The world of cults, and the study of them, is a complex one, as even a cursory glance at the Wikipedia entry shows. Furthermore, while most cults are religious or quasi-spiritual, the 9/11 cult is definitely secular. In that sense not all extant literature can simplistically 'explain' the 9/11 Truth movement. The methodology adopted here uses the Weberian 'ideal-type'--in other words, not expecting every single aspect of 9/11 'Truth' to correspond to accepted sociological definitions, but arguing that correspondence to a majority of accepted criteria is sufficient in this imperfect world to make the provisional label of 'cult' fruitful. Those interested in exploring the academic background further can follow up references cited--and supply us with more. It is worth stating at the outset we did not start out with a pre-determined intent to apply the label. Instead, we began with a brutal and unsettling experience--the disgraceful 9/11 intervention at the 2005 Anarchist Bookfair, mentioned on the Home page. The level of intolerance, concerted barracking and closed minded initimidation was astounding to us. While (for example) you would get far greater violence at a fascist/anti-fascist interface, you would historically expect that. In this case, by contrast, the ostensible 9/11 cult purpose wasn't to disrupt the Bookfair, but to proselytise. It is true those attending were an activist minority expecting trouble--or as Fran Trutt put it prior to the event "Shayler...may need some support as some people are hostile towards him". However, key activists are useful research material for ascertaining the movement's 'core' identity--or at least the nature of those at its heart. We are particularly interested in whether antics of 9/11 cultists overseas are similar to those here. And reiterate, once again, there is a massive difference between those studying aspects of 9/11 and 9/11 cultists--but the latter run the misleadingly-named UK 9/11 Truth Campaign.
DEFINITION & ANALYSIS
1) Rigid belief system
The claim 9/11 can only be properly understood from within the group's mindset--assertions about explosives pre-placed inside the WTC, US government complicity, the Pentagon being hit by a missile rather than a plane on 9/11--these tenets and similar are integral core beliefs. It is not permissible, within the cult, to question such--doing so immediately excludes the person.
2) Intense activism/aggressive proselytising
Not an exclusive characteristic, patently. However, the messianic and intolerant zeal displayed does make these people stand out somewhat. A nasty variant of the aggression was the practised spook tactic (unsuccessfully) employed by Machon at the 2005 Anarchist Book Fair of trying to goad--by posture/insulting language--opponents into violence so she could play 'victim'.
3) Advancing non-falsifiable propositions
In vernacular language, there is no amount of evidence that can shake these people in their beliefs--and despite claims they seek 'truth', they want nothing of the sort--merely one-sided information that bolsters their conclusions (premises). As one incisive (US) source of comment stated "no evidence, of any kind, has been found that gives any evidence that the government planned or organised these conspiracies. No documents have been found...Nobody involved in these alleged conspiracies has stepped forward". To the cult believer, this mundane statement is intrinsically ludicrous, if not malevolent. We disagree, but concur with remarks by US commentator Bill Weinberg that "the endemic sloppiness of the self-styled 'researchers' is delegitimising the entire project of critiquing the 'official version'. The ostentatiously named 'Truth movement' is not clearing the air, but muddying the water". That may well be the idea, of course, in some quarters. Fundamentally though, the fact that 'anything goes' and the most elementary rules of evidence do not apply in the cult's discourse is disturbing, to put it mildly.
An inelegant word, denoting the idea that the only way of approaching 9/11 is through the prism of cult belief. Alexander Cockburn memorablystates that "I meet people who start quietly, asking me 'what I think about 9/11?'. What they are actually trying to find out is whether I'm part of the coven. I imagine it was like being a Stoic in the second century AD going for a stroll in the Forum and meeting some fellow asking, with seeming casualness, whether it's possible to feed 5,000 people on five loaves of bread and a couple of fish". Those who 'believe' see themselves as uniquely privileged, having found the one world issue key to everything else--all others subordinate. An unflattering term for this reductionism is monomania.
5) Leadership deification/elitist decision-making
Traditionally, cult leaders are charismatic to some degree and exercise great power, able to act in ways unacceptable in followers. Inasmuch as the 9/11 cult is ostensibly a loose federation, with few central resources, this criterion cannot straightforwardly apply. However, cultists display a naivety staggering on the sycophantic in uncritically accepting the bona fides of real-live ex-MI5 spooks Machon & Shayler. In practice, the pair have a substantial hold over the weak-willed celebrity-obsessed inadequates nominally at the helm. Some, however, are perceptive enough to discern not all is quite right. Michael Meaney recounted how it "was made perfectly clear that there is no real central body governing the actions of the movement, instead it is made up of people and groups throughout the country working independently". Meaney became uncomfortable later when at a subsequent demonstration "protesters were instructed by Annie Machon and David Shayler that this was to be a silent protest and told the sheeple to put down banners, posters etc when the families came out" (of the US Embassy). Machon's rejoinder that a "silent demo" was part of the "terms I applied under when I asked the police for 'permission' to demonstrate" moves us into surreal territory--especially her observation that the "Met will be more relaxed when we next want to demonstrate". We bet they will, in a campaign so palpably under the control of spooks!
6) Use of thought-terminating cliches
The 9/11 cult has a rich variety, mostly transatlantic in origin. A 'shill' is anybody they disagree with, who is thereby an implied spook (being an actual spook is no problem as the Machon/Shayler dominance shows). Then there is 'limited hang-out', to describe people who agree on some facts but don't buy the whole package. Webster Tarpley Griffin has a language all his own, involving 'moles', patsies and such like. 'Sheeple' is another derogatory term, used about people who disagree. A favourite phrase is 'Gatekeeper', handily divided into Right and Left Gatekeepers. In the UK, perhaps reflecting a relative lack of sophistication, a characteristic 9/11 cult response to critics is psychiatric-style abuse. Thus, two particularly challenged individuals--Keith Parkin & Tony Gosling pepper their language with references to insanity/asylums/ delusions/lunatics/lunatic rantings/mental illness and so on. All this in an internet exchange where the two originally denied the contents of an encounter outside the 2005 Book Fair which was later conceded, but with no grace. The debate was also insightful for precipitating UK Cultists into the local variant of 'shill'--the accusation critics are working for the spooks.
7) Bizarre beliefs/conspiracist mind-set
It is sadly the case that (as shown by David Shayler's interview in New Statesman 11/9/06), and the toleration of David Icke's anti-Jewish ravings, that the distemper of anti-semitism and other variants of racism incubate within the 9/11 cult. Bill Weinberg has usefully pointed this out in relation to Holocaust denier Eric Hufschmidt and the xenophobic Alex Jones (a Shayler groupie, or is that vice versa?). The aforementioned Tony Gosling is somebody whose ravings about the Bilderburg group can be construed as anti-semitic, despite his denials. The glee with which UK cultists seized upon supposed Israeli Embassy prior knowledge of the 7/7/05 London bombs can certainly be perceived in this light. Ever more ludicrous claims about holograms (instead of planes) on 9/11, pods/drones/missiles hitting the Pentagon/WTC, disappearing planes and passengers-- all these can be seen as fantasies, albeit ones serving the US secret state very well indeed.
Donna Ferentes '10 characteristics of Conspiracy Theorists' (Urban 75)
Dennis Tourish 'Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism & Cultism' (1997)