Apr 17 2007

Letters from a 9/11 Conspiracy Theorist

Below is an e-mail exchange I had recently with someone who takes offense that we are not more skeptical of the official version of what happened on 9/11. Their letters to me are in italics, and mine follow. It is a fairly good representation of the typical thought processes employed by the conspiracy theorists.

Hi,

I find your podcasts really interesting and it’s interesting to hear the “rational” minded folks too. However I was disappointed with your podcast #89 where you trash everything that is not right off what the mainstream-media is telling you.

While you bash these “celebrities” who speak out for 9/11 investigation, you don’t notice that obviously you didn’t research history really. It’s a proven fact that governments have used false-flag operations to get their thing through. Hitler did it with the reichstags-fire and blamed it on “communist-terrorists” and then used it as a pretext to implement the enabling-act (which is basically the patriot-act that Bush-Nazi then created with the 9/11 event) and invaded Poland (where Bush then tried to associate 9/11 with Saddam Hussein and Iraq, WMD’s).

See parallels?

Only that example already shows how much suspicion one should have when looking at this topic. You might also remember that grandfather Prescott Bush dealt with Hitler-Nazis back then, so how can you not think that these Bush-Nazis are corrupt up to their skull & bones. They already stole at least one election.

Regardless of the physics (steel melting or not, controlled demolition or not, etc.) look at what 9/11 has brought with it and who really benefitted from it: restriction of freedoms, patriot-acts, NSA-spying, Guantanamo Bay, torturing, detention without trial, private contractors in Iraq (Caci, Halliburton, etc.) who were responsible for a lot of the mess that happened at Abu-Ghraib and wasting tax-payers money, military-industrial-complex doing more business than ever, USA turning more and more into a police-state and other scandals over scandals.

How much more do you need it in front of your face? Obviously you don’t notice how much business is involved in warfare and that not only Cheney’s buddys at Halliburton profited but so many others in that military-industrial-complex.

You should really do your part on research before you bash people speaking out for investigation. Isn’t it a sad fact that actually people from the entertainment-industry have to demand for investigation while the mainstream media is wishing them to hell (I wonder why also, they seem pretty nervous)? Real journalism has nothing to do with ridiculing such things and just calling it “tin-foil bullshit”. And it’s funny that 40 millions have been spent on the Clinton blowjob investigation but 9/11 only got like 15 millions before it was cut off and all the steel sent to china.

Here is a great short video for you guys: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8310078625033531091

Best regards but with less respect than I had for you guys before, unfortunately, Mato (and sorry if there are mistakes in my writing, I’m from Switzerland)

Ps: I hope you’ll mention my email in one of your next podcasts, because I’d like to hear what you have to say to this.

Mato,

Thank you for your e-mail and for listening to the SGU. I may discuss your e-mail on a future episode but first let me give you a written reply and get your thoughts.

First, you accuse us of trashing “everything that is not right off what the mainstream-media is telling you.“ This is a straw man and patently false, so right off the bat you sacrifice your own credibility. I would be more careful about this in the future. In fact, if you listen to our show, you should know that we routinely criticize the mainstream media’s reporting of many issues. We investigate topics for ourselves whenever possible and form our own opinions. Also, we have discussed in detail specifically why we reject the many claims of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Our position is not dependent upon naively accepting what the mainstream media is saying.

It seems that your main point regarding 9/11 is that Bush and his friends benefited from 9/11 therefore it is reasonable to believe that they were responsible for it. This, however, is little more than an argument from final consequences. The logic is not valid.

Your unspoken premise is that if someone benefits from an event then they must have caused that event. This premise is false. Things happen, and there are always winners and losers. The winners are not necessarily complicit in events.

You can also look at this another way by saying that your criteria (Bush and the MIC were helped by 9/11) does not in any way discriminate between an inside job and outside terrorists acting on their own initiative. Therefore it is not evidence for an inside job. In other words, if the terrorists attacked us on their own the MIC would still benefit. By your logic any world event that increases support for the military defense of the US, must have been caused by the MIC.

You must also believe that the construction industrial complex caused Katrina – just look at all the work it generated for them.

On another point, what is your evidence that the mainstream media is “nervous” about this issue? This sounds like subjective validation to me – you are seeing what you already believe. Also, you make our point by involving the entire mainstream media in the massive cover up of 9/11. There are numerous anti-war liberal major news outlets in the US – like, say, the New York Times or the Washington Post. They have a very anti-Bush editorial slant. If there were any meat at all to conspiracy theories they would be all over it.

How about Michael Moore? If he thought for a moment he could put a case together to implicate Bush in 9/11 we would have already seen the documentary. What about Bush’s enemies in the government. Are Kicinich, Kennedy, and Kerry really in on it too? Are they under the thumb of the MIC (in which case they are doing really good jobs acting the role of anti-war liberals). The Democrats are in charge of Congress and the Senate now. If Kennedy thought there was anything at all to the conspiracy theories he could put together a committee to investigate and prove it – the Democrats could bring down the Republicans for generations if they could prove they pulled-off 9/11 as an inside job.

