Thursday, January 21, 2010

"The Weird Factor," or, spot the logical fallacy

Answers after the block. Hint: The "better name" rhymes with "shmallacy from schmincredulity." From, posted over at

What I call the Weird Factor, for lack of a better name, seems to have become a permanent feature of our post-9/11 world, a dark and sinister leitmotif that plays in the background. On 9/11, of course, the Factor was on full display as a whole string of unusual events and unexplained phenomena were visited on us. The 9/11 Commission did little to clear these matters up, for the most part because they didn't address them. Just a few for the record: Bush reading My Pet Goat to schoolchildren after being told of the attacks, the sudden appearance of the "Israeli art students" – and their buddies, the "laughing Israelis" – in the months and weeks leading up to the attacks, and the apparent passivity of US air defenses on that fateful day.

I mean, how is it possible that the terrorists actually hit the Pentagon, the symbolic fortress of America's alleged military supremacy? After spending untold trillions on "defense" over the years, a sum that never declines in real terms, and driving ourselves into near-bankruptcy on account of it, how in the name of all that's holy did nineteen men armed with box-cutters manage to drive Don Rumsfeld stumbling into the street, literally running for his life?

The most glaring logical error the author of's blog post committed here is called the fallacy from incredulity. This fallacy is committed when one argues that because one is surprised by an event, that event could not have happened.

1. 9/11 was surprising to me.
: The government did it.

Could this "logic" replicate in any way, to any other situation? Of course not. The fact that something surprised you has nothing to do with whether or not that something did in fact happen. 911truth and require you to believe that if you think something is unlikely, it is therefore obvious that "the government" (whoever that is) was responsible. Here are a few examples of this fallacy being committed by the author of that post in just the first couple of paragraphs.

Fallacy from incredulity: People from Israel were in New York City in September of 2001. Shocking. Some of them came to the United States to go to college, and some even came as (gasp) tourists! Because the "five dancing Israelis" were such good secret agents, here they are on national television talking (and laughing) about the conspiracy theories that have been born to justify their existence in the minds of 9/11 deniers. Hey, wouldn't people cheering the deaths of Americans be people 9/11 deniers could naturally associate with? The founders of the religion of 9/11 denial did find 9/11 rather humorous, after all.

Fallacy from incredulity: "A plane hit one of the biggest buildings on the Potomac? Impossible! 2003 called, they want their arguments back."

Fallacy from incredulity:. "Having an international military presence means the Pentagon should've been armed with missile banks eager to be fired onto hijacked civilian jetliners. Because in the few minutes between the hijacking of Flight 77 and its impact into the Pentagon defense officials weren't miraculously granted the authority to rewrite American national defense rules to allow the shooting down of American civilian jetliners, the hijacking of which in every case prior to 2001 was for ransom purposes rather than suicide attack purposes, the government did 9/11."

As you can tell from my sarcastic interpretation of this author's claims, I think his assessments of the relative probabilities of certain things happening is patently false. But even if they weren't, the mere logic of the author's statements gets him laughed out the door. His only argument is that he personally thought the United States was invulnerable to terrorism, and that any deviation from his fantasy world is therefore a stochastic impossibility short of necessitating what would be by far the most elaborate hoax in history.

A conspiracy-minded blogger thinks something unlikely happened, therefore everyone who works for the US government is a terrorist. Does that statement not ring true to you? No? Congratulations, you know more about writing, rhetoric and argumentation than the editorial staff of

Next up: The rest of his post!


avicenne said...

This dancing/laughing israelis thing really is a joke. As if the Israeli intelligence is going to allow their operatives to go on some Larry King style talk show & pontificate on the joint US-Israeli false flag operation that was 9/11.

Your commentary here is spot on. The inanity of the antiwar post one would think anybody could detect, yet God knows how many people go online & lap all this stuff up.

The self-indulgence, the egotism of 9/11 conspiracy theorists really is astounding. I still feel ill after a few visits to some of the conspiracy forums. The level of critical thought on display is disturbingly low, and I'm hoping these conspiracy blogs don't reflect the thought processes of the intelligent man or woman in the United States

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