On the same day the FBI arrested Najibullah Zazi on what would turn out to be damningly detailed evidence of alleged terrorist intent — and just three days after the ever-prescient Gary Hart proclaimed, "I don't think he sounds like a terrorist" — KBDI-Channel 12 aired a couple of 9/11 Truther documentaries as part of a fund-raising drive.
The coincidence last Saturday was both ironic and nauseating. At the very moment when authorities were unearthing what could be the most sinister case of domestic terrorist activity since 9/11, with alleged links to the group that took down the World Trade Center, a local public television station blithely devoted much of its schedule to propaganda claiming al-Qaeda did no such thing.
Not that station management minds. "We're not trying to capitalize on anyone's tragedy," said Shari Bernson, Channel 12's membership director. "We've just got to get more diversity [in programming] out there."
Besides, she told me, the films " 9/11: Blueprint for Truth" and " 9/11: Press for Truth" (along with the equally egregious "America: From Freedom to Fascism") have been a boon for the station, helping it enjoy "a good year" in fundraising. Indeed, Channel 12, which also aired the shows in August, will probably broadcast them again — although perhaps not until spring.
Meanwhile, Bernson added, Channel 12 remains "the only public station that I know of" that has shown them.
No wonder. " 9/11: Blueprint for Truth," featuring Bay Area architect Richard Gage of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, peddles the familiar Truther theme that the collapse of the Twin Towers and Building 7 were the result of controlled demolitions that would have taken months to prepare. Yet in the two-hour version I watched online, Gage laughably insists that he and his colleagues "are not conspiracy theorists."
"We're not saying your government did this to you," Gage explains. "Somebody was responsible for this. Somebody, somewhere on the inside was responsible."
The "inside"? That sure sounds like government in this context.
Just in case viewers are too dense to figure out the probable culprits, Gage helpfully provides plenty of clues. Remember, he says, 9/11 "served as the pretext for the invasion of two countries in which already more than a million people have perished. Also as the pretext for the loss of many of our cherished liberties here at home in the United States through recent legislation such as the Patriot Act . . . ."
"Is it likely," he wonders at one point, "that al-Qaeda could have had access to" Building 7, with its sensitive government offices, since it must have been as secure as anything "outside the Pentagon?"
He's got us there, doesn't he? Perhaps President Bush himself, along with a crack team of demolition experts from the CIA, personally packed Building 7 and the Twin Towers with explosives in the run-up to 9/11, while Dick Cheney and his Halliburton cronies organized the al-Qaeda dupes who would hijack the planes.
Sounds plausible to me.
And how has the grand conspiracy, which the film suggests includes the major media, been kept under wraps all these years? Why has no one in this vast web of deceit developed pangs of conscience or second thoughts, or called in a film crew for a death-bed confession?
Anticipating such questions, Gage claims "the Manhattan project had thousands of people and was kept quite a secret for a very long time." By "very long time," he must mean the brief period before spies like Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass and Theodore Hall began passing classified material to the Soviets.
Channel 12 is a local asset with lots of good programs, and Bernson is no doubt sincere that "we weren't sitting around trying to figure how to upset the community" when the decision was made to air these films. It's not even clear the community is upset, given the apparently modest volume of complaints that Bernson reports and the success in fundraising.
Before you know it, even Zazi's story will no doubt be woven into the fevered folklore that sees a cabal of omnipotent insiders toying with us all. In its own way, that's almost as scary as what that airport shuttle driver and his friends allegedly intended to do.
E-mail Vincent Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org