"When we come upon assurances that a mystery has been solved, we go on investigating."
- Charles Fort
Update, Feburary 29, 2012. I'm happy to hear that some people have completely dismissed me because of this piece. In America there is no abstract belief that correlates more perfectly with social status than acceptance or rejection of the official story about 9/11. So by rejecting it, with one stroke I can keep myself on the margins, where the action is.
But I do find this piece embarrassing for a more subtle reason: it makes it seem like I'm trying to change people's minds. Ordinary humans do not choose their beliefs from evidence and arguments, but for emotional and social reasons, which they then support with selected evidence and arguments. The more powerful the issue, the more true this is. So an argument about 9/11 is even sillier than an argument about economics.
Also my own position has changed, and I think the "conspiracy theories" are not weird enough. In "Shooting an Elephant", George Orwell wrote that "a story always sounds clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes." Mitch Hedberg joked that photographs of Bigfoot are blurry because Bigfoot is blurry. In almost 20 years of studying the fringes of everything, I've seen this pattern again and again. The more you seek a clear image, the more you find fuzziness and contradiction. Or to use the language of William Blake, the more you seek a single vision, the more you find a many-fold vision. This is where Ockham's Razor cuts the heart from the objective paradigm. If different perspectives have contradictory experiences, then the most elegant and interesting move is to leave it at that: different perspectives have contradictory experiences, and go from there. Why add a second proposition, that many of the perspectives are wrong, and a third proposition, that there must be a single story on which everyone must agree? This is not a rational or scientific move, but a political move, connected to the centralization of power.
Science, defined broadly, is the adaptation of mental models through testing. Suppose we can do science without restricting the input to experience that can be duplicated at will and that is the same for everyone. What would it be like to test hypotheses under the assumption that reality is created by every experiencing perspective, and we don't all have to agree? I think this kind of science is not only possible, but inevitable, and it will enable our descendants to enter a world that makes industrial civilization seem like training wheels.
I also think this world already exists, and the "conspiracy" of 9/11, the coordination of the many actions, was carried out on a level of reality that we don't understand yet. For a good background to this difficult subject, I recommend the book The Trickster and the Paranormal by George Hansen.
We know that it is strictly impossible for any building, much less steel columned buildings, to "pancake" at free fall speed... The only explanation known to science for the free fall collapse of a building, especially into its own footprint, is engineered demolition, which removes the supports for each floor of the building at split second intervals so that the debris from above meets no resistance on its fall. To call this explanation a "conspiracy theory" is to display the utmost total ignorance. (link)
And the next strongest evidence is the incredible lack of evidence for the cover story. They haven't released any data from the
black boxes except a bit of voice from flight 93, yet all the recorders should have easily survived the crashes. The WTC wreckage was not examined but quickly hauled away and destroyed. Testimony of air traffic controllers has never been made public, and a tape of their statements was carefully destroyed. The airline passenger lists contained no Arab names. We have not seen video of hijackers going through security, except Atta and Alomari... and several alleged hijackers -- including Alomari -- later turned up alive.
Also, incompetence does not begin to explain the failure of jet fighters to intercept the planes. And many witnesses reported explosions in the towers. And don't forget WTC7, a steel-framed building that pancaked into its own footprint even though it was not hit by a plane.
There's much, much more. My main source has been the 9-11 Research site, which has a great anomalies page. Also, Jeff Wells wrote a good compilation focusing on the political background, The Coincidence Theorist's Guide to 9/11.
If it's so obvious, why hasn't anyone seen through it but the conspiracy nuts?
It's not intelligence or sanity that enables people to see through big lies. It's imagination and social position. Stepping into the fringe, on any issue, is a great responsibility. If they lied about that, what else did they lie about? Suddenly you're no longer a passive consumer but a full-time investigator, questioning and evaluating and filtering everything yourself. Most people just don't have the time or the mental energy to take on such a chore, so they choose to accept the TV news at face value -- if not the opinions then at least the facts.
