Another Peer-reviewed Publication: “Conspiracy Theories and Stylized Facts”

Conspiracy Theories and Stylized Facts
Journal for Peace and Justice Studies 21.2 (Fall 2011)
Kurtis Hagen

ABSTRACT: In an article published in the Journal of Political Philosophy, Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule argue that the government and its allies ought to actively undermine groups that espouse conspiracy theories deemed “demonstrably false.” They propose infiltrating such groups in order to “cure” conspiracy theorists by treating their “crippled epistemology” with “cognitive diversity.” They base their proposal on an analysis of the “causes” of such conspiracy theories, which emphasizes informational and reputational cascades. Some may regard their proposal as outrageous and anti-democratic. I agree. However, in this article I merely argue that their argument is flawed in at least the following ways: (1) their account of the popularity of conspiracy theories is implausible, and (2) their proposal relies on misleading “stylized facts,” including a caricature of those who doubt official narratives and a deceptive depiction of the relevant history.

[NOTE: I have included extended excerpts below, believing this to be within the scope of fair use.]  


Informational Cascades   

[NOTE: Using Sunstein’s own words, with only slight change, I show how the “informational cascades” that he posits as an explanation for the popularity of conspiracy theories actually does a better job of explaining the popularity of dubious official stories.]

To see how informational cascades work, imagine a group of people who are trying to assign responsibility for some loss of life. Assume that the group members are announcing their views in sequence. Each member attends, reasonably enough, to the judgments of others. Andrews is the first to speak. He suggests that the event was caused [just how the government said it was] by a conspiracy of powerful people. Barnes now knows Andrews’s judgment; she should certainly go along with Andrew’s account if she agrees independently with him. But if her independent judgment is otherwise, she would—if she trusts Andrews no more and no less than she trusts herself—be indifferent about what to do, and she might simply flip a coin.

Now turn to a third person, Charleton. Suppose that both Andrews and Barnes have endorsed the [official story] conspiracy theory, but that Charleton’s own view, based on limited information, suggests that they are probably wrong. In that event, Charleton might well ignore what he knows and follow Andrews and Barnes. It is likely, after all, that both Andrews and Barnes had evidence for their conclusion, and unless Charleton thinks that his own information is better than theirs, he should follow their lead. If he does, Charleton is in a cascade. Of course Charleton will resist if he has sufficient grounds to think that Andrews and Barnes are being foolish. But if he lacks those grounds, he is likely to go along with them. This may happen even if Andrews initially speculated in a way that does not fit the facts. That initial speculation, in this example, can start a process by which a number of people are led to participate in a cascade, accepting [an official story] a conspiracy theory whose factual foundations are fragile. (2009, 213-214)

[NOTE: I then quote David Coady, who has done excellent work on the philosophy of Conspiracy Theories.]

[W]hat economists call “information cascades” … can occur when people express their opinions about the answer to a certain question in a publicly observable sequence. If the early answers exhibit a clear pattern, people later in the sequence may decide to ignore their own epistemic resources and follow the crowd. This belief forming strategy can be entirely rational from an individual perspective, especially if expertise on the question at issue is reasonably evenly spread amongst the group. The epistemic danger of this strategy, however, is that it can lead to relevant evidence being hidden from those later in the sequence. Thus the epistemic authority of thousands of people can be largely illusory, because most of them have had their beliefs determined by a handful of people at the beginning of the sequence. (Coady 2007, pp. 201-202)

Coady concludes that while it may be “individually rational” to go with the flow of an information cascade, “those who refuse to follow the crowd, even when the crowd is more likely to be right than they are, are doing the crowd an epistemic favour by making it more likely that the crowd itself (or at least most of its members) gets the right answer in the end” (Coady 2007, p. 202). It is worth noticing, in this context, that doubters of the official narrative of September 11 often point out how quickly an official narrative took form. Even if not explicitly mentioning “informational cascades” by name, they clearly imply that setting up such cascades is a propaganda device that was employed very early on. [NOTE: See footnote 8 below.]

The point is this: while the dynamic that Sunstein and Vermeule describe is undoubtedly real, it cuts both ways. Indeed, it works better as an explanation for the success of questionable official stories. Regarding September 11, some rather strong informational cascades (whether based on accuraste information or not) affirming the official story began flowing within the first couple days, and have continued unabated. Counter-currents, on the other hand, didn’t start flowing with any strength for several years. And, as we will see at the end of this article, many of those skeptical of the official story of 9/11 cannot plausibly be regarded as uncritically following an informational cascade. Further, regardless of what peculiar informational cascades might flow through a particular group or segment within society, it is a rare individual indeed that would have escaped the mainstream media and their relentless support of the official story. At most, a counter-cascade could have emboldened some to question the official story, and perhaps to begin to investigate the issue. But it is hardly plausible that a counter-narrative informational cascade would overwhelm the official/mainstream informational flood—unless it drew strength in some other way, perhaps from empirical evidence. (Whether such evidence is truly substantial cannot be adjudicated a priori, but must be carefully examined.)

Reputational Cascades

When it comes to reputational cascades, Sunstein and Vermeule’s theory is even less plausible.

