Monday, December 27, 2010

A “Free Fall” Piece? Really, Guys?

This week saw the appearance of a WTC 7 free-fall post over at AE911. The post contains prime examples of everything that is wrong with your average Truther post.

I’m surprised that skeptics have made less light of the incredibly mediocre nature of the average 9/11 denier’s screed. Tell me if the apparent flow of each such “big-claim” type article, each “final proof” disseminated from bobbing head to bobbing head is a mutually assured annoyance, or if I’m just crazy:

1. The meandering, banal prologue.

The post I’m griping about begins with the groan-inducing phrase, “Galileo was the first to describe the amazing fact that…” Does anything make you reach for the scroller faster? Does anything prompt more urgent zoning out of the eyes in desperate search of valuable keywords like “gravity,” “data,” or “the goddamn point of all this?”

This introduction reminds me of an epically bad blog post from the cargo-cult version of an academic organization, the Journal of 911 Studies. The post was as useless as one must come to expect from frauds like Frank Legge, and it managed to open with a

It has been said that the world is one continuous Rorschach inkblot test: we see what we expect to see based on our fears and desires.

The hinge on my laptop lid just rusted a little. Can’t we just get to the point? Can’t your evidence and your reasoning speak for itself?

It has been said that the world is one continuous Rorschach inkblot test: we see what we expect to see based on our fears and desires. All sides of the World Trade Centre (WTC) collapse issue can see definitive corroboration in the same photos and videos, the same laboratory tests and the same reports. In this way both authors of this paper initially accepted the official explanation for the collapse of the buildings, as set out in the technical report of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST),[2] but they now undeniably approach the report from a skeptical perspective.

So we first get a post-modern statement that everything is a mere matter of interpretation, then a passive assertion that the authors have got it all figured out. That is, after all, one of the apparent points of the droning intro:

2. The in-your-face appeal to authority.

We all recognize this. Not a post goes by these guys where it isn’t asserted with resolute failure to get the joke that the “authors have studied this issue for year.” They have “thought hard about the evidence.” They have “carefully considered all sides of the issue.” When making his shocking and novel claims about free-fall collapse speeds, the author of this post asserts in describing his methodology,

I used a video analysis tool to carefully measure the velocity profile of the falling building using CBS video footage from a fixed camera aimed almost squarely at the north wall. A video detailing this measurement is available at YouTube/user/ae911truth. I calibrated my measurements with the heights of two points in the building provided in the NIST Building 7 report released in August 2008, so I know the picture scale is good.

The “video analysis tool” is unnamed, the video is unidentified and relies on you to use a broken hyperlink, and the provision of the calibration points is completely unexplained. Which part did he rely on? Why did he use the wrong version of the report (the NIST Building 7 report has been updated multiple times – heck, updates to the report were released the very next day)? What’s worse is that this is one of the more “subtle” appeals to authority 9/11 deniers make – especially when they clothe themselves in the rank condescension of wannabe academic seriousness.

Make your point and be done with it. I don’t care where you worked for twenty years. I don’t care where you got your BS, your MD, your PhD. You don’t impress me.

3. The seemingly overt disrespect for the viewership.

This is the point that inspired this post in the first place: 9/11 deniers condescend to their readers and insult their intelligence. (And yes, it goes without saying, they lie to them as well – that’s a separate point) Why does David Chalmers just expect his readers to take his calibration method on faith? Why does he expect they will just believe him because he told them to do so? I think its because he really doesn’t give a shit about his audience anymore. He doesn’t expect to “convert” anyone anymore. He may very well understand that his cult has failed. Sloppy science is allowed because, well… because who cares?

This blog operates under the possibly naive premise that such technicalities are actually at the core of why conspiracy movements succeed or fail. The Internet has allowed arguments to play out rapidly and thoroughly, with near-instantaneous back-and-forths of links, citations, and back-up claims. The side with the most hyperlinks wins, and the other side has stopped bothering altogether. I think it goes beyond the mere fact that the 9/11 denier blogosphere is an echo chamber for people who already agree with its creators – because that’s true of every blogosphere to some extent (including the skeptical one). I think it goes to the fact that the 9/11 deniers are uniquely unequipped to handle serious refutations of their work – they fundamentally don’t know the science, and unless they’re the OPs, they can’t check the post or the author’s previous works for backup. In a world where everyone who disagrees with you is a CIA spook, your theories get little wiggle-room – it seems hard for 9/11 deniers to recalibrate their refuted ideas without making their audience raise their pitchforks and cry “heretic!” After all, in a world where Dylan Avery, Amy Goodman, Judy Wood, and Sibel Edmonds have all been variously accused of being “plants,” it is unlikely that people are going to be willing to leave their camps. The movement, as Faulkner once wrote, is fucked.

Oh and, just to be clear, the free-fall theory is bullshit – not that Chandler gives us a specific claim of any kind to refute.

1 comment:

Marcel said...

I see you are one of those conspiracy theory debunkers. Good for you. I see many of them commenting, usually one line comments, subscribed to every 9/11 article that questions the authorities and their theories.

Why don't you read a few good books on the subject? Why don't you get the facts from both sides? Why don't you watch the videos of the collapses a few times? Why don't you open your eyes, and broaden your mind? Many facts canot be contradicted--freefalling buildings, debree shot laterally for blocks, plumes of smoke vertically exhaled from every floor of buildings. Pulverized debris. Anyone who closes eyes to these facts is blindly following the government mantra. Get a brain why don't you?