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Pseudoscience, Real Terror

As the anniversary of the physical attack approaches, Bwog correspondent Alex Weinberg reels from the mental attack of 9-11 conspiracy theorists.

jhjSeptember 11th is fast approaching, and, like swallows returning to Capistrano, 9/11 conspiracy theorists are emerging from their basements and taking to the streets to let you all know how dumb you really are. For those who’ve never enjoyed their presence, just head outside for a stroll: you’ll see them marching everywhere from Church Street up to our very campus, happily forcing flyers and DVDs into the palms of unsuspecting tourists. Their predatory packs are hard to dodge and impossible to miss.

Rather than promoting a political or social cause, conspiracy theorists are here to sell their story that September 11th was a lie. To them, airplane collisions could not have toppled the Twin Towers, and something else must have led to the unprecedented destruction. Let me just say that I take deep offense at this idea. Conservative commentators often deride 9/11 conspiracy theorists for their lack of patriotism or compassion or whatever, but I think this is a far too easy way of thinking. Instead, I hate them for the much more substantiative sin of being stupid and loud.  To me–a structural engineering student and longtime supporter of skyscrapers and skyscraper-related causes–they might as well be protesting against evolutionary theory or the abstract notion of time.

Here’s how it breaks down: A few conspiracy theorists believe the comparatively benign notion that the Bush administration knew about the 9/11 attacks and did nothing to prevent them. Most, however, maintain that the government actively planned and executed the attacks. These conspiracy theorists believe that airplanes were flown into the Twin Towers, which were then demolished using previously planted explosives. Some go further, claiming that the planes were remote-controlled into the towers, or that spherical mystery pods and bombs were dropping from the bellies of the 767’s, or that United 175 was actually a dolled-up Patriot missile, or even that tiny nuclear bombs were used to bring the towers down. I am not making any of this up–I wish I had that much creativity.  

The main culprits are obviously Bush and Cheney, who supposedly staged the attacks as an excuse to start their wars. The list of suspects then radiates wildly outward to include everyone from Rudy Giuliani to the Port Authority of New York, Pakistan, OPEC, the NFL, other less fervent conspiracy theorists, NASA, McGraw Hill Publishing, and of course the conniving Jewbankers. 

They get their work done through the Internet, mostly. Web firebrands like Alex Jones (UFO baron) and Dylan Avery (demonstrably ugly), have invested years of their lives into highly polished websites and videos to spread their belief that the September 11th attacks were a government plot. Their material is very convincing and very well made, and a lot of people fall for it. They employ neatly edited footage, quotes from actual firefighters, and analyses from (dubiously) credentialed scientists in a slick symphony of propaganda. In a society where your structural engineering experience doesn’t matter as much as your Myspace page, people will believe what you convince them to believe.


kkIt’s all bunk, of course. Their science is terrible, the first hand accounts that support their story are few out of tens of thousands, and the professional scientists that agree with the controlled demolition hypothesis rarely, if ever, have experience in the building trades. Even their self-appointed name, the “9/11 Truth Movement,” is drenched in outright phoniness. First, by referring to themselves as a “Movement,” conspiracy theorists try to apply the same level of legitimacy and import as the Civil Rights or Suffrage Movement to a bunch of scattered but highly dedicated Internet trolls. By their logic, angry Bwog commenters form a veritable Revolution. 

Moreover, they’re equating the word “truth” with whatever reality they deem to be the optimal one, regardless of bogus physics, sketchy logic, and paranoid thinking. They’re doing to the word “truth” what President Bush has done to the word “freedom.” At this pace, there are going to be no words left for future generations to bastardize. 

But they’re off of the Internet now and onto the streets. That’s why, on September 8th, I went down to Ground Zero to meet the conspiracy theorists as they geared up for 4 days on nonstop screaming.  

Alex Weinberg will return with Part 2 in the fairly near future.

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  • here's says:

    @here's another link, for good measure:

    The people over at Purdue created a simulation of the planes hitting the towers.

