"What about building 7?" A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories


I was so happy to finally see a study done on the psychology of conspiracy beliefs. It goes through the importance of belief systems in the acceptance or rejection of ‘conspiracy theories.’

If you consider yourself awakened and seeking the truth – especially in government matters, people are quick to label you a crazy conspiracy theorist just so they can validate themselves.

In this study, a large group of commenters were examined on a news website, surrounding the topic of 9/11. Out of the 2174 comments collected, 1459 were coded as conspiracist and 715 as conventionalist. Right away its evident more people are thinking critically about ‘conspiracies’ rather than just disputing them.

What they found was that conspiracist commenters were more likely to argue against the opposing interpretation and less likely to argue in favor of their own interpretation, while the opposite was true of conventionalist commenters.

In other words, the anti-conspiracy commenters we’re pushing on their own interpretations of the situation rather than focusing on what really happened.

The conspiracists were more likely to express mistrust and made more positive and fewer negative references.

They focused more on the points of what happened, rather than putting the other people down.

The data also indicated that conspiracists were largely unwilling to apply the “conspiracy theory” label to their own beliefs.

They realized that label carries a negative social stigma and there is no need to plaster on these labels when trying to decode the truth.

The most important part of this study found that the conventionalist arguments tended to be much more hostile. This is apparent all over the internet, people who are trying to spread truth and awareness usually aren’t mean about it.images

When people refute these ideas, it seems to always be much more aggressive. They want to push their conventional mentality so they don’t have to broaden their minds.

People who want you to truly open your mind to new possibilities do it in a way that isn’t forceful and demanding.

Seeking truth happens on your own means so people who are labelled as conspiracy theorists are just trying to help awaken our world. Being considered a ‘conspiracy theorist’ is truly a noble thing.

You are pushing through the barriers of existing belief systems in order to make room for broader, more accepting beliefs. People are still very afraid and want to defend the old paradigm.

If anyone has ever invalidated your attempts to uncover the truth – keep going, it’s a brave and necessary act as our world raises its consciousness.

Study here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23847577

WWUH - Wake-Up Call

The second half of Cheryl's weekly half-hour show 9/11 Wake-Up Call comments on a recent article by Cass "cognitive infiltration" Sunstein and how his premise is hopelessly flawed and unsubstantiated. One might expect a certain amount of hackery in a political adviser, but this man also teaches law at Harvard which, like so many revelations post 9/11, is a shocker in and of itself.

The first 15 minutes is a DC press conference with Senator Graham clearly paving the false trail for the 'Saudis did it' meme.


Era Of Shattered Illusions

Era Of Shattered Illusions


Published on Jan 8, 2015

Catastrophe occurs when too many people refuse to accept that around us always are two universes at work. There is the cold, hard reality that underlies everything. And on the surface is a veil of deceit and compromise. The more humanity compromises vital truths in order to enjoy the comfort of illusions, the more mind-shattering it will be when those illusions fall away. These two worlds can coexist only for short periods of time, and they will always and eventually collide. There is no other possible outcome. From Brandon Smith, Here: http://www.alt-market.com/articles/24...

Have you actually read the

Have you actually read the article? MJ Wood does not rate the sanity of "conspiracists" vs. "conventionalists", but has a few rather unflattering things to say about 9/11 truth adherents. The most damning perhaps:

Fewer conspiracists's comments "contained information that constituted support for their own position")
They come to their beliefs more guided by pre-existing worldview ("an underlying conspiracist worldview in which the details of individual conspiracy theories are less important than a generalized rejection of official explanations")
Their method is often "anomaly hunting"
And that "they do not point to a specific, well-defined alternative"

I did not really see the paragraph that describes "conspiracists" as "saner" than "conventionalists". The only positive result seems to be that "conspiracists" are less hostile - but the authors point out that this result may be flawed because of the filters they employed (they only looked at comments that contain direct and persuasive communication, and filtered out comments that were merely insulting, or meta, or off-topic, or otherwise not designed to persuade a reader about 9/11).


"Their method is often "anomaly hunting." "

Otherwise known as science. In one of his lectures Feynman remarks that it's not the known path, but the anomaly that interests science.

