Saturday, 3 January 2009

I am reluctantly changing my mind

One of the Twin Towers coming downI hate conspiracy theories. Especially big conspiracy theories. I rarely give them the time of day. I don't read about them, I avoid conversations about them, and listen with glassy-eyed politeness when such conversations are imposed on me. Nutbars see conspiracies everywhere and some of them are pretty persuasive. I have better things to do with my time than to even try to debunk them.

At the repeated urging of a family member or two, I have finally taken the time to consider the evidence presented by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. This is a group of professionals who have made a scientific analysis of the collapse of the three buildings in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 and found the official explanations not only wanting, but impossible.

Richard GageThese are not wild-eyed ranters and ravers, but bespectacled, balding men in business suits with Power Point presentations and a lot of hard evidence, the kind of thing I can respect. This is not the sort of presentation that normally brings me close to tears, but in this case I found myself struggling a time or two. The implications are horrific.

Here is Richard Gage, founder of the organization, giving one of his recent public presentations. Be forewarned, this is lengthy. Explore their website if you prefer. You will find no political theorizing, no demonization, but a great deal of skepticism toward official explanations, and a lot of science. The basic thesis? That the towers were brought down in a controlled demolition, not in a spontaneous collapse. They present ten characteristics of controlled demolitions that were demonstrably present, and none of which can be explained by official theories.

There are now well over 500 architects and engineers publicly demanding a new, independent inquiry. What do you think?

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Anonymous said...

I urge you not to go down that particularly vile, disgusting, deceitful and incredibly harmful path of lies, half-truths and deceptions.

Try here:
Popular Mechanics special report

And here:

And here:
Screw Loose Change.

Janet said...

Anonymous, I do appreciate the links and will check them out. But I will go in with extra skepticism because you presented them with an appeal to emotion rather than intellect.

Janna Qualman said...

This is the first I've heard of any of this. Will anything be brought out in the mainstream media?

John Burgess said...


I'm in the same category as Anonymous. The whole appeal of the 'Truther' movement is to those who have little science background but a strong emotional need to find conspiracy.

Please do follow the links provided in the first comment.

Then sit back and consider how vast a conspiracy it would have to be. No body talked? No body got bought off by a newspaper or TV program? Tens of thousands of people, the vast majority of them not government employees, would have to be involved.

Then ask, deep down, if you think your government would actually kill thousands of its own people to make some political point.

Janet said...

I wouldn't hold my breath. The complicity of the mainstream media would be pretty much essential. I have heard this organization mentioned fairly favourably in mainstream reports though. Like I said, they aren't crazies. They restrict themselves almost exclusively to the science of the fall of the towers, and call for an independent investigation. Gage himself says he is a Reagan conservative.

They can't help but point out that if you accept their analysis - and it's pretty overwhelming - that necessarily forces a lot of other uncomfortable questions, but they don't go there much. They won't speculate on who or why. They just pretty much prove that the theory of a spontaneous collapse is scientifically preposterous.

I've checked out some of the links provided by the anonymous commenter and so far they don't hold a candle to the AE911truth stuff in terms of hard evidence. The Popular Mechanics report is several years old, for example, and has a single paragraph on the actual collapse, and it contains no evidence, only assertions from a single expert. It also starts out with an introduction larded with emotional adjectives, which tells me right off the bat that objectivity can not be assumed. As a writer, I'm sure you would be equally sensitive to the usage of language in the attempt to sway opinions.

This is one of the things that made me take a hard look at this video. Emotive language is used almost never. It's science, engineering, reporting. In writerly language, they show, they don't tell. They demonstrate, sometimes exhaustively, how they came to their conclusions, on how the alternate explanations defy science.

That's why it's so troubling. For me to dismiss it now, someone is going to have to present evidence of a similar weight and quality. I'm open to examining it, if someone wants to present it. I'm only about halfway through the material already suggested, and so far it's been very lightweight and superficial.

Janet said...

John, have you actually watched the video? I brushed this stuff aside for years too. These guys aren't saying the government did it or speculating on the question. They stick to their field of expertise, which is why I am willing to take them much more seriously.

