Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In Which I Ridicule 9/11 Conspiracies

Wow, the 9/11 Truthers are really coming out of the woodwork this month. I've seen two separate celebrities accosted by them in viral videos.

First, Bill Maher threw people out of his studio after they wouldn't stop shouting "What happened to building 7?"

Then Bill Clinton responded to a similar rant by a heckler:

Unfortunately I'm personally familiar with people who believe in these conspiracy claims suggesting that the 9/11 attacks were planned by our government and not by terrorists. At one point these people called the Atheist Experience several times and got very mad at us when we wouldn't take them seriously. Matt once spoke dismissively about the conspiracy theories on The Non-Prophets, and we got multiple emails that repeated the inane phrase "Oh, so you believe the CONSPIRACY THEORY that our GOVERNMENT promotes?"

Besides that, 9/11 truthers infest the phone lines for the Washington Journal morning show on C-SPAN (which I often watch while getting breakfast), and various Air America hosts are constantly bombarded by demands to swear loyalty to these ideas. There is a two hour amateur documentary out on the internet called Zeitgeist. We keep getting email about this movie all the time, and my blood pressure goes up a couple of points every time I see yet another message about it. Zeitgeist starts with a semi-interesting story arguing against the existence of a historical Jesus, and then degenerates into 9/11 "truth" claims about the World Trade Center attack being an inside job. For good measure, they also throw in some stuff about how federal income taxes are illegal. Riiiight.

I confess: I haven't watched Zeitgeist all the way through. I've tried a couple of times, but it is a fairly awful bit of film making, and I didn't have the patience to sit through two hours of it. I gave it another chance today, just so I would have more to say about it. Tried turning it on and listening to the audio while I worked. The problem is that most of the "shocking revelations" require the movie to clear the screen of any action and display text for several seconds while ominous music plays. So I can't follow the thread of the story unless I sit in rapt attention staring at the screen for the full two hours.

Attention, budding filmmakers: Movies are not the right medium for text. I'm fine with reading a long article, and I'm fine with watching a movie, but don't mix the two. People read things at different speeds. The advantage of a movie is that it presents a sequence of entertaining visual images and compelling sounds. The advantage of text is that you can go through it at your own pace, and you can jump backwards to reread something you missed. A movie with lots of text combines the worst of both formats: The movie is boring, and the text is hard to read. Most of the text is too slow and you have to sit there staring at something you've already read, but if you take your attention away from the screen, you'll miss something and never see it again.

DON'T DO THAT! Watch a Michael Moore movie sometime for an example of how to do it right. Even if you think that Michael Moore is a big fat jerk, and everything he says is a total lie, the guy knows how to make an entertaining movie. You don't get an academy award for putting a full page of text on the screen every thirty seconds.

I have a lot of reasons for thinking that the "inside job" explanation of 9/11 is bullshit, but here's what it really comes down to. Big conspiracies don't work. The bigger they are, the less likely they are to be successfully covered up. Franklin said it best: "Three can keep a secret if two are dead."

It should be no surprise that I'm not a big fan of Team Bush, and I believe their actions have led to the deaths of thousands of innocents, in various ways. But IMHO, these deaths have mostly come about due to apathy and greed, not deliberate attempts to kill American citizens.

It's not that I think Bush and company are a bunch of swell guys who would never harm a living person. It's that I find it completely ludicrous to think that they could plan something this elaborate and make it work without a hitch. Look at Iraq. The Project for a New American Century folks were planning that one for decades, and yet it seems like they sincerely believed that we would be greeted as liberators and have candy and flowers thrown at us when we arrived. Slight miscalculation on their part, no?

The conspiracy dreamt up by 9/11 "Truth" ("You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means") is massive in scope. Whether they're claiming that explosives were planted inside the buildings, or that the government fired missiles at the Pentagon, or that all the news videos released were actually fake... all these ideas require an insanely large number of people to be in on the conspiracy. Let's see, there's the people who planned the actual attack, and much of their staff; the people at the airport; the news organizations that collaborated in spreading fake videos; etc, etc. You can say that some of them were dupes who didn't know the whole plan, but in a scheme this big and this well-executed, you need a LOT of people to have a significant portion of The Big Picture in order to handle their jobs correctly. I think my Project Management professor will probably agree with me there.

What 9/11 truthers are suggesting is that every one of these people was an intentional accessory to the murder of nearly 3,000 people. Now, you can call me a starry-eyed idealist, but I just find it beyond the limits of my credibility that among all those people, not one of them grew a conscience enough to let slip a little information about what they saw.

Think about it... who's promoting the conspiracy? People who would actually be in a position to know anything about it? Government workers, airport workers, aids to important people? No... college kids who are meticulously studying the frames of grainy video footage, and theoreticians pontificating on how the laws of physics prevent smashed up burning buildings from falling down.

