EXPERT 1: Mathias Bröckers
PROFESSION: Conspiracy Journalist
On his website, the motto “Question authority, think for yourself” sets the tone. Having served as culture editor of TAZ in the 1980s, Bröckers is the author of 10 books and a prolific journalist with a special penchant for conspiracy, drugs and terrorism. In the wake of 9/11, Bröckers attracted public attention with his columns for the webzine Telepolis, which formed the basis for his 2002 bestseller Verschwörungen, Verschwörungstheorien und die Geheimnisse des 11.9. (Conspiracies, Conspiracy Theories and the Secrets of 9/11). In its derisive review of the book, Der Spiegel called Bröckers the “spiritus rector of German’s self-proclaimed alternative investigators”. Bröckers’ work perfectly illustrates the thin line between investigative journalism and conspiracy theory – a line he’s straddled in many of his writings. His latest book Die Drogenlüge (The Drug Lie) tackles the connections between the drug trade and terrorism.
How did you become interested in the many conspiracies surrounding 9/11?
Like everyone, I was shocked and couldn’t understand. The first time I heard ‘Osama bin Laden’, the towers were still standing. So okay, he was a potential suspect. But after two hours I heard it a second and a third time, and nothing else – it was clear that ‘it had to be Osama’. Forty minutes later I heard the name “Osama” on CNN and then “Osama, Osama, Osama” over the next two hours. That morning I had been writing on conspiracy theories and how they were used by the Nazis as propaganda. The great thing about conspiracy theories is they make complex things very simple and provide a scapegoat. I said, “Hey! It seems like they already know who did it. There’s the scapegoat!” Suddenly I had a practical example on the screen of what I had been researching and writing about! They said they were surprised by this attack and that nobody could imagine this – but after an hour they knew everything. The official narrative was formed, and everything that didn’t fit was suppressed. I published my pieces every second day on Telepolis and got millions of readers.
So for you the official bin Laden version is state propaganda?
Yes. The people in power call conspiracy theories ‘crazy’, ‘nutty’, but they use them every day, as propaganda tools. Especially since 9/11, the term ‘conspiracy theory’ has become a tool to discredit anything that doesn’t suit the powerful and wealthy. You only need to say “this is a conspiracy theory” to stop any discussion. People are stupid and the media needs to use stupid tools: just black or white, no grey. If you hear someone like George W. Bush say, “You are with the terrorists or with us,” that’s the same simplistic dichotomy that Adolf used here with the Germans. We Germans have learnt our lesson – perhaps a little better than the Americans. Thanks to Hitler, we know firsthand how propaganda works. But isn’t there a difference between propaganda, which comes from power, and conspiracy theories, which originate from the fringes of society? From a structural or systemic view, it’s the same. Okay, so you might have a mainstream conspiracy theory saying, “Osama and 19 thugs did this,” and we have what you might call ‘the people’s theories’.
Which is then labeled a ‘conspiracy theory’ – that it was an inside job, or a false flag operation.
Yes, we have an inside job theory, and we have a mainstream, outside job ‘Osama’ theory.
What’s your theory?
I have no conspiracy theory on 9/11; the only thing I say over and over is that the original version is a conspiracy theory, that we have no proof that 19 students with box cutters did all this, all alone with only the help of a man in a cave in Afghanistan. This is a childish, naïve, crazy tale. It was a terrible thing that happened and everyone was vulnerable. This has nothing to do with rationality – this is pure emotional stuff.
So what do you think then, if the mainstream theory is a conspiracy theory?
I have no theory. I only say there is a lot of evidence that points to an inside job. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think they were patsies. They were Lee Harvey Oswalds.
And who was pulling the strings?
Let’s say a person or people inside the CIA. Complicity from the US from rogue elements in the military and in the secret services. Fifteen of [the hijackers] got their visas from the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Three or four of them had been on the terrorist watch list for years, not weeks. The NSA wiretapped an Al-Qaeda hub where these guys went in and out. They had photos. They had wiretaps. They had everything. And then these guys go to the consulate in Jeddah and they say, “Oh, I want a student visa,” and they get it. Their visa files appear in the official 9/11 report. We are talking about a very complex operation, not a suicide bomber running into a café.
So you’re saying they must have had help within?
Yes. It’s impossible otherwise. These 15 guys shouldn’t have gotten visas at all. Okay, you can say there were some human errors, but 15 errors? This is not by chance. These guys had help from the secret services from the very beginning.
You’re aware that saying stuff like that makes you, by definition, a conspiracy theorist…
Yes, but not in the negative sense that I’m a nut, cherry-picking from my reality and making a belief out of it. I write on the different conspiracy theories that are out there, I try to understand them and I critique the crazy theories too. I have never said that I know exactly who’s behind it. The problem is that the mainstream version is a conspiracy theory, which, say, 80 percent of people believe in! They believe in the man in the cave and 19 pairs of box cutters!
So, the mass media somehow collaborates in this conspiracy by suppressing information?
I call it ‘elusive information’. This is not Nazi-style censorship – everything can be broadcast nowadays. So all the news – everything I write about – got published or heard somewhere. But to become relevant, news or info needs to make its way into the repetition loop of the mainstream media. Thanks to the internet, I was able to publish my findings. Only a small thing, but millions of people went to it. They said yes, this is interesting; why can’t I read it in the main papers?
Why? Publishers are always after what sells…
They were afraid they would get a lot of criticism in the big papers, “This guy’s a Nazi, this guy’s crazy!” Listen, I was a radio journalist for years, working for all the mainstream stations in Germany. I have many friends here. But when I offered to one of them to do a late-night special, he said, “Mathias, you are one of my best writers here, and you can write about anything. But not 9/11.” He knew that if he gave me an hour to do this, he would lose his job.
Why? Who would fire him?
His boss. And this was a friend of mine, a senior guy there. One editor at Deutschlandfunk, a woman, she read my second book on 9/11 and wrote a complimentary review, and she got, pooh! [hits fists together], “Never ever touch this guy positively in our broadcasts again.” There was strong pressure.
Your book was published in Germany and sold 50,000 copies in three months; it was translated into Hungarian, Greek, Arabic, even Indonesian. What about English?
It actually did come out in the US, but with a small publishing house, California left-wing hippy stuff. It took us five years to get it there and it didn’t sell well. It was too late. My publisher said ‘I’ve never had my nose bloodied so many times as when trying to sell this book.’ The first three or four publishers refused to read it. Two others read it and said ‘Oh, this is a very important book. But I can’t publish it, they’d burn my house down.’