Have you seen the video of a Georgia blacksmith bending a heated steel rod like a noodle in an effort to debunk a persistent 9/11 conspiracy theory? It’s pretty great, and it’s been viewed 4.5 million times on YouTube (as of Thursday afternoon) since being posted on Tuesday.
In his opening monologue, the bearded, blue-collar star of this home movie, Trenton Tye, tells us he was motivated to perform an on-camera demonstration because “through my Facebook feed, I saw yet again that old, tired argument: jet fuel only burns at 1,500 degrees, and since steel melts at 2,700 degrees, 9/11 was a conspiracy.”
(If your mind is too sober to follow the “truther” logic here, allow me to explain: Truthers believe that fuel from the planes that struck the Twin Towers couldn’t burn hot enough to liquefy the buildings’ steel skeleton; ergo, the towers’ collapse was a government scheme.)
We don’t know what, exactly, showed up in Tye’s social-media stream that so irritated him. But we do know that one of the nation’s leading 9/11 conspiracy theorists is Alex Jones, a self-styled “icon of the burgeoning liberty movement” who hosts a syndicated radio show and runs the Infowars website. There’s a decent chance that whoever was driving Tye crazy was inspired by Jones.
Why should you care about a blacksmith, a piece of metal and a 9/11 truther? Because the truther happens to be a guy whose “reputation is amazing,” according to the leading Republican candidate for president of the United States, Mr. Donald J. Trump. And the blacksmith’s hokie, steel-rod demo — and the way it took off on the Internet — should make you wonder whether people clamoring for traditional media to bring down Trump might be looking in the wrong place.
Trump spent a half-hour with Jones on his radio program earlier this month (an eternity in a world of five-minute broadcast hits), praising the host and promising “I will not let you down” once in office. Now, to be clear, the GOP front-runner does not subscribe to the notion that 9/11 was an inside job. He reserves his conspiracy theories for presidential birth certificates rather than White House plots to murder civilians and destroy symbols of commerce. To each his own.
But Jones and his listeners are Trump’s people. That’s why he spent so much time talking to them. And the truthers in Tye’s Facebook feed are the same kind of folks who embrace Trump’s theory about President Obama’s supposed ineligibility or his insistence that “thousands” of New Jersey Muslims celebrated 9/11.
Then an unknown blacksmith comes along, tears apart another conspiracy theory with zero pretense and infectious authenticity, and millions of people want to hear what he has to say. Go figure.
Tye won’t shut up every 9/11 conspiracy theorist for good, so he — or someone like him — probably couldn’t single-handedly end the Trump phenomenon, either. But you have to wonder whether a Trenton Tye moment could affect Trump more than anything the media has done so far.