PBS Ombudsman slams Experts Speak Out rise to #1; cites AE911Truth and Tori Alexander article


The Disaster That Keeps on Giving
By Michael Getler
September 17, 2012

Three years ago I wrote a column headlined “PBS, Yes and No.” It dealt with controversial episodes in which the public had reason to believe PBS was associated in some fashion with a certain television program yet PBS, as a broadcasting service, didn’t have anything to do with it.

One of those episodes involved a series of programs being aired as part of a fund-raising pledge drive by the PBS-member station in Denver, KBDI. The films were produced by an organization known as “Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth” that claimed the film “9/11: Blueprint for Truth” offers “evidence that all three World Trade Center high-rises were destroyed not by fire and damage, but by explosive-controlled demolitions on September 11, 2001.”

In other words, I wrote at the time, “someone wired these buildings with explosives intending to bring them down in this attack, and this has been covered up by the government, the 9/11 Commission and the mainstream media.” I also wrote that “on a personal level I find the idea embedded in ‘Blueprint’ of a government conspiracy to blow up those buildings to be preposterous and simply beyond belief and I fault the station for promoting this as part of a pledge drive and presenting it without an accompanying on-the-air program in which critics have their say.”

KBDI is now called Colorado Public Television, or CPT12, and the station and the Architects and Engineers group are back with another film, “9/11: Explosive Evidence — Experts Speak Out.” Here’s a screenshot of the A&E website with a big PBS logo on it that is an example of a PBS association that isn’t what it seems.

The new film is a skillfully put-together collection of interviews and sound-bites with dozens of “experts” supporting the idea that the buildings had to be brought down by pre-wired explosives placed inside. It is again part of what appears to be a successful fund-raising drive.

“The evidence is overwhelming,” says professor Lynn Margulis, one of the experts. These were “pre-engineered, precisely timed and precisely placed explosives,” adds civil and structural engineer William Rice. Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dr. Robert Bowman says: “We know we’ve been lied to about 9/11. We don’t know for sure who did it. We don’t know exactly how they did everything. And that’s why we need a new investigation — to find out. We do know that there was a massive cover-up.”

The most widely-cited dismantling of this theme came in “Popular Mechanics” magazine in 2005 with a follow-up in 2007. My layman’s views, for what they are worth, have never changed.

CPT12, and before it KBDI, prides itself on presenting “bold and diverse” programs and on “bringing on to TV what others won’t,” as the station spokesperson says during the fund-drive. I think that’s a good thing and the Colorado station clearly has a right to present such controversial material.
Is There a PBS Conspiracy?

What actually interests me about this new round of 9/11 conspiracy films is not that CPT12 is showing it. Rather, it is the association with PBS that it generates, and with PBS’s unwillingness or inability to separate itself more clearly from the production and distribution of such programs. There have been other such cases, especially involving programming for pledge drives. PBS is among the more widely trusted brand-names in the country, so an association with PBS tends to convey legitimacy to viewers, and some of them feel deceived and get upset, as most of the letters below demonstrate.

Here, in simplified form, is what seems to have happened as far as I can tell and with some explanations from PBS officials. As has been pointed out many times in this column, all 350 or so PBS-member stations are independent and can run whatever they choose, including the well-known programs PBS distributes nationally, material from others who distribute to public broadcasters, and locally-produced material. The mixing of national and local programming is part of the PBS legacy, its reason for being, and it’s what makes PBS public, officials add.

When I first wrote about the films three years ago, they were not being aired by other stations, as far as I could tell at the time. The new A&E film, however, apparently has lots of online viewers, enough to push it into the lead on the “most watched” and “most shared” lists on the PBS website’s video page. These most watched and shared categories reflect an aggregate of national and, occasionally, local programs that attract large audiences.

Then, of course, other sites pick it up such as Digital Journal whose headline reads, “New 9/11 truth documentary among ‘most watched’ on PBS this week,” and Brasscheck TV under the headline “9/11: PBS lets the cat out of the bag.”

In many cases, aside from the absence of that little PBS logo in the corner of your screen at the beginning and end of programs, there is no other way to visually set apart material distributed by PBS, with their stamp of approval, from other programs and pledge-drive material. Or at least no one has figured out how to do it. Or possibly nobody wants to do it because the service can have it both ways, be able to say that wasn’t invented here if necessary while allowing stations to get funding from programs that come from outside PBS. Because this is a membership organization with independent stations, the stations are not under any obligation to inform PBS about what it plans to use during fund drives.

