Rumor and September 11

Gary Alan Fine and Bill Ellis

in The Global Grapevine

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780199736317
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199866458 | DOI:
Rumor and September 11

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Using beliefs and rumors that emerged during the first days after September 11, this chapter discusses how a culture in crisis uses these tools to make sense out of a disorienting event such as this. Rumor is a truth claim not backed by authoritative information. Whether true or false, it is an expression of a community's collective beliefs. These are especially illustrated in rumors about religious miracles and signs that occurred in the attacks, about groups of Arab Americans who publicly celebrated the event, and about a terrorist who warned his girlfriend about the attack in advance. The chapter analyzes these in terms of the politics of plausibility (the sort of thing Americans are predisposed to believe) and of credibility (the sources that Americans normally trust for reliable information). To flourish in public discourse, a rumor should be both credible and plausible.

Keywords: September 11; terrorist; rumor; truth claim; collective beliefs; miracles; Arab Americans; plausibility; credibility

Chapter.  11336 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: International Relations

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