Origins of the Conspiracy Theories
I thought I'd do a little poking around in the Usenet Newsgroup alt.conspiracy during 2001 to see how much of the current conspiracy theory nonsense was being proposed and embraced during the first week after the attack.
For those not familiar with Usenet, it's a completely separate segment of the internet, devoted to groups with common interests. There are Usenet newsgroups for politics, comic books, football teams, weightlifters, crossdressers, you name it, if more than ten people in the world are into it the odds are strong there's a Usenet newsgroup for it. It's somewhat similar to today's web-based forums, and the latter have even adopted some of Usenet terms, like threads and posts.
Alt.conspiracy, as you might expect, is the home of the folks who listen to Art Bell and Alex Jones and Jeff Rense. It was a vibrant group back in 2001; there were 4,120 posts (counting replies) to the group in the eight days from 9/11 to 9/18/01.
It didn't take long for Operation Northwoods to come up; this is the earliest mention I could find, from the Monday after the attacks:
The following excerpt from James Bamford's "Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency" (Doubleday, 2001) provides very disturbing information that is directly relevant to the events of September 11, 2001.
Interestingly, "controlled demolition" came up blank. However one guy did mention CDI.
Nor does drones (there are a couple of hits but not talking about drones into the WTC) or PNAC. Amazingly, there were no sightings of the neocons. However, their religion did not escape notice; Jews came up 78 times. Though looking through it, most of the posts are about how we shouldn't have supported Israel, that's why we got attacked. The Mossad came up 34 times, and several of the posts directly imply they staged 9-11:
My vote is Israel. Mossad, or whatever their deep cover is.
LIHOP and MIHOP hadn't evolved yet as shorthand for the two flavors of conspiracy theory, but I did find some very relevant posts with the term "let it happen". This appears to be the earliest one:
I have been thinking about this a little lately and was wondering what anyone else thought of maybe the US intelligence community allowing these hijackers to commit this heinous deed in order for us to engage these people with the huge backing of the US populous ala Pearl Harbor (the US govt. knew they were coming but allowed it to happen so that we would have to be engaged in WW2)
Cellphones? A.K. Dewdney was not around to run Project Achilles to tell folks that cellphones didn't work back then. There were two mentions of cellphones in the week after 9-11, both of which accepted the general principle that cellphones would work.
So interestingly, one of the later pieces to make it into Loose Change, the whole bit about Operation Northwoods was arguably being discussed earlier than the rest of the conspiracy theory.