In the case of the latest 9/11 conspiracy film, the “most shared” video that you can click on at PBS.org does say: “Colorado Public Television Presents …” But when you get that video it has both the CPT12 and PBS logos prominently presented and a PBS promotional introduction.

Again, I have no problem with CPT12 or any station running controversial, against-the-grain programming. That’s okay and often a good thing. But I do have sympathy with viewers who believe they were misled by PBS, who believe that what they watch on a PBS station, or video they click on from PBS.org, carries with it the legitimacy conveyed by the PBS label. Some better way needs to be found to make it clear when that is not the case.

Here’s a sampling of the letters.
Endorsing ‘Nonsense’?

I’ve grown to trust PBS over the years, with great content such as NOVA. But I’m disappointed in what’s going around the Internet today. Are you aware that this conspiracy theory video is on the PBS site, making it look as if it is an official PBS “documentary” and that PBS endorses such nonsense? Over the past day or two, it has gone viral.

Here’s how PBS is being implicated as endorsing the video: http://www.care2.com/news/member/230449147/3449793. “Amazingly, PBS (public broadcasting in the US) has been screening an intelligent documentary about 9/11. It’s called ‘9/11: Explosive Evidence — Experts Speak Out.’ It focuses on the hundreds of professional architects and engineers …” Also, http://www.brasschecktv.com/videos/the-911-files/911-pbs-lets-the-cat-out-of-the-bag.html “9/11: PBS lets the cat out of the bag. Architects and engineers speak out.” Was this actually aired by one of your affiliate stations in Colorado? Surely PBS isn’t actually endorsing this kind of conspiracy theory garbage? If this is not something that is officially endorsed by PBS, you might want to make some kind of public press release about it.

Two more points: 1) The producers, AE911Truth.org, are actually using the PBS logo on their website to make it look as if it is an official PBS documentary. (Go to their website and look at the third slide in the little slideshow on the home page.) 2) Colorado Public Television has a comments section on their website. For this particular show, amazingly, every single comment is glowingly positive — not one negative comment about the show (see http://www.cpt12.org/community/viewer_buzz.cfm?s=563&ta=1). I would say this is a serious breach of journalistic integrity to only show the positive comments and filter out all the negative comments.

Dan Delaney, Louisville, KY

(Ombudsman’s Note: When we looked at the station’s website on Monday, Sept. 17, there were 230 comments. Of those, seven or eight were negative, but they were hard to find and overwhelmed by the notes of thanks and appreciation. I wrote to the chief of CPT12 to ask about the lack of negative comments on such a controversial program and also about the lack of any follow-up discussion, but so far no response.)

~ ~ ~

I cannot believe that you posted the video from Colorado Public TV about 9/11 without at least some kind of counter to the nonsense that was aired. Shame on you. I think your next posted video should be a proof that the moon landing never happened or better yet, a video proving that the earth really is only 6,000 years old. Instead of some kind of balanced report, your showing of that video only serves to bring out the fears of gullible and uninformed people.

Charles Rice, Luck, WI

~ ~ ~

As a long-time member of my local PBS station, KLRN, I first wish to thank you for all of your efforts in the service of the continued quality programming of PBS. I have a question which I am sure you can answer to my satisfaction. I have recently received an unsolicited email, informing me of an attached PBS documentary video concerning the 9/11 events. I have not watched the video, but judging from the wording in the email, the intent is consistent with conspiracy theory and its preposterous allegations (deliberately placed explosives, etc.) I suspect that while PBS may have produced one or more documentaries on 9/11, they could only have been based on unbiased, factual information, with journalistic integrity. I also suspect that the video referred to in the email may have been “doctored” or edited in some way that misrepresents PBS. Mr. Getler, when you have the time, would you kindly send me a reply concerning the above? Can you indeed confirm that PBS has not produced a documentary supporting the allegation that one or more buildings in the World Trade Center were intentionally brought down by explosives?

