Urban Legends and Rumors Concerning the September 11 Attacks

  • William Aspray
  • James W. Cortada
Part of the History of Computing book series (HC)


This chapter provides an extended case study of the legends and rumors surrounding the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001. The chapter draws upon existing scholarship about the cultural meaning of urban legends to explain how these legends are coping mechanisms for dealing with a complex, dangerous world in which the rules of life are changed. Based on a detailed analysis of the hundreds of stories about 9/11 on snopes and the thousands of posting on alt.folklore.urban about 9/11, the authors categorize the many types of urban legends associated with this event and give illustrations of each. The chapter also considers the role of conspiracy theories associated with these terrorist attacks and in particular looks at the 9/11 Truth Movement, which denies the accepted story of what happened on September 11. This case study enables us to look in depth at the working style used by snopes. The response on AFU to the terrorist attacks is compared to the response on two other Usenet newsgroups. The chapter also looks in particular at mercantile legends and how companies are harmed by urban legends – with a particular look at one restaurant, The Sheikh in suburban Detroit, which was harmed by false claims that its Arab workers celebrated the terrorist attacks. While most urban legends are textual, the chapter closes with a discussion of visual versions using photoshopping techniques.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Aspray
    • 1
  • James W. Cortada
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Information ScienceUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Charles Babbage InstituteUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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