Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Note: This is a political review of a political DVD.
I pause on this September 11 to note that while feel-good emotional dramatizations of the 2001 attacks are starting to proliferate in the media, reliable basic information about our world is becoming ever more scarce, especially on television news. The difference between news, opinion and reassuring entertainment has disappeared, and viewers who want to find facts and full reportage are at a total loss. The airwaves are clogged with voices screaming that the media is overwhelmed by political bias. Any questioning of the version of events reported by the government is held up to instant ridicule.
9/11 Press for Truth is two documentaries in one. Its first part chronicles the experience of four women who lost husbands or sons at the World Trade Center. As the "Jersey Girls" they briefly became a media focus, insisting that the Bush administration was being too secretive and asking for explanations for inconsistencies in official announcements. Most of the supposedly liberal-biased media coverage I heard concentrated on two things -- the personal tragedies of the individual women, and the uselessness of their questions. "Why did their loved ones die?" they asked, and editorial after editorial repeated: "Because our country was attacked, dummies." What more was there to say?
Dorothy Rabinowitz in the Wall Street Journal opinion page from April 2004 uses the above argument while ignoring the Jersey Girls' message. She characterizes their complaints as media grandstanding, saying that our times are "...quick to confer both celebrity and authority on those who have suffered." The implication is that because the plaintiffs are "emotional women", their opinions and concerns have no weight.
The docu presents a reasoned overview of the Jersey Girls' story. The widows and survivors got together initially because no investigation was planned for exactly what happened before and after 9/11. There was a lot of confusing information to be sorted out, such as the fact that no jets were scrambled when the airliners were known to be hijacked, although doing so was standing operating procedure for even minor aerial misadventures, like an off-course jet over Florida. Contradicting administration statements, older news bulletins on the web revealed that the government knew for months that Al Qaeda operatives were in the country and that their plans for violence specifically mentioned hijacking planes and crashing them into buildings. The survivors also noted that many high-ranking Pentagon officials cancelled travel plans for September 11 because of 'security concerns.' Why that particular morning, and why just them? Finally, when President Bush was staying in Florida, anti-aircraft missile batteries were installed atop his residence -- an extraordinary precaution, we are told.
The survivors, now called the "Family Steering Committee" wanted an impartial investigation like the one that followed the Kennedy Assassination, if only to defuse crazy ideas of high level conspiracies. They found that media outlets and government representatives became interested in their case only when they dramatized their plight as grieving widows. They appeared on TV as concerned housewives (often filmed in their kitchens!) asking why they were being ignored. Only then was a 9/11 Commission set up. After an initial period of sympathy, the media turned hostile. The Jersey Girls, we were told, were using 'the grief card' as a political wedge.
The administration stonewalled the Commission, which eventually held hearings that did not press for answers to the initial questions. In one widow's estimation, 70- 80% of their questions were not addressed at all. Condoleeza Rice appeared before the Commission, gave testimony -- some of which contradicted established pre- 9/11 facts -- and was dismissed. President Bush 'cooperated' with the Commission by meeting in closed session, and not alone. The Commission was granted access to only a tiny bit of requested documentation. The budget to investigate the causes of the 9/11 attack was but a small fraction of the amount granted to investigate President Clinton's sex life during the Lewinsky flap.
The Commission part of the story ends bitterly. Two members of the Commission turned out to be Administration insiders, and coincidentally were the two members designated to decide who is interviewed and which path the Commission would take. In this telling of events, it looks as if the "Family Steering Committee" was duped, along with the rest of the country.
At this point the docu segues into the fact-finding work of Paul Thompson, who assembled an online document called the Complete 911 Timeline. The Timeline simply organizes and correlates documented news reportage on events before and after the attack, comparing what is known to have happened with what spokesmen for the Bush administration later say happened. This Website provides a two-page summary of some of the highlights of Thompson's work. It's all documented - with links to the major newspaper articles used as sources.
Thompson's Timelines become the focus of the rest of the documentary, covering the run-up period to the 9/11 attack and moving forward to the War in Afghanistan. We're surprised to learn that in July of 2001 Bin Laden received Kidney treatment in a U.S. hospital in Dubai, and while there was visited by two CIA agents. This isn't hooey, as the information comes from reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, The London Times and UPI.
Even more alarmingly, the Afghanistan part of the documentary focuses on documented facts that refute President Bush's televised oath to capture Bin Laden, crush Al Qaeda and to deal equally harshly with any government that harbored them. Apparently trapped in Afghanistan, with full aerial surveillance covering any conventional escape route, Bin Laden was allowed to cross the country in a thousand-vehicle convoy, and then fly to Pakistan. His routes in both cases were (so the docu implies) purposely left unguarded. The docu also offers proof that money for the 9/11 terrorists came from within the Pakistani secret police. The implication -- or conclusion -- is that Pakistan harbors Al Caida and Bin Laden. The U.S. instead decided to attack Iraq. It doesn't add up.
It's easy to fly off into conspiratorial avenues of thought, and perhaps harder to consider the idea that the careful culling of ten thousand pieces of information can easily be made to yield conflicting data. Connecting the dots can produce different pictures, depending on who is choosing the dots. In this case, the sources cited and the facts established are more than credible. 1
9/11 Press for Truth leads us to some pretty grim ideas about what is really going on in the so-called "War on Terror." We listen to key administration officials ignoring fair questions with evasions, condescending non-answers and repeated fairy-tales about Terrorism and The Enemies of Freedom, and we don't know what to think. Are we being protected from a Truth we cannot handle? Or has a power elite simply hijacked the nation?
The most disturbing thing is that just asking questions is now considered suspicious activity. We've reached the stage where any dissent, questioning of authority or petitioning for answers is treated with ridicule and contempt, as with the "Jersey Girls" of the Family Steering Committee. How dare they expect their government to be accountable!
9/11 Press for Truth is not a shock-doc or a flamboyant Michael Moore type of show. We see the President receiving the news of the attacks, and there are no snide comments about what children's book he is reading. When President Bush fumbles tongue-twisted through simple public statements, he now looks as though he's struggling to avoid talking off the top of his head, to avoid saying anything "off the script." 9/11 Press for Truth doesn't rely on ironic "zingers" to keep up interest. It goes from fact to fact and reminds us that they're all from the public record. It shows very convincingly that we're being routinely lied to on the details, and allows us to decide for ourselves what the truth of the big picture might be. More of these responsible documentaries are being produced and shown. This is one of the most thought provoking I've seen.
Disinformation's DVD of 9/11 Press for Truth looks great in an anamorphic 1:78 presentation. Some talking heads from TV coverage are composed low because the editors had to mask off the constant network, corporate and product-placement banding across the bottom of the frame. The disc has thirty minutes of uncut Commission testimony as an extra.
It can be purchased online at Amazon or at This URL.
This never happened before with a review disc: The entire film is viewable on-line at This URL. You can watch it, or sample it, right now. It doesn't look anywhere near as sharp as the DVD, but the message is undiluted. The blanket availability also proves that the docu is not primarily a money making endeavor.
Paul Thompson's 911 Timeline has been published by HarperCollins and is called The Terror Timeline: Year by Year, Day by Day, Minute by Minute: A Comprehensive Chronicle of the Road to 9/11--and America's Response.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
9/11 Press for Truth rates:
Supplements: 30 minutes of extra uncut testimony
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: September 11, 2006
1. An exception to this credibility is the docu's questioning that the two towers of the World Trade Center could be brought down by jet planes, because the buildings were designed to withstand various kinds of fire. A very good Nova episode pretty much settled that one by explaining that the concentrated heat from the burning aviation fuel -- imagine the intensity of those infernos! --- melted each building's vertical support system, causing each structure to pancake downward like giant stack of cards, collapsing floors one after another. From the argument presented here, the Jersey Girls' implication that the buildings were brought down in some other way does not help their overall thesis.
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson