The 9/11 Truth movement, which denies that terrorism was the cause of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, has always had deep roots in movies. In 2005, the first Loose Change movie, which marshalled so-called evidence for the theory, was released streaming online and in a limited DVD run: three editions have been released since. But now, the movement is leveling up with September Morn, a closer-to-Hollywood production that’s meant to act as a call for a new investigation into the attacks separate from the 9/11 Commission. Normally, I’d ignore this kind of thing for the silliness that it is. But as the Truther movement’s ambitions have expanded cinematically, it also seems to have captured some new adherents, including two that could give the project a worrisome credibility.
It’s particularly depressing that Woody Harrelson and Martin Sheen would lend their credibility to a project like this, and I almost can’t believe that it’s true. Other members of the announced cast either burned through their talent or their credibility long ago. Daniel Sunjata, who’s probably best known for his work in Rescue Me, is a noted, long-term truther. As much as I share Jay and Silent Bob’s enthusiasm for Judd Nelson, he is not exactly what you’d call a major movie star these days. But Harrelson is at a second, impressive crest in his career, and Sheen has both accumulated West Wing good will to burn with politically-oriented filmgoers and has stumped for Obama in the past. Without them, this would be a project with a no-name writer, a director who did Jack Nicholson’s stunts in As Good As It Gets (I would, I have to admit, love to know what that entailed), and a collection of actors who might attract small, passionate followings, but nothing else. Harrelson and Sheen have made this project news instead of another entry in the conspiracy trash heap.
That’s the danger of actors’ influence, and movies’ power to reach, even for the least of them, what are comparatively large audiences in the context of almost any other medium. September Morn won’t just disseminate bad ideas that ought to have been discredited long ago, that linger as a symptom of what seems to be a plague of our country’s conspiratorial thinking. It will help credit the idea that people who have an enormous amount of influence can use it for anything substantive or socially valuable. The casualties aren’t just the unsuspecting who pick up conspiracy theories: they’re informed, serious people who could make a difference but get lumped in with what 30 Rock’s protestors would call the Hollyweirdos.