Monday, 12 May 2003

Conspiracy crusader doubts official 9/11 version

Barrie Zwicker gazes calmly into the camera, hands clasped, voice clear and resonant, looking the quintessential Canadian progressive: a colourful knitted vest over an open-collared shirt, a neat little beard, a personality that radiates boyish, almost naive friendliness.

Not a shard of irony, not a sliver of petulant, up-to-date narcissism.

Perfect. You couldn't possibly be more agreeable or less threatening.

Then, of course, he ruins it all by asking questions. They are questions that 99 per cent of Canadian journalists have not dared or deigned to ask, and that most Canadians would prefer not to hear.

In these strange times, asking direct and probing questions about 9/11 will get you instant put-downs.

Zwicker grins as he mimics the upward eye-roll and patronizing hand-flap that go along with the phrase "conspiracy theorist."

As Vision TV's media critic for the past 15 years, and as a journalist with a long list of solid credentials (he's worked at The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star, taught at Ryerson University, and was awarded a Southam Fellowship at the University of Toronto), Zwicker should be safely out of the line of fire. It's a measure of his determination to challenge conventional wisdom that he has willingly kept his head up, instead of down, and tried to look facts right in the eye.

"You know, the people who just shrug off these questions with the `conspiracy theorist' epithet should be asked what they stand for. Unquestioning acceptance of the official narrative? Sure, there are outlandish theories out there — aliens, Atlantis — but there have also been real and huge conspiracies," Zwicker told me in an interview in his home office.

I knew about some of those conspiracies. Last January, I wrote a column about American declassified documents that verify a long history of top-level conspiracies. The U.S. government, its military and its secret service have plotted to justify wars and impose their control on other countries through intricate secret schemes of drug-running, gun smuggling and assassination. They even considered rigging fake terrorist attacks that would cost American lives in order to stir the public to war-ready outrage.

Immediately, I was deluged with hundreds upon hundreds of approving e-mails from American citizens. Some of them praised the TV work of Barrie Zwicker — a Globe and Mail colleague of my youth.

I sat down, with a fair degree of skepticism, to watch Zwicker's video, The Great Deception, which challenges the U.S. government's account of what really happened on 9/11. Slowly, a frightening chill came over me. These were the very questions I had asked myself on 9/11 and for several weeks after. Failing to find easy answers, I had locked the subject away.

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