I'm not easily manipulated, at least not anymore. They got past my skepticism, although I did find a couple of their points a little less convincing. If you can tell me where their ten major points are refuted with hard evidence, I will be glad to take a look.

At this point I am addressing only the issue of the tower collapse, because these people have real credibility and have done extensive research. I am quite willing to believe that there are a lot of loose screws presenting shoddy evidence, but these guys aren't among them.

Dube said...

I'll start out by saying that I do *not* believe 911 was an inside job. I think it takes way too much imagination (and belief that today's media would somehow not pick up on that) to buy it.

However, I do think you'll find this interesting, if you haven't seen it before. The US Govt back in the 1960s actually *did* consider a false terrorist attack against civilians to bring support for a war. Thankfully, smarter heads prevailed:

Fern @ Paperback Traveler said...

Janet--Right off the bat I can poke holes in their arguments, and I'm not an engineer.

Their first argument is "No steel framed high-rise building has ever collapsed due to fire - due to the high temperatures that would be required to weaken structural steel past it's critical safety margin - even though very large, very hot, and very long-lasting fires have ravaged many steel-structure high-rise buildings."

It may be true that no steel building has collapsed because of high temperatures caused by a fire, but I can name a steel bridge that did. See this article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Don't fall into the truther trap Janet. I watched the towers fall live, on TV. Why in the world would someone in the government (presumably that's what this group is implying) purposely bring down the world trade center buildings while there were still people inside, not to mention firefighters and policemen? Conspiracies are very hard to keep quiet. A lot of people would have to know about a government conspiracy to purposely explode the twin towers while thousands of people were still inside. Why have none of those hypothetical people leaked anything? You would think that such a thing would be a huge, horrible burden to bear.

AdamS said...

That was a very honest and humble article. I respect the members of AE9/11Truth for the career risk they took by speaking out.

The evidence about molten metal is most convincing to me, featured in several slides, starting from #95, of the AE9/11Truth slideshow.

Also go to slide #403 onwards, for evidence of lateral ejection of huge pieces of steel, which it says could not have been accomplished during a natural collapse. Nobody has yet explained this in the context of the official story.

A response to the claims of Popular Mechanics' article:

Ooh, it's so vile and disgusting to question your government when the science is on your side.

I have been there. "9/11 Troofers are crazy" and such. How could government and corporate media lie to us?

But I was convinced by the work of Gage and others, who have proven that the official story is flawed. (or, if they haven't, there has not been a substantive rebuttal of their claims yet, many were left out of articles like PM's.

I think the appeal of the official story is for those who have a 'strong emotional appeal' for the secure feeling of authority being good and loving. Because the Official 9/11 Conspiracy has little else to stand on as rational argument.

"Then ask, deep down, if you think your government would actually kill thousands of its own people to make some political point."

Exactly how I used to think. Sorry, but it's called denial. Which often represents just the kind of emotional need you referred to, about those who see the official story as flawed.

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." - Arthur Schopenhauer

alex keto said...

All I can say is that if Bush pulled off a successful conspiracy surrounding 9/11, that was the only success he managed to pull off in 8 years.

A lot of this stuff depends on the idea that there were competent people that could have orchestrated it. Sadly for us in the U.S., we found out differently over the years.

AdamS said...

Whoa there, I don't know of anyone who says 'Bush did it'.

If it was an inside job (and that is a big 'if', I hope it wasn't but it could have been), the prime suspects to my mind would include:

Cheney, PNAC (almost everything in the PNAC report has been acheived. Whether it was their doing or not, they got their 'new Pearl Harbor')

CIA (after Project ULTRA, I have no limit as to what I think these guys could do without caring)

FBI (who allegedly were involved in 1993 WTC bombing)

MOSSAD ("Israelis spying in and on the US" - news report soon after 9/11)

I don't think Bush can get dressed on his own, let alone pull this off. But he did say that (impossibly) he saw the first plane impact on TV, which suggests either stupidity or foreknowledge.

AdamS said...

Oops, seems I missed out the obvious possible participant.

Al-Qaeda, which was originally a CIA creation to fight against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.

