David Ray Griffin: Reported Cell Phone Calls from the 9/11 Planes - Further Reflections Evoked By Critique
Further Reflections Evoked by a Critique
by Prof. David Ray Griffin - Global Research, September 7, 2008
Earlier this year, Andrew Kornkven posted a comment and a blog critical of my discussion, in Chapter 17 of my book 9/11 Contradictions, of reported cell phone calls from the 9/11 airliners. In this reply, I respond to both of these criticisms, referring to former as his "Comment," to the latter as his "Blog." (All quotations are from the Blog unless otherwise indicated.) Although Kornkven's criticisms are based on confusions and other errors, my response to them has led me to report some information about this issue that I had not previously published, although much of it is in my most recent book, The+New+Pearl+Harbor+Revisited. This distinction means that, although many of my comments, especially in the first parts of this essay, consist of responses to confused criticisms (which the reader will probably want to move through quickly), this essay does, especially in its later parts, contain several points of great importance.
Kornkven begins his Comment by saying: "David Ray Griffin continues to put forth a misleading line of argument regarding the 'cell phone' calls." With the term "continues," he alludes to the fact that he had written an earlier critique, to which I wrote a reply. In that reply, I gave some reasons for being dubious of Kornkven's theory as to what really happened, which lies behind his criticism of my position. According to his theory, there really were hijackers on the planes, but they were not Arab Muslims, or even Muslims of any sort. He also holds that relatives of victims did not actually report receiving cell phones calls. Instead, this claim was invented by the corporate media to trick the foreseen 9/11 truth movement into denying that the calls occurred, because the calls had revealed real truths that the government did not want to be known.
Why, I wondered, if the hijackers were not really devout Muslims, expecting to receive a heavenly reward for their martyrdom, would they have volunteered to commit suicide simply to provide a pretext for a war against Muslims; Kornkven's only escape from this conclusion would seem to be to speculate, implausibly, that they bailed out of the planes at the last minute. I also wondered why, if the corporate media had falsely claimed that some of the families had reported receiving cell phone calls, the Internet carries no stories about complaints from these relatives published in local papers.
In the present essay, in any case, I do not argue against Kornkven's own thesis. I simply reply to his charge (in hisComment) that my discussion is "misleading" and to his charge (in his Blog) that it contains "serious logical errors."
The "Cell Phone Myth" The central target of Kornkven's critique is what he calls the Cell Phone Myth, which he defines in his Comment as "the idea, advocated by Griffin, that the majority of calls were made on cell phones." However, I do not believe that there were any cell phone calls from the planes.
Kornkven evidently stated his meaning more accurately in the first paragraph of his Comment, in which he said: "Despite Griffin's claims to the contrary in Chapter 17 of 9/11 Contradictions, neither the FBI nor the 9/11 [Commission] ever claimed that all, or even most, of the calls were made on cell phones." But I never said anything remotely similar to this.
With regard to the 9/11 Commission, I pointed out that its report mentioned cell phone calls, but without specifying how many such calls were allegedly made, only in relation to United Flight 93.
With regard to the FBI, almost all of my discussion is about its 2006 report to the Moussaoui trial, at which it said that there had been only two cell phone calls from all four flights combined. With regard to the FBI's position prior to then, I made only two comments. My first comment was a complaint that "the FBI had not discouraged the press or the 9/11 Commission from claiming that passengers had used cell phones to report the existence of hijackers on the planes." Although that statement said nothing about what the FBI claimed, something was at least implied by my second comment: Using the word "authorities" to refer primarily to the FBI, I spoke of "one of the chief elements in the story about 9/11 told by authorities and the press from the outset---that the presence of hijackers on the flights had been reported by means of cell phone calls from those flights." I clearly suggested that the FBI immediately after 9/11 was stating that hijackers were reported on cell phone calls. To say that, however, is not to say that the FBI claimed that "all, or even most, of the calls were made on cell phones." I said so little about the 9/11 Commission and pre-2006 FBI assertions because virtually all of my discussion in the chapter was about what was reported by the press and consequently widely believed. This feature of the chapter led to one of the strangest criticisms in Kornkven's Blog:
Griffin next presents a lengthy jumble of media reports claiming cell phone calls. It's hard to believe that a major figure in the truth movement would base his argument on stories appearing in The Washington Post, Newsweek, The National Review, and other pillars of the controlled media.
Kornkven's criticism would make sense only if I had been suggesting that these media reports were true. But I was not. I was simply documenting the point made in my opening sentence, namely:
A central element in the story of the hijackings of the four airliners, as it unfolded in the press . . . , was that passengers had reported the presence of Middle-Eastern hijackers on the planes by means of cell phone calls to family members and authorities.
Documenting this point required, of course, quoting the Washington Post, Newsweek, and other mainstream (corporately controlled) publications.
With that confused criticism dismissed, I turn now to the question of whether my discussion of the press exemplified the Cell Phone Myth: Did I claim that the press portrayed a majority of the calls as having been made on cell phones? Hardly.
What I stated was that, according to press reports, "there were at least eleven cell phone calls from United Flight 93" plus "two each from UA 175 and AA 77." As a result, "it has been widely believed that there were at least fifteen . . . cell phone calls."
According to the 2006 FBI report, there were a total of 64 calls (counting those from both onboard and cell phones) from the four flights. Prior to that report, it was widely believed that there were 40 or more calls. By portraying 15 of those (40 to 64) calls as coming from cell phones, the press did not come close to claiming that "most" or "the majority" of the calls from the flights were cell phone calls.
However, it is also true, as I pointed out, that many of the press stories gave special attention to the reported cell phone calls in providing evidence of hijackers on the flights. An early Washington Post story, for example, said: "Glick's cell phone call from Flight 93 and others like it provide the most dramatic accounts so far of events aboard the four hijacked aircraft." Another Post story about this flight said: "The plane was at once a lonesome vessel, the people aboard facing their singular fate, and yet somehow already attached to the larger drama, connected again by cell phones." Referring to such stories, I wrote: "cell phone calls were portrayed as a central---even the principal---means by which we had learned what happened on the planes." But I did not---as the figures in the previous paragraph show---portray the press as stating that the majority of the calls were made on cell phones.
Besides invalidly turning my statement that some cell phone calls were reportedly made into the claim that "most of the calls were cell phone calls," Kornkven sometimes even changes the most to all. He did this in one of the charges quoted above, namely: "Despite Griffin's claims to the contrary . . . , neither the FBI nor the 9/11 [Commission] ever claimed that all . . . of the calls were made on cell phones." Kornkven also did this in asking: "Why does Griffin want to turn away from this evidence by imagining that the calls were cell phone calls?"
In logic, even more basic than the distinction between some and most is the threefold distinction between none, some, and all. In an article in which he is accusing someone else of logical errors, Kornkven should have been careful not to commit such a basic one.
This error, incidentally, led to a bizarre charge against Dylan Avery. Discussing Loose Change 2, Kornkven wrote:
"At the 1:07 mark of that film, Dylan Avery asks,
"'next, what about the cell phone calls...?'
"Avery didn't seem to have even considered the possibility that some or most of the calls were made on airphones, which is peculiar since, a few minutes later in the film, while describing Mark Bingham's call to his mother from UAL93, he specifically mentions that Bingham twice told his mom that he was calling from an airphone. The damage to the truth movement by this oversight is incalculable. Was it truly an oversight, or something worse?"