Feynman also said once:

Feynman also said once: "Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool."

I think you are fooling yourself when you pretend that this team of psychologists presents "anomaly hunters" as the saner scientists - they don't.

Science is still and firstly "any system of objective knowledge". The anomalies aren't even anomalies as long as you haven't established such a system of objective knowledge, and I think Wood and Douglas quite clearly allege that "conspiracists", more often and more typically than "conventionalists", fail to even present any positive and coherent alternative narrative, that is in this case a system of knowledge about 9/11.

“What about building 7?” A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories

By the way, the two authors of that paper (Wood MJ, Douglas KM) had previously published a paper, cited as reference 52 with the title Dead and alive: beliefs in contradictory conspiracy theories, which found: " In Study 1 (n = 137), the more participants believed that Princess Diana faked her own death, the more they believed that she was murdered. In Study 2 (n = 102), the more participants believed that Osama Bin Laden was already dead when U.S. special forces raided his compound in Pakistan, the more they believed he is still alive."
Wood and Douglas very certainly have not concluded anything favorable to the truth movement. Agreeing with one of their findings isn't very smart, in my opinion. Presenting the paper the way RL McGee and Spirit Science blog do borders on deceptive.


I think you might consider rethinking your criticism.

"Science is still and firstly "any system of objective knowledge"." -- mike....

I wrote of anomalies to "known paths" of science, acknowledging the importance of the baseline. Feynman was saying that it's the piece that doesn't seem to fit that leads to new discoveries.

Check rm's post as I think he frames the issue better than I did.

Nullius in verba

I found it somewhat amusing that Newton's own 'club of science ' came up with this motto in the 17th century: Nullius in verba

Latin for "on the word of no one" or "Take nobody's word for it" is the motto of the Royal Society (Britain).
The current Royal Society website explains the motto thus:
It is an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.

Damned either way

So we're at fault for not arguing for a 'specific, well-defined alternative' to the official account. But with so much information blocked, denied the truly impartial investigation that we've long insisted is necessary, one cannot articulate an alternative narrative without resorting to speculation and the much-dreaded 'theorizing.' Damned again.

To critique the truth movement in this way is to perpetuate what has long been a flaw with much of supposed 'social science;' namely, the ignoring of power relations in society--as if we're all on a 'level playing field'--in this case, power as it relates to information and knowledge. Here we're talking about the power to destroy evidence, block the issuing of subpoenas or even the convening of an impartial panel, intimidate whistle blowers, disseminate a spate of red herrings and limited hangouts, give slanted, negative coverage of any who aren't buying what they're selling--yet somehow, none of this enters into their analysis at all, not even as providing some kind of context for this failure to present a 'well-defined alternative.' In so doing, such critiques become just another instance of this same imbalance of power.

Nailed it

You nailed it, rm. Well said.


Is a term used by Spirit Science for their headline. True, that word isn't used in the article. It's their deduction based on the premise that 'conspiracists' invoked more science regarding Building 7 and were less hostile in tone than 'conventionalists'. If you resort to name-calling, labeling and a hostile tone then you could rightly be regarded as less sane.

Spirit Science has 2.8 million facebook fans, BTW. And even in the comments of this article itself the conspiracists (assuming that's a word) win the day.

" It's their deduction based

" It's their deduction based on the premise that 'conspiracists' invoked more science regarding Building 7"
Have you read the Wood/Douglas article? I don't think you have! Because Wood and Douglas found the opposite of what you claim:
"Thirty-one percent of conspiracist comments contained information that constituted support for their own position, compared to 56% of conventionalist comments."
"...conspiracist comments often simply stated that 9/11 was an inside job as a sort of slogan without much to support it."
Please explain how that finding supports your premise!

" If you resort to name-calling, labeling and a hostile tone then you could rightly be regarded as less sane. "
That's an opinion that you are entitled to, but it is not found in the study, and not scientific. The blog post, particularly its title, is still a misrepresentation of the study results. You can't be happy about this? I think the sane way to tackle the paper would not be to misrepresent what its authors write, but to acknowledge its actual content; and critique the actual study (perhaps the objective is ill defined; the data base deficient; the method flawed; the data indeterminate; the conclusions non-sequitur?).