If it was an inside job, it could have been any combination of those suspect people and groups, or others my feeble mind doesn't know about.

Janet said...

My apologies for not getting back to everyone sooner. I am feeling a little overwhelmed right now (a rather frequent occurrence, it comes with the chronic fatigue). To continue this discussion with any intelligence, I'm going to have to do some reading and I've got a lot of other stuff to do.

The Popular Mechanics article was pretty much useless, as it spends almost no time on the specifics of collapse.

Loose Change is in blog form and I was darned if I was going to try to sift through it to find things. A couple of the links on the sidebar looked interesting though including this one: Good Science and 9-11 Demolition Theories. The site has a section that addresses these issues in a serious way too. I don't know how long it will take me to get to this. It took me over a year to watch the video in the first place... Too much life, too little energy. Perhaps I can get that enthusiastic family member to check it all out.

For the time being I am only going to address the issue of the possible demolition of the towers. It seems everything hinges on that. I'm not going to look into or even think about the theories of who or what is behind it unless I become firmly convinced that the evidence tilts firmly in that direction.

Dube, that was an interesting article. Kind of makes your skin crawl, doesn't it?

Fern, that bridge collapse was interesting stuff too, although it raised a lot of questions. On its own though, it doesn't demolish (forgive the pun) the AE argument, because there's a lot more behind it than that one point.

Adam, have you looked at the material in the links I've provided here? I don't know if it addresses all the points, or even how well it does so, but at first glance it does seem to be rational and maybe substantive rebuttals. What do you think?

Alex, I wouldn't agree that it depends on presidential involvement. That's really putting the cart before the horse. (Although I do confess this is one of the reasons I so strongly dislike conspiracy theories - they seem to depend so much on the competence and silence of too many people.) If the scientific evidence points overwhelmingly in that direction, then we have to look. If it doesn't, we don't. I prefer to start with the scientific angle because #1, it's not ideological and #2, it's much easier to come to conclusions. It's easier to grasp the what than the who, why, and how.

AdamS said...

Yes, I've just read the rebuttals you linked to.

It's a shame that "Good Science" details some good criticisms of the CD hypothesis, but then does not practice what it preaches about 'good' science. The author accuses the CD theorists of having a preconceived conclusion, when so does the author. That said it points out some major flaws with CD theory.

The rebuttals offered by 9/11 myths are in my view fairly sound, but they get defensive on some things such as "Molten Steel" and "Traces of Thermate".

I think there still are huge problems with both hypotheses, such as...

For the Impact/Fire hypothesis:
- Not sure, but shouldn't a pancake collapse leave some floors behind, piled up?
- The temperature issue won't go away.
- Eyewitnesses including some firefighters claim to have seen 'molten steel' (ae911truth)
- Whether or not they collapsed at near-freefall, the symmetrical nature of the collapses suggests many columns failing simultaneously.
- Eyewitness accounts of explosions and people being thrown around in lower floors are at least very suspicious.
- The janitor, in particular, who told of explosions in the basement prior to plane impact

For the CD Hypothesis:
- If thermate: How?
- The pulverisation of not only concrete, but nearly all human remains, is hard to explain in the context of either hypothesis
- The quantity of explosives needed may be very large
- We know little, according to either theory, to explain how the large amounts of concrete were turned to dust
- Maybe the unusual chemicals in the dust did come from another source such as computers burning

Too many coincidences to ignore, not enough evidence to prove. At least, that's my view on a potential 9/11 inside job.

Dube said...

Yep, it does make my skin crawl. It's so hard to believe that people out there really think and plan like that... *shudder*

John Burgess said...

Janet: Yes I did watch the video. I still believe that these guys are caught up in a need to fill an emotional rather than rational void.

I'm not saying these guys are idiots or stupid, just that they're crazy on a particular issue. It happens, even to very smart people.

Oliver Wendall Holmes believed in Eugenics; Arthur Conan Doyle believed in fairies. Look up the list of the leading scientists who believed in the existence of N-Rays. Harvard Professor John Mack believes in alien abduction. Being smart in one sphere does not make one smart in all spheres.

