Flight 93: special internet edition


Alex Cox
Thursday May 11, 2006
The Guardian

United 93 is the second film about 9/11 released in the past six months - the first being a TV movie called Flight 93, hence the title change. Both films tell the same story: the official version of the events on board the third plane seized by hijackers on September 11 2001, as presented to the president by the Kean Commission.

The official reception to Paul Greengrass's film was ecstatic. Mainstream critics adored it. Columnists, rightwing and liberal alike, applauded its gravitas and sensitivity. It was described as unifying, and uplifting, at a time when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going badly. The studio, Universal, opened a web forum, for fans to discuss the picture.

The result highlights the difficulty of trying to manage online "buzz". Although the mainstream media treated the Kean Commission report with reverence, its name is mud on the web. On the internet, Kean's version of events has been dissected from all sides. His report is likened to that of another discredited commission: the Warren one. Posts on the message board were believed to have run as high as 10 to one against the film.

The internet pullulates with blogs and sites and forums dedicated to "alternative" 9/11 scenarios. Very occasionally, one of them leads to a page about the conspiracy of George Bush and alien reptiles, but many more are considered and informative, with copious hyperlinks (the 9/11 timeline at www.cooperativeresearch.org, for example). One writer and researcher, Michael C Ruppert, is convinced that the atrocities were orchestrated by the Bush administration, from the White House and then the Bunker, on account of a fear of "Peak Oil".

To a sober Englishwoman, ma'am, I know this may seem strange. But a lot of Americans believe it (or something like it): polls tell us that 70% of them don't trust the "official" version, which may explain some of the stick United 93 has been getting on the internet.

The internet posters want us to pay attention to the evidence they say the Kean Commission, and the films, ignored: specifically, that of people on the ground who saw flight 93 tailed by another aircraft, and the apparent explosion of the aircraft in mid-air (which would suggest it was shot down by the air force - something Donald Rumsfeld briefly said, apparently in error). Several eye-witnesses say they heard the plane explode in the air. The "Flight 93 Crash Theory Home Page" claims a secondary debris field eight miles from the crash site: its sources are CNN and a Pennsylvania newspaper.

One blogger says it is as though Greengrass had taken the British government's report on Bloody Sunday and made it the basis for his own movie. Another mutters darkly about Britannia getting overly involved with Uncle Sam, faking dossiers just to please him, going to war to keep the romance alive, even descending to make patriotic American films in a London studio ... All of which made Universal's United 93 discussion forum a pretty interesting site - at least until May 3, when Universal abruptly shut it down.

(PS: Universal last year released the Iraq war movie Jarhead, and this year is set to bring The Battle of Fallujah, starring Harrison Ford, to our screens. It is also a subsidiary of the military-industrial-nuclear contractor GE)