"And even in the comments of this article itself the conspiracists win the day."
By what methodology and metric did you determine this? I don't think the paper has even defined "winning" as a target variable.

"conspiracists (assuming that's a word)"
It's merely a label that Wood and Douglas define in the paper, and I use in my comments following that definition. No

The metric is evidence

The metric I use that one side wins an argument is their ability to present scientific evidence. Do you not think that free-fall descent and molten steel refutes the official NIST story for WTC 7?

You believe that Muslims crashing a plane into the Twin Towers creates a horizontal gravity collapse that catches another skyscraper on fire and that causes the building to implode at freefall and produce molten steel? That's your conspiracy theory. I rely on forensic evidence and Newtonian physics.

Here's another post of the study with a different title: http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/12/08/study-suggests-conspiracy-theorists-are-more-readonable-and-positive-than-c...

They have 1.2 million facebook fans. Pro-truth posters outnumber anti-truthers 2 to 1. Take heart, folks. And pro-truth posters use evidence and less hostility.

pro-truth anti-truth

Makes me cringe. Pushes the people you are trying to convince further away.


I don't like any of the terms

Truther isn't appealing. Conspiracy theorist is not good. 9/11 skeptic? (Kind of gives the impression that one denies the events). Skeptics vs. Defenders? I used conpiracists above, but that's a concocted word. Conspiracists v.s. Conventionalists? What do you call people who support getting 9/11 truth? anti-truther was just a joke making fun of the labels... btw.

We've got AE911Truth.org, 911Truth.org --- Should they change their names?


I'm OK with "truther", as the simple retort is "I'd rather be called a truther than a liar."

If one is in a sincere conversation then one can quickly explain that s/he is "skeptical of the official narrative." We don't pretend to be in possession of "the" truth, only that we have hard evidence that challenges essential elements of the official explanation of 9/11.

The list of corrections

That a person unfamiliar with responsible 9/11 research needs to hear is long. But for sure they know it's called "911 truth", which as you point out puts us at a disadvantage from the beginning.


Usually it's possible to have a conversation without applying labels to each side, it's easier if you are (as we should be) being specific. If I'm forced to use labels, I'll say something like "X proponent". I am sure there better terms, but I don't know them yet. Like everyone here, I had thousands of conversations about 9/11, and I don't use the word truth. The only time I end up using it is when I say one of the org names... which is unfortunate.

Movement name?

I hear ya - and we don't want to sound as if we "have" the truth but rather the 'truth' is what we seek for getting justice. David Ray Griffin's books describe the "9/11 Truth Movement" and the websites incorporate that word.

Even Jon Gold's book is "9/11 Truther" and he doesn't deal with any scientific evidence. But the "We-were-lied-to-about-9/11-and need-a-new-investigation" commenters vs. the "We-were-not-lied-to-about-9/11-and-don't-need-a-new-investigaion" group is pretty awkward. What should the AE website be?

Some think if there has to be a name for people who reject the official story, that truther is OK. Especially since historically truth is not a pejorative word and can easily turned to an advantage if a conversation ensued, like A Confederacy of Dunces said.

I like the Rethink911 a lot, but there's the issue of what the individuals of the movement are called. In a true sense, we could be thought of as debunkers of the official story, but that word is already occupied by people who are defenders of the official version. Idk. In addition to Dunces retort, when called a truther, I've said "we should all be for the truth." And "I'm a critic of the official story." "We were lied to."

Confirming the paper's finding

RL McGee, focus: You said "And even in the comments of this article itself the conspiracists win the day", and I questioned how you measure "winning". I scanned some of the first comments and replies to them at Spirit Science, and did not really see many people presenting well made-out scientific arguments. Rather, those comments (and dare I say: Your comments, too) tend - in my opinion - to confirm Wood ed al.'s findings: "they do not point to a specific, well-defined alternative" and "conspiracy advocates showed a tendency to spend much more time arguing against the official explanation of 9/11 than advocating an alternative" and "For the adherents of the 9/11 Truth Movement examined here, the search for truth consists mostly of finding ways in which the official story cannot be true." and "The coherence of the conspiracist belief system is driven by higher-order considerations such as a disbelief in official narratives, rather than positive beliefs in particular alternative narratives". They quote another author approvingly who writes: "they use the argument from ignorance, saying that because we cannot explain an anomaly that means their specific pet theory must be true".

