09/11/2006 06:35 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Korey Rowe and His 9/11 Row

For nine months now, I've been publishing SMITH, a magazine about personal stories, personal obsessions and other "chicken's eye" views of the world. In that time, nothing has caused as much of a stir as our interview with Korey Rowe, a 23-year-old soldier from upstate Oneonta, New York, who came home from Afghanistan and Iraq and turned his attention to the event that had sent him off to war: the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Rowe is part of the team that made an 80-minute documentary called Loose Change—an online sensation that posits the inflammatory notion that the federal government was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. SMITH's Michael Slenske conducted a long interview with Rowe, leading to the liveliest debate on SMITH since our inception.

For instance, a guy named Len, who got into a nasty verbal brawl in the SMITH comments area with a guy named Paul, said:

Some interesting facts about the claims of the 9/11 "truth movement"

Not a single civil engineer (structural, construction or otherwise), fire engineer, forensic engineer, demolition expert, architect (with experience with steel framed buildings), materials scientist/mechanical engineer (with a background in building materials or methods) or construction contractor from anywhere in the world publicly supports them.

Of the approximately 20,000 who were in the WTC between the time of the 1st crash and the 2nd collapse only 4 (about 0.02%) publicly supports them. Three of them only spoke up after getting involved in a lawsuit, one of those (Rodriguez) contradicted earlier statements he had made. The 4th an EMT said she saw an airplane explode of NJ that morning.

The Zogby polls show the LOWER one's educational level the MORE likely they are to believe them.

But the sparring on SMITH was nothing compared with what happened once the interview was picked up by AlterNet, where it quickly became one of the most widely read and commented-on pieces in August (it logged a wild 344 comments, many of them intelligent).

One AlterNet reader wrote:

I repeat: "Loose Change" is great work, if just for asking the questions.

There's so obviously more to 9-11 than meets the eye, that just stirring the official take is in itself useful. Whatever the truth is, demanding more reason and sanity of the US gov't, and as a side-effect exposing the blatant way 9-11 has been exploited for other gains, cannot be anything but healthy.

No surprise that a contrarian 9/11 story stirs the pot (or that a good conspiracy theory proves to be a terrific driver of Web traffic), especially in the weeks leading up to the fifth anniversary. Though Rowe stands by the film's premise, he does concede that some of the research the filmmakers relied on may be less than rock-solid. So is it a dubious act (journalistically or otherwise) to publish his views? Or a broadminded and reasonable move to provide an outlet for an unpopular opinion?

SMITH's mission is to give people of all backgrounds and persuasions a place to tell their stories, to become active players in the cultural narrative of their time, and not just passive observers. Even as recently as a few years ago, it would have been tough for an unknown 23-year-old vet like Rowe to go from feeling personally affected by a major world event (9/11) to influencing millions of people (via his film). To be sure, we don't all necessarily agree with what Rowe says, but we're interested in the way he's used the available resources and technology to tell his story -- and then let the Web spread the word at nearly no cost to him.

Read the piece for yourself and then join the discussion here.