CHICAGO, June 4 — In the ballroom foyer of the Embassy Suites Hotel, the two-day International Education and Strategy Conference for 9/11 Truth was off to a rollicking start.
In Salon Four, there was a presentation under way on the attack in Oklahoma City, while in the room next door, the splintered factions of the movement were asked — for sake of unity — to seek a common goal.
In the foyer, there were stick-pins for sale ("More gin, less Rummy"), and in the lecture halls discussions of the melting point of steel. "It's all documented," people said. Or: "The mass media is mass deception." Or, as strangers from the Internet shook hands: "Great to meet you. Love the work."
Such was the coming-out for the movement known as "9/11 Truth," a society of skeptics and scientists who believe the government was complicit in the terrorist attacks. In colleges and chat rooms on the Internet, this band of disbelievers has been trying for years to prove that 9/11 was an inside job.
Such "red flags," as they are sometimes called, were the meat and potatoes of the keynote speech on Friday night by Alex Jones, who is the William Jennings Bryan of the 9/11 band. Mr. Jones, a syndicated radio host, is known for his larynx-tearing screeds against corruption — fiery, almost preacherly, addresses in which he sweats, balls his fists and often swerves from quoting Roman history to using foul language in a single breath.
At the lectern Friday night, beside a digital projection reading "History of Government Sponsored Terrorism," Mr. Jones set forth the central tenets of 9/11 Truth: that the military command that monitors aircraft "stood down" on the day of the attacks; that President Bush addressed children in a Florida classroom instead of being whisked off to the White House; that the hijackers, despite what the authorities say, were trained at American military bases; and that the towers did not collapse because of burning fuel and weakened steel but because of a "controlled demolition" caused by pre-set bombs.
According to the group's Web site, the motive for faking a terrorist attack was to allow the administration "to instantly implement policies its members have long supported, but which were otherwise infeasible."