Sunday, January 23, 2011

Good Question – Well, Bad Question, But…

A comment on our last post proposed an interesting question:

warm cow plot wrote:
I love counted how many people could possibly have been in on the largest caper in the planet's history. Now engage your self in something more practical--just for fun, mind you. Try to figure out the least people needed to pull it off. I will wait for your results. When you are done, I will compare to the number that I think could have done it. What neat fun we will all have with this.

Here’s the gist of the question: 9/11 deniers require an outrageous number of conspirators – but that’s okay, because all of those people were necessary anyway. 9/11 deniers seem to believe that a clandestine network of non-white people were unable to do it themselves. I like this question. I like this question because it helps define a key difference between the mindset of a conspiracy theorist and the mindset of a rationalist.

This question is based on the notion that we should predefine the range of possible events based on what we at the outset consider to “make sense to us.” Of course, we do this all the time – when you throw a ball upwards, you should probably behave as if it were going to fall back down – but only reasonably with events for which we have priors. We have a lifetime of experience with things going up and subsequently going down. History provides us with insufficient 21st-century large-scale terrorist attacks involving the use of commercial planes as suicide weapons. What is the “minimum number” of people required to conduct such an attack? With what authority could anyone possibly claim to have that answer?

Consider the two absurd extremes: One person with near-superhero status remote-controlled all three planes vs., say, a million people put together tiny, minute necessary steps. I could write a suspense novel detailing how either could happen. I could easily devise something that was within orbit of a plausible narrative of events. Just as Ayn Rand invented a fictional rendition of mid-century American industry to have a fantasy-land in which she could make her own philosophy come true, 9/11 deniers must reinvent the landscape of available evidence under presuppositions that will allow them to be right. Errant statements by politicians confronted by a herd of camera-wielding conspiranoids subsume the mountain of forensic evidence under a paradigm that allows 9/11 deniers to be right.

I have no idea what the “minimum number” of conspirators required to pull off 9/11 would have been. Philosophically the question is a misnomer exactly akin to asking the color of Thursday or the taste of seven. Its distance from a planet on which it is possible to have evidence-based reasoning is so great that it allows all answers, and requires them all to be equally right. So, “warm_cow_plot,” I don’t know the answer, I don’t care, and neither should you. We have reason, evidence, and standards of truth - those will do just fine.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Who Did It?"

One of the first big projects I did for our Facebook group was to sit down and watch Loose Change with my hand waiting on the spacebar, pausing to jot down details every time the movie explicitly laid blame on someone for the September 11th attacks – who they were, what group they were part of, and so on. In the end, I reached a conservative count of 578,212 people – politicians, policemen, engineers, academics, soldiers, firefighters… heck, everyone from every profession from President of the United States to voiceover artist. Americans, Brits, Saudis, Israelis, Chinese, citizens of Dubai… you get the idea.

Slowly but surely, it looks like 9/11 deniers are starting to wake up to the depths of absurdity their claims lead them to, such as my count was meant to illustrate. At least, that’s what the new site demonstrates. They’ve already got 103 people – and that number logically must mushroom enormously.

The site has nothing new to offer, nothing provocative or intellectually consequential in any way, but it does have the names of 103 people that would have to be at the “top” of the conspiracy. Keep that in mind: at the top. These are not the guys who designed the demolition regime; they didn’t put in the orders for the electronic equipment designed to fake air-phone calls or fool black boxes; they’re not the ones who bought the fake uniforms worn by the agents who planted the explosives, and so on. They’re just the leaders. Even super villians need interns, dontchaknow.

Not only does this site offer nothing in the way of new evidence, novel claims, etc., it is a site dripping with such pure absurdity that I would seek to promote it actively. No hardcore denier can look at this list without realizing their religious faith requires the concerted actions of hundreds of thousands of enemies, strangers, people with competing interests, language barriers, worldviews, and so on to coordinate in what would be the most dangerous, ill-formed, absurd conspiracy in history.

So tell your friends all about it!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Early Reports of Gabby Giffords Shooting: A Study in Trusting Early Media Reports

A key part of 9/11 deniers' faith is that all media reports are either 100% accurate, or inaccurate in ways designed to deliberately obfuscate the truth. Here, for example, that belief is plainly stated as a "cover-up
of the truth."

Just to contextualize the obvious lunacy of that belief, here are some links to "initial media reports" about the shooting in Arizona:

Democracy Now!/Huffpo: Gabrielle Giffords Dead
G-E news: Giffords Dies
SkyNews: Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Dies After Being Shot In The Head
FOX News, NPR, and Reuters all had to retract false reporting that Giffords died
ABC News issues apology for false Gabrielle Giffords death report
New York Daily News issues apology for false Giffords death report
CNN erroneously reported on Giffords' death

I thought's follow-up about "mainstream media's" false reporting was particularly galling - it was one of the first to falsely report Giffords' death and issued some of the most vociferous finger-wagging afterward, yet posted literally dozens of stories including references to the "fact" of Giffords' death, quickly de-linking all of them:

This is because, of course, Huffington Post is a terrible blog masquerading as a news site that no one should take seriously. The shooting was almost certainly perpetrated by a by a 9/11 denier.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

AE911Truth's Pathetic Response to Ted Goertzel

In response to the Skeptical Inquirer article by Ted Goertzel on the durability of conspiracy theories, written up in the most recent issue of the magazine. The article is pretty long and at least worth glancing through - frankly, in my view it didn't say much that Michael Shermer didn't already cover in the classic Why We Believe Weird Things - but's response, predictably, leaves something to be desired.