Consider the case of Professor Woodward of the University of New Hampshire. According to an article in the Boston Globe:  [William] Woodward, a professor of the history of psychology, is a member of Scholars For 9/11 Truth.… When news of Woodward’s association with the group was published in a local newspaper last month, it sparked a hail of criticism from New Hampshire politicians.” In another article, James Joyner describes the situation as follows: “A student activist group has joined New Hampshire Governor John Lynch in trying to fire a University of New Hampshire professor for his rather bizarre views on the 9/11 attacks…. Gov. John Lynch called Woodward’s beliefs ‘completely crazy and offensive’ and asked the trustees to investigate.” In an update to that article, Joyner writes: “[A reader] comments, ‘I don’t think they should fire him. I think they should ridicule him. Publicly. Relentlessly.’ Agreed. That is much more in the spirit of higher education than censorship.” Now, does this sound like an environment wherein a reputational cascade can plausibly account for the spread of the theory in question? I don’t think so. Further, I can personally attest, as an untenured assistant professor, that if I were basing my decision on enhancing, or at least not tarnishing, my reputation with my colleagues, advocating “9/11 Truth” would be just about the last thing I would do. Indeed, I have spoken my views on this matter with considerable hesitation, and despite the negative effect on my reputation that doing so risks.


Cure: Cognitive Infiltration

[NOTE: In this section I discuss Sunstein’s proposed cognitive infiltrations, emphasizing the likelihood of abuse.]



Stylized Fact 1: Conspiracy Theories are the Stuff of Rumor

[NOTE: In this section I discuss Sunstein’s treatment of the Northwoods Document, and quote the document at length.]

Stylized Fact 2: Clear Evidence Proves Conspiracy Theories False 

In the on-line draft for their paper, Sunstein and Vermeule write: “Some theorists claimed that no plane had hit the pentagon; even after the Department of Defense released video frames showing Flight 77 approaching the building….” (2008, 20, emphasis added). If Sunstein and Vermeule had bothered to actually look at the video frames in question, they would have seen that they do not in fact show anything recognizable as Flight 77 approaching the Pentagon. Indeed, it is not at all clear what these pictures show. Apparently, either Sunstein and Vermeule were just too busy advocating infiltration to objectively scrutinize the evidence or else they were “stylizing” their facts.

To be clear, my own view is that this part of the official story of 9/11—that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon—is probably true, but it is far from clearly demonstrated. Indeed, legitimate questions remain. Further, there are other aspects of the official story that I am convinced are false—and the implications are quite troubling. Each person can make his or her own judgment on these matters—though I would hope that they do so only after consulting evidence, rather than being swept along by a cascade. In any case, it is positively chilling to think that, if I sought to meet with likeminded individuals, our group could be targeted for infiltration, if Sunstein and Vermeule get their way. Further, it adds insult to injury for them to use “evidence” as useless as the supposed pictures of Flight 77 approaching the Pentagon to “demonstrate” the falseness of alternative views, and thereby justify their deceit-countenancing, anti-democratic, and epistemically suspect proposal. 

Stylized Fact 3: Infiltration is Benign

[Sunstein and Vermeule give] the impression that the COINTELPRO operations of the fifties and sixties were benign and passive. But this is far from accurate. … Had Sunstein and Vermeule given a fuller and more accurate account of the true history of past practices it would have aroused a sense that great caution is warranted here. So, instead they stylized.     

Stylized Fact 4: Conspiracy Theorists are Ignorant Extremists

Perhaps the most significant stylized fact involves the caricature of so-called “conspiracy theorists.” Sunstein and Vermeule charge that conspiracy theorists generally have “little (relevant) information” (2009, 211) or “skewed information” (2009, 210). But these claims are unsubstantiated. Indeed, many people that would count as “conspiracy theorists” by Sunstein and Vermeule’s lights are very informed people. Indeed, many have specialized knowledge of one relevant kind or another. But Sunstein and Vermeule ignore them.

For example, if all those who take the possibility of insider complicity in 9/11 seriously count, then that list includes established scholars that have employed their considerable research talents to understanding the dynamics surrounding 9/11, such as David Ray Griffin, Peter Dale Scott, Nefeez Ahmed, Graeme MacQueen, and Lance deHaven-Smith, to name just a few; it includes established scientists such as Steven Jones, Jeffrey Farrer, Niels Harrit, and many others; it includes professional engineers and architects—more than 1,400 have joined Richard Gage in calling for a new investigation into the collapse of the Twin Towers and Building 7; and it includes intelligence professionals such as Ray McGovern, Robert Steele, and (with some vacillation) Robert Baer. That is still a short list, but the complete list of highly accomplished people that have publicly questioned the official account is at least in the hundreds. By caricaturing conspiracy theorists Sunstein and Vermeule are able to pretend that informed and sophisticated “conspiracy theorists” do not exist. But these people do exist. And Sunstein and Vermeule’s theory of the “causes” of conspiracy theories does not account for them. And the inappropriateness of their proposed “cure” is most clear with regard to them.


