Editor’s Note: I really love the X-Files. I’m watching the show back-to-back on Netflix, currently. I’m racing through the episodes to get to the 2012 doomsday episode before the fated event occurs! I like the Lone Gunmen, too. They are cute.
Heated Forest Alright people, let’s talk about The X-Files…..
Q: Did The X-Files predict 9/11? Wasn’t The X-Files, like, about aliens or something?
A: Relax, baby. Just sit back while blogger Benjamin Christopher quietly blows your mind.
“The X-Files: I Want to Believe” debuted the week after a little film called The Dark Knight. It was some combination of that terrible timing and an utter lack of public excitement over a self-contained X-Files story (something about bio-engineering, maybe?) that made it a bomb at the box office. It was on a small budget though, an estimated $30 million–under half the budget of the first X-Files movie (and less than one-sixth of The Dark Knight’s budget)–but while it might have recouped most of its expenses, it left the future of the X-Files franchise in question.
It’s been nearly a decade since The X-Files was on the air, and I’ve watched maybe one episode since the show ended in 2002. Well, two episodes if you count the 2008 feature film, X-Files: I Want to Believe, which really was little more than an extended “monster-of-the-week” episode. It was released six years after the series had ended and had absolutely nothing to do with the show’s infamous alien mythology, much to many fans’ chagrin.
Last night I sat down and watched the first feature film, X-Files: Fight the Future, which was released in the summer of 1998 and served as a sort of bridge between Seasons 5 and 6 of the TV show. I was vaguely aware of this when I decided to re-watch it last night. Truth be told, I didn’t really remember much about the film or the series.
I just knew it was suddenly on Netflix Instant, and I had to consume it, stat. Once the movie had started, I had no trouble reorienting myself and I genuinely enjoyed watching it again. (Interestingly enough, the cast and crew have all publicly expressed interest in doing another film. After all, the series ended with a doomsday date [December 2012] when the alien race’s “colonization” of Earth would happen.)
If I sound obnoxiously well informed about this stuff, I assure you that it’s only a recent development. As was bound to happen, watching the movie led to an hours-long Wikipedia binge. I now know more about that show than I ever did watching it as a kid. But the most interesting thing I learned–and this is #Interesting with a capital #–is what’s at the heart of this article’s provocative (and a little misleading) title.
In March 2001, an X-Files spin-off show started airing on Fox. The show was based on three characters who originally appeared on The X-Files. These guys:
The Lone Gunmen, they were called. Their show, also called The Lone Gunmen (Coincidence? Conspiracy?) was not exactly a sensation. According to Wikipedia, the series “had a light atmosphere and focused heavily on physical comedy.” It was canceled abruptly after only 13 episodes. I haven’t seen any of the episodes, and likely never will. But what’s so damn interesting is the plot of the Pilot episode. Aired on March 4th, 2001, the episode involved “a US government conspiracy to hijack an airliner, fly it into the World Trade Center and blame it on terrorists, thereby gaining support for a new profit-making war.”
That’s right. The episode was shot in 2000 and aired a full six months before September 11th, 2001. Here’s a more detailed synopsis, from the Lone Gunmen’s other Wikipedia page:
[The episode] began with Byers’ father faking his death to uncover a conspiracy to hijack an airliner. The Lone Gunmen try to get to the truth of his supposed death and uncover the conspiracy.
One retrospectively interesting aspect of this pilot episode is that the airliner has been hijacked (via remote control of the plane’s autopilot) and, by the end, both Byers and his father have boarded the plane to try to stop the hijacking. Through the aid of the other Gunmen, they are able to regain control of the plane and just miss crashing into the World Trade Center with the airliner.
This, of course, was before the actual 9/11 attack against the World Trade Center later that year. Similar to actual conspiracy theories posited about the events of 9/11, the episode’s plot indicates that the hijacking was committed as an act of voracity by a greedy American arms manufacturer to ultimately increase its weapons sales by invoking U.S. retaliation against a scapegoated anti-American extremist dictator.