Things like the 9/11 attack are interesting from many, many angles. One is the sociological/psychological one. Acts of enormity require rational explanations that somehow 'justify' the the varieties of pain they cause. 'Act of God' or 'lone gunman' simply do not fulfill the role of adequate explanation. If there are not crystal clear explanations (which they can understand intuitively) for every detail, they conclude nefarious doings on the part of not a single person, not a small group, but by the massive weight of hidden hands.

Instead, people look for something bigger to explain how a horrible thing happened.

You do realize that the argument 'fire never melted steel' is specious on logical grounds? No one walked on the moon until one day, someone did. No one died of radiation poisoning until Marie and Pierre Curie did. The form of the argument is faulty.

One conspiracy theory in which I've been intimately involved--and which helps color my approach to others--concerned the PA-103/Lockerbie bombing.

There are those, including family members of those killed, who insist to this day that this was a plot by a) the US gov't, b) the Israeli gov't, c) the British gov't, d) the Iranian gov't. Some say the plane was shot down by a missile, others that the bomb was first introduced into the baggage in London or perhaps Beirut.

The rational explanation, as tried in a Scottish court, is that the gov't of Libya had at least one agent procure and place a bomb in a suitcase in Malta. That bag entered the luggage stream in Frankfurt, Germany as the plane picked up new passengers.

After picking up additional passengers in London, the plane took off for NYC. Over Lockerbie, Scotland, a time/pressure activated device exploded, tearing the plane apart. All on board and many on the ground were killed.

The Libyan government has finally acknowledged its role and one of the suspects, convicted in court, is still in jail.

Why the CIA conspiracy doesn't work is that one of the passengers killed, a very good friend of mine, was a rising star in the CIA. Not only that, but his wife was the daughter of the head of CIA operations in the Middle East. They were happily married, just had a new child, and had sadly learned that their first child was autistic. Why would a father-in-law kill his son-in-law under those circumstances?

I've seen the reconstructed aircraft. It's very clear that the explosion that took down the plane came from inside the forward baggage hold. It created a small hole, about a foot in diameter, that led to the skin of the aircraft being peeled away from the aircraft, up one side, across the top, and down the other. The evidence is clear to anyone who sees it, but some still insist that it was a missile.

Might other governments have done it? I can come up with a potential excuse for most countries' involvement, even though I have to stretch things a bit. With a little imagination, you could too.

I am not speaking from a position of authority when I note that I've worked with the US gov't, including the 'highest levels' for over 25 years. Rather, I'm speaking from experience when I say that the USG could not have carried out 9/11 and kept it a secret.

There are some A-holes in the government, for sure, perhaps even some psychopaths. They are not representative of government employees. Most are as honest and decent and moral as one could ask--even if most of them are Democrats. They could not, would not have taken part in this atrocity.

Nor could they or would they have 'kept the secret'. Had there been a plot, for reasons ranging from moral virtue to venal cupidity, you would have hundreds of them 'telling the real story'.

I recommend looking at this article by Michael Shermer: Why Smart People Believer Weird Things--Prof. Shermer

If you have the chance, an excellent book on the subject is Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. It's from the 19th C., but still explains a lot that is never considered.

Janet said...

Ah John, thank you for a well-reasoned answer. Some of the reasons you cited are precisely the reasons I am very reluctant to ever believe in big conspiracies. I think the only ones that have a chance of succeeding are the ones that involve a very small group of individuals who are uncommonly good at keeping their mouths shut. The number of terrorist plots that have been thwarted are evidence of that. It's just so hard to keep your tracks covered and to make sure that nobody tells the authorities. We had a plot here in Canada thwarted because an imam decided that it was not consistent with Islam and turned informer.

I am going to let this whole thing percolate for a while, and have a look at the scientific arguments that run counter to the AE group's. If they weaken the structure enough to demolish it (*grin*), that will pretty well wrap things up for me. Conspiracy theories are so unwieldy and so unlikely - at least for anything on this scale - that it takes overwhelming evidence to convince me of them. The AE guys mustered a pretty impressive pile of evidence, but if it starts breaking down under scrutiny, then the sheer unbelievability of conspiracies in general would tilt the balance against them.


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