The stylization of the above “facts” is important for the plausibility of Sunstein and Vermeule’s argument. (1) If they fully acknowledged the history of real conspiracies and of theories that remain plausible if unproven, that would undermine the efficacy of their dismissive rhetorical posture regarding the ill-defined subset of those theories that they believe should be undermined by covert operations. (2) By whitewashing the history of infiltration, they make their proposal seem less obviously problematic. (3) By presenting a caricature of people who espouse so-called “conspiracy theories” they treat them as “other”—something less than human, beings not fully capable of reason. Otherwise, a more honest, straightforward, and respectful response would seem more appropriate than infiltration. And, finally, (4) the bogus claim that there are pictures clearly identifiable as Flight 77 approaching the Pentagon made it possible for them to ridicule conspiracy theorists who continue to believe otherwise. Without recourse to ridicule, Sunstein and Vermeule’s responsibility to deal with the relevant evidence in a more sophisticated way would have been more evident. And addressing the evidence in this way would have made establishing the falsity of all theories that suggest insider complicity in 9/11 hopelessly complex. But without establishing the clear falsity of those theories, they could not reasonably frame the members of the so-called “9/11 Truth Movement” as irrational, and thus appropriate targets for cognitive infiltration. In the final version of their paper, Sunstein and Vermeule drop the reference to Flight 77, presumably because it is so easily exposed as false. In the end, they didn’t really need to resort to ridicule based on false evidence. The strong bias against conspiracy theories, especially in the academy, evidentially seems to make such ridicule unnecessary.

It should have been obvious to these law professors that peaceful, law-abiding people ought to be allowed to freely assemble and pursue their inquiries without infiltration. And this applies even to those who promote theories that posit state crimes against democracy (SCADs)—which is what the most “dangerous” so-called “conspiracy theories” typically allege. In the interest of peace and justice, all people ought to be allowed to freely assemble and pursue their inquiries without infiltration—even those, or perhaps especially those, who dare to question official narratives. 



1 This paper (a version, that is, resembling the conference presentation but under the title “Conspiracy Theories and Stylized Facts”) and my earlier paper on this topic, “Is Infiltration of ‘Extremist Groups’ Justified?” (Hagen 2010), were both denied peer review at the Journal of Political Philosophy, which published Sunstein and Vermeule’s article.

8  An example that has been cited is footage from FOX News of (ostensibly) a random bystander, a man wearing a Harley Davidson shirt, who was interviewed shortly after the towers had collapsed. The “bystander” says, “… and then I witnessed both towers collapse, one first and than the other, mostly due to structural failure because the fire was just too intense.” See “9/11: Clues you might have missed The FOX News presentation is cut so as to reinforce the message, presenting a close-up of some flames as the young man says, “Because the fire was just too intense.” The allegation is that presenting this on the news was supposed to begin or reinforce a cascade of opinion that the towers collapsed due to fire (in addition to the damage from the plane), not from something more elaborate. Once this opinion became entrenched, most people continued to believe it, despite the discovery of significant quantities of red-grey chips in the dust that appear to be bits of unreacted nano-thermite (see Harrit 2009). Or, so it could be argued.  

[NOTE: Please support the Journal for Peace and Justice Studies in any way that seems appropriate. Citations should be to the original JPJS article. Here is the website:
Unfortunately, it has not yet been updated to show the most recent issue.]


Some observations I have had over a few decades:

1) The feds themselves recognize conspiracy not from a solid proof standpoint, but from a "pattern of behavior" point (i.e. RICO etc.) We should be allowed to do likewise.

2) Conspiracy debunkers are rarely if ever honest, and as patterns go, their specious debunking is nearly always quite obvious. I suggest identifying debunkers, and disallowing them as "skeptics".

3) Conspiracies such as 9/11 are great crimes, and when committed by the highest levels of government, are not addressable by the people. Petitioning for redress is futile.

4) Conspiracy theory does have its downside, and the most glaring negative that favors Sunstein and others is where you see so many of these theories funneling their focus toward "anti-semitism" and its related issues. Anti-Israel sentiments may be OK, charges against Mossad and their erstwhile partners are often legitimate, but too often I see the term "Jews" and I get that familiar sense of dread. This may be over-zealousness on the part of conspiracy buffs, it may be racist, or it could be the most dreaded of all - deliberate planting of disinformation by (ummm, yes - Sunstein) government agencies and their contractors.

Cass Sunstein: feeding our comfort zone.

To address just one of your points:

In the context of conspiracy theory (especially regarding 9/11), whenever I see references to "The Jews", I too get that sinking feeling... for several obvious reasons - one of these is the absurdity of pointing the finger of blame at an entire people, or an entire faith.

It is similarly frustrating, again in the context of conspiracy theory in relation to 9/11, to hear people accusing "the government" of doing it. The US government is a huge, lumbering, multifaceted entity consisting of hundreds of thousands of workers employed by diverse agencies and departments including the US Postal Service, NASA, the National Weather Service, the US Geological Survey, the National Security Agency, and hundreds of others. Why do so many so-called "conspiracy theorists" invoke the term "the government" seemingly without thinking first of what they are implying?


Sunstein seems to have ignored the definition of "conspiracy" in order to promote/justify the agenda assigned to him. By definition, a "conspiracy" is a plan by *two or more* people to commit a criminal act. Thousands of conspiracies are hatched and carried out every day, every week, every year, all over the world. Every time any of these multiple perpetrator crimes are addressed by police working to solve them, "conspiracy theories" are discussed by detectives in police stations everywhere.