    We with the (correct) hypothesis have already proven it. It is you who simply invokes an unreasonable burden of proof, not unlike Holocaust deniers. You really do live under a rock if you think nobody has proven anything. Just because you don’t understand the science behind this stuff doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It means you’re uninformed.

  • Skeptic says:

    @Skeptic Excuse me, but Penn & Teller are entertainers not investigators. I did watch the History Channel show, and it was just like this article, mostly invective. In any case, those aren’t independent investigations. They are TV programs.

    As for who bears the burden of proof, I say it’s up to whoever has a hypothesis to defend it. The U.S. government and its acolytes have offered little but invective. Those promoting alternatives, well, as I wrote before, they range the gamut.

    I remain agnostic. I don’t think anyone has proven very much of anything.

    1. let me guess says:

      @let me guess you’re NOT in the engineering school, and you’re not a science major.

      your beliefs reek of a blatant misunderstanding of what “proof” is.

      The History Channel doc went over the structure of Building 7. That was just invective to you? Have you tried reading the Popular Mechanics article or is that too difficult for somebody like you?

  • sorry says:

    @sorry most popular != least crazy

  • i feel like says:

    @i feel like this was too easy. conspiracy theories are by their very nature usually pretty ridiculous – but occasionally they contain some truth. rather than handpick the stupidest and most insane ones to make a mockery of, why not take on a couple of the most popular (presumably least crazy) conspiracy theories and actually debunk them piece by piece rather than just talk about how stupid they are. the 9-11 conspiracy theorists are plentiful and they’re not all screaming wackos – why not challenge em w/ that columbia intellect and/or that engineer’s empiricism?

  • alexw says:

    @alexw Hello anonymous internet troll. Perhaps you could leave your real name and we could talk like humans. Otherwise, go back to

  • Skeptic says:

    @Skeptic By the way:

    “A few conspiracy theorists believe the comparatively benign notion that the Bush administration knew about the 9/11 attacks and did nothing to prevent them.”

    Relatively benign? I don’t think so.

  • Skeptic says:

    @Skeptic Weinberg’s article is useless invective. Fact is, there are multiple “conspiracy theories.” One comes from the U.S. government, and others come from skeptics and cynics who run the whole gamut.

    The reason the skeptics command as much attention as they do is because no one has ever really conducted a thorough, independent, and public investigation of the events of 9/11.

    There are obvious anomalies in the government’s version, the most glaring being the inexplicable collapse of WTC-7 and another being the lack of a military intercept of any of the hijacked flights. Until a real investigation tackles those and other issues, there’ll be substantial public disbelief of the government’s conspiracy theory.

    Weinberg, you can kick and scream all you want, but it won’t change a thing.

    1. Anti-Skeptic says:

      @Anti-Skeptic Building falls on WTC-7. WTC-7 Burn 20,000 gallons of oil. Fire is so hot firefighters could not come near building that wasn’t structurally sound at the time. WTC-7 collapses, due to heat softening steel. This includes ripping from concrete 3 inch wide rebar shearing of beams of approximately W14x400 in size out from the the cantilevered structure below the structure. This structure then falls on the Verizon Buidling below this. There are dozens of structural engineers that will attest to the fact that once the debris was removed, they found that they only had hours before the Verizon Building would have collapsed as well.

      1. alexw says:

        @alexw Apparently the Verizon Building sustained 1.5 billion dollars worth of damage from the collapse of WTC7 alone. Great job with that “controlled demolition” guys.

    2. O RLY? says:

      @O RLY? Have you ever watched the Penn and Teller episode on Conspiracy Theories? Have you read the Popular Mechanics Article? Did you see the History Channel’s documentary a few weeks ago about this? Really, NOBODY has ever looked into this independently? That’s three examples right there.

      The collapse of WTC7 is far from inexplicable. It was, in fact, completely predictable. WTC7 was not supported in the same way that WTC 1 and 2 were–instead, trusses were employed and the bottom few floors were pretty much open, like an amphitheater. Furthermore, WTC7 had fuel tanks as backup generators in the building, and those caught fire which only added to the progressive weakening of its structure.

