Saturday, January 24, 2009

9/11 Conspiracy Theories

There is no shortage of works describing the events of 911. They can almost all be divided into two very distinct camps. One camp believes that the U.S. government was the driving force behind the terrorist attacks that occurred that day. The other camp believes that the perpetrators of 911 were Islamo Fascists. I myself have been in both camps. However, the more I have studied 911 the clearer it is to me that there are significant problems with the arguments of both camps and that a new set of theories regarding the events of 911 is needed.

I call the first group the Truth Movement. I call the second group the Official Story. In the Truth Movement I would include works such as The 9-11 Loose Change video, and Forbidden Truth. In the Official Story group I would include works such as the US 911 Report and Popular Mechanics’ Debunking 9/11 Myths. Of course neither group is completely homogenous in their beliefs, however, there are some core conclusions shared by most members of each group.

The core conclusions of the Truth Movement are:
  1. The guiding force behind the 911 attacks was not Al Queda or some other Islamic terrorist group. It was a complex, coordinated false flag operation coordinated by a clandestine group within the US government possibly with the help of foreign governments.
  2. Many if not at all of the facts reported by the Official Story group are false. For example, the towers were not brought down as a result of the collision and after effects of the hijacked planes but rather a controlled demolition set up before hand, or the Pentagon was not hit by a hijacked plane but rather by a missile, or a hijacked plane never crashed into the Pennsylvania wilderness and the cell phone calls from passengers alleged to be on that flight were fabricated.
  3. There are an incredible number of unresolved questions and inconsistencies in the Official Story. One or two of these would not amount to much, however the large number of questions and the gravity of the issues unexplained can only indicate some type of conspiracy initiated by the US Government and/or rogue elements from the government, industry, and friendly powers such as Israel or Saudi Arabia.
The core conclusions of the Official Story group are:
  1. The guiding force behind the 911 attacks was Al Queda.
  2. All of the essential facts reported by the 911 Report are true.
  3. There are some unresolved questions and inconsistencies in the Official Story. However, this is not all that surprising given the fact that the US has never experienced an attack like 911 and that the government has classified some 911 documents for security reasons. The unresolved questions and inconsistencies can be explained by human error and the fog of war.

Both sides have their adherents on the left and right. The US Government and most right wing authors side with the Official Story. However, there are some far right groups that are proponents of the Truth Movement. These groups are often anti-semites who see a large involvement from Israel in the conspiracy. On the left the same people who believe in assassination and other conspiracies are the main advocates of the Truth Movement. They are usually fairly isolated from and even hostile toward others on the left, including even the far left such as Noam Chomsky. I think its unfortunate that there is such a divide between left wing intellectuals. The left needs to focus on fighting the criminals who are destroying this country and the world, not each other. Regardless of which story is true the Bush administration and their Neoconservative gurus were responsible for 9/11. Either through negligence or complicity.

I don’t fit into either camp. I believe there is a middle ground defined as follows:
  1. We don’t have enough information to tell for sure exactly who commited the attacks of 911 nor exactly how they did it. It seems likely that Al Queda was involved to some extent.
  2. Many of the conclusions developed by the Official Story group are incomplete or false. Examples include why did WTC Building 7 collapse, who made the large number of put calls against airline stock, why were there several training excercises going on in US air space on 9/11, and who perpetrated the anthrax attacks that followed?
  3. There are an incredible number of unresolved questions and inconsistencies in the Official Story. This is a serious issue because it means we still don’t know for sure who launched the attacks nor how they did it. We have never held anyone in the US government accountable for the lapse in security nor have we ever convicted anyone in a court of law.

Fallacies of the 9/11 Truth Movement

I think the Truth Movement is correct in believing that there are many important unanswered questions in the Official Story. However, I think they have wasted most of their energy by focusing on the most extreme conspiracy theories that are at best not supported by facts and at worst self contradictory. In my review of Truth Movement literature I have found a few common fallacies:

