ERROR: 'The Phone Calls were Fake'
[The most recent 'Error' page in a series which documents errors in the 9/11 literature. One of the goals of 911review.com is to highlight these errors and improve the quality of analysis in the community of skeptics.]
The idea that phone calls from passengers on the targeted flights were fake and actually created with voice-morphing technology has been promoted by several "no Boeing" advocates and in particular detail by author David Ray Griffin in his numerous books, talks, interviews, and essays.
The case for the 'fake phone calls theory' as articulated by Griffin has become ever more nuanced and complex as government and airline disclosures have undermined the simplicity of the original set of claims surrounding the calls, and other researchers have pointed out flaws in that case. However, the theory remains rooted in the premise, seemingly calculated to be offensive attack survivors, that the last voices heard from victims on the planes were faked.
The original form of the fake phone calls theory as promoted by A.K. Dewdney in his 2002 article Ghostriders in the Sky focused on Flight 93, from which passengers reportedly made a score of cell phone calls. It had two major tenets:
1. Cell phones in aircraft at altitude can't communicate with ground stations, where most of the reported calls would have been at altitude.
2. Statements reportedly made by passengers had peculiarities suggesting that they weren't genuine.
Dewdney, Mathematical Recreations columnist for Scientific American from 1984 to 1993, gave these arguments a veneer of credibility with his vivid style of writing, and publication of experiments showing limitations of cell phone reception from a light plane in Canada. However, rational examination of both tenets show that they are based on multiple fallacies, foremost being the presentation of a theory as the only explanation for alleged anomalies that in fact have many possible explanations.
For years, "no Boeing" advocates such as A.K. Dewdney, Eric Hufschmid, David Griffin, Jim Fetzer, and the Loose Change filmmakers have used victim Mark Bingham as poster child for the fake calls claims by highlighting his use of his full name in addressing his mother. During his one call from Flight 93 to his mother, Bingham reportedly says "Hi Mom, this is Mark Bingham". Frequently overlooked in these accounts are the facts that Mark Bingham's mother has a different last name, that she herself relayed the excerpt, and that she has no doubt that the caller was her son. Furthermore, adducing as evidence of fakery perceived anomalies in the reported behavior of people in highly stressful life-threatening circumstances is unscientific at best.
The first tenet appeals to a claim that a key element of the official story was physically impossible. However, even after years of debate, the parameters of cell phone function on the 9/11/2001 flights remain unclear, Dewdney's experiment in Canada notwithstanding.
But even supposing that cell phone calls from cruising altitude were impossible that day, and that there was no other way for the calls to have been legitimate -- such as their having been from airphones rather than cell phones -- there is a logical fallacy in the first tenet that is exposed by a simple thought experiment.