So, for all those people who have been hoodwinked for so many years that "conspiracies" are the realm of the weird, the unlikely or the kooky ... they are wrong on every count. The standard M.O. of major crimes involves a conspiracy of two, or more. The greatest crime in modern US history, 9/11, also involved a conspiracy, regardless of who one believes was responsible.

Sunstein is employing the long-popularized, but largely baseless conflation of "kookiness" with conspiracy, in order to discredit alternative (and far more likely) explanations of 9/11, which likely helps to protect those who planned, carried out, aided and abetted the attacks. If we are to believe President Bush and his post 9/11 pronouncements about the guiltiness of those protecting and harboring terrorists, Sunstein should be under some degree of suspicion, in a just world, that is.

And this brings me back to my first point... the absurdity of blaming an entire faith, or demographic, or diversified group, for carrying out 9/11, especially in the mainstream.

The Muslims did it. Ah ha! !!!!!! Now *that* absurd claim has sat just fine, unchallenged. Here we see the "acceptable" face of of anti-Semitism. The American mainstream has been indoctrinated, since shortly after the end of WWII, into the belief that Arabs (and by extension, all Muslims) are anything from "untrustworthy" at best, to "they're all terrorists", or "they're all evil". Jack Shaheen's "Reel Bad Arabs", a book (and documentary film) portraying how Hollywood, the media, and government agencies have so effectively demonized the Arab ethnotype in American consciousness, points this out. It's hardly a wonder that the entire corporate media, the Bush Administration, and numerous assorted pundits, jumped eagerly onto blaming "Muslims" (or Arabs, or Middle Easterners), so quickly, and even before the Twin Towers had fallen, and before any evidence had been gathered.

Why? It was easy - it was what the American mainstream *wanted* to believe, it conformed to people's predetermined comfort zones, and fueled by decades of subtle (and not so subtle) Islamophobia. Blaming Arabs for 9/1l was the easiest sell in the America (and the industrialized west), and tis probabliity may have been factored in by the planners in allowing themselves some wiggle room in case the plan didn't quite work perfectly and a few things went wrong.... which, as it seems, was likely to have been true. Actually, a similar thing happened with OKC, and very recently in Norway, in which two of the main perps got themselves quickly arrested and spoiled the media's fun.

This long held public (mis)perception that "only Muslims can do something so despicable" may be one of the big obstacles on the road to settling the 9/11 issue once and for all, and bringing *all* the perps to justice. The mainstream, just don't want to acknowledge that it may not have been brown-skinned people, it may not have been foreigners, and especially, it may not have been those who fail to conform to the preferred, more acceptable Judæo-Christian religious model. This is also evident in the fact that the corporate media (and many websites on the 'left', in general, have placed a taboo on referring to 9/11outside of the context of the official conspiracy theory.

I am convinced that Cass Sunstein's work is aimed precisely at reinforcing the above misperceptions, using (1) deeply embedded, long held, officially sanctioned, institutionalized racism and hatred as a convenient prop, and by equating the usual way big crime is executed, to the "Twilight Zone".

I wish Cass Sunstein was on our side. He's a clever bastard.

Blaming "The Government"

I would not be so quick to dismiss accusations against "The Government" for several reasons.

The first reason is that while we have gotten high-profile prosecutions of police officers and sheriff's deputies all over the U.S., we have not gotten any prosecutions of federal officers by "the people", because the feds have put their entire cadre above our law and our courts. That needs to change.

The second reason is because of the principle of "benefit of the doubt". The benefit of the doubt in a criminal process should be extended to individual persons only as persons, and not to their offices. Debunkers and other miscreants often demand proof of government malfeasance, and I go back to the RICO principle, i.e. pattern of behavior. In the great crime of 9/11, we should have had an immediate indictment against the feds and their agents, and then let them prove in court that it was their incompetence and not malfeasance that caused the incidents. If it truly was incompetence in all of those deaths, we should have been able to assign some level of criminal blame on that basis. Instead, we got nothing.

The third reason is that government is always the Big Killer, as we demonstrated by the murder of perhaps a million people in Iraq and Afghanistan, when instead we should have had 9/11 and its agents run through the courts first (being that we didn't launch an immediate war) to seek some truth before killing all of those people.

Where does Cass find his agents?

"Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule argue that the government and its allies ought to actively undermine groups that espouse conspiracy theories deemed “demonstrably false.” They propose infiltrating such groups in order to “cure” conspiracy theorists by treating their “crippled epistemology” with “cognitive diversity.” They base their proposal on an analysis of the “causes” of such conspiracy theories, which emphasizes informational and reputational cascades."

If their justification to their infiltration agents is to 'cure', then where will they find agents to infiltrate AE911Truth? The loony bin or the low IQ club? I mean, wouldn't Cass be concerned about assigning agents with any degree of honesty and intelligence to this as they might come back and bite him on his behind? Or do these people simply disappear?

Who are these people that qualify for these assignments? Fresh from the brainwash-farm? Are they dangerous to themselves and others? Or are there so many corrupt people that enjoy being blatantly lied to by their superiors and then proceed on such an evil deed? What do they pay these people lol?