  • The fog of war. The Truth Movement fails to comprehend the chaotic environment of a disaster such as 9/11. In situations where people are under great stress They often perceive and communicate poorly. This phenomenon is called “the fog of war” in the military. Truth Movement proponents seize on minor inconsistencies and misperceptions in witness reports and ascribe the most sinister interpretations to them.
  • The dilettante expert. Many of the individuals used as expert sources for topics such as building demolition, aviation, and the military by the Truth Movement are novices in the relevant topic. Often they have PhD’s after their names usually in unrelated disciplines such as philosophy or drama.
  • All who don’t believe are evil. The Truth Movement often treats anyone that does not agree with them as evil collaborators who have sold out to the US military industrial complex. This goes so far as to label people such as Noam Chomsky and Amy Goodman as government surrogates with virtually no more evidence than that they don’t ascribe to Truth Movement beliefs. .
  • Occam’s Razor. Occam’s razor “states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory.” It is a basic tenet of the scientific method, that we take the simplest of two equal hypothesis. Instead the Truth Movement creates the most convoluted and contradictory theories.
  • The nature of false flag conspiracies. Conspiracies do exist. No one denies that 9/11 was a conspiracy. The last major fallacy of the Truth Movement is that they fail to understand the nature of false flag conspiracies.

The Fog of War

In “ On The War In Iraq”. Noam Chomsky says: “Even in controlled scientific experiments one finds all sorts of unexplained phenomena, strange coincidences, loose ends, apparent contradictions, etc. Read the letters in technical science journals and you'll find plenty of samples. In real world situations, chaos is overwhelming, and these will mount to the sky.” What Chomsky describes as the common chaos that can be found in controlled experiments applies even more so to catastrophic events such as 911. In the military this is known as “the fog of war”. During and after a battle, it is virtually impossible to get consistent views of what is happening. Yet there are thousands of pages written by Truth Movement advocates that argue over the most trivial comments or actions that don’t make complete sense and hence are seen as an indication of the underlying conspiracy. For example: events that are recorded as happening at slightly different times in different official records, people reporting explosions when the official story says no explosions occurred, the fact that certain events were or were not filmed,... Minor inconsistencies, facts, and lack of facts are given the most conspiratorial implication possible without considering alternative explanations such as people’s memories, stress, and the desire for people to put themselves in as positive a light as possible.

The following is an example from a YouTube video taken by a crew making a documentary about NY fireman on 911. The author claims that the video was staged and supports this by noting the following inconsistencies:

naudetsleuth (1 week ago)
2:53 - 2:55. Pfeifer's [fire chief in the video] left hand literally does not know what his right hand is doing. As he exits the vehicle, his right hand starts to place a piece of equipment (walkie talkie?) on the dashboard. But then it's like OOPS THAT'S NOT WHAT MY SCRIPT SAYS and his left hand immediately "corrects" his right hand. His left hand sneakily PALMS the equipment back INTO his possession INSTEAD of leaving it on the dashboard like his right hand started to do. SCRIPTED MOVIE, NOT AUTHENTIC DOCUMENTARY.

naudetsleuth (5 days ago)
You're talking about Chief Joseph Pfeifer, whom I sometimes call Perpfer. Yes I accuse him of being an accomplice to mass murder. But you are mistaken if you think anyone at his firehouse died. They were in on it, so they were all spared, every one of them. You should watch this whole movie sometime, then you would know that. I think most of them are just actors, from somewhere like CIA or FEMA. Narrator fireman Hanlon has an actual imdb resume, with two pre-S11 fireman roles on it!

6:54-7:38, plus further clips in later segments. Cameraman gets close-ups of several lobby firemen, apparently knowing they would die that day. See Item 15 @

Chief Joseph Pfeifer's brother Kevin helpfully wears name on jacket, unlike others, so we'll know which one he is. Joseph lyingly narrates that they said a few words as they looked at each other; footage shows no such thing. Then JP backpedals on his lie: "but it was more the look."

naudetsleuth (5 days ago)
6:00. Pretty-boy fireperp Damien Van Cleaf says how the plan and mood were that they would put the fire out -- after climbing 70 floors in full gear! Official FDNY version of story is that it was an evacuation mission, and let the fire burn itself out, as we actually see officers higher than Perpfer discussing elsewhere in the movie. But that gives lie to this business of sending ff's up. That would only make them get in the way of the 25K people coming down! Very contradictory storyline.

The fact that the camera focused on some firemen who later died is taken by Naudetsleuth to indicate that the entire documentary is a fake. The author never considers the possibility that the makers of the documentary edited the film and focused on the firemen who died. The fact that one fire fighter wears a name tag where as others do not is somehow significant. That the film makers chose an actor to do the narration also supports the theory. Naudetsleuth doesn’t consider that the film makers might have decided to take a bit of dramatic license.

The Dilettante Expert

Much of Naudetsleuth’s critique is based on his idea of how a New York firehouse should be run. This leads to the next common Truth Movement fallacy: the dilettante expert.

