Saturday, March 18, 2006

Echo Chamber

The conspiracy theory September 11th documentary, Loose Change, is being noticed in the blogosphere and on Google Video, where it is now frequently downloaded. Using a surprisingly engrossing format that employs Google Earth, Wikipedia, and CGI animation, along with more conventional news footage, the filmmakers build a compelling case for an intentional demolition of the buildings and planes and a series of switcheroos involving equipment, hijackers, and victims. Of course, Wikipedia is now frequently challenged as a reputable information source. Furthermore, careful viewers will notice that the film liberally mixes official government reports and mainstream news sources with blogs and books that require a lower threshhold of proof from sources, often without signalling shifts in trustworthiness and authority.

During most of the film, the logic goes that, as the burning of the Reichstag was exploited by the Nazis and perhaps even engineered by the German racial state as part of a staged event, the Bush administration has manipulated the September 11th terrorist attacks to consolidate power and further secret government agendas. (As a digression, I should point out that, according to the New York Times, you can still burn a Virtual Reichstag in the online world Second Life.)

Perhaps I shouldn't give away the big plot twist, but after watching over an hour of the film on my desktop system, the young documentary makers -- who range in age from 22 to 26 -- reveal another plot, which involves gold stored in the World Trade Center. Reputable news sources disappear and speculation takes on the format of an action movie script. Why do all conspiracies have to boil down to an elaborate treasure hunt? I'll give you the pitch: it's Farenheit 911 meets National Treasure.

For all we know, this may be another form of viral marketing for a would-be traditional blockbuster, albeit with a political indie twist. A recent article about "Online Auteurs" shows how many consumers are striving to be producers. After all, the young director of "My Space, the Movie" used a similar route via YouTube to a Hollywood contract.

At least, to its credit, it does have one of the more interesting copyright warning pages that I've seen in recent years, which is in keeping with its conspiracy theory scheme. It claims, according to a section of the USA Patriot Act, "any person or persons in possession of this information can be held under 'domestic terrorism' and detained without trial at Guantanamo Bay. You are encouraged to distribute this digital video disc to friends, family, and complete strangers before it is too late to do so."

It's also true that there are still many unanswered questions about the September 11th attacks that aren't being addressed by policy makers and mainstream media figures in the public sphere, so it is particularly important that this switcheroo movie not be given the last word. More worth the time online may be the BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares, which is now available for streaming and free downloads.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home