I wonder if they give the younger, less-experienced potentials a test. Show them the Zapruder film and ask was it:
a) a man being shot from in front of him
b) a man being shot from behind him
c) whatever the govt tells you

a) a CD
b) fell by fire
c) whatever the govt tells you

Govt lies:
a) do exist
b) don't exist
c) whatever the govt tells you

Sorry so many questions, but truly the answers elude me.

Great Article and Peer Review Refusals

Great Article Mr. Hagen, I hope to read it in its entirety soon. Were you given any reasons from Journal of Political Philosophy as to why they wouldn't consider reviewing your paper? I can imagine this is what Prof. Jones et. al. went through trying to get their papers published. Thanks again for your outstanding work and the courage to speak out.

peace everyone


Peer Review

There was no substantive reason given. The form letter said that it didn't sufficiently break new ground. But that was just a form letter that goes with all rejections. Pretty lame, don't you think. When I objected he gave the following empty rationale:
"in the editor's judgment [it has] no realistic chance of being published." It has no chance of being published, apparently, because the editor is determined not to publish it. Here is what he had to say about the peer review process: "'Peer review' means that nothing is published in the journal without having been peer-reviewed, not that everything that is offered for publication is automatically sent out for review." In other words, fairness is not an issue. Peer review does not mean that the best papers get published or that there has been an objective refereeing process; it just means that the papers that are published have been looked at (and presumably approved) by peers. For my earlier paper, "Is Infiltration of 'Extremist' Groups Justified?" the editor explained "I just don't think the value added is there." That tell us something about his values. I pleaded, "If there are problems with my paper, let the reviewers state them." But he refused.

Incredible arrogance...

by these people, it just staggers the imagination at every example I see. Well congratulations again at getting it published at such respected venue like this. And thank you for taking the time to reply, its much appreciated.




Keep your hands off my epistemology.

Town versus Gown

I'll trade you two weltanschauungs and an umwelt for some epistemology. "Crippled epistemology" indeed! When Dr. Nork, America's Leading Malpracticioner, was sued in the 1970's his victims asked for a lot of money. So inept was he that the hospital pathologists didn't recognize the tissue that he excised. You see they were used to seeing diseased tissue and couldn't often identify the healthy specimens that he sent them; he hacked away everything. Nork was sued for millions of dollars in one of the biggest lawsuits ever. The amount was more than he could ever hope to make and more than he was insured for. The un-collectible sum was meant as a signal from his victims that the responsibility was deeper than one man alone. It was meant as an indictment of Nork, his employers, and the system that created him including the university and medical school where he was trained.

Now we have "Constitutional scholars" like Barack Obama, Cass Sunstein, John Yoo, Viet Dihn and Eric Holder who were trained by and taught at our revered institutions. And they, like the good Dr. Nork, are nothing if not malpractitioners and we should hold the institutions that created them accountable. I am grateful that both Chris Hedges and Jonathan Turley have come forward vocally and sternly on recent draconian measures by the state. I am still waiting for Boalt Hall at Berkeley to at least censure John Yoo. He is protected by tenure and academic freedom but that shouldn't stop the administration from pointing out that his ideas are crap. Ask yourself: can you imagine sitting down to dinner with Sunstein, Yoo, Dihn or Holder? I think the only fitting dinner companions for these people would be Imelda Marcos, Trujillo, or Batista. This would be a good match because that is the kind of people that they are.

Push further.

What you are trying to is commendable in many ways.

Thanks for your energy and effort, please accept this as constructive criticism.

You write:

Stylized Fact 2: Clear Evidence Proves Conspiracy Theories False

In the on-line draft for their paper, Sunstein and Vermeule write: “Some theorists claimed that no plane had hit the pentagon; even after the Department of Defense released video frames showing Flight 77 approaching the building….” (2008, 20, emphasis added). If Sunstein and Vermeule had bothered to actually look at the video frames in question, they would have seen that they do not in fact show anything recognizable as Flight 77 approaching the Pentagon. Indeed, it is not at all clear what these pictures show. Apparently, either Sunstein and Vermeule were just too busy advocating infiltration to objectively scrutinize the evidence or else they were “stylizing” their facts.

To be clear, my own view is that this part of the official story of 9/11—that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon—is probably true, but it is far from clearly demonstrated. Indeed, legitimate questions remain. Further, there are other aspects of the official story that I am convinced are false—and the implications are quite troubling. Each person can make his or her own judgment on these matters—though I would hope that they do so only after consulting evidence, rather than being swept along by a cascade. In any case, it is positively chilling to think that, if I sought to meet with likeminded individuals, our group could be targeted for infiltration, if Sunstein and Vermeule get their way. Further, it adds insult to injury for them to use “evidence” as useless as the supposed pictures of Flight 77 approaching the Pentagon to “demonstrate” the falseness of alternative views, and thereby justify their deceit-countenancing, anti-democratic, and epistemically suspect proposal.

We were all just discussing the Pentagon here:
After 150 comments in a little over a week, it should be fresh on everyones minds. ;)

You should feel completely comfortable saying flight 77 hit the Pentagon, there should be no issue. The science based research at hand is amazing, if you care to investigate.

