Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Left-Leaning Despisers of the 9/11 Truth Movement: Do You Really Believe in Miracles?

by David Ray Griffin

An Open Letter to Terry Allen, Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, David Corn, Chris Hayes, George Monbiot, Matthew Rothschild, and Matt Taibbi.1

According to several left-leaning critics of the 9/11 Truth Movement, some of its central claims, especially about the destruction of the World Trade Center, show its members to be scientifically challenged. In the opinion of some of these critics, moreover, claims made by members of this movement are sometimes unscientific in the strongest possible sense, implying an acceptance of magic and miracles.

After documenting this charge in Part I of this essay, I show in Part II that the exact opposite is the case: that the official account of the destruction of the World Trade Center implies miracles (I give nine examples), and that the 9/11 Truth Movement, in developing an alternative hypothesis, has done so in line with the assumption that the laws of nature did not take a holiday on 9/11. In Part III, I ask these left-leaning critics some questions evoked by the fact that it is they, not members of the 9/11 Truth Movement, who have endorsed a conspiracy theory replete with miracle stories as well as other absurdities.

I The Charge that 9/11 Truth Theories Rest on Unscientific, Even Magical, Beliefs

Several left-leaning critics of the 9/11 Truth Movement, besides showing contempt for its members, charge them with relying on claims that are contradicted by good science and, in some cases, reflect a belief in magic. By “magic,” they mean miracles, understood as violations of basic principles of the physical sciences.

For example, Alexander Cockburn, who has referred to members of the 9/11 Truth Movement as “9/11 conspiracy nuts,”3 quoted with approval a philosopher who, speaking of “the 9-11 conspiracy cult,” said that its “main engine . . . is . . . the death of any conception of evidence,” resulting in “the ascendancy of magic over common sense, let alone reason.”4 Also, Cockburn assured his readers: “The conspiracy theory that the World Trade Centre towers were demolished by explosive charges previously placed within them is probably impossible.”5 With regard to Building 7 of the World Trade Center, Cockburn claimed (in 2006) that the (2002) report by FEMA was “more than adequate.”6

Likewise, George Monbiot, referring to members of the 9/11 Truth Movement as “fantasists,” “conspiracy idiots,” and “morons,” charged that they “believe that [the Bush regime] is capable of magic.”7

Matt Taibbi, saying that the “9/11 conspiracy theory is so shamefully stupid” and referring to its members as “idiots,” wrote with contempt about the “alleged scientific impossibilities” in the official account of 9/11; about the claim that “the towers couldn't have fallen the way they did [without the aid of explosives]”; of the view (held by “9/11 Truthers”) that “it isn't the plane crashes that topple the buildings, but bombs planted in the Towers that do the trick”; and of “the supposed anomalies of physics involved with the collapse of WTC-7.” He had been assured by “scientist friends,” he added, that “[a]ll of the 9/11 science claims” are “rank steaming bullshit.”8

Chris Hayes, writing in The Nation in 2006, did not stoop to the kind of name-calling employed by Cockburn, Monbiot, and Taibbi. Also, he knew, he admitted, of “eyewitness accounts of [people] who heard explosions in the World Trade Center.” And he was aware that “jet fuel burns at 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit [whereas] steel melts at 2,500.” He asserted, nevertheless, that “the evidence shows [a 9/11 conspiracy] to be virtually impossible,” so that the 9/11 Truth Movement’s conspiracy theory is “wrongheaded and a terrible waste of time.”9

Noam Chomsky has also declared that the available facts, when approached scientifically, refute the 9/11 Truth Movement. Speaking of evidence provided by this movement to show that 9/11 “was planned by the Bush Administration,” Chomsky declared: “If you look at the evidence, anybody who knows anything about the sciences would instantly discount that evidence.”10 In spite of his dismissive attitude, however, Chomsky in 2006 gave some helpful advice to people who believe they have physical evidence refuting the official account:

“There are ways to assess that: submit it to specialists . . . who have the requisite background in civil-mechanical engineering, materials science, building construction, etc., for review and analysis. . . . Or, . . . submit it to a serious journal for peer review and publication. To my knowledge, there isn't a single submission.”11

In These Times writer Terry Allen, in a 2006 essay entitled “The 9/11 Faith Movement,” assured her readers that “the facts [do not] support the conspiracists’ key charge that World Trade Center buildings were destroyed by pre-positioned explosives.”12

In an essay posted at AlterNet a few months after 9/11, David Corn used a purely a priori argument to demonstrate – at least to his own satisfaction – that 9/11 could not have been an inside job: “U.S. officials would [not have been] . . . good [capable] enough, evil enough, or gutsy enough.”13 In 2009, after having been silent about 9/11 for the intervening years, he addressed the issue again. Referring to “9/11 conspiracy silliness,” “9/11 conspiracy poison,” and “9/11 fabulists,” Corn declared:

“The 9/11 conspiracy . . . was always a load of bunk. You don't have to be an expert on skyscraper engineering . . . to know that [this theory] make[s] no sense.”14

Corn thereby implied that, whereas anyone can know that the 9/11 Truth Movement’s conspiracy theory is false, those people who are “expert[s] on skyscraper engineering” would have even more certain knowledge of this fact.

As to how people (such as himself) who are not experts on such matters could know this movement’s conspiracy theory to be “a load of bunk,” Corn again employed his three-point a priori argument, as re-worded in a later essay, according to which the Bush administration was “not that evil,” “not that ballsy,” and “not that competent.”15 Corn even referred to his three-point argument as “a tutorial that should persuade anyone that the 9/11 theory makes no sense.” Although this “tutorial” does not, of course, convince members of the 9/11 Truth Movement, Corn explained this fact by saying: “I have learned from experience that people who believe this stuff are not open to persuasion.”16

In any case, although his argument against the inside-job theory was almost entirely a priori, he did make the above-mentioned suggestion that one’s a priori certitude would be reinforced by people, such as “expert[s] on skyscraper engineering,” who have relevant types of expertise to evaluate the empirical evidence.

A fuller statement of the general claim made by these authors - that the 9/11 Truth Movement is based on unscientific claims – was formulated by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive. In an essay entitled “Enough of the 9/11 Conspiracy Theories Already,” Rothschild wrote:

“Here’s what the conspiracists believe: 9/11 was an inside job. . . . [T]he Twin Towers fell not because of the impact of the airplanes and the ensuing fires but because [of] explosives. Building 7, another high-rise at the World Trade Center that fell on 9/11, also came down by planted explosives. . . . I'm amazed at how many people give credence to these theories. . . . [S]ome of the best engineers in the country have studied these questions and come up with perfectly logical, scientific explanations for what happened. . . . At bottom, the 9/11 conspiracy theories are profoundly irrational and unscientific. It is more than passing strange that progressives, who so revere science on such issues as tobacco, stem cells, evolution, and global warming, are so willing to abandon science and give in to fantasy on the subject of 9/11.”17

However, in spite of the confidence with which these critics have made their charges, the truth is the complete opposite: It is the official account of the destruction of the World Trade Center, which has been endorsed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), that is profoundly unscientific (partly because it ignores a massive amount of evidence pointing to use of explosives18), and it is precisely for this reason that the 9/11 Truth Movement has come up with an alternative explanation – namely, that the WTC buildings were brought down in the procedure known as “controlled demolition.”


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