The author of the piece complains that Goertzel "lumps the 9/11 Truth movement in with the “faked Moon landing,” and “AIDS was a government plot to kill gay people." Frankly, this is a point so banal, so obvious and so plainly true that to deny it is an insult to your readers. We've commented on this recently. No 9/11 denier, I don't think, believes in only one unproven (or in this case unprovable) conspiracy theory, and to say that 9/11 denial is being "lumped in" with other theories is to disingenuously deny a key aspect of the conspiracy mindset. As we've also noted before, the 9/11 denier mindset makes it impossible to parse conspiracy theories. This is a point both Goertzel and Shermer have made, implicitly - the intellectual path to arriving at 9/11 denial leads with equal cognitive discrimination and evidential accuracy to every conspiracy theory.

Oh, and the author complains that Goertzel supposedly engages in "ad hominem" attacks - lawl.

My favorite part of the ae911truth piece is the hysterical pedantry required to argue against one of Goertzel's main points. To be fair, its a point we have to make all the goddamn time: That the 9/11 denier's argument against "molten steel" is essentially fraudulent because the claim that any steel melted on 9/11 is nowhere to be found in the investigation into what happened on 9/11. Here, claims, was Goertzel's mistake: He said "no one" instead of "no one on the investigation" made that claim. Which is obvious, of course, if you're in any way intellectually honest.

Perhaps Mr. Goertzel should have done some actual skeptical inquiry of his own. If he had, he surely would have found numerous quotes making precisely the false claim that office and jet fuel fires can melt structural steel:

Stanford University Professor Steven Block: “The intense heat could have melted the buildings’ cores, allowing for the collapses, he suggested.” [Not part of the investigation.]

Structural engineer Chris Wise: “It was the fire that killed the buildings. There’s nothing on earth that could survive those temperatures with that amount of fuel burning. The columns would have melted, the floors would have melted and eventually they would have collapsed one on top of each other.” [Not part of the investigation.]

Engineer Hyman Brown: “Structural steel is fireproofed to last between one and two hours, which it did, and then steel melts.”

Structural engineer Richard Ebeltoft: “Richard Ebeltoft, a structural engineer and University of Arizona architecture lecturer, speculated that flames fueled by thousands of gallons of aviation fuel melted the building’s [sic] steel supports.” [Referenced by 9/11 Commission - but not regarding this admitted "speculation."] “Eventually raging fires melted the supporting steel struts, but the time delay allowed hundreds of people to escape.” [Written one day after 9/11 by non-experts in the period before any empirical evidence was available.]

Editor's comments on the inanity of this point in bold, obviously.

The piece reads like a sloppy press release about the sloppy research done by groups like ae911truth - for example, the author of the ae911t piece complains that Goertzel didn't fall for 9/11 deniers' fraudulent rendition of statements made by firefighters about "explosions" and "molten steel." He probably didn't mention them because 9/11 deniers have lied about them. And as a sociologist, Goertzel probably also knows how useless eyewitness testimony is, anyway.

And Jim Cirile concludes with the line, "Let’s turn this feeble smack-down into an effective opportunity." You've got a long way to go, kids.

Monday, January 10, 2011

That Was Fast

It's an easy enough formula: "Something happened, therefore the government did it." From the winners over at Inforwars.

The FBI and local law enforcement in Pima County, Arizona, are looking for a second man wanted in connection with the shooting of Rep. Giffords and the murder of a federal judge and five others...Fox News reported early Sunday that the man may have given the accused assassin, Jared Lee Loughner, a ride to the supermarket. Is it possible he acted as Loughner’s handler in a larger assassination plot?"

Face, meet palm.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Diffusion of a Mission

One of the reasons that the 9/11 denier movement has essentially failed in its present form is because it has been unable to agree upon any sort of concrete policy proposals, focus on any particular type of concerted political action (street protests are technically not such), or even maintain coherence of mission. The ostensible goal of a "New 9/11 Commission" seems to have been lost in a cacophony of internal squabbling, absurd tangents (looking at you, Judy), and general disorganization.

This lack of focus is crippling to any movement seeking concrete change. After almost eight years of organizing attempts deniers have been unable to agree on what legislative arena they want to work in (courts? Popular votes on the state or Federal level? Agency lobbying?), how they want to get that work done (ballot initiatives? Arrests of the "perpetrators," whoever they are? Violent uprisings?), and how that's going to happen (consider the schizophrenic fundraising strategy of every such organization). The movement has produced no evidence that any of its donors or proponents should expect any forward progress whatsoever.

