911 Conspiracy Theory
The second Pearl Harbor, the day of infamy, the start of the War on Terrorism—all of these titles describe the unforgettable day of September 11, 2001. On this day, terrorist hijacked four planes, proceeded to destroy the World Trade Centers, and cripple the Pentagon. Or did they? Immediately following the horrible attacks, various theorists thought of outlandish conspiracies regarding 9/11, such as that the U.S. planted bombs to start the War on Terrorism. To some these conspiracies may seem believable; however, after analyzing them one realizes that there is more doubt than theorists relay.
One such conspiracy was conveyed by David Ray Griffin, a professor of philosophy of religion at the Claremont School of Theology. In this essay, he chose to answer the question: why did the Twin Towers and Building 7 collapse? The official theory states that, “The structural damage sustained by each tower from the impact, combined with the ensuing fires, resulted in the total collapse of each building.” However, Griffin’s research showed that fire had never caused a steel frame high rise to collapse either before or after 9/11. Although fire cannot get hot enough to melt steel, Griffin discovered that steel loses 80% of its strength when it reached 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit; however, steel, an excellent conductor of heat, would not have been that hot.
Additionally, he noted several characteristics in the collapse that supported the theory of a controlled demolition. These characteristics included sudden onset, falling straight down and almost at free falling speed, the aspect of a total collapse, the sliced steel, the pulverization of concrete and other materials, the dusts clouds, the horizontal ejections, the demolition ring, the sounds produced by explosions, and the molten steel.
Finally, Griffin finished his article by revealing more ideas surrounding the possible planting of explosives in the World Trade Center. First, the steel was removed quickly, not allowing it to be carefully inspected for cuts in the steel, which explosives would have caused. Additionally, minutes before the south tower collapsed, Mayor Guliani was told to leave the temporary command center due to a possible collapse, revealing that someone knew of explosives in the building since a collapse had never happen before in history.
Similarly, Dr. Steven E. Jones, a physicist and archaeometrist from Brigham Young University published an essay entitled “Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Completely Collapse?” Like Griffin, Jones expressed thirteen reasons to challenge government-sponsored reports and to investigate the controlled-demolition hypothesis. These reasons included the molten metal, the observed temperatures around 1000 degrees Celsius and sulfidation of WTC 7 steel, the near-symmetrical collapse of WTC 7, the fact that no previous skyscraper had collapse completely due to fires, the plum-timing during the collapse of WTC 7, the early drop of the North Tower Antenna, the eyewitness accounts of flashes and loud explosions, the ejections of steel beams and debris-plumes from the towers, the rapid collapses and conservation of momentum and energy, the fact that controlled demolition “implosions” require skill, the fact that the steel columns did not heat to 800 degrees Celsius, and problems in the NIST report.
The majority of these theories were covered in Griffin’s article as well. Each article is an extremely long work, making one assume that each author put a significant amount of time into researching the problems with the government-sponsored reports from 9/11, and causing each to coming up with similar responses. With each researching extensively, it is obvious that they will create similar hypotheses. Additionally, it is possible that the major theorists collaborated to discuss every practical hypothesis, making sure that every angle was covered. Therefore, between the significant amount of research, dedication, and the possible joint collaboration, both these essays were extremely similar.
In response to this conspiracy theory, immediately following the release of these articles, the mainstream media started to disprove these myths. They immediately feared these theorists, dreading whether the theories would sway the public, causing them to ask questions. The mainstream media answered questions quickly by publishing various articles attempting to disprove the myths. One such article, entitled “Debunking The 9/11 Myths” appeared in Popular Mechanics. In order to investigate, Popular Mechanics assembled a team of nine researchers and reporters, while consulting more than 70 professionals in the fields of aviation, engineering, and military. They discovered that the collapse was not caused by explosives because of the evidence of widespread damage, melted steel, puffs of dust, and seismic spikes.
