultimately happy with his decision.
Leary said he "got some heat" from state Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, and even went so far as to challenge Nass' legislative aide to a fight.
However, Leary said Barrett and Fetzer's lecture was interesting from a folklorist's point of view.
"Any time you have governments or corporations who are putting out official stories, there are also unofficial commentaries that circulate through jokes and rumors," Leary said. "And so folklorists are interested in how people use their cultural resources to communicate ideas."
Barrett shared Leary's sentiments on the study of folklore, and said the "insider-outsider split" between people who believe the information in the 9/11 Commission Report and those who challenge it could be solved with a "couple of stiff drinks" to get people talking.
"Nowhere is there a more significant gap between official and unofficial business than the contemporary debates over 9/11," Barrett said.
Fetzer showed play-by-play video of the World Trade Center being hit by airliners followed by statistics about the time it took the buildings to collapse. According to Fetzer, the American government attributes the collapse of the two towers to burning jet fuel that melted the steel uprights of the buildings, along with a fireball that fell down the elevator shaft to cause sub-basement damage.
Fetzer called the government's explanation "impossible" because the buildings did not burn long enough or hot enough to melt steel. He further suggested the 110-story buildings fell because of an explosion the Bush administration knew about rather than an unforeseen terrorist attack.
"Realize now," Fetzer said, "This is not a collapse; these buildings are blowing up from the top down."
Fetzer also presented and defended the lecturers' belief that the Pentagon was not hit by a Boeing 757 as the Bush administration reported, but rather blown up by another form of explosive, such as bombs in adjacent garbage cans or a missile fired by an A3 Sky Warrior, a smaller Navy plane.
"It is easy to say they lied," Fetzer said. "It is far more demanding to figure out what actually happened."
The two lecturers referred to the 9/11 attacks as "a farce," and Barrett said people who question the validity of the 9/11 Commission Report and support beliefs of Scholars for 9/11 Truth are bound together by a communal sense of danger.
"We worry about further false flag attacks to institutionalize non-institutional thinkers," he said.
Barrett said 9/11 is a sacred myth for many Americans, defining a myth as "a narrative that is told as true, but at its core is a debated belief."
After listening to the lecture sponsored by his department Leary said he entered the room as a skeptic with questions about the truth behind the attacks, but left with his eyes opened to some possibilities.
"I can't say I am completely convinced," Leary said. "I think these things are so important that even if people are ultimately wrong, you have to have this discussion."