Deniers themselves have quickly diffused into other movements. They've moved on to other conspiracy theories, becoming anti-vaxxers, chemtrailers, birthers, etc.; other political movements, like the anti-Israel, right-libertarian, and peace movements, and so on. As evidence of this, consider a random screencap taken today of the only functional 9/11 denier Group on Facebook, the "9/11 Truth Library." This screencap is of the Group's Discussions page, which supposedly allows for more in-depth, long-form topics than appear on the Wall.

Anti-vax, environmentalism, chemtrails, anti-GE, 9/11ish, 9/11, anti-Israel, skepticism, black-ops theories, 9/11 - in that order. The "9/11 conspiracy theories" thread, like I said, was actually a thread started by a skeptic that has gone unaddressed for days. This movement is disaffected, bored, and unorganized. The 9/11 denier movement may rematerialize at some point in the future, but it can not succeed in its present form (consider that they wouldn't even be able to tell you what "succeed" means as regards their goals). Its financiers and proponents have no reason to expect any forward progress from its current leadership, organization or methodology. Might just be another "reset" year for the deniers.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Legitimately Curious

Our brief little message to the BuildingWhat? campaign, hopefully to be received in the diplomatic spirit in which it was intended:

Something I've never seen addressed is the fact that the penthouse suites on top of WTC 7 collapsed first when the tower collapsed. This particular part of the building was particularly small (it's marked by a red circle in the third photo down: and doesn't really seem like it would require the use of explosives to "bring down." The fact that it collapsed first seems like evidence of the capacity of the falling debris from the Towers to cause damage to peripheral buildings. I was wondering what your thoughts were on that.

I've never seen anything lamer than "well, they imploded too!" (the excuse of the authors at Democratic Underground I linked to), so I'm genuinely curious to know what they come up with.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Anyone know if this actually happened?

I was literally digging around the AE911T website for some new content to comment on when I came across this gem the "press releases" section. Two questions: (1) Did this actually happen? I can find no news about it and (2) Did anyone catch it with a cell phone or anything?

Was there a third light beam on Sept. 11, 2010?

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers thought they saw a third light beam emanating from Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2010. Two light beams have shown skyward on the 9/11 anniversary for several previous years, memorializing the lives lost in the Twin Towers. But this year, thousands were astounded to see a third beam. Many called their local media, asking about it. They generally were told it stood for the third building that collapsed, Building 7.

A news release was issued to the New York City metro area by "Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth" through PRNewswire on Sept. 11, 2010. The explanation stated the third beam was to shine light "on the fact that the official story of what happened at Ground Zero simply cannot be true and that a new, truly independent investigation is needed. This new investigation is needed both as a matter of national security and as the key to real justice for the victims of the Twin Towers" (

PRNewswire reported later this news release received the second highest number of viewers on their website that day. Yet mainstream media said not a word about this the next day. If the media didn't report it, does that mean it didn't happen?

Dwain Deets

And just as an aside, we all recognize Dwain Deets (whose corpus of work has been roundly refuted on great sites like Boloboffin's), but searching around for him on Google has revealed no evidence that anyone actually saw this publicity stunt! It took place way back in October so perhaps it has been forever buried in the ethereal mountain of Internet data, but if it was half as shitty a display as its dearth of documentation suggests, it has to be worth seeing...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Getting attention in the CT World

I have yet to see anyone describe 2010 as anything but a terrible year for 9/11 denial. Screw Loose Change is already working on a wonderful month-by-month of the "movement's" ill-attended conferences, absurd internal squabbles, and multiple failed publicity attempts. All I can say is that its two big "victories" that I noticed were the "BREAKTHROUGH" that Colorado Public Access Television planned to broadcast one of the versions of Loose Change, and the BuildingWhat? ad campaign. If any New Yorkers have actually seen any evidence of this campaign thus far let me know, because so far I have been literally unable to find the ad content outside of YouTube.

9/11 deniers should be unsurprised at this long, tortuous turn of events. The movement has been unable to generate a new, truly argument-worthy claim in years. Witness today's top "9/11 News" on Infowars: That someone who calls himself an engineer thinks that

“WTC 7 is the Achilles’ heel,” he said. “That (building) did come down at free-fall acceleration.”

Apparently, it is sufficient to copy-paste the mission statement of AE911 onto a blog post to make headlines in the cult these days. I e-mailed him and the Infowars webmaster once again with the same, simple question ("Why did the penthouses on top of WTC 7 collapse first?") - no response, once again, is expected.

The front page news in the cult community has been the same for five years. The last time something new was tried - the Judy Wood insanity comes to mind - the movement fractured and hemorrhaged a few thousand more members.

2010 was a year of closed doors and shrunken rooms for 9/11 denial. The problem is obvious: They have nothing convincing, nothing that truly invigorates the grassroots now that the current retinue of faith has been long-refuted by the likes of 911myths, Screw Loose Change and Popular Mechanics. They need new claims, and to jettison the old ones, pronto. Otherwise, I will soon find myself out of blog fodder!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sentence of the Day

From the penultimate post of the year at STJ911:

Careful examination of the evidence, however, shows that it cannot be conclusively proved that no 757 hit the Pentagon.

Hooray for proving a negative!