Student Scholars React to Seattle Times Hit Piece
Alex Alben's Debunking Flights of Fancy That Hover Over 9/11
by Justin A. Martell
Note: This article first appeared in the Seattle Times on July 25, 2007. The original article is in regular text; Justin Martell’s comments are in bold.
It was inevitable: As the events of Sept. 11, 2001, fade into history, a disturbing number of conspiracy theories are gaining a toehold in our collective consciousness.
At least the article starts off with a true statement; too bad it’s not an ethic that Alben upheld while writing the rest of the article. However, this statement is a bit misleading. It should have said “As the events of Sept. 11, 2001, fade into history, two conspiracy theories have gained a toehold of our collective consciousness.” The first, being the government’s official conspiracy theory (OCT) and the other being the alternative conspiracy theory (ACT).
A conspiracy is, by definition, “a plan or agreement between two or more people to commit an illegal or subversive action.” So no matter what you believe about 9/11 you believe in a conspiracy theory. Allow me to explain, the OCT submits that the conspirators were 19 Arabs working on the behalf of a man in Afghanistan who were able to slip under the radar of the world’s most advanced intelligence agencies, remain in America undetected, gain hold of four commercial airliners, fly over United States airspace (restricted airspace in the case of Flight 77), outfox the most sophisticated air defense system in the world, and maneuver their planes like aces before finally crashing them like missiles into 75% of their targets; that explanation falls under definition of a conspiracy theory.
As people who lived through that day and who now must make sense of what it means to live in a post-9/11 universe, we owe a commitment to the truth, both to those who perished and to ourselves.
It is the highest form of respect to those who lost their lives to figure out how and why they died. However, our definition of the truth about 9/11 appears to be very different. At this point, the government, and independent sources (or sources that try to appear independent but receive government funding, like NIST) have not provided answers to the questions surrounding 9/11 that can withstand being scrutinized. Accordingly, it is more than appropriate to continue to seek adequate answers to the questions surrounding 9/11.
The terrorists who perpetrated the horrors of that day claim their actions were justified to serve a higher truth of jihad. The people behind conspiracy theories spin a version of "truth" to blame targets of their choice.
It would be more appropriate do describe the Bush Administration this way, not the 9/11 Truth Movement. Considering the fact that the Bush Administration came up with the OCT, therefore they are the people behind a conspiracy theory. They then spun a version of the truth to blame targets of their choice, hence the reason that we are now in Iraq. The Iraq disaster is one of many examples of the Bush Administration, the creators of the most grandiose conspiracy theory about 9/11, distorting the truth about 9/11 in order to carry out an agenda that fulfills many things that they desired in advance.
While 9/11 theories began in the Arab media and incubated on the Internet, they now have begun to creep into traditional media via "documentaries," claiming that either elements of the American government, or "Wall Street," or shadowy international coalitions were behind the multiplane hijackings that led to more than 3,000 deaths in New York City, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.
In today's media environment, fueled by user-generated content that is easily accessed on the Internet, conspiracy theories won't simply fade away if we ignore them or dismiss them as "fringe" history. In fact, if you do a Google search on "Flight 77," you will find that the conspiracy Web sites in the first 100 search returns heavily outweigh official news and government accounts. Lies perpetuate lies and gain a life of their own — a principle observed by Joseph Goebbels' propaganda machine for the Third Reich.
Comparing defenders of the ACT to the propaganda machine of the Third Reich is pretty absurd, considering this article is nothing but an obnoxious propaganda piece that is designed to spread intolerance about people who are doing very serious research into the underlying details of 9/11. Perhaps Mr. Alben should better proof read his material before accusing others of “perpetuating lies”.
Cleverly, the new conspiracy theorists prey on areas of highly specialized knowledge that most of us don't viscerally understand.
No, that’s what is being done in this article. It’s likely that most of the people who read this article will not have an understanding of the 9/11 Truth Movement’s inquiry into 9/11 and will, instead of looking at the facts for themselves, take Alben’s word for it that the 9/11 Truth Movement is nothing but a bunch of kooks with a hair brained theory. That’s the goal of this article isn’t it? To “prey on areas of highly specialized knowledge” that most people don’t understand in order to deliberately mislead them? The hypocritical nature of this article becomes worse and worse with every sentence…
The rapid collapse of the World Trade Center towers involved the melting point of structural steel pillars, the impact of the 767 jets on the structure of the building columns and the weight load caused by floors that collapsed upon each other. Few of us learn about structural engineering, so we are vulnerable to the suggestion that evildoers secretly planted timed charges to collapse the WTC after the planes hit each building. (For a comprehensive rebuttal of the "timed charges" theory, visit the National Institute of Standards and Technology Web site regarding the WTC collapse.)