I make the point for two reasons, at least:

1) What Hit the Pentagon? Misinformation and its Effect on the Credibility of 9/11 Truth (by Frank Legge)(PDF)

2) you want your efforts to be successful

David Chandler, who has done remarkable work debunking NIST's lies about the WTC destruction, also wrote a paper with Frank Legge about the Pentagon.

Please review that here:

The Pentagon Attack on 9/11:A Refutation of the Pentagon Flyover Hypothesis Based on Analysis of the Flight Path

If the Pentagon issue had not been so amazingly misinformed to most of us here, what would Cass have used in that examples place?

I would like to eliminate the examples of things that make our movement for justice look crazy or stupid, we have enough solid evidence at this point for treasonous activities on and leading up to 9/11.

We also have enough evidence for an investigation into the WTC demolitions. We need to know who planted explosives, and how.

The Pentagon

I agree that we should be concentrating on the WTC rather than the Pentagon. That's one reason I haven't spent too much time on the Pentagon myself. But where has it been conclusively established that it was indeed flight 77 and not some other plane? If such evidence has not been presented by official sources and the mainstream media then I think it is correct to say it has not been established. Don't get me wrong, as I said in the article, I agree that it was probably flight 77. But Sunstein says it has been demonstrated, citing pictures that don't show anything clearly. Further, for me, there are still questions that surround flight 77 hitting the Pentagon, even if we agree that it was indeed flight 77. Like who could have made those maneuvers? But we need not make an issue out of this. Gotta run.

More convincing

Nor Cal Truth has provided links to good evidence that a plane hit the Pentagon. Here is another:

You might find the link below leads to evidence more convincing than Sunstein gives that the plane was actually AA77:


Interesting. Thanks. I was under the impression that there was a gap.
Still, I think we all agree with my point: Even those who still have questions about what hit the Pentagon shouldn't be infiltrated and undermined. They should simply be shown the relevant information. And treated like reasonable human beings.

And conversely

Those who know, some through common sense, others through years of study and hard work, or both, that on 9/11, planes crashed into buildings, not only into the WTC but into the Pentagon.... Those who know a plane hit the Pentagon shouldn't be infiltrated either, and ought to be treated like reasonable human beings. Not like possible 'infiltrators', 'traitors' who 'cover up mass murder', 'government loyalists', or any of the other epithets frequently flung by the no plane crash theorists.

As someone has been labeled a 'Sunstein infiltrator' frequently, and has seen other good people, such as Jon Gold and Erik Larson, labeled as such, I know what Sunstein's paper has caused. Paranoia. In my opinion, that was the intention. There are plenty of innately suspicious people in a conspiracy research and activist movement which can be driven to despair by merely suggesting they are under surveillance and subject to infiltration. I have explained this several times citing sources, I hope some of it registered.

Some people apparently think it's okay to exact 'revenge' for being proving wrong by spreading rumor and innuendo about their detractors. Mentioning Sunstein is the preferred smear of the sore loser.

Although I didn't agree with everything, I read the excerpts of your paper with interest. We're in dark times. Tyranny is upon us, it is not approaching.

Plane hit the Pentagon

If a plane really hit the Pentagon, fine. But there is excellent evidence that a plane did not hit the Pentagon (no video, no ability of a soft-shelled plane to penetrate that far, no ability of anyone, let alone an expert to make the flight), and so if the contention is merely that we "should accept" that it did to lessen the attacks against conspiracy theorists, then I reject that.

I've seen the evidence, and I've read the lengthy articles, and they have what appears to be a scholarly composition. But I've seen the same length and scholarly look to articles debunking all of 9/11. So while I keep an open mind on the Pentagon issue, I won't be coerced into "accepting" that a plane hit it, just because....

Specialized plane, with leading missile or bomb in nose -- all kinds of possibilities there. I'm content to think of those possibilities, since I doubt very much that such a well planned operation left this part of the plan to a spectacularly improbable success. And that BTW is where the "plane hit the Pentagon" scenario is going to end up - with us accepting that this was pure chance and an incredibly lucky hit, and not a nefarious planned strike by the war hawks.

Pentagon discussion

Is currently going on here and here.

Could you post your collision dynamics calculations, on which you base your "soft-shelled plane" conjecture there?

Because as far as I know, the kinetic energy available to AA 77 is more than enough to puncture the limestone and concrete wall and do the observed damage. Although imperfect (engines not modeled), Purdue has already developed an impact simulation and you haven't, meaning your argument is totally baseless at this point and most likely based on 'intuitive physics'. (Unfortunately, the average no planer-truther's physics is generally wildly inaccurate and inadequate, yet claims all kinds of 'scientific certainty' nonetheless... a situation that urgently needs to be remedied, e.g. see WTC impact study here, obliterating no planer conjecture)

Otherwise we'd get a long exchange and that would only detract from the topic and lead to moderator intervention.


Detracting from the topic

I see only one detraction - someone who in my opinion wants to undermine the real truth effort by building a case that "proves" no conspiracy on the part of the government to commit 9/11. My case is simple enough - I've seen the test crashes. No significant penetration.