Yes, Bush was negligent in following up on credible threats. Yes, he and others like him have done a fantastically good job of exploiting the tragedy at every possible chance. But this looks to me much more like a case of answering opportunity when it knocks, not getting hundreds of American citizens intentionally involved in the murder of thousands.

Conspiracy nuts, give it a rest already. The fact that everyone you contact hangs up on you and doesn't listen is not "censorship," nor is the fact that you were thrown out of a private studio for disruptively yelling at the host. I hang up on you on our cable access show because you are annoying and sound silly.

If you want to read more amusing stuff on the 9/11 conspiracy theories, may I recommend:
  1. Bill Maher again. This is the video that inflamed those people into harassing Maher in his studio in the first place. "New rule: Crazy people who still think the government brought down the Twin Towers in a controlled explosion, have to stop pretending that I'm the one who's being naive."
  2. Matt Taibbi: The Hopeless Stupidity of 9/11 Conspiracy Theories. BUSH: "So, what's the plan again?" CHENEY: "Well, we need to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. So what we've decided to do is crash a whole bunch of remote-controlled planes into Wall Street and the Pentagon, say they're real hijacked commercial planes, and blame it on the towelheads; then we'll just blow up the buildings ourselves to make sure they actually fall down."
  3. The Best Page in the Universe (their title, not mine): "Now we're expected to believe that the same government that was able to commit the largest terrorist operation in history--with military precision no less--is suddenly too incompetent to sniff out and shut down a little website set up by some college losers within days, if not minutes of its creation?"


  1. Anonymous11:53 PM

    Yeah. There are unanswered questions about 9/11. That's why everyone's talking about it. Everyone from complete wackos to competent experts on the issue, like former analysts with the CIA, reputable engineers, people in the military, and people like William Rodriguez who has stressed over and over that the Commission ignored his eyewitness accounts of explosions he saw while using his master key to save lives. Oh, but YOU know SO MUCH more than all those people because YOU watch CNN and YOU read the 9/11 Commission Report. Because, as you say - there's no way that they could ever get away with that, right? Someone would find out, right? Yeah - they have found out. That's why you and I are discussing it. And like other conspiracies in history, some exposed - some not, there are always little sniveling cowards like yourself who refuse to stand up for justice and let it go. So do you think 9/11 should be properly investigated or not? I don't think it matters. Just go back to watching TV.

  2. Typical conspiracy theorist attitude "if you don't believe exactly what I believe you must have your head in the sand or be a government puppet or mindless TV watching coward". Ever think that maybe we considered it, looked at the evidence and came to the sober conclusion that your evidence was inconsistant and ridiculous and your story was beyond the realms of what anyone could call rational. Where not the ones sticking our head in the sand and refusing to listen, you people are.
    You people are like creationists you have your own little internet hideaways where you can validate each others delusions without being bothered. And just like creationists you only take the word of the "experts" who agree with you, discounting the fact that for every one of these "experts" that agree with you there are thousands upon thousands of much more intelligent experts who absolutely dissagree with you and have the evidence to back it up. There will always be historians who firmly believe the holocaust never happened, there will always be scientists who believe the earth is less that 10,000 years old and there will be structural engineers that believe that the trade center was brought down by explosives.

  3. I'm not sure what's a bigger joke: the conspiracy theories themselves, or the fact that people who espouse them call their critics "little sniveling cowards" in anonymous blog comments.

    Really, they still wonder why we don't take them seriously?

  4. You don't really need to ridicule them Kazim, the subject materila speaks for itself - now Roswell that's a diferent matter altogether (just kidding)

  5. The anonymous commenter also demonstrated a very common tactic in using the "false choice" fallacy. "Either you agree with me that 9/11 was an inside job, or you believe everything you hear on CNN and don't believe that any investigations should happen."

    Do I think there's more to investigate surrounding how and why the attacks occurred? Sure, absolutely. Does that mean I can't still call people nitwits for assuming that the answer is "missiles, not planes"? Of course not.

  6. I think it was Louis Black (Austin Chronicle) who once pointed out that even if we play devil's advocate.../go WAY out on a limb and ASSUME (just for the sake of argument) that the 9-11 conspiracies are true... two VERY valid questions remain:
    a. can it be proven? (not likely)
    b. have we accomplished anything useful by doing so? -(his assesment, and mine- NO)

  7. Al, you're right. I googled the article you were talking about and found it here.

    I notice that in the comments, many people accused Louis Black of being scared of his corporate masters. I love the ad hoc explanations they come up with for why people don't agree with them. Because the ONLY possible way anyone could not recognize the genius of these theories is if they are either (a) a part of the conspiracy, or (b) being paid off and/or intimidated by someone who is part of the conspiracy.