First, one theorist claimed that there was no way that an impact on the 80th floor could have caused damage to the first floor lobby; other explosives must have already been detonated on the lower levels at the time of the plane crash. However, after further investigation, various professionals discovered that debris journeyed thought the utility shafts causing the elevator doors to crack open and reveal flames. Second, one claim was that the fire was not hot enough to melt the steel. Steel melts at 2750 degrees, not hot enough to be melted by the jet fuel; however, at 1100 degrees steel loses 50% of its strength and at 1800 degrees strength has decreased to 10%. Additionally, hotter flames produced by combustible material inside the building (rugs, curtain, furniture, and paper), eventually caused the steel to weaken more, which caused the buildings to collapse. Third, many people theorized that dust and debris exploded from the sides of a building only during an explosion. However, experts stated that as the towers collapsed the air present in the towers was forced out with extreme amounts of energy causing air and dust to fly out of the windows. Finally, one theory stated that the seismic spikes were registered at the beginning of the collapses before debris struck the earth, suggesting an explosion in the building. However, when more detailed graphs were shown the spikes start small and then got bigger as the buildings hit the ground. In other words, bombs were not planted in the World Trade Center.
Additionally, the mainstream media used the aspects of personalized news, dramatized news, and normalized news. Many of the mainstream articles placed one in the shoes of the victims’ families post 9/11, hoping that this would cause the public to criticize the theorists for trying to prove that 9/11 was an inside job. Additionally, many stories appeared about heroes on 9/11 and though there were many deaths already, these people prevented more deaths from occurring. This dramatized news continually appeared after the attacks and attempted, again, to make the U.S. population understand the feelings of the victims’ families, rejecting any conspiracy. Finally, by airing these stories, the media attempted normalize the news and make people realized that they should be listening to the mainstream media, not giving in to any outlandish theory surrounding the attacks.
When analyzing both articles, one finds various arguments both for and against the conspiracy that the U.S. planted bombs in the towers prior to the planes crashing. As with any article, the credibility of each author must be questioned. The author of the conspiracy theory article was credible as he was a professor at one of the Claremont colleges. However, the way he presented information was incredible, due to his ecological fallacy. All witnesses’ responses are similar, making one assume they are the majority. For example, when describing the explosions, Firefighter Thomas Turilli stated, “it almost sounded like bombs going off, like boom, boom, boom, like seven or eight.” Similarly, Paramedic Daniel Rivera said, “It was a frigging noise. At first I thought it was—do you ever see professional demolition where they set the charges on certain floors and then you hear ‘Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop’?…I thought it was that.”
Additionally, Jones, a professor at BYU, had much credibility. However, because of his biased selection, the validity of his article was questioned. The majority of his quotes were partial quotes, making the reader question his statements.
Similarly, the mainstream article was extremely credible. Popular Mechanics made arguments dealing with misquotation and inadequate research in Griffin and Jones’ essay. Quoting properly, combined with sufficient research would have made the picture clear. Moreover, Popular Mechanics got trapped appealing to authority. All of the observations were from experts; however, many of these experts were not on the scene when the planes hit the buildings, but Popular Mechanics assumes they were still right because they are experts. Furthermore, this article fell victim to argument from ignorance by choosing to include points, which stated that as there was no scientific evidence for a certain phenomenon, it couldn’t be true.
After analyzing mainstream and conspiracy articles, one could see that the World Trade Center disaster was not an inside job. Like most conspiracy theorists, Griffin and Jones tried to appeal to gut instinct. If one read their essays without doing any appropriate research or analyzing the writing style, they sound believable; however, after realizing that they only included partial quotations from firefighters and people on scene, not any scientists, it was obvious that they only obtained quotes portraying their beliefs. Also, for their arguments to be correct, every event needed to happen in a perfect order and at an ideal time, making chances extremely slim. Additionally, theorists had no answer to Osama bin Laden statement admitting to the attacks, besides passing this off as a hoax as well. Most essays avoid this fact, because they have no response, causing people to questions the validity of the whole article. After realizing that each conspiracy is more that a rumor than an attempt to prove something, it was ultimately understood the theorists were playing mind games rather than proving a point. Therefore, by ignoring gut instinct and analyzing the article more in depth, it is obvious that 9/11 was not an inside job.