A rational person never wants to limit inquiry, and those who buy the NIST report’s explanation do just that. First of all, NIST is an arm of the current administration’s Department of Commerce, is funded by the government, and therefore, could be considered a branch of the Bush Administration. NIST’s rebuttal to the theory that the Twin Towers were brought down by a controlled demolition is vague and dubious at best. For an annihilation of NIST’s claims in support of the “global collapse” theory, read Jim Hoffman’s essay “Building a Better Mirage: NIST’s 20,000,000 Million Dollar Cover-up of the Crime of the Century.” If Alben can offer an intelligent rebuttal to at least one of Hoffman’s claims, I’ll be very impressed…
And for the record, the 9/11 Truth Movement has asserted that charges were planted before the impact of the planes, not after. It’s usually helpful to have an understanding of the theories that one is refuting before writing attack pieces on them, otherwise one ends up looking as foolish as Mr. Alben now does.
Were Jews secretly alerted by Israeli intelligence to flee the trade center on 9/11? Well, how many of us pored over the 2,823 published obituaries to tally the Jewish names? (Approximately 400 — or 14 percent — of the victims were Jewish.)
Ironically enough, Alben mentions the use of ‘straw-man’ rhetoric later in this article. Lucky for those who are not familiar with the term, the above paragraph is a perfect illustration. So Alben pushes the idea that the majority of the 9/11 Truth Movement believes that Israelis or Zionists were involved in the conspiracy, warned their fellow Jews to leave the towers before the “collapsed,” and then tears the idea down by giving the number of Jews that died in the towers.
The individuals who peddle the 9/11 Israeli/Zionist theories are a fringe fraction of the 9/11 Truth Movement, and their ideas do not represent the center of the movement. In fact, a “google” search of phrases like “Israeli Intelligence warned Jews to leave towers,” “Israeli Intelligence warned Jews to leave World Trade Center,” or “Jews warned to leave WTC” return no results that link to any major, or semi-major, 9/11 Truth Movement website. The only results these searches return, interestingly enough, are links to “debunking” sites claiming that the Israeli/Zionist theories are believed by the center of the 9/11 Truth Movement, which is, FALSE.
It's easy to dismiss these theories as cultural fallout or fringe entertainment. Most theories, after all, will collapse on their own spindly legs when enough reasonable people examine them and begin to ask basic questions.
For example, a popular conspiracy theory holds that a cruise missile, not American Airlines Flight 77, with 64 passengers aboard, hit the Pentagon complex on 9/11. The "evidence" cited to support the cruise missile is the size of holes inside the Pentagon walls that "could not have been punched" by an aircraft with a 124-foot wingspan.
The claims, promulgated in the film "Loose Change," are a classic example of straw-man rhetoric: Build up a statement of fact that no one has made (that the jet's body made a 16-foot-diameter hole); then tear it down. In fact, the "initial impact" pictures shown in that film are pictures of damage within the interior walls of the Pentagon caused by the landing gear.
And even if one tore down each conspiratorial straw man limb by limb, as some experts have done, why doesn't anyone pose the basic question of why the truth-seeking "documentary" makers don't cover the families of those who perished in the crash of Flight 77? Or, are we expected to believe that these "missing persons" are being held indefinitely in a remote government compound for the rest of their lives?
Here’s an illustration of how many questions are left unanswered when one stops inquiry into what happened at the Pentagon: Raising the question of what happened to the passengers does not prove that it was Flight 77 or a Boeing 757 that hit the Pentagon, explain the hole in the C-Ring, explain the FBI’s removal and destruction of evidence, the FBI’s refusal to release a single piece of footage that clearly shows a plane (let alone Flight 77), how a completely inexperienced pilot was able to fly a commercial airliner with better skill than even some of the most experienced pilots, or disprove the claim made by critics of the OCT that government officials lied when they said they had not considered the possibility that an act of terrorism, involving a plane being used as a missile, and flown into the Pentagon was not expected.
So why should critics of the OCT stop investigating the Pentagon strike because they can’t answer one question, when defenders of the OCT have never sufficiently answered many others that are essential to upholding the official story?