  8. Anonymous1:25 PM

    I'm not arguing for the conspiracy theorists, but I do question one of the points you made -

    re: "Look at Iraq"

    I don't agree with your premise that the Bush team ever actually wanted to "succeed" in Iraq the way you assume.

    I would say you should Look at Iraq as a sign that they are competent and have done everything in Iraq exactly as planned.

    Greeting us with flowers was bullshit from the beginning and they knew it - to think otherwise, or to believe in the democracy domino theory is utterly naive.

    Look at Iraq : It is a complete success for them. War is a racket. The longer we stay there and the more screwed up their country gets, the more all of the big corporations, good ol boy networkers, etc. will profit from government contracts.

    The conservative philosophy ala Norquist - reduce the size of government so it can be drowned in a bathtub - is being fulfilled with the Iraq war. It is succeeding. They are raping us, stealing our tax dollars to fund a war that seemingly has no end. The worse off Iraq (and possibly Iran) is, the longer the war lasts, the more money they make. Just follow the money.

    Watch this very short clip: War Corporatism

  9. The conservative philosophy ala Norquist - reduce the size of government so it can be drowned in a bathtub - is being fulfilled with the Iraq war. It is succeeding. They are raping us, stealing our tax dollars to fund a war that seemingly has no end.

    Anon, your last sentence contradicts your first. If the government is being highly effective at bleeding us white in taxes and waging an endless war for the benefit of their corporate cronies, how is this an indication that government is getting reduced in size?

  10. Anonymous8:34 PM

    I see no contradiction.
    You're jumping to conclusions.
    These are the beginning stages.
    This country has amassed enormous debt and the war only helps to fuel it.

  11. I see no contradiction.

    Then you must just not be thinking about the claims you're making. Think about the question I asked: If the government is being highly effective at bleeding us white in taxes and waging an endless war for the benefit of their corporate cronies, how is this an indication that government is getting reduced in size? Would not a reduced government be less effective in pulling those plans off?

    In case you hadn't noticed, the Bush administration is extremely BIG government.

    You're jumping to conclusions.

    A profoundly amusing statement. Pot, meet kettle.

  12. Martin, I think I can help clarify Anonymous' earlier statements a bit. It really does make a kind of sense in the bizarre, twisted neo-con logic.

    I'll come up with sources to cite later if you want to hear it, but basically the logic of a certain kind of a Republican runs along these lines.

    1. We spend too much money on social programs, from welfare and social security to education to infrastructure.
    2. Because (axiom) social programs are a waste of money, we would like to drastically their funding.
    3. We can't do that, because they're popular/because those damn Democrats won't let us.
    4. But they couldn't spend money on social programs if there was no money!
    5. So let's spend money like drunken sailors, and while we're at it we can help close friends like Halliburton and Blackwater make a tidy profit.
    6. Eventually we'll achieve massive debt that we won't be able to borrow anymore.
    7. At that point we can say "Whoops! Sorry folks! Can't fund that stuff! Hope you understand, our hands are tied and all."

    According to one theory, this plan has been in effect since Reagan.

  13. I remember where I saw that theory advanced now: It was in this Paul Krugman article titled The Tax-Cut Con.

    That article was really interesting, but here's a more succinct version of the theory on Wikipedia.

    "Starving the beast" is an American conservative political strategy which uses budget deficits to attempt to force future reductions in government expenditure, especially spending on socially progressive programs. The term "beast" is used to denote government and the social programs it funds, including publicly-funded health care, welfare, educational financial aid, and Social Security.

    Krugman argues that Republicans are sitting around waiting for a disaster, and because of that they weren't concerned about raising military spending while cutting taxes -- confident that this would bring about said disaster even sooner.

  14. If you want people to believe your pet theory about 9/11, then you need to offer evidence to support your claim. (This is true for ALL claims, by the way.)

    If you don't find any of the current explanations convincing, that's your prerogative, but your doubt - on its own - is not evidence for your alternate hypothesis.

    The conspiracy theorists prey upon any mistake, gap or perceived gap in the standard explanation. They gather disparate facts, stir in some conjecture and fabricate a story that is only slightly more believable than religious myths.

    Creationists and conspiracy theorists have so much in common.

  15. There are a TON of relevant questions that have never been answered, and that is the price this ADMIN has to pay for being so secretive.
    BUSH/CHENY-Co tried to stop the investigation with a fury. One has to wonder about that as well.

    The worst thing that happened to the "truth movement" is that the WTC buildings looked like a controlled demolition.
    There is so much other data
    (and OURIGHT LIES)
    surrounding 9/11 that we really dont need something that cant be proven.

    Bush either saw the first plane crash 1 day before anyone else, or he lied about it.
    Could he have been mistaken and really saw the 2nd crash ?
    No, he said the TV was obviously on
    Also, he repeated this claim months later.