Yowzers! Of course, conspiracy nuts have had a field day with this. Which should come as no surprise, seeing as both The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen are shows about conspiracy nuts.
In 2008, The X-Files creator Chris Carter, along with writing partner and Lone Gunmen alum Frank Spotnitz, spoke with i09 about the pending release of The X-Files: I Want to Believe. The article is titled, “Chris Carter Says 9/11 Killed X-Files, But America is Ready for It Again.” While this was a reference to the steep drop-off in ratings The X-Files experienced in its last season, which began airing exactly two months after 9/11, the subject of The Lone Gunmen’s uncanny Pilot plot did come up. “Carter passed the question to Spotnitz, who said: ‘We were really upset, and worried that somehow we had inspired the plot. But we were relieved to discover that the plot pre-dated The Lone Gunmen, and that 9/11 had nothing to do with our work. And then once we realized that, my next thought was how the government hadn’t known about this plot. There have been a lot of conspiracy theories about the connection between 9/11 and The Lone Gunman, but none of them are true.’”
That’s right. To clarify- The Lone Gunmen episode is about a conspiracy, not part of a conspiracy. But you try telling the weirdos on the internet that.
Now, as a rule, I can hardly read more than a paragraph of paranoid, self-righteous ranting before my mind goes utterly numb. (As this gem caused me to do, excerpted from one of many incoherent rants surrounding the 9/11-Lone Gunmen conspiracy: “The film ‘Pearl Harbor’ was playing in theaters when the WTC fell and that was NOT a coincidence. THEY move us to war by subtle manipulation. The weak-minded march to war and the strong fight against the brainwashing.” Great stuff, right?) And yet, at the risk of getting myself blacklisted–or “double-blacklisted,” as the case very well may be– I did a little poking around the more subversive (and aesthetically horrifying) corners of the internet.
The most common conspiracy theory I found about this bizarre Lone Gunmen coincidence is that the episode was “planted” somehow by the US Government. Why, you ask? Why would a government that was planning a terror attack on its own citizens broadcast a dramatized depiction of that attack months before it happened? Well, for starters, it could have been a warning. Or… SoMeTHinG WoRSE!!!
The word would be Conditioning. To put it simply, the government wanted to prepare the people for what was going to happen. By portraying the incident in fictional form first, people would be conditioned to view the events unfolding on their television screens as though they were a work of fiction. And what’s that funny thing our brains do when we’re watching a work of fiction? Oh yes- The Willful Suspension of Disbelief.
So, because we all saw The Lone Gunmen pilot in March, we were willing to accept those tragic, deceptive events in September at face value. So goes the theory. Of course, if this were really the case, maybe they could have picked a show that was actually popular? Wasn’t Friends still on then? That took place in New York. Try this on for size: After an acting audition goes comically awry, Joey unwittingly stumbles upon a vast conspiracy! And Phoebe sings a silly song! I don’t know. Maybe the higher-ups were convinced that this wacky X-Files spin off was really going to take off and would be the most logical way to sublimate their future plans into the zeitgeist. But come on. If they could plan and execute a vast conspiracy that pulled the wool over billions of people’s eyes, surely they could spot a stinker when they saw one.
Even if the episode was planted as a means of “mass conditioning,” why would the US Government allow themselves to be portrayed as the conspiratorial villains on the show? Hmm? Got you there, didn’t I, conspiracy nuts?