The bottom line is, you have no proof and neither do I. But the difference is, I believe the government did the Pentagon, because that's the simplest conclusion from the event and its effect, plus the obfuscation and witholding of evidence, and just as important if not moreso, the government's repeated pattern of this kind of behavior.

The real issue in all of 9/11 is - did the government do it, or did the highjackers do it? It's that simple, because anything else (i.e. "allowing" it) still falls on the government.

Edit: I would like to add that "urgently needs to be remedied" is an ominous statement.

Edit_2: I went to Pilots for 9/11 Truth - highly recommended. Good discussion of the available evidence of the Pentagon crash as well as the others, and they also discuss the stonewalling they've gotten trying to research the case.


Why did you not take the discussion elsewhere??

I just don't understand. The links are right there!

Good question

It's because no planers never back up their big words once you press them on the issue. They confuse their opinions with facts, and they will always run from debate. The point is to derail and keep people running in the treadmill. If no planerism can't be achieved, then at the very least agnosticism can be sought after; it's equally epistemologically false and when contrasted with 9/11 family members it drives a wedge equally excellently. That, after all, is the objective. To keep this movement on the fringe.

I have offered many invitations here on 911blogger over the years to revisit a topic on the correct thread. Never once has anybody shown the backbone to accept.


That seems to be the point of those kind of posts. Just cheap attempts to promote garbage information and cause confusion while pretending to justify it as "just asking questions." All in the name of looking for the truth... Really???


Didn't you contact Mete Sozen and discuss the collision dynamics with him?

I remember something about him saying to you he initially thought it'd be like a bus hitting a wall, but he was rebuffed on that idea by his own analysis?

Mete Sozen said something

Mete Sozen said something about having the image of a truck hitting a building. In which one thinks of the strength and stiffness of the truck. However, when a plane flying at over 300mph hits a building, what hurts the structure is the energy that is transmitted.

Thank you

Yes, that's what I meant.

Kurtis, if only it were that simple -

You say: "They should simply be shown the relevant information. And treated like reasonable human beings."

You are apparently totally unaware of what happens when the scientific facts of the Pentagon case are placed before the main proponents of the fly-over theory. Abuse, threats, and attempts to diminish the power of the evidence by attacking the messenger are the result, together with accusations that the scientists are "infiltrators".

It can be shown, without any doubt whatsoever, that the North of Citgo path that CIT relies on to claim that the plane must have flown over the Pentagon, is apparently physically impossible, as shown here:

It can be shown, without any doubt whatsoever, that the claim made by Pilots for 9/11 Truth that the plane could not have withstood the g-force on approach to the Pentagon, is false, as shown here:

You also say in your original post: "In the final version of their paper, Sunstein and Vermeule drop the reference to Flight 77, presumably because it is so easily exposed as false." If I understand this correctly, it appears to indicate that at the time you wrote it you were convinced that the impact of Flight 77 with the Pentagon was proveably false. I trust that now you will be willing to examine the contrary evidence.

Don't get me wrong! I truly appreciate the value of the work you are presenting here, it just appears that you have some way to go in discovering the true nature of the sources of division within the movement. Are you aware for instance that two of the people you list above, Peter Dale Scott and Richard Gage, have withdrawn their support for CIT?


To be clear, Sunstein's false claim was that pictures clearly showing flight 77 approaching the pentagon were released. The released pictures do not show that. My paper was submitted for publication about one year ago. At that time I held the view, as I stated in the paper, that it probably was flight 77 that hit the Pentagon. (That view has been strengthened by what you pointed out the other day about the radar tracking.) Some people still questioned that, and I did not know enough to PROVE they were wrong, though I believed that they were. It was not an issue that I felt I needed to prove. I spent my energies elsewhere. I have not been much impressed by either CIT or Pilots for 9/11 Truth, and I find the flyover theory to be extremely implausible. In my view, most likely, flight 77 was hijacked by remote control and flown into the Pentagon. But I haven't done enough research to be positive about that. I think it is unreasonable to expect everybody to cover all the angles of everything. We all have to pick and choose our battles. What hit the Pentagon was not the point of my paper. The issue was Sunstein's tendency to stylize facts.

mirror script

I think it very important giving voice to 'conspiracy theorist' dogma/hate speech being a mirror script, "cutting both ways".
Words and concepts being manufactured to identify and destroy 911 truth activism ["crippled epistemology"] can be directly held toward those making them as examples of OWN thinking, identifying how the strategies are formed.
That what the official theory propagandists are telling me of my behavior, I can see clearly in their own.


Why not cut to the chase and just say Cass and Adrian are psyops liars? Inventing a few professorial terms for obfuscation of the truth of what happened on 9/11 is unworthy of their education credentials.

Thank You

Professor Hagen:
I greatly appreciate your work and I will do my best to promote your literature to professors in the humanities. Of the many different topics surrounding 9/11, such as NORAD, WTC, the Commission, and so forth, it appears that only insider trading and cognitive infiltration are the only ones that appear to be somewhat succeeding on the side of truth in mainstream peer-reviewed journals.
I would appreciate your advice on the next steps here. Rather than having some profs here and there just read your papers, would it be better if they actually tried to publish on the cognitive infiltration subject as well? Would that be desirable?