Al Boutin, San Antonio, TX

~ ~ ~

I wanted to alert the viewer advocate about something that I saw on the PBS website and register a complaint. I notice that on the list of the most watched online videos at the PBS website that a 9/11 Truther video is currently very near the top. I understand that member stations maintain their independence, and that this is crucial to the mission. I do not see how it follows, however, that a video which is so misleading and factually inaccurate should be made available through PBS’s national website. It seems to violate basic program quality standards which PBS is known for. I am not advocating censorship, merely that PBS should examine the decision/process that led to this appearing on the national website and see if it aligns with the mission of public broadcasting to produce a better educated populace. I appreciate your attention to this matter.

Bob Blaskiewicz, Chippewa Falls, WI

~ ~ ~

Really? A film about 9/11 conspiracy theories, Building 7 and all the rest? On PBS? Every time I think the media has hit a new low, something like this pops up. What’s next? Maybe you could find a film on how the moon landing was all done in a Hollywood studio … I have to admit that I am flat out stunned that PBS would give credence to this crap …

Buzz Menzies, San Diego, CA

~ ~ ~

I enjoy watching PBS videos online. I was a bit surprised by the featuring on the videos homepage of an 9/11 Truth video on the collapse of the WTC. One reason Frontline is so persuasive and important is because of how it and PBS mutually reinforce each other’s credibility. Is PBS vouching for this documentary as legitimate journalistic debate?

Marc Mayerson, Rockville, MD

A Public Service

Why have you taken the excellent video, “9/11: Explosive Evidence — Experts Speak Out” down so quickly? It was the most shared video on your site. It would be a public service to make it available through the 9/11 anniversary to stimulate discussion and debate.

Durham, NC

(Ombudsman’s Note: Last time I looked, it was not down and still at the top of the most shared video listing.)

~ ~ ~

Thank you for airing the program about 9/11. It is deplorable that we have been asked to believe the obviously-fabricated story that we have been told by our government. I wish you would do a similar story about the JFK assassination, in which I believe the Mossad and CIA had a hand.

Baltimore, MD

~ ~ ~

Congratulations and on airing the film 911: Explosive Evidence — The Experts Speak Out. It takes tremendous courage to present the Truth on this subject. And because of your courage I am going to contribute to PBS. Many thanks and I hope everyone in the USA is able to see this film on PBS.

Tucson, AZ

Submit Your Comments:

Have a comment related to the journalistic integrity of PBS content? Send an E-mail to Michael Getler or contact him at 703-739-5290.

The ombudsman does not replace viewers' long-standing ability to contact stations, producers and PBS.

Whaddayanknow, they removed the offensive video

Here's to the cowardly POS!

It is here: http://video.cpt12.org/video/2270078138

but removed from MOST WATCH and MOST SHARED : http://video.pbs.org/

The 'credibilty' conveyed by the PBS logo

Oh, we just looooove having affiliates making their own programming choices! Honest!

But we know it isn't simply a difference of opinion over programming choices. Note how he slips in this de facto support for a letter writers' charge that KBDI is deliberately filtering out negative comments and is thus guilty of lacking journalistic integrity:

'When we looked at the station’s website on Monday, Sept. 17, there were 230 comments. Of those, seven or eight were negative, but they were hard to find and overwhelmed by the notes of thanks and appreciation. I wrote to the chief of CPT12 to ask about the lack of negative comments on such a controversial program and also about the lack of any follow-up discussion, but so far no response.'

Sounds like lots of happy viewers to me--something any broadcaster should be pleased with. What is it about these OCT defenders that makes them so paranoid and suspicious?!

This sounds like an attempt at a 'shot across the bow,' to deter any more local PBS affiliates from getting similar ideas. That and, of course, as a preliminary for pulling it down from their website, to put the kibosh on the recent surge in viewings.

Just what's left of whatever 'credibility' was once conveyed by the PBS logo?

It's there for me, just moved

It's in "MOST WATCH and MOST SHARED" for me, just moved to second place.

Its in fourth place now...

still listed on video.pbs.org but falling.

I Love a Parade!

But substitute the lyric from the Arden & Ohman crap show tune with:

I hate a Pollyanna!!!!

I sent him an email

Dear Mr. Getler

I need to take exception to several important points you raised in your commentary, “The Disaster that keeps on Giving.”