    Silverstein said to "Pull-it"
    talking about bring building 7 down.
    I think one would have to be a conspiracy theorist to deny that he meant demolition.
    If you watch him closely, theres no doubt what he meant.

    The FAA and NORAD also lied.

    The plans for war with Iraq were drawn up BEFORE Sept 11, and PNAC said we need something like a new Pearl Harbor.

    Recenlty, other Repugs have said we need another 9/11.

    Now who is the Conspiracy theorist ?

    over 1 million Iraqis have died sine the invasion, and we are still counting.
    Bush's OIL buddies are filthy rich, as are most of the DOD contractors like

    So we have contractors in Iraq who are shooting up people for the fun of it.

    Do you think THEY cared about the 3,000 in the WTC if they KNEW it would make them FILTHY RICH ?

    The whole war in Iraq was a FARCE.
    The LIES about WMD to the LIES ahbout the OIL paying for the war, to the LIES about them welcoming us, to the LIES about

    TO the LIES about Able Danger


    So whether they did it, or helped it along matters not much, they WANTED it

  16. Silverstein said to "Pull-it"
    talking about bring building 7 down.
    I think one would have to be a conspiracy theorist to deny that he meant demolition.

    No, one just has to be knowledgeable about the demolition business. "Pull it" is not a term used in that line of work to order the demolition of a building. Read some more info here.

    I agree that Bushco wanted the Iraq war all along. That's a matter of record. But they didn't stage 9/11 to justify it. I think they simply ignored all the warnings and intel that was coming in that summer abut an imminent terrorist attack on US soil, so as to use whatever happened as their justification for invasion. I don't think they expected 9/11 to be as big and deadly as it was (they were probably expecting more along the lines of the 1993 bombing attempt), but it didn't upset their plans much in the end.

  17. Why do conspiracy theorists ignore such huge gaps in logic. Silverstein made the 'pull it' comment on a news intervew! Huh? Did he forget for a second that he was involved in a massive cover up? Was it a freudian slip that wasn't supposed to come out on live tv? Or the more likely alternative that he meant something completely different.

  18. Anonymous9:47 PM

    When Japan hit Pearl Harbor, the government knew it was going to happen because we had broken their codes; however, in order to keep Japan from changing their codes we didn't do anything about the attack. Some say it was negligent, but others would say that it was necessary. History has proven out that it worked out ok in the end.

    Leading up to 9/11 there were a lot of warnings that something was going to happen. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that all of the warnings were ignored on purpose. You realize it when the administration states that there were no warnings which flies in the face of the reality. This isn't to say that it was orchestrated by the government. What I am saying is that some in our government are complicit in the activities of 9/11 by turning a blind eye, or were willingly ignorant so that they could do what they wanted later when the entire US population wanted something done, and was willing to do whatever it took to get it done.

    America is the sleeping giant that when it wakes up it's cranky as hell. Eventually it goes back to sleep until the next crisis wakes it up again.

    Something to note: I believe that Arabs are quite capable of pulling it off with military precision because they are the same Arabs that took on the Russians in Afghanistan and forced them out. And yes, we backed them all the way. So, once again, our policies are being thrown in our face.

    Al Queda, Iraq, Iran, et al : all of these are problems that we have either created, help create, or funded indirectly or directly.

    We are the masters of our own destruction.

    Aren't we absolutely brilliant?

  19. Hi Russell. You invited me to comment on this blog a long time ago, but I never got around to it. We had a previous, very brief, discussion about the Zeitgeist movie. I never got around to finishing what I was saying.

    Anyway.. Zeitgeist The Movie needs more work. I see what the author was trying to get at, but he packed too much conspiracy into 2 hours. He tried to dumb it down too much, then salted it with a conspiracy. It was entertaining, but sloppy. Parts 2 and 3 were jumped into hastily before part 1 was perfected. Part 1 needs more clarification and explanation on some things. I would rather see Part 1 lasting 2 hours with more details. Know what I mean? Like master point A with the evidence before entering B to draw up C while connecting with D.

    Overall though, Part 1 is my favorite. Since I've already done some of my own research which has came to similar conclusions, I tend to agree with much of Part 1. But, like I said, it still needs some more work. I think the author should've stopped with the first part and just stayed with "the greatest story ever told" title.

    Now, I do have some of my own ideas about 9/11. It has nothing to do with an inside government job. Also, it's nothing I can prove entirely, so I'm sure you really don't want to hear it.

    So that's my 2 cents worth. Nothing more to say.

    Have a nice day.

  20. I understand that there are gaps in the 9/11 Commission Report, but coming to the conclusion that it was an 'inside job' is quite ridiculous, to say the least. Much like Matt said, simply because you (or any of your 'Truth' buddies) don't accept the current conclusion doesn't suddenly validate an alternative theory.

    I'd love to see proof of the government's hand in 9/11, just like I'd love to see proof of a Jebus.