Today's Oakland [California] Tribune has a story from the Palm Beach [Florida] Post carrying the headline, "Sandy Hook truther fired by college." The story is evidently quite similar to one that appears in the New York Post under the title "Florida university fires Sandy Hook truther professor." As these two headlines indicate, the term truther is sometimes used as a stand-alone noun and sometimes as a modifier.

A Wikipedia disambiguation page asserts that truther may refer specifically to "people who thought the event [the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre of December 14, 2012] was a false flag government attack"; to members of the "9/11 Truth movement"; to a book published in 2011 by Jonathan Kay titled Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground; or to conspiracy theorists generally.

Leslie Savan, "From Simple Noun to Handy Partisan Put-Down" (New York Times Magazine, November 18, 2009) provides an excellent brief discussion of truther as part of a pejoratively intended -er family of names that opponents have assigned to conspiracy theorists/fringe political group enthusiasts—a word family that may include birther, [John] Bircher, grassy-knoller, mooner, flat-earther, deather, tenther, and teabagger. But aside from suggesting that truther may have been coined in late 2004 by 9/11 Truth movement member Jon Gold (based on a comment that Savan says Gold "wrote on his blog recently"), she doesn't inquire too deeply into the precise origin of the term or into its application to other groups and individuals.

My questions:

  1. Where and under what circumstances did the term truther originate?

  2. Is there any connection between the emergence of truther and the 2004 pop-up 527 political entity Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?

  3. When (if at all) did truther begin to be applied not just narrowly to 9/11 conspiracy theorists and Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists but to conspiracy theorists of any stripe?

  • 1
    I think I first heard it used to refer to the 9/11 conspiracy nuts. No way it's related to, eg, John Bircher or Tea Bagger, since those are simple references to a known term that anyone might form. Probably "birther" is derived from "truther", though. (And "mooner" goes way back -- and I mean "back" literally.)
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 8 '16 at 2:51
  • (It should be noted that the term "truther" existed in several contexts prior to 9/11, though. I am reminded that there was a religious movement known as the "Truthers", among other things.)
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 8 '16 at 3:32
  • 3
    Obviously, Truther was a term created by the government in a false flag operation.
    – jimm101
    Jan 8 '16 at 3:39
  • @jimm101 - That's what they want you to believe.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 8 '16 at 4:13
  • Prior to 9/11, "truther" was probably mostly used in various riddles and philosophical problems involving the "truthers" and the "liars", and how to distinguish one from the other with a series of questions. And it was also used in a few other contexts to mean the antonym of "liar".
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 8 '16 at 4:27

According to a Google Ngrams search, the term has had several spikes in usage over the decades, with the most prominent being the current one skyrocketing since 9/11 (though it seems there was a slight uptick in usage even before that event.) Looking through the book citations listed by Google Books, I am unable to find any usage in the conspiratorial sense prior to September 11, 2001, although Google does provide a non-book result that uses the term "truther" in a conspiratorial sense in February 2001. (Most pre-9/11 usages talk about "truthers" in the context of knights and knaves-style logic problems, it seems.)

Thus, to answer Question 1, there may be sporadic usage of the term "truther" in its current conspiratorial sense prior to 9/11, but it only gained wide currency following that event and then various groups self-describing themselves as searching for "9/11 truth."

A more fine grained look at usage of the term between 2000 and 2008 shows an uptick throughout 2003, which is the year preceding the founding of the Swift Boat Veterans, so I would imagine that, although the Swift Boaters may have influenced and helped to popularize the term to some extent, they are not the main reason for its currency now, to shed some light on Question 2.

I don't have time to research anything on Question 3, so hopefully someone else can provide some details.

Addendum: For what it's worth, the earliest Oxford English Dictionary citation is from 2005, which may bolster the Swift Boat connection somewhat, although the quote itself doesn't suggest any connection: "911q Truthers confront NIST on Twin Towers in alt.fan.gene-scott (Usenet newsgroup) 27 June There was an open public conference, which featured even more grilling by 9/11 truthers."


Having interest in spirituality/ philosophy since a lad, and knowing many on ' the path', the term 'truth seeker', or ' seeker' or ' truther' has been somewhat common in philosopical cirles, since before the dawning of the age of aquarius, abd certainly more so since new age philosophies became fashionable mid to late 90s. The many heads, both politically inspired, and spiritually, having the web as a base for searching and sharing, along with the timing saw its use somewhat common, in at least some circles well before 911

  • "truther" could also be a contraction for "truth seeker", and I see conspiracy theorists labelled themselves as such pre 2008
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 17 '17 at 5:27

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