First, by using quotation marks around the word experts in reference to the people in the film Experts Speak Out, you imply that they are somehow not qualified to make a professional analysis. But you give no justification for your disposition, save your trust in the opinion of Popular Mechanics’ editors and staff. For example, you cite the late Prof. Lynn Margulis and Lt Col. Robert Bowman. Dr. Margulis was a recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Science and Dr. Bowman holds two PhDs and served as director of the Star Wars program under two US presidents. Why is it, again, that they are not qualified to give an analysis? You never explained that part.

Second, when citing your previous commentary, you accurately repeat the claim made by critics of the Government inquiries when you say, “someone wired these buildings with explosives intending to bring them down in this attack, and this has been covered up by the government, the 9/11 Commission and the mainstream media.” But somehow you make the leap that these critics are making the claim that the Government is responsible for wiring the buildings – a blatantly false claim if you listen carefully to what these science and building professionals are saying. All of them are on record in the film and elsewhere that they are not speculating on who did it, but only who is covering it up.

You also express a concern that PBS not be associated with false theories about how and why the three World Trade Center high rises collapsed. I’d like to point out that in 2002, PBS produced a documentary, "Why the Towers Fell,” which put forth the since proven erroneous claim (along with a slick animation) that the buildings pancaked. On this point, AE911Truth, NIST and even Popular Mechanics all agree that this theory is false, yet to the best of my knowledge, PBS has never issued a public correction to this faulty analysis. What’s that saying about glass houses and stones, again?

If you have problems with the credentials and analysis of the professionals presented in Experts Speak Out, in the future please refrain from labels, insinuations and false claims. They serve no purpose in getting to the bottom of what is fact and what is misconception. The PBS audience and the American public deserve better.

Nice "letter!"

Nice "letter!" That's just a little joke. Have I mentioned how sick I am of seeing Popular Mechanics bandied around and touted as if it were Zeitschrift für Naturwissenschaften* or some such crap.

*Journal of Natural Science.... 'cause in the day, and to some degree now, German was the lingua franca of the scientific world.

Yes nice letter! I tend to

Yes nice letter! I tend to agree with Peter's comments below that this guy most likely has an (military) agenda. He provides absolutely no evidence that refutes the film and is appealing only to the anti-truth conspiracy.

Will the real Mr. Getler please stand up

This is a segment taken from Getler's bio on the Ombudsman site:

"From 1961 to 1970, Getler was a reporter and editor on specialized magazines in the defense, aviation and space fields published by American Aviation Publications. In 1966, he won the Jesse Neal Award for reporting from Vietnam, and in 1969, he won the Aviation/Space Writers award for coverage of the Apollo program. In 1992, he was awarded The Post's Eugene Meyer Award for distinguished career service. In 2004, he won an Award of Distinction for Investigative Reporting on the News by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Getler teaches a course on The News Media and International Affairs at the Johns Hopkins University’s graduate School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC.

Born in New York City, Getler graduated from the City College of New York and began his journalistic career at The Riverdale (NY) Press while still a college student. From 1956 to 1960, he served as an officer in the US Navy."

Mr. Aerospace Industry here doesn't REALLY smell that bad, does he? You feel secure knowing he can be counted on to conduct some honest and fair investigative journalism!

Something like this came up before with a detractor.....

American Aviation Publications (defunct I think) reminds me of the resume of Mickey McCarter. McCarter works for an in-house trade slick called Homeland Security Today which is conveniently located in McClean, Virginia (Langley is just a postal code.) Anyway, I was poking around Getler's resume (thanks for posting it) and I ran across a few blind alleys and I began thinking: "when did this happen to me before?" I drew a blank. The difference between me, and perhaps many of you, and an academic is that academics take copious notes. I don't. Luckily, I have a good memory and remembered McCarter. That guy is a cut out if I ever saw one. He is affiliated with a group of pretty much worthless publications that are esoteric to the defense industry. What drew me into the comparison of Getler and McCarter were: both worked for crap publications (published in or near D.C. 'cause D.C. has always been the heart of the publication industry, right?), both were ex-military (both Navy) and both had DoD links. These guys are like clones. So, this guy Getler teaches at John's Hopkins? I just gotta tell you if I brought in a citation from Popular Mechanics at my crap university I would have gotten a red pencil mark saying: "poor source!!!!" Remember Mickey McCarter? He appeared right here on these boards. For those who don't: Mickey McCarter on C-SPAN, unaware of the Underwear bomber


ESO video

However the details might be taken re Mr. Getler's statement regarding "Experts Speak Out," the video that recently broke records of viewer interest by quickly shooting to the #1 slot in both the Most Watched & Most Shared lists contained on PBS's website, one element can't be ignored; its sense of urgency.