Your suggestion that Prescott Bush worked with Hitler is a non-sequitur – this is nothing more than poisoning the well, a form of ad hominem logical fallacy. Bring up the spectre of Hitler to paint Bush in a sinister light.

Further, your reading of American politics is way off. There is a real and meaningful debate going on in the US post 9/11 concerning the balance between security and freedom. The conservatives historically tend to err on the side of security, and the liberals on the side of freedom. Both have legitimate points, and a reasonable balance is often struck. It is not surprising at all that after a major terrorist attack the balance would shift toward increasing security. There were very real problems with the intelligence infrastructure in this country that the Patriot act corrected, and other measures shifted the balance toward more security. But to compare the current situation in the US to a Nazi police state is absurd, and again squanders your credibility. Already there is a vigorous debate within the congress to pull back some of the Patriot act measures – there will be a regression to the mean and more of a historically traditional balance with reassert itself. This is the cycle of American politics.

So, none of your positions are logically valid. We clearly do not cow-tow to the mainstream media. The fact that the MIC benefited from 9/11 is nothing more than an argument from final consequences and a false premise, and there is no evidence that the media or Bush’s enemies in government are complicit in a cover-up and in fact it is absurd to assume that they are.

So if we do decide to discuss your e-mail on the show is there anything else you would like to add?

Regards,

Steve Novella

Hi Steven,

thanks a lot for the reply.

I don’t necessarily disagree with you on all points. I think it’s important to be sceptic… but on both sides. I can give you an example: i believe certainly that there are tons of other civilisations out there in our universe and even in our milkyway-galaxy. But that doesn’t mean that i believe all the ufo stories. Not that in the end it matters anyway. And not that we can really imagine how large the distance is to the core of this galaxy or to it’s other end (not to speak of beyond). Few hundred years ago the earth was still a disc and we were the center of the universe and that was it. If back then you guys had a podcast maybe you would call this giordano bruno guy a complete loon for believing that the earth wasn’t the center and that other civilisations existed and demonize him for speaking out. In the end he burnt alive for his beliefs. Fortunately we can be more sceptic now (depending how you flip the coin).

You must admit that certain comments you made during that show made you look a little like these cowards of the mainstream-media like bill o’reilly or some of his colleagues on other channels that basically ridicule people, tell them to shut up or call them fat. You even said that “rosie makes the other ladies look thin”. And that’s a typical mentality of the mainstream-media. Not to focus on the facts or try to seriously look at the points and investigate… but ridicule people, try to find superficial aspects of their personal weaknesses and so on instead to stick to the real thing. Essentially saying “look people, she’s a dumb fat cow, she has no reason to make you people think. Let’s make her shut up, we shouldn’t raise these questions. Our government wouldn’t never dare to do such a thing, even though the cia has done many strange things and still does.”

Why do you think are they doing that, trying to kill off any investigation-attempts and just call people “disrespectful to the families who lost their beloved ones” or “they hate their country” and so on. Maybe if you’ve seen that video clip i sent you, maybe then you see a little reflection of that. Now i don’t think your “little podcast” is by any means owned by alrge corps. But i just think that a topic like 9/11 is still kind of a taboo. And people who don’t just swallow the official comission report and story are seen as nuts, loons, etc. Kind of like back then “earth being a disc vs. earth being a globe”. – And you guys even said “these conspiracy nuts are just ridiculous. All of their claims have been debunked”. Really? I don’t think so. I don’t even think the physical aspects of 9/11 have been debunked, no matter how often “popular mechanics” is trying to convince otherwise. Or else please explain how the bodies and black boxes haven’t been able to be recovered but the paper passports of the terrorists have been found at the ground that by miracle have found it’s way through the explosions/ fire/ rubble. Or of all of these 80 (something around that number) public cameras around the pentagon, only 1 camera’s footage has been released with a very poor quality and frame-rate. Why not show us the other cam’s footage properly and then we might get a sense why hijackers would fly a plane so low over the ground to hit the pentagon and not just from above directly into it. – Have a read here too, just one little example: http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/cgi-bin/blogs/voices.php/2007/03/28/9_11_and_the_evidence
I could also list you tons of other examples of past events where the cia either funded terrorism, built up dictators or tried to implement attacks, like this one for example: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4535661.stm
I could also ask you why did bin laden’s brother salem bin laden invest into george w. bush’s oil company back then and why the bushes did/ do business with the saudis? Or why george w. bush wanted kissinger to investigate 9/11? That’s like almost as if asking o.j. simpson to investigate on his wife’s murder.

Also if you look at the mainstream-media, they rather seem to focus on rosie’s fat ass than on the facts. And she’s correct about saying that in the past there are many examples of false-flag operations. She might have taken it from the “loose change” video or alex jones terrorstorm (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=786048453686176230&q=terrorstorm), but it’s not originally from there anyway. It’s historically proven. One of the administrations and pnac (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_for_the_New_American_Century) members have been eve quoted for saying “we need a new pearl harbor event…”. There are just so many examples from the not so distant past to the distant past where governments used it’s people’s ignorance and trust to implement certain policies, laws, etc. I’m not even going to start listing you all the examples & wiki-pedia articles now, i mentioned some quickly in the first email.

There are just so many aspects of this event that doesn’t allow me to believe the official story and unfortunately to a certain degree it’s even the administrations fault. Mainly because with their post-9/11 actions/ scandals/ policies they even more further strengthen the scepticism in people like me. And i’m proud of your american citizen who are sceptic and the ones who didn’t swallow the “wmd” story and such other things, but who take your founding father’s voices to heart not to follow ones government blindly.

And again i’m not necessarily excluding the possibility of a terror-group in the caves being able to steer some fellows who apparently were bad flight-students against a multi-trillion-dollar fbi/ cia/ norad/ defense system… i’m just saying there’s unfortunately so many facts and things to be sceptic of the mainstream/ official story and there’s too much not explained. So that’s why i think your show should focus on being sceptic of the “official story”. Because that one is far more ridiculous i think.

Wish you a good time
(And sorry again for my english. It was a bit difficult to articulate in certain things, wish it was better)

Mato,

None of us can really know the absolute truth in any such situation. Science and skepticism are not about absolutes. But what we can do is make sure that our logic is valid and that our scholarship is sound. I am not so much saying that you are wrong (although I strongly believe that you are wrong) as that you are employing numerous logical fallacies in your arguments and relying upon the least reliable evidence while dismissing the most reliable evidence.

I pointed out the many logical fallacies in your first post, and here are some more.

First, a small factual quibble. People did not believe that the earth was flat hundreds of years ago. That is a modern myth, actually. We knew the earth was a sphere from the time of the ancient Greeks more than 2000 years ago.

But more importantly, you are implying that we would have been skeptical of claims that turned out to be scientifically true. This is an unfounded accusation and displays a misunderstanding of skepticism. We accept many fantastical claims, as long as they are supported by logic and evidence. We have even talked about this on our show numerous times. We accept the inferential evidence of black holes, anti-matter, dark matter, the genetic code, plate tectonics, and quantum theory (legitimate quantum theory, that is). We are even enthusiasts of future tech, like nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. So how can you fairly characterize us as nay-sayers or deniers? This is a cheap dismissal of skeptics, without evidence or justification. To clarify, we do not dismiss new or fantastical ideas – we hold ALL ideas to a standard of logic and evidence – this is just good scholarship.

Next you characterize the mainstream media as cowards, but again you do not justify this. You are just assuming your conclusion here – you assume that 9/11 was a conspiracy and therefore the mainstream media must be cowards for not exposing it. But what if sincere and competent journalists (there are a few out there) are just not convinced by the evidence? You are in fact doing to them exactly what you accuse them of doing to the conspiracy theorists – dismissing with rhetoric and insults; for example, characterizing those who do not accept the nonsensical claims of the conspiracy theorists as “swallowing” the official story, as being cowards, and treating the subject as taboo.

Next you employ a false dichotomy – that we insult instead of dealing with the facts. Actually we have dealt with the facts in detail. There are thorough and exhaustive examinations of the claims of the conspiracy theorists and they have all been definitively disproved. When they continue to bring up the same points that have already been refuted they do not deserve to be treated with polite scientific discourse – they deserve criticism for being intellectually dishonest.

The fact that in the past governments have been deceptive and unethical and carried out false flag operations does not mean they did so on 9/11. That is an argument from past action logical fallacy (a form of ad hominem logical fallacy). You have to demonstrate that they in fact carried out such an operation on 9/11, and there is no evidence that they did. Also, 9/11 would have been a conspiracy orders of magnitude more complex than anything historically proven. There is no precedent for any government carrying out such a huge and complex conspiracy, and certainly not in a free country with a free press and modern access to information. So there is no historical analogy.

You further characterize as “ridiculous” the notion that “a terror-group in the caves being able to steer some fellows who apparently were bad flight-students against a multi-trillion-dollar fbi/ cia/ norad/ defense system…” The intelligence failures that allowed the terrorists to hijack planes on 9/11 are well documented – no conspiracy is necessary. Also – Norad has nothing to do with domestic surveillance. The fact is there was no system in place to deal with this contingency – commercial flights being hijacked to be used as missiles. There is nothing implausible about this at all. Also, the hijackers had sufficient training to steer the jets well enough to accomplish their goal. They didn’t have to land the aircraft or perform any complicated maneuvers. It is a false premise to claim that they could not have done so.

Finally – we are skeptical of what the government says. We look at all claims through the lens of skepticism. We are just not assuming the government is lying simply because they are the government – as you are doing. We have looked at all the logic and evidence, and it all supports the official version of the story. There isn’t a shred of compelling evidence for a conspiracy.

Regards,

Steve Novella

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One Response to “Letters from a 9/11 Conspiracy Theorist”

  1. Counterknowledge.com » In the know…on 06 Sep 2008 at 7:24 am

    [...] is the link to a hilarious exchange between a 9/11 conspiracy theorist and Dr Steve Novella of the neurological [...]

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