No, you didn’t, says The Propaganda Matrix:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is either someone somewhere within the establishment trying to desperately get out a warning or it is more likely an evil Government operation. The show has been used to subconsciously manipulate people to believe that if these events did actually happen, it would be like a film, not a part of reality, therefore we should not worry too much. Anyone who would dare to say that the Government were responsible for such terrorist attacks would immediately be branded a ‘lunitic conspiracy theorist, like those guys from the X-Files.’ This is one of the sickest depraved operations that could possibley be devised, it is conditioning on a mass scale.” (Italics mine)
Ohhh. Now it all makes sense. But there’s still one thing I don’t understand…
Q: Do conspiracy nuts come across as paranoid idiots because they can’t spell/form a coherent sentence, or can they not spell/form a coherent sentence because they’re paranoid idiots?
A: Who sent you?!
Maybe I’m being a bit too nasty. After all, who among us hasn’t spent days sifting through convoluted 9/11 conspiracy theories? No? Just me? Well, regardless- there are some interesting ones. And, in all honesty, after some of the things I’ve read and watched in the past ten years, I really can’t say for sure what happened on that fateful September day. Only one thing is certain in my mind- the Pilot episode of The Lone Gunmen is not compelling evidence of anything. At best, it’s a really, really eerie coincidence.
When I told my friend about this Lone Gunmen business on the phone today–and stop me if you’ve heard this already, guy who’s watching my every move–my friend was silent for a few moments. Finally, he said, “That shouldn’t be on the internet.” What he meant was- That’s ridiculous and someone should have covered it up by now. And they would have, if it was part of a vast conspiracy, right? I guess the real question is- even if the government wanted to cover up things like this, could they do it, in our modern age? Sure, China rewrites their little version of the internet on a daily basis. But they’re not exactly subtle about it.
Let’s go out on a limb and say that the people who wrote that episode of The Lone Gunmen believed they were writing a work of fiction. Let’s go much further out on that limb and suppose that the theories illustrated in that episode were actually true. Hypothetically speaking, could our government quietly dispose of this information, if they wanted to? Could they make a television episode–that millions of people had already seen–just disappear from recorded history? Would they? Or would they just leave it floating out there in the vast sea of unedited information we call the internet, where people like me would stumble upon it a decade later, scratch their head, and say, “That’s weird.“
The government could easily silence or discredit any one of us whenever they wanted. But the fact is- they usually don’t. They let us ramble on, write our little blogs, make our little television shows, cook up our little theories. And while that certainly doesn’t prove anything, it’s not the sort of thing we should just take for granted.
Oh, before I go, there was one last thing that turned up in my research, something I found a bit odd. It’s probably nothing, but I thought I’d share it with you. IMDB‘s sparse synopsis of the Lone Gunmen Pilot episode says only this: “The 3 Lone Gunmen attempt to steal the Octium IV chip from E-Com-Con’s top security room. However, a professional thief is watching them.” It conveniently makes no mention of the whole World Trade Center + Airplane = Conspiracy plotline. Then again, a synopsis isn’t supposed to give away the climax or ending of an episode. It’s just supposed to be a teaser.
Besides, one has to look no further than the “User Reviews” at the bottom of the page to see the conspiracy argument playing out in the open, for all the world to see (except China, of course). Responding to someone who called the episode in question a “ghastly coincidence,” an IMDB reviewer named truthgonewild wrote, “This isn’t the first so called 911 coincidence Fox has aired before 911. There is a Simpsons episode (Season 9, Episode 1) where Lisa holds up a magazine that reads ‘New York’ at the top and a large ‘$9′ to the left of the twin towers silhouette. This obviously reads ’911′. The question must be asked – where did these writers come up with these ideas? …[The Lone Gunmen] Pilot was created to stick in our minds for all the right reasons… Desensitization.”
Desensitization, eh? Isn’t that the thing that happens to you after reading too many half-baked conspiracy theories? Honestly, dude. Calm down. You sound like one of those lunatics on The X-Files.
Benjamin Christopher is a professional writer and blogger. Despite being talented, attractive, completely above-average and extremely humble, he only has 55 friends on Facebook. He’s currently writing a novel with his Evil Twin and running the Why Didn’t I Think of That?® Blog. You can follow him on Twitter @35mmofheaven.