I am debating the Wood/Douglas paper here, not the veracity of certain technical propositions. The sane and useful thing to do would be to acknowledge that the findings of the paper are not, and should not be construed to be, favorable to what they label "conspiracists". Then, instead of commenting in quite the same manner that the authors describe, the sane and useful tactic would be to analyse the study, its design, its findings. I am not a psychologist, I can't competently comment on the methodology. But I can read and decipher what they write they found, and merely point out that it's not what the Spirit Science makes of it. Is that so hard to acknowledge?

"Here's another post of the study with a different title: Study Suggests Conspiracy Theorists Are More Positive & Reasonable Compared To Conventional Thinkers"
This article leads off with the claim: "A case study ... revealed so called “conspiracy theorists” are actually more reasonable & sensible than those who are considered conventionalists."
Now, after having read the actual Wood&Douglas paper (please indicate clearly whether or not you have read the actual paper!), please answer honestly: Is that what the study reveals, or is that claim a misrepresentation of Wood's and Douglas's work? Did they measure "reasonable"? Did they measure "sensible"?

First author comment

By the way: The first author of the paper that's discussed here, has himself commented on the "saner" headline:
PubMed Commons

Full quote (my bolding):

Michael Wood2014 Nov 30 07:45 a.m.edited 2 of 2 people found this helpful

As the first author of this study, I'd like to address a misleading headline that's been making the rounds lately: the idea that this study says that people who believe 9/11 conspiracy theories are better-adjusted than those who do not. This grossly misinterprets our results: this study says nothing about mental health, and its results do not justify any conclusions about one group of people being more or less "sane" than another.

The main basis for this misinterpretation appears to be the observed difference in hostility between conspiracist (pro-conspiracy-theory) and conventionalist (anti-conspiracy-theory) comments. On average, conventionalist comments tended to be somewhat more hostile. In the paper, we interpret this difference as the product of a fairly specific social situation in which the two rival opinion-based groups use different strategies of social influence according to their relative popularity, rather than as an inherent psychological difference. In fact, previous research by Marina Abalakina-Paap and colleagues has shown that dispositional hostility is positively, not negatively, correlated with beliefs in conspiracy theories - in other words, people who believe more conspiracy theories tend to be more hostile. However, that finding doesn't necessarily justify the conclusion that conventionalists are better-adjusted than conspiracists. Either of these conclusions relies on the unstated premise that hostility is never good or justified, and that less hostility is always better. This is at least an arguable assumption, and there's certainly no evidence for it here.

In general, I would urge anyone who found this paper via the "sanity" article to please think critically about headlines in the future. It is tempting to believe without question self-serving headlines that validate your prejudices and beliefs, but that's precisely when critical thinking is most important.

I find it highly telling that I am the only commenter here who unequivocally states that the blog post WRONGLY presented the study. Instead, commenters latched onto a straw (the "less hostile" claim) that turns out to be contradicted by the author they feign to be following.

9/11 Advocates

After a week or so of reflecting on the best term to describe members of this movement, I believe that "9/11 Advocates" is likely the best. It implies being an advocate for the families, for science, for truth, disclosure, for justice. It's a great term to use that doesn't contain the word 'truth.' Of course our adversaries will use truther and conspiracy theorist, but we should at least frame ourselves in the most positive light. My thoughts:

1. 9/11 Advocate ..... positive, powerful
2. 9/11 Truth Activist ...... good
3. 9/11 Skeptic .......OK, but could be misleading and less powerful
4. Truther ......loaded term that could be salvaged, but sounds cult-like
5. 9/11 Truth Seeker ..... wimpy term, non-threatening
6. Conspiracy Theorist ..... implies speculation, not justice

If the debate concerns the towers, I like demolition proponent or CD proponent.
This study used "conspiracist" vs. "conventionalist." Acceptable but wonky jargon that won't be used widely.