      Only people who refuse to actually look into the work of real academics–structural engineers and the like–claim there is any validity left to these absurd conspiracy theorist claims. The burden of proof is on you. Simply asking questions that have already been answered time and again does not prove a thing.

  • Michelle says:

    @Michelle good words

  • whatever says:

    @whatever i liked the article and i’m looking forward to the rest

  • ehhhh says:

    @ehhhh eh, i’m no conspiracy theorist but at the same time it does no one any good to set up straw men and tear them down.

    if you want to write about how some of the 9/11 conspiracy groups are spewing garbage, then please, cite their garbage and refute their arguments.

    mass generalizations are lame.

    1. it's been done says:

      @it's been done so many times by so many experts. please refer to the Popular Mechanics link I posted above.

    2. alexw says:

      @alexw If I wanted to write an article about the physics of a collapsing skyscraper, nobody would want to read it. Not even me. I’m dissecting the 9/11 conspiracy theorists from a different angle, hopefully one that doesn’t require an ASCI steel manual.

  • bush testifying says:

    @bush testifying at the 9/11 commission would end up becoming a political poo flinging fight. Not to mention that anybody would be far more open (in the sense that they knew they wouldn’t have jon stewart or moveon trying to decontextualize and falsify their quotes into attacks) behind closed doors over such grave issues as security.

    1. Oh come on says:

      @Oh come on Yes, by God, let’s have our government do everything behind closed doors, lest someone misquote them! Better no information than misleading information.

      1. well says:

        @well nice strawman. on sensitive issues of national security it doesn’t make sense to put up your sitting in commander in chief when he likely doesn’t have the specific info on the intelligence recommendations and anything that he was briefed on was likely done in the presence of his cabinet and advisors who were asked to testify

        Considering petreus and others are testifying right now spare me your straw men

        1. What? says:

          @What? That’s hardly a strawman. The administration, on all occasions, has striven to keep its internal workings a secret, even when there’s no publicly beneficial reason to do so. That trend started years ago with Cheney not disclosing attendance at policy meetings to the GAO and has continued through practically all major decisions since.

          As for Petraeus testifying before Congress — it has been YEARS since the commission’s inquiry. A little late.

          Anyway, if Bush didn’t have anything useful to say, that would have quickly become clear. Since they *wanted* him to testify, obviously somebody thought there was a point to it. But, no, you wouldn’t expect a commander in chief to understood a war that he’d started.

  • I'm so tired says:

    @I'm so tired of people bastardizing this tragedy- and that goes for Weinberg as much as the heartless nutjobs who make a living out of telling lies. I’m tired of September rolling around, for the sixth time now, and the media using death to sell full-page ads- because everyone wants to know: have we mourned enough? have we mourned too much? what if the gov’t is hiding something? just how crazy are those conspiracy theorists? Maybe if you were there, maybe if you saw specs of dust flying out of the towers — only to later realize at least some of those were people; maybe if you looked over your shoulder every time you passed by, and felt a gaping hole in your chest — maybe, just maybe you wouldn’t be so eager to throw around death like just another topic at your Thursday-night kegger.

    1. cmon says:

      @cmon some people prefer to talk about it, and some don’t. if you don’t want to, don’t read it. oh, and i was in dc on 9/11, which may not have been new york, but still…all i’m saying is let everyone deal with it in their own way.

    2. wirc says:

      @wirc Yes, I recall this argument being made about some videos of the Pentagon, that were not released for “lack of relevance” or something. Alex Jones and the Loose Change set yelled a lot about this, until finally they were FoIA’d in 2006, and they suddenly ignored them.

      The videos showed nothing at all. They were all obscured.

      1. wirc says:

        @wirc Sorry, one was obscured by a bridge and the other was pointed backwards. Both contained no information.

