Mar 08 2011

New 9/11 Footage

Video footage from a police helicopter circling the Twin Towers on 9/11 has been released through a freedom of information (FOI) request – it was originally given to NIST for their investigation. Some of this footage has now found it’s way onto YouTube. (Here’s a more condensed version.) Even after 10 years watching the footage is a powerful reminders of the emotions of that day.

While having an aerial perspective of the devastation of the first tower to fall is compelling video, the video does not provide any new information that impacts the claims of 9/11 truthers. Unfortunately, the camera was not on the tower at the moment it fell. The helicopter had rotated the window that the camera operator was filming through away from the towers. It appears that when the tower fell the camera operator reacted by pointing the camera back at the towers through a different window. But the tower is already down by that time.

As if often the case, perhaps more interesting than the video itself are the comments to the video. It is filled, not surprisingly, with paranoid conspiracy mongering.

The most recent poll I could find on American attitudes about 9/11 being an inside job is the oft-quoted Scrippes News poll from 2006.

Thirty-six percent of respondents overall said it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them “because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.”

This poll is the source of the statement that 1/3 of Americans believe 9/11 was an “inside job,” but that’s not really what the poll says. Of note only 16% of those polled said they believed that explosives were used to bring down the towers, and only 12% believe that a missile, rather than a jet, crashed into the pentagon. With these additional numbers, it seems that only about 16% at the high end believe the 9/11 truther version of events – that 9/11 was actually carried out by the US government. The other 20% in that 36% (if they don’t believe in bombs or missiles) probably believe something closer to the notion that the US government did not orchestrate 9/11 but did not do everything they could to stop it because they thought it could be exploited.

I could not find a more recent similar survey. If anyone knows of one, please put it in the comments. I would like to see if these numbers have changed at all. I suspect that the 16% of hardcore truthers has not diminished much.

Reading the comments it is clear that the conspiracy theorists continue to commit the same fallacies. They look at this video and are struck by what it does not show – why is the moment of collapse not captured on this video? To them, the absence of evidence is evidence of a conspiracy. This is the inherent weakness of many conspiracy theories – they are premised on a lack of evidence.

Lack of evidence, however, is an inherently weak argument. It is not entirely worthless – when evidence should be present if a hypothesis is correct, then it’s absence can be telling. But it is never definitive. Further, the absence of evidence for one hypothesis should not be treated as positive evidence for any competing hypothesis. It’s just a lack of evidence. In this case, the lack of video during the moment of collapse is not evidence for anything, because it is easily the result of random chaos.

There are many videos of the towers burning on that day. Some of them captured the collapse, and many did not. It makes sense that at the moment of collapse, many cameras would be focused back onto the towers. So we should expect to see many videos that turn to the towers just after the collapse. The fact that this video falls into that category is not evidence for anything.

In addition to faulty logic, the comments give insight into the emotions of the typical conspiracy theorist. In a word – they are smug. Everyone who does not accept their raving paranoia is naive or idiotic, part of the “sheeple.” Anything short of the maximally cynical interpretation of every piece of evidence, in their view, is naive. Conspiracy thinking is pattern recognition and hyperactive agency detection gone wild, sometimes unhinged by impaired reality testing. At the milder end of the spectrum there are those who simply employ flawed logic – who have fallen down the rabbit hole of conspiracy thinking.

In the end, this video is nothing new. It does not add much to the overall evidence of what happened on 9/11. But we’re likely to get another round of conspiracy mongering out of it.

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