Andrew Maxwell has made a documentary about the London 7/7 bombings – exploring claims that they were the work of the British Government, not terrorists.
The film is one of three provocative episodes of Conspiracy Road Trip the Irish stand-up has recorded for BBC Three. The others, on creationism and UFOs, were shot on location in the US.
They follow the same format as last year’s 9/11: Conspiracy Road Trip, where Maxwell and conspiracy theorists travelled to meet experts and witnesses who challenged their suspicions about official accounts of the terrorist attack.
‘The whole point of the show is not to try to change people’s beliefs’ Maxwell says of the films, which will air in the autumn. ‘It’s just to smash ideas back and forwards.
‘It’s a really unusual show, six people on a bus, driving around, bantering backwards and forwards about something, non-stop for 10 days. A weird mixture of reality TV, current affairs and a relentless philosophical conversation.’
In the 7/7 film, the filmmakers employed a bomb-making expert to blow up a double-decker bus, recreating the peroxide-based recipe of explosive used by the bombers.
‘It’s taken as fact by online conspiracy theorists that there’s no way a homemade bomb could have that kinetic force’ Maxwell said. ‘The guy made the stuff before our eyes with stuff you can buy in the shops and ripped the bus completely apart. It was terrifying.’
They also met survivors of the attack, who like the comic, have grown accustomed to accusations of being part of a shadowy cover-up.
An ‘unlikely CIA stooge’, Maxwell was initially denied a US visa for the 2005 HBO Comedy Festival in Las Vegas after pledging to give President Bush a Chinese burn on stage in Singapore.
He adds: ‘After the 9/11 film, I got an enormous amount of abuse on the internet – and no doubt that will only be amplified by adding three more stories to the fire.’
The series, shot on the road over two months earlier, is ‘partly about folklore ... but ultimately, it’s really about the internet and how it acts as an echo chamber,’ Maxwell says.
‘These people will question anything from a verifiable news source, one that’s willing to back what it says in the courts. But they will believe anything they read on the internet.’
Describing himself as ‘a rationalist”, with ‘no responsibility to be unbiased’, he nevertheless understands ‘paranoia about the state’.
‘Who am I to tell you not to be suspicious of the Government? We know on record that Tony Blair, Sir John Scarlett and Alastair Campbell rigged the intel for invading Iraq. We know the political class will swindle any small amount of money for a duck pond.
‘From Leveson, we know how many cops were on the take, and that the press can’t be trusted. So you can’t dispense with suspicions about the British Establishment and I don’t think you should. But that still doesn’t add up to the Government being behind 7/7.
‘We met an imam from Birmingham who told us that nine out of ten Muslims believe in the conspiracy theories of 7/7 and don’t believe that Muslims could have done it. And of course, we met other voices from the British Muslim community who say that’s nonsense.
‘Whether it’s true or not though, it’s damaging. Because if any community believes the state is behind terrorist acts against its own people, if they have any evidence or a potential tip-off about something about to go down, they’re not going to tell the state are they? There’s a cycle of deepening distrust.’
In contrast to the 7/7 film, which features ‘no laughter’, Maxwell is confident that stories from the UFO documentary will make into it his forthcoming Edinburgh Fringe show, legal advice permitting.
He and the conspiracists visited the mysterious Area 51 in Nevada but he can’t say whether they entered the infamous ‘secret’ base, which was only publicly acknowledged by the US government in 2003.
‘We got in a little bit of trouble making that one, which legally I can’t go into any more right now, it’s still in flux. Needless to say, it’s the most wacky of the films and we met a lot of eccentric, eccentric characters.’
One was Ufologist John Lear.
‘He told me there’s an underground tunnel from Area 51 that pops up underneath the kitchen of the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas. Apparently, all children are abducted from Earth and taken to the moon, which has 20 billion people living on it and was invented inside Jupiter. They’re abducted at the ages of three, seven and thirteen and taken overnight.
‘I told him: “My children aren’t going to the fucking moon!” And he replied: “You needn’t be alarmed, it’s just a routine check.”’
- by Jay Richardson