Thursday, February 10, 2011

"9/11 Deniers"

The other day I received an e-mail asking me about skeptics’ use of the term “9/11 Denier,” which is synonymous with Truther, 9/11 CT, etc.:

My interpretation is that this is a blatant attempt to equate alternative 9/11 theories with Holocaust Denial. As I'm sure you are aware, Holocaust Denial is the belief that the Holocaust simply did not take place, that the event did not occur. You are also entirely aware that proponents of alternative 9/11 information are not stating that the event did not occur, they are instead questioning who was responsible, and bringing specific aspects of the event under scrutiny. In this context, then, might the term "9/11 Deniers" seem like something of a misnomer?

To be clear, I did not start using this term to equivocate between 9/11 Deniers and Holocaust Deniers.

I started using this term because virtually every 9/11 denier falls outside the criteria our e-mailer suggests. I have never had a conversation with a 9/11 denier who was devoid of his or her own theories about “who did it,” “why they did it,” and “how they did it.” In my experience the usual culprits are Israel, some variation on an Illuminati-esque elite cabal (itself often synonymous with Israel), and/or key figures in the Bush Administration – sometimes armed with an elite posse of anonymous government agents. But in no case have I met someone who denies that 9/11 happened the way the evidence indicates it did without at least an “inkling” of who they really wanted to blame. So no, virtually no 9/11 deniers are just “questioning who was responsible” – an activity our co-skeptics over at Screw Loose Change refer to as “JAQing off.” Whether a denier chooses to present their beliefs as merely taking shots at established theory is fine; read them on their own Facebook groups or listen to them at the bar after a debate and you get a very different picture.

Of course, if 9/11 deniers were actually interested in “Truth” this is how they would it to be, anyway. Approaching a true understanding of reality through un-biased scientific inquiry involves the proposal of competing hypotheses and testing their ability to explain the evidence. As a statsy guy I tend to add the caveat that these hypotheses should always be compared to a null hypothesis, even if that hypothesis is something as mundane and obvious as “there’s nothing going on,” but in the absence of reliable priors that needn’t necessarily be the case. Deniers reject the concept, anyway. However, if they were really interested in something more than selling Alex Jones DVDs, they would not shy away from the obvious need to advance positive theories.

And finally it is important to note that 9/11 deniers are denying key aspects of what happened on September 11th. After all, hundreds of people, dozens of books, and countless articles document the motivations, actions, plans and intentions of the people who actually carried out the attacks. 9/11 Deniers are required to believe in the impossibility of organic terrorism. They’re required to believe that religious and ethnic extremists who happen to be Arab or Muslim are either incapable or unwilling to act on their beliefs (and have been so for hundreds of years). The millions of people around the world who have interacted with, been affected by, or have been in al Qaeda either don’t exist or are in on it. Abrudahman Khadr, the boy from an impoverished family that grew up alongside bin Laden’s Afghanistan operations? Obviously a fiction. Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, whose name is on thousands of accounting documents for al Qaeda? Clearly a Zionist tool. Maha El-Samnah and Zaynab Khadr, whose son died as a suicide bomber – leaving them proud of his martyrdom, but ashamed of his affiliation with al Qaeda? Probably paid actors.

Organizations like al Qaeda leave their indelible mark wherever they go. 9/11 deniers are required to pretend that those marks are just Western operatives covering their own tracks – an obvious delusion to everyone who has seen it in action, knows its members, and knows those who are tempted by it and any other extremist organization. To me, this is the key – 9/11 deniers flatly deny virtually every relevant event in the lead-up to 9/11. They deny that centuries of geopolitical events ever occurred. To them, history begins at the Balfour Declaration, crescendos when Ronald Reagan begins supplying anti-Communist rebels in Afghanistan, and ends when George Bush plants bombs in the North Tower and scampers off in a black helicopter. Between these pockmarks on the historical landscape there are thousands of religious ideologues, millions of oppressed victims of colonialism, and countless strategic opportunists struggling to guide human affairs to their own ends. 9/11 denier history is the shallowest history of all, one that requires them to reject the needs, desires, machinations and schemes of billions of people across centuries. 9/11 denial is reality denial.

That’s why I call them 9/11 Deniers.

No comments: