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CNN.com – The Conspiracy News Network

On the home page of CNN.com is a section titled “Popular News.” CNN.com describes this as the “most popular stories on CNN.com, updated every 20 minutes.” Their number one “most watched Popular News” item is titled 9/11: The Mystery Plane. The tag lines reads, “A mystery plane that flew over Washington on September 11, 2001 is still a cause for concern.” Before you read further, please take 3 minutes and watch the report.

The events of September 11, 2001 had an effect on every American citizen. It affected us collectively as a nation, and it affected us each as individuals. Each person experienced their own unique set of feelings ranging from pure devastation, as felt by the victims’ closest loved ones, to the people who derived some kind of satisfaction or pleasure about what happened. I live about 90 miles from “Ground Zero” in New York City, and a high school classmate of mine, Peter Hanson, along with his wife Sue, and their 2-year-old daughter Christine, were aboard the hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston. My feelings on the matter come down firmly on the devastation end of the spectrum, to the point that I felt physically nauseous as the day unfolded. Suffice to say, I, nor any other American citizen, have an unbiased opinion on the events of that day.

That said, I think that CNN.com, who seems to possess a rather wide vein for delivering questionable news items and pseudoscientific claptrap within the greater body of their overall news, only helps the 9/11 conspiracy groups and their websites with news reports such as this one. They promote 9/11 conspiracy websites by incorporating them into their news stories, and they treat them with an equal tone to the statements and reports that come out of official US government organizations. I’m not saying that reports and statements coming from governments should not be scrutinized, but news companies like CNN.com should not be treating fringe organizations as relevant when reporting the news.

The subjects of the 9/11 conspiracy theories have been thoroughly discussed on our podcast, specifically in episodes 13, 45, 46, 50, 51, 60, 61, 79, 89, 92, 95, and 119, so I am not going to try to restate everything we’ve already covered. We are all on the record as stating that there is no evidence to support the claims of the 9/11 conspiracy believers.

Still, CNN.com seems to feel no embarrassment for promoting websites such as 911blogger.com. Spend a few minutes perusing their articles and clips. You’ll see that it’s all the same garbage that the 9/11 conspiracy loons have been chumming the internet’s waters with since shortly after the attacks took place.

This particular news report offers practically no voice for, say, a skeptical organization or other group that offers the opposite, and truthful, position that there is no evidence of any conspiracies regarding the events of 9/11. CNN.com’s limited inclusion of an opposing opinion to the 9/11 conspiracy believers was to offer Lee Hamilton, the co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, and his quote:

“We, of course, heard the conspiracy theories about The President ordered the attack, and that the Defense Department was involved. We saw absolutely no evidence of that.”

There you go, the all too typical “tip-of-the-hat” to the skeptical opinion, and that’s supposed to provide the “balance” for the piece. 8 seconds out of the 3 minute story. That’s 4% of the whole running time. How pathetic. Not to mention that the reporter, John King, wrapped up his piece with this parting thought:

“But 6 years later, the Pentagon, the Secret Service, and the FAA, all say they, at least for public consumption, have no explanation of the giant plane over the President’s house, just as the smoke began to rise across the river at The Pentagon.”

This makes me want to reach for an airsick bag. Just what are you insinuating, Mr. King? That there is a shred of seriousness that we need to keep in mind when the geniuses participating at 911blogger.com suggest insane notions such as this:

“I have always thought that these planes were exactly that: mission control for the 9/11 attack on our country.”

And why does the tagline of your story call the events surrounding the mystery plane “still a cause for concern?” Clearly, the identity of the plane is no longer a mystery. Of what possible concern should we have about this? Not only do I find Mr. King’s report lacking in delivering any real news to the consumer, I find his personal interjections insulting, misleading, and possibly revealing of his own personal feelings. His contribution to the muddying of the waters about 9/11 are duly noted. Thanks for nothing, Mr King.

Two parting thoughts:

1) Today is December 3, 2007 and this story originally aired on September 13, 2007. Why is this 12-week-old story still listed among their top 15 most watched news stories? Of the other top 15 most watched reports, the next oldest one is just 3 days old.

2) What does it say about the consumers of CNN.com who have made this story the “most watched popular story?”

I’ll leave you to answer those questions on your own.

9 comments to CNN.com – The Conspiracy News Network

  • Imperius Rex

    Evan: I can’t agree more. As someone who was personally affected by 9/11, everything about 9/11 conspiracies makes me so angry I completely lose any desire to be rational.

    As for the “news” in general, they have evolved into entertainment. As such, they should lose all protections previously reserved for journalists. The “news” is allowed much more leeway regarding FCC limitations on speech and content, but as an entertainment product why should they? When morning “news” shows have “Dance Fridays” (I kid you not), they no longer qualify as news.
    Additionally, when networks exist like MSNBC and FOX, how does this qualify as “news”? It’s agenda driven commentary, not news. The word “News” carries an underlying expectation of neutrality, which is noticably absent in most if not all current news outlets.

  • Jim Shaver


    BTW, there’s a typo in your second paragraph; it’s “an effect”, not “an affect”. And I wholly agree with you and Rex — Calling this type of crappy reporting “news” and broadcasting it over our country’s top “news” channels is just deplorable. I’m not sure if this mediocrity is a symptom of the dumbing down of society, or a cause.

  • thesyntax

    As I was (sadly) once part of the 9/11 conspiracy camp, I can see them getting very excited over this report. Unfortunately, this report will likely be followed by similar speculative accounts on other news sites.

    I think we should petition for the SGU to be the official skeptical advisors of every major media organization. Although that might eliminate half of what the media covers, lol.

  • durnett


    Have you guys considered inviting any of the people from NPR’s On The Media program onto the Skeptics Guide? They devote an hour each week to “media criticism and analysis”. They might not have much input on this specific issue, but they do have some good insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the national media and might be able to tell us why this kind of stuff keeps cropping up even after it has been discredited.

  • MisterMarc

    Ugh…the media. What the heck happened to them? If there is so much “concern,” why doesn’t CNN get a team of investigative reporters to really get their hands dirty and put this issue to rest? Isn’t that what the media is for? No, instead we get a regurgitated blurb and the standard opposing sides party lines. The media isn’t concerned with finding out the truth anymore. I’m not saying the 911 conspiracy theorists are right, but until some media outlet really puts effort into investigating their claims and proving them either true or false, we’ll be looking at this crap every time the networks need a ratings boost a la the National Enquirer.

  • Grimsby

    This is such a non-story. How the conspiracy nutters can draw the conclusions they do from the evidence, I will never comprehend.

    As a side note Evan, your drawing attention to it probably won’t help get it off the popular news story list. Unless I’m over-estimating the popularity of this blog, that is.

  • DLC

    9/11 troofers make me want to puke.
    The only good thing about the CNN piece (of crap) was that they correctly identify the arcraft as a Boeing 747-class aircraft, either an E4B or a VC-25.(the plane the President flies on is a VC-25… a highly modified 747.) They also presented the fact that the USAF never lists E4B deployments. (but you can bet a good sum that one is based at Langley AFB in VA).
    The problem with this is, it only feeds the conspiracy trolls/wankers/cranks. It does nothing to dispel the idiocy they put out.

    Sad commentary that “the most trusted voice in news” (to use CNN’s own ad copy) puts out such idiotic nonsense.

  • Sceptic

    I share everyone’s utter disgust of 9/11 conspiracy theory idiots. I am also a severe critic of the news media in general. I’m afraid I don’t see the uproar about this particular news item though.

    I have watched this clip 5 times and I come to the same conlusion. What’s the big deal?

    The story clears up any question about the identity of this plane.

    It reports that the blog has stupid conspiracy comments which is immediately followed by 9/11 commission Co-chairman Hamilton calling conspiracy comments ludicrous.

    I really thinkl you are making a mountain out of a mole hill.

    CNN obviously wasn’t promoting 911Blogger.com as you seem to claim. It was merely referencing the source of conspiracy proponent comments.

    The more I think about and see this clip, the more irrational I think you are being here.

    It seems you advocate silencing any information from or about these idiot conspiracy theorists when in fact it may sometimes be prudent to shine a light on them by reports like this.

  • […] has been too long since I last visited your website or made mention about you and your family’s fate on September 11, 2001. Forgive me, we get so busy going on with living that we can’t stop as often as we would like […]

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