Also, anyone who challenges the dominant story is immediately reclassified as a conspiracy nut! Pierre Salinger was a respected mainstream journalist and former U.S. Senator who became a joke when he declared that TWA 800 was hit by a missile, even though many eyewitnesses saw a missile hit the plane and the cover-up was hilariously clumsy. Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Treasury Secretary and Wall Street Journal editor, and now he's just another loony. So, on top of the mental and emotional difficulty of overcoming a big lie, there's also the looming threat to your credibility. Even ordinary people don't want their friends to think they're crazy. Imagine how much more difficult it must be for someone like Brian Williams or Michael Moore. They're smart enough to know that they can't afford to go anywhere near the evidence.
What about all the articles debunking the conspiracy theories?
There's a difference between explaining something, and explaining it away. Those articles ignore the strong arguments, pick on the weak arguments and hoaxes, and generally serve an audience that just wants to be soothed and told that everything's OK. Because we live in a highly controlled society, which requires controlled uniformity of fact, any good debunking of dominant facts is marginalized, while a single flaw in a system of non-dominant facts is grounds for total dismissal. To paraphrase Carl Sagan: evidence that contradicts the ruling belief system is held to extraordinary standards, while evidence that entrenches it is uncritically accepted. [I'm paraphrasing against the source. Sagan said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, which, as an academic insider, he thought was a good thing.]
Wouldn't it be too difficult to plant demolition charges in the buildings?
Normal controlled demolitions have limited budgets, plenty of time, and no need for secrecy, so they use a very large number of low-tech charges with just enough force to bring down the building. With vast funds, access to high-tech explosives, and the need to maximize stealth, the 9/11 technicians could use a small number of charges with a very high total energy to produce roughly the same effect. Or think of it this way: it would only take a few hours for an expert team to plant thermobarics or micro-nukes with more destructive force, and more symmetrical distribution, than a plane hitting a building.
Do you think flight 77 really hit the Pentagon?
There are some anomalies in the Pentagon story -- certainly the alleged pilot did not have the skill for the maneuvers made by the plane. It's possible that flight 77 was switched with a smaller plane, but the lack of wreckage could also be explained by the better-supported theory that the plane was rigged to explode just before or after impact. I think the Pentagon controversy mostly serves as a distraction from the much stronger evidence at the WTC.
Were the WTC planes switched?
That's a risky speculation. There may have been two flight 11's from Boston, and two planes that made emergency landings in Cleveland. On the other hand, bodies of flight 11 and flight 175 victims were identified at the WTC.
Were they flown by remote control?
Given the poor flying skills of the alleged hijackers, the weak evidence that hijackers were even on the planes, the odd silence from the cockpits, the difficulty of the flying maneuvers, and the proven ability of remote-control systems to do precision flying, remote control is a strong theory, and it feels right to me intuitively. But we don't know.
Was flight 93 shot down?
Probably. Witnesses reported explosions before the plane went down, and debris was found miles from the crash site. The more interesting question is, why was flight 93 intercepted and shot down, and none of the others? Almost all the cell phone calls came from 93, and it's the only flight with decent evidence of the presence of hijackers.
Were the cell phone calls from passengers faked?
Researcher A.K. Dewdney has argued that the calls were faked, because the transmission would be almost impossible, and the perpetrators had access to voice mimicry technologies and personal information about the alleged callers. Other researchers think that's a bit of a stretch.
What evidence would you accept as proving you wrong?
It would be a good start if a full public release of flight recorder data, a full public release of air traffic controller statements, and a thorough public analysis of the crash sites and wreckage, all confirmed the Bush/Cheney administration's story. If they wanted me to believe them, they shouldn't have destroyed all that stuff!
What first made you doubt the official story?
When they found a car at the airport with a Koran and a flight manual. How dumb do they think I am? A clue that obvious is not evidence of guilt but evidence of a frame-up. Suddenly I realized that I was watching a performance.
Will the truth ever come out?
There's a popular myth that someone will stand up and reveal "the truth" and then everyone will "know." But it doesn't work that way. People believe what they want to believe. 30% of Americans still think Iraq had WMD's, even after years of the TV news telling them otherwise. The truth can only be accepted by people who have no personal investment in the lie. Thomas Kuhn famously observed that paradigm shifts happen not when the investors in the old paradigm change their minds, but when they die. In 50 or 200 years, historians will look back and say, obviously, it was an inside job, and by then it will be too late to know the full story.