The Man Who Thought He Knew Too Much

The Zapruder film? It was faked. The Wellstone crash? It was a hit. 9/11? An inside job. Tumbling down the rabbit hole with professional philosopher Jim Fetzer.

At the end of lecture, Wade Olson, a 30-year-old seasonal construction worker from the nearby hamlet of Sunrise, was singing Fetzer's praises. Then again, Olson has been impressed by Fetzer ever since his JFK presentation about a year ago. Since then, he's struck up a casual friendship with "the professor," as he refers to Fetzer. "Every time he talks, there's something new that comes up," Olson offered. He then began discussing his own latest passion: Elvis research. Olson, who wears his hair slicked back and sports latter-day-Elvis sideburns, is a big buff. Five years ago, he and his wife got married outside of Graceland. More recently, he explained, he traveled to Branson, Missouri, to meet with Bill Beeney, author of Final Proof: The King Is Alive and proprietor of the Elvis Is Alive Museum. Beeney—"one of the top three authorities"—was very persuasive, Olson said. "The guy was fascinating. I've spent enough time around people to know if he's a kook. He's not."

At that, two very young guys from Burkhardt, Wisconsin, entered our conversational clutch. They carried with them a stack of pamphlets, most of which were concerned with the alleged illegality of Internal Revenue Service practices. The guys from Burkhardt wouldn't identify themselves, but still wished to get the message out. "The country is under siege," one declared, by the continuing menace of international socialism. And what did they think of Fetzer's presentation? "I thought it was done very well," said the other. "But what he explained is nothing new to me."

A few days after his appearance in Hinckley, Fetzer drove down to the Twin Cities with his wife, Jan, to deliver a lecture at the University of St. Thomas. Before the talk, I met Fetzer at a Thai restaurant in St. Paul, where we were joined by Michael Cavlan, the Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate, and his campaign manager. As usual, Fetzer seemed to be in high spirits, laughing and joking before abruptly excusing himself from the table to do a last-minute radio interview. Radio is Fetzer's favorite medium—in his opinion, the last bastion of the free press—and he seldom shies from the opportunity to hit the airwaves. He'll stay up until the middle of the night, if it means a chance to appear on Coast to Coast.

Dan Picasso

While the rest of us ate our noodles and spicy chicken, Fetzer paced the sidewalk and barked into his cell phone. Cavlan and his campaign manager, both involved in a nascent local truth movement organization called MN9/11, talked some about their reservations about the "official story." Jan Fetzer was conspicuously mute on the topic of 9/11 and so, gradually, the conversation turned to the matter of the Fetzers' imminent move to Madison, Wisconsin. Jan explained that Jim, who turned 65 in December, decided last fall to retire from UMD. While they love Duluth, they want to be closer to their daughter, who works at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is expecting a child. Both Jan and Jim seem thrilled about the move. Jim says he is especially psyched about checking out Badgers football. He's already bought season tickets.

Fetzer returned to the table a hale and hearty fellow. Setting into his food with gusto, he reported that his interview had gone well. He thought it might spike up attendance at the lecture. He was right: The 3M auditorium at St. Thomas was packed that night. All the seats were filled, and likewise most of the aisles. The assembled group—a mix of students, antiwar folk, and aging lefties—bore little resemblance to the trucker-cap-and-camo element that had shown up in Hinckley. After an introduction and a lusty burst of applause, Fetzer took to the podium. He congratulated everyone who attended for their bravery. By their very appearance at the event, he noted they risked being placed under surveillance. (In fact, Fetzer is quite certain his activities have put him in government crosshairs. "I'm 100 percent certain that all my e-mails and phone calls—everything I'm doing—is under surveillance," he once told me. "I'm right on top of one of their lists.")

After an hour and a half passed, Fetzer had hit his customary points. He closed with a crescendo. "There is a cancer on our country," he declared. "We must excise it and restore democracy in America!" Half the assembled crowd rose to its feet in applause. When Fetzer began taking questions, a funny thing happened. In a room seemingly packed with believers, Fetzer had somehow managed to induce a strain of skepticism. So what do you think happened to the people on flights 93 and 77, one questioner asked. Fetzer answered that there were "many oddities." Another questioner wanted to know how such an enormous fraud could be kept secret. Wouldn't someone with a stricken conscience come forward? Fetzer talked about Joe Wilson, the administration's oil ambitions, and the Project for the New American Century. The questioner looked disappointed, grumbling to a companion: "He's not answering."

Another questioner wanted to know how long it would take to plan a "false-flag operation" like 9/11? Could Clinton have been involved? Fetzer didn't think so. A guy in a St. Paul Boat Club sweatshirt asked how an administration that has bungled so much could pull off such a grand conspiracy. Fetzer was left to muse that perhaps the administration is just better at scripting "short-term events" than long-term ones.

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