Furthermore, Marx’s, Weber’s, and Durkheim’s vision’s of society all applied to this conspiracy theory. Marx’s idea of historical materialism was that material interests determine history, not good ideas or important people. The U.S.’s desire for material interest made officials willing to destroy two of their own buildings, kill thousands of people, propelling them into the war.
In contrast, Weber’s view of society deals with the idea of authority and how authority influenced ones beliefs. Government, the ultimate authority, gave the most support to those with the same beliefs as them (Popular Mechanics in this case). With the added support, people viewed Popular Mechanics as more authoritative, thus trusting them more.
Finally, Durkheim’s view on society stated that societies worked by binding people together. After the attacks on 9/11, all of the U.S. bonded together to find who was responsible for this. The U.S. became a well-oiled machine; however, a few people doubted whether terrorists were responsible, the machine started to break down, and ruining Durkheim’s view of social solidarity.
What’s more, this conspiracy could have easily started out as a rumor. Similar to a rumor, it included one of the sources of rumor: transformation, or changing content. One person could have brought up the outlandish theory that 9/11 was an inside job, presenting it to various people, having these people spread it to others, with each transforming it more along the way. In addition to transformation, this conspiracy theory shared some basic attributes of rumors: leveling, assimilation, and sharpening. Leveling, or excluding extraneous details, is used to get the point across quickly, not boring the listener. For example, using partial quotations; the intent of giving a brief summary is good; however, it may change the whole meaning of the quote. Additionally, assimilation, or transforming information to strengthen its cultural logic, is evident. When one is trying to express a point, the objective is to increase the number of people with the same belief; even if a bit of transformation is required. Moreover, sharpening, or providing the “headline” of the rumor, is apparent. When sharpening is located in a rumor, a number of limited details are emphasized and given greater weight. In each paper, although each theorist covers a significant amount of information, there are still more details available. However, each fails to address these details placing greater weight on the details presented in the essay.
Moreover, both the mainstream media and theorists were guilty of groupthink, or conforming to agree with the group. In the conspiracy article, the crowd, or those eyewitnesses were smarter than the experts. Although the experts were more knowledgeable than the eyewitnesses, they were not present when the attacks occurred. By being an eyewitness, each saw everything that occurred that day, and in the order that it occurred. However, many of these eyewitnesses were under extreme pressure to express what they saw to reporters, causing them to conform to the ideas of the group, avoiding scrutiny. Nonetheless, if they had expressed their true feelings the theorists would not have had as much support for the conspiracy, making arguments weaker. For these reasons, Surowiecki’s ideas are correct. The crowd was smarter than the experts on 9/11 because they witnessed the events unfold. A number of these witnesses could have also changed their statements to reflect those of the group, not becoming an outcast.
What’s more, is that many eyewitnesses were in denial and part of a conspiracy of silence immediately following 9/11. Failure to deny certain facts would have caused them to be shunned or classified as an outcast from the rest of the group. This “conspiracy of silence” prevented various opinions from appearing on the days following the attacks, making it easier for the theorists to deny the few statements that they didn’t agree with and easier to agree with the majority of the statements that they did. For this reason, denial played a large role on 9/11, not allowing all opinions to materialize.
Did terrorists hijacked four planes, destroy the World Trade Centers, and cripple the Pentagon? Certain people with conspiracy theories would say no, saying the U.S. government carried out the attacks and destroyed the towers in order to start the War against Terrorism. However, after closely analyzing the conspiracy theory, and finding misquotation and lack of research, it was obvious that the conspiracy is still a theory and will never be the truth.