  • anonymous says:

    @anonymous I have issue with the belligerence exhibit by our friend Alex. What’s the deal? I don’t think 9.11 is as “slam dunk” as evolutionary theory or the abstract theory of time.

    In fact, I think Alex’s ad hominem arguments against “Dylan Avery (demonstrably ugly)” corroborates why I don’t immediately write off 9.11 conspiracy theorists. For example, why did Bush refuse to testify under oath in front of the 9.11 Commission? Why did he only agree to testify behind closed doors, not under oath, and with Cheney?

    Why get pissed if you really think they are full of shit? By that reasoning, they’ll disappear on their own time.

    1. DHI says:

      @DHI I don’t even think the slam dunk is a “slam dunk,” as evidenced by this expository video:

  • yeah says:

    @yeah we were a pretty elite team, they handpicked us well. A lot of great guys from the CIA, NSA were involved. It’s a shame we can’t meet up to talk about it from time to time, but that’s how these things go.

    1. yea indeed says:

      @yea indeed Don, is that you? What do you mean we can’t meet up…you didn’t get the annual reunion email? This year we’re getting together for beers at that bar right outside Langley(CIA’s hosting…should be a lot better than the FBI’s party last year, those guys are dweebs)

  • DHI says:

    @DHI The thing that impresses me about the inside job is how they not only managed to silence all of the many, many conspirators they needed, but also managed to silence all the people they approached who refused to do it. That or they were just really good at picking people willing to kill both civilians and top military officials.

  • bwog... says:

    @bwog... …blinded me when it mooned me
    crack kills!

  • thomas dolby says:

    @thomas dolby bwog blinded me with science!

  • The History Channel says:

    @The History Channel recently did a really great point-by-point of every conspiracy theory regarding 911. It aired two weeks ago, I think. The Popular Mechanics guys were interviewed also.
    PM did an conspiracy theory bust in 2005:
    It’s worth the read.

    Alex Weinberg, I commend you. I hope you don’t get as frustrated as I would down there with all those nutsos.

    Carry on!

    1. erm says:

      @erm by “point-by-point” I meant “point-by-point rebuttal”.


      -Poster 11

  • Wow says:

    @Wow leave it to Bwog to find a topic like 9/11 and make an entertaining article about it.

    Good show

  • To Be Fair says:

    @To Be Fair It is pretty flabbergasting, and took a perfect storm of terrible events for the collapse to occur. It’s not like planes have never hit skyscrapers before, they just never usually fall down. Basically, whenever there’s an unlikely event, i.e. 9/11 or men landing on the moon, someone will claim it was fake or didn’t happen the way the powers-that-be claim. Yes it’s annoying, but I don’t think it’s worth putting your nipples in a vice.

    1. i really wish says:

      @i really wish that someone would put your nipples in a vice.

  • rosie o'donnell says:

    @rosie o'donnell i will find you and eat you, alex weinberg.

  • what about says:

    @what about tower seven. there is footage of its collapse being reported almost an hour before it collapsed.

    answer that one mr. weinberg.

    1. Chas Carey says:

      @Chas Carey There’s also footage regarding the State Department being bombed and a possible bomb on the Golden Gate Bridge.

      The footage you’re referring to, from the BBC, was apparently misreport they’d gotten from one of the firefighters, saying in passing that it was structurally unstable and in danger of collapsing. There were many rumors being reported.

      Now go question the moon landing some more.

      1. Bingo. says:

        @Bingo. Ted Rall did a column discussing the media coverage of the State Department attack shortly after 9/11… I sent him an email asking about the source and he said that he didn’t have one, he just saw it on NBC. A lot of rumors were flying around and got picked up by the media.

        If you were on a particular 6 train during the steam pipe explosion this summer (as a friend of mine was), you would have heard the MTA announcing that a plane had hit a building. Oops.

  • thumb up says:

    @thumb up the other thumb waits to see part 2 first

    “At this pace, there are going to be no words left for future generations to bastardize. ”

    that’s the best sentence, i love it

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