After being broadly denounced as "crazy people" by HBO's sharp-tongued Bill Maher, some members of the so-called 9/11 Truth movement -- a group convinced that US government accounts of the Sept. 11 tragedies do not fully explain the events of that day -- decided to give Maher a taste of his own caustic medicine.
In a new video making its rounds on the internet, one band of miffed Los Angeles-based "Truthers" borrows the graphics, theme music and trademark bite of Maher's popular "New Rules" segment to push back at the comedian's charges that conspiracy theorists are lunatics. "Crazy people are defined by acting crazy," activist Stewart Howe says in the clip, sitting alongside a Maher-esque video window depicting Fox News host Bill O'Reilly in a straight jacket. "9/11 Truthers," he continues, "are defined by a patriotic quest for the truth."
"I love Bill Maher, but he's wrong about 9/11 Truth," Katy Kurtzman, who also appears in the video, told RAW STORY. "We wanted to give it back to him the way he gives it out, which is 'I'm smarter than you and I'm gonna make fun of you about it.'"
"We had no idea it was going to go as viral as it has," she said of the project, which is the subject of more than 35,000 hits to date on YouTube and has received widespread postings on websites skeptical of the official 9/11 story.
"It's a response to Bill Maher," said Kurtzman, "but it's also a cheerleading thing for 9/11 Truth."
In the Sept. 14 episode of his program, Real Time, Maher had been characteristically barbed:
"Crazy people who still think the government brought down the Twin Towers in a controlled explosion," the comedian jabbed, "have to stop pretending that I'm the one who's being naive."
"How big a lunatic do you have to be to watch two giant airliners packed with jet fuel slam into buildings on live TV, igniting a massive inferno that burned for two hours, and then think 'well, if you believe that was the cause," he continued, adding that people should "stop asking me to raise this ridiculous topic on the show and start asking your doctor if Paxil is right for you."
But Bruno Bruhwiler, who edited the green screen video response to those charges, says Maher wasn't being fair to the greater 9/11 Truth movement.
"Sure you have to take some of it with a grain of salt," he said of particularly outlandish conspiracy theories that the majority of the group doesn't stand by, "but in general, a picture emerges."
"It was upsetting because he was dissing the 9/11 Truthers, but he wasn't having any on his show," Bruhwiler continued. "Which is odd, because it's a debate show."
So the Truthers invented their own equal time response opportunity.
"New rule: buildings do not collapse into the path of most resistance at anything close to freefall speed," Kurtzman counters on video, referring to claims by some that only a controlled demolition would allow for such a fast collapse by the Twin Towers. "Go back to kindergarten and play with blocks until you figure that out," she tells Maher, aping the host's finger-wagging delivery.
Kurtzman also raised questions about the collapse of the World Trade Center's building seven, which fell despite not being struck by a plane.
"Two airplanes can't slam into two buildings and knock down three," she says, punctuating the point by flipping Maher off.
Stewart Howe, Kurtzman's co-star in the clip, says in the video that Sept. 11 was part of an orchestrated plan that fulfilled a host of Bush administration goals.
"They wanted to go to war with Afghanistan and Iraq. They got it. They wanted to make billions of dollars for their corporate friends. They got it," Howe says, adding that widely accepted explanation of the events of 9/11 helped increase executive power and convinced Maher himself to "parrot the official story."
"Didn't they manage to accomplish all of this? Absolutely they did," he continues, adding that "it doesn't look like incompetence to me Bill, it looks to me like 'mission accomplished."
"Bill Maher is doing what most of the mainstream media is doing. All they can really do is attack the messenger," Howe told RAW STORY. "If they allow it to become a rational debate, they'll lose every time. It's just not debatable."
Although the video format didn't allow the group to delve into the swirl of 9/11 facts and figures they say supports their case -- they point to an online documentary called "9/11 Mysteries" and a number of websites as representative of their views -- it did give them a chance to stick up for themselves.
"We thought, let's just have fun and slam back," said Howe.
And if Bill Maher ever decides to change his mind about what happened?
"In the hopeful event that you rise to the occasion and take the red pill as opposed to more Zoloft," Kurtzman says, "get back to us because we won't hold a grudge."