The indirect approach

I don't know that it has to be limited to infiltration and insider trading. The trick is simply to piggyback on some other issue, to which 9/11 Truth is a relevant tangent. Actually, "trick" is not quite the right word, it is a perfectly legitimate tactic. My primary area is early Confucianism. So, I recently wrote a paper explaining the problem with world governance by embedding it in a discussion of Confucianism. (That paper is still under review.) I also wrote a paper that discussed the 1999 Russian Bombings and the Manchurian Incident, both false flag operations, and I suggested that 9/11 was a similar event. I delivered this paper in China, and it will be published in a book in China (though it is taking forever). It was embedded in a discussion of the future of China-US relations, and ended with a lesson from Confucius--who actually faced a similar situation, and saw right through it. There is no reason other people couldn't do similar things. There is obviously nothing about early Confucianism that makes it uniquely applicable to 9/11 Studies. I think we break in gently. Rather than arguing explicitly, or as our primary thesis, that 9/11 was an inside job. We just signal that it is intellectually respectable to hold that view, or at least question the official story. I recently read a draft of a paper in which the author briefly mentions 9/11. He uses qualifiers like "supposedly" to signal that he does not necessarily accept the official story. This is subtle, but I think very significant. Sometimes I think the academy is hopeless, but perhaps not completely. And we'll never know unless we keep trying.

World governance

We certainly see democracy under attack in nations which are hypocritically proclaiming the virtue of democracy. At the same time science is under attack. To manipulate a democracy the leaders must lie. To lie they must bend scientific analysis. A false flag attack is a supreme form of lying.

I am intrigued by your reference to Confucious. You suggest he "saw right through" a false flag attack. Could you provide a reference?


The relevant passage is Analects of Confucius 16.1. What it describes is not exactly a false-flag, but a "preventative" attack is contemplated which Confucius regards as based on false pretense. The passage requires a bit of interpretation based on history, but my reading of it is relatively mainstream. Here is what I wrote:
"Passage 16.1 of the Analects begins with two of Confucius’s disciples Ran Qiu and Zilu informing Confucius that the Ji clan, whom they serve as ministers, is about to attack a vassal state within the state of Lu. Confucius is outraged and rebukes Ran Qiu for not taking steps to prevent this. Ran Qiu at first says that he and Zilu are against the idea, but then argues, “If we do not annex it today, in the course of time it is certain to become a source of concern for our descendants.” Confucius chastises him for his obvious duplicity.... This passage is particularly appropriate given the context. It ends by stating that the reality of the situation is not what was presented. The Ji clan is not really worried about a significant threat, but rather is acting on greed. Further, if they were worried about a threat, violence would neither be an appropriate nor an effective way to handle it. Instead, they should improve themselves. But perhaps worst of all, Confucius implies, the whole thing is not so much the fault of the leaders of the Ji clan, but of their advisors, who are Confucius’s own disciples. Confucius asks, “When a tiger or rhinoceros escapes from its cage, or when a precious tortoise shell or piece of jade is destroyed in its case, who is to blame for this?” The ministers are responsible for safeguarding the ruler with good advice, and yet here they are caught rationalizing folly for the sake of petty advantage." As you can see, I am using an appeal to Confucius to criticize my colleagues in the academy for failing to open their eyes. I presented this at a conference in China, and then again at my own university.

Let's apply this to the US

Confucius appears to give a clear warning:
"And yet he is planning these hostile movements [against remote people].— I am afraid that the sorrow of the [nation] will not be on account of [the remote people], but will be found within the screen of their own court." [16.1.13]"

It is interesting that Confucius advises assisting troublesome people to achieve peace and harmony while the US uses hurtful sanctions and, if they don't work, invasion.

"Therefore, if remoter people are not submissive, all the influences of civil culture and virtue are to be cultivated to attract them to be so; and when they have been so attracted, they must be made contented and tranquil. [16.1.11]

The contrast is painfully clear.

re: "demonstrably false"

When are they going to demonstrate that these theories are false?

of course

Anyone who has read cognitive infiltration by DRG has been exposed to the possibility that Cass was coding a message. The possible decode was the fact that Cass was referencing a source in his footnotes that warned against a descent into fascism as opposed to violence from us peace campaigners.
im pleading with you people to read DRGs book which may not be perfect as other stuff he did might not be perfect too but.... I read the book and it gives 2possibilities and leaves you to make your own mind up.

Review of Cognitive Infiltration

Here is my review of DRG's book, published in Florida Philosophical Review:

disagree with you

Having read cognitive infiltration i think drg leaves the possibility open that c.s. is on our side
again i cite the part in drgs book where he analyses a footnote by c.s. which refers the more astute reader to writings warning against radical nationalism as opposed to the possibly false coating of anti trutherism .

Griffin's Esoteric Interpretation

The conclusion of Griffin's book addresses this issue explicitly, so no need to argue over subtle inferences: "To have intended [the esoteric interpretation] literally, I would need to believe that this 'interpretation' brings out a level of meaning that was intended, whether consciously or unconsciously, by Sunstein himself, and I do not believe that" (Griffin 2011, p. 147).