The Truth Movement has written volumes of analysis on collapsing buildings, fire fighting protocols, plane crashes, FAA and other flight regulations, and similar topics. However, seldom if ever are the people writing these analyses experts or even generally qualified in the disciplines they go into great detail on.

This article by governor Jesse Ventura is a classic examples of a dilettante expert. The article contains absolutely zero links to external sources.

All Who Don’t Believe are Evil

One of the reasons often given for not being able to use recognized experts by the Truth Movement is the next fallacy: All who don’t believe are evil. Anyone that does not agree with the 911 Truth Movement is seen to be either ignorant or in some way compromised by the government. The absurd lengths that Truth Movement zealots will to is indicated by the fact that left wing paragons such as Noam Chomsky and Amy Goodman have been accused by Truth Movement adherants to be under the control of the government. In Chomsky’s case the fact that he is a professor at MIT, a school with ties to the CIA, is offered as proof that Chomsky himself is under control of the CIA. If that is the case I wish we could get the CIA to sponsor more people like him.

Amy Goodman is a progressive journalist affiliated with the Pacifica network. Goodman’s Democracy Now! program is quite probably the leading alternative source of news for left wing progressives. Since Democracy Now! gets a small amount of money from the Ford Foundation, Webster Griffin Tarpley has accused her of being in the tank for the Government.

I’ve used a couple of left wing examples to show the lengths that the Truth Movement will go to in order to bend reality to their preconceived model. However, most of their invective is usually used against members of the military and the US government. Anyone who is in any way associated with the military or government is automatically assumed to be corrupt and untrustworthy. This is a requirement for most of the conspiracy theories since they involve hundreds and in some cases potentially thousands of participants of the military industrial complex in order to plant and detonate controlled explosives, fake documentaries, launch and control missiles and autonomous vehicles, etc. In order for these theories to work we must assume that all the participants are either mindless drones who will do whatever their superiors tell them or inherently evil with no sense of guilt for causing the deaths of thousands of their fellow citizens.

In the real world, most members of the military and government (I’m talking here about rank and file soldiers, agents, bureacrats not the leaders at the top), regardless of their political affiliation, are patriotic and would not be part of a conspiracy to attack it.

Occam’s Razor

This dichotomy illustrates the final Truth Movement fallacy: Occam’s Razor. Occam’s razor states that “the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory.” It is a basic tenet of the scientific method, that we take the simplest of two equal hypothesis. Instead the Truth Movement creates the most convoluted and contradictory theories.

The Nature of False Flag Conspiracies

In the real world false flag conspiracies do exist. One example are the acts of terrorism (bombing and kidnapping) committed by the Italian Red Brigade which we now know were a CIA/NATO False Flag operations known as Operation Gladio. Other examples include the German Reichstag fire and the Algerian civil war death squads. In these and all false flag operations that I’m aware of, deniability is an essential requirement. Governments attempting to attack their own people are taking an incredible risk. They do not organize the large number of soldiers and civilian workers that would be required to use new untested space particle beam weapons, plant explosives in the most conspicuous sky scraper in the US, or produce documentaries. What they do is find some patsy organization that they can use by infiltrating an agent or two and feeding money. In Operation Gladio NATO didn’t engage DARPA to try out their latest weapons on Italian infrastructure. They had the CIA infiltrate a couple of agents and provided them with financing. In Algiers a handful of agents of the French intelligence agency disguised themselves as Islamist terrorists. If the Bush administration did sponsor 9/11 they would have used a similar technique, infiltrate or hire a few key agents in Al Queda and help them with money, passports, etc.

A Middle Ground

It is typical of the American left that we have formed a circular firing squad around 9/11. The obvious truth is that whether through incompetence, tacit compliance, or overt guidance the Bush administration was responsible for 9/11. Yet instead of focusing on that fact we argue amongst ourselves about how the Bush administration was responsible for 9/11 rather than affirming that they were responsible for it. In these posts I’ve described some common fallacies I have found in the Truth Movement. I want to stress that for the most part I agree with them more than I disagree. It is clear from US history that the US is capable of contemplating and implementing false flag operations that result in innocent civilian casualties. Also, if ever there was a presidential administration capable of deceit and contempt for human life it is the Bush administration. I believe the Bush administration is ethically capable of killing US citizens in order to implement some greater benefit. My quarrel with the Truth Movement is that many of their theories lack evidence. I agree with them that the Official 9/11 report was a whitewash. I just think its a mistake to indulge in speculation when the rational answer is that we don’t know.