Ratings lists are simply # counters. They don't indicate viewer approval or disapproval of the content of the program being rated. Yet when some viewers sent in letters complaining about the content he quickly TIED TOGETHER content and a spot on the ratings lists. So what has been intended merely as a counting device is now turned into a device that can lead to censorship.

Censorship need not only be interpreted as controlling the actual content of material. In this case, when reactions to the content have a direct effect on the video's place in the #1 ratings slot, censorship exists by way of exclusion from lists that reflect a program's popularity.

In agreeing with the complaint letters Mr. Getler accepts that viewers have been "fooled" into watching the video. So the PBS policy that allows individual stations to air material that hasn't been "sent down from the parent company" now is interpreted to be a policy that can lead to "fooling" the public.

What should PBS do in this situation? Perhaps take the word "Public" out of their name altogether? If the reality is that PBS will only take responsibility for its "official" programs, then the other PBS policy to allow individual stations freedom to include their own content stands in direct conflict with it. The Ratings Lists can now only include the indicators of public interest of "official programs."

The history of PBS is dependent on viewers assuming that programs they watch are aired with the Public Interest being of foremost consideration. In this case, however, when the Public has instantly responded with a very high rate of interest, PBS rushes in to let them know that the program has not been "Officially Approved."

Carry this argument to its limits and we have a situation where in the Middle Ages some people made the bold statement that the world was not flat! They were told very quickly that this was not the case because it was not the "Official Position" taken by the Church. In those days, if one publicly held on to their opinion that the Earth wasn't flat, it often meant that they could be put to death.

Mr. Getler is quite eager to help diminish the video's presence by removing reference to it on ratings lists, thus in effect inserting a "censorship by exclusion" of one of its programs.

What can lead to such urgency to censor? Fear comes to mind - either that of Mr. Getler, and/or of Officials in the PBS organization. And upon what might that fear be based? On some letters from the Public? IMO that source of fear lies directly in the category of a fear of "flat Earth" supporters.

Or perhaps the fear emanates from the video being too controversial? But I thought being controversial was to be considered something that PBS would welcome - to bring programming that goes beyond what is offered by commercial broadcast companies that are controlled by moneyed interests.

Which leads me to a belief that what has happened to PBS over the years is that it has itself become "answerable" to commercial interests, often connected to political interests as well. In other words PBS, if it stands behind this type of action that removes material out of "fear" of viewer response, since it might effect commercial and political interests, should in fact remove the "P" from their name. No longer can the Public be construed to be the most important consideration of the organization. The name might be more accurately altered to P&CBS (Political & Commercial Broadcast System).

At least for now the video remains on the Ch. 12 Denver site. Hopefully the public will remain informed of its presence there. That informing will now have to come more from the public at large, with being listed on the ratings lists, included on the PBS site in the Public's interest, no longer available for it.

I suppose one way of summing up this situation would be for PBS to release a simple but accurate statement:

"All programs are equal, but some are more equal than others."

Pure B.S.


"Facts are stubborn things."

The truth can be difficult to accept especially when it goes beyond what one believes is the depth of human depravity, but the quest for money has killed many millions of innocent people in the 20th Century. 9/11/01 was a continuation of US SOP, Standard Operating Procedure.

Ferdinando Imposimato is the Honorary President of the Supreme Court of Italy and a
former Senator who served on the Anti-Mafia Commission in three administrations. He is
the author or co-author of seven books on international terrorism, state corruption, and
related matters, and a Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy, he said,

"The 9/11 attacks were a global state terror operation permitted by the administration of
the USA, which had foreknowledge of the operation yet remained intentionally
unresponsive in order to make war against Afghanistan and Iraq. To put it briefly, the
9/11 events were an instance of the strategy of tension enacted by political and economic
powers in the USA to seek advantages for the oil and arms industries."

Furthermore, he is taking the overwhelming evidence of fraud to the International Criminal Court.

see Building 7 : http://architects-engineers.org/

Getler coming around?

According to PBS ombudsman Michael Getler, 9/11 Truth supporters pitched a "shutout" in their responses to his article critical of "Experts Speak Out".

He reprinted some of the emails sent by AE911Truth supporters.