9-11/anomalies/straw men

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Although a number of reasonable questions relating to the events of 9/11 have been raised, a great deal of effort continues to be expended in finding ways to dismiss these questions without answering them.

A common technique is to discuss only the most "far-out" objections -- effectively straw man arguments, although typically advocated by real people -- and present them as if they represented the entirety of the case against the official account when in fact they do not represent it very well at all. The more these arguments are repeated, the more they are commonly believed to represent the best (or only) arguments the "9/11 Truth" movement has to offer.


In each case, there is a nugget of truth which has, one way or another, been blown out of proportion to the actual evidence available to support it, thus delivering an easy target for criticism and ridicule.

  • Bush arranged to have the planes flown into the WTC towers and/or the Pentagon
    • nugget: Bush was certainly looking for an excuse to do many things, including invade Iraq and generally grab more power, but one would want to have a great deal of direct evidence before making such a claim; there is none at present.
    • nugget: The US government has certainly, in the past, contemplated deliberately causing acts of terrorism against US property or citizens to be blamed on another country in order to gain support for military action: Operation Northwoods
    • nugget: video of filmmaker Aaron Russo discussing earlier conversations with Nick Rockefeller: "There's going to be an event..."
  • The planes were flown by remote control
    • nugget: There were reports that the terrorists reported to have flown the planes performed terribly in flight school and could not have performed the necessary maneuvers. It is not clear at present whether these reports are based on fact or rumor, or whether the maneuvers attributed to the terrorists could realistically have been performed by them given their flight school performance. (One possible origin of confusion is that the flight school instructor mentioned that they did terribly at landing, probably because they had no interest in it; this would not necessarily have affected their in-flight maneuvering skill.)
  • What crashed into the Pentagon was not a plane, but a missile
    • nugget: These arguments often show pictures of a missile-sized hole in the Pentagon wall as evidence – the photo is real, but it is the exit hole, on the inside of the ring penetrated by the airplane.
    • nugget: The few frames of released video (out of all the many confiscated video records of the impact) don't make it clear what the craft was, and the administration has declined to explain why they will not release all of the video. The wreckage found and photographed, however, appears to be consistent with AA77. (Again, though, it should be noted that the photographs which have been posted publicly are a mere drop in the bucket to the thousands that surely must have been taken during the investigation.) (Update: more complete description of evidence availability is here)
  • WTC1 and WTC2 were taken down by explosives planted on orders from the Bush administration
    • nugget: Although there are several pieces of evidence pointing to controlled demolition, there is as yet no hard evidence pointing to a particular perpetrator
    • nugget: The situation would not have been quite as unprecedented had the buildings remained standing, and almost certainly Bush would not have been given as much rope to play with by stunned citizens and legislators. As implausible as the scenario is, it is certainly understandable that some more impulsive individuals might presume method upon seeing the intersection of motive and opportunity. Again, though, one would need a great deal of direct evidence before one could credibly make such a claim, and there is none yet.


Filed Links

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  • 2010-01-29 [L..T] Rebutting (Again!) the 9/11 Truthers “The belief that a handful of unexplained anomalies can undermine a well-established theory lies at the heart of all conspiratorial thinking (that includes, in addition to Holocaust denial, creationism and crank theories of physics), and is easily refuted by noting that beliefs and theories are not built on single facts alone, but on a convergence of evidence from multiple lines of inquiry. All of the "evidence" for a 9/11 conspiracy falls under the rubric of this fallacy.”
  • 2005-02-15 [L..T] Popular Mechanics' Deceptive Smear Against 9/11 Truth lead paragraph::The March 2005 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine contains a 14-full-page cover article which attacks skepticism about the government and media explanation of the 9/11/01 attack. The primary method of the piece is to build and attack a straw man of myths it claims are "at the root of virtually every 9/11 alternative scenario" embraced by the "growing army of conspiracy theorists." PM selects a combination of 16 valid, erroneous, and inconsequential claims found on websites, implying that they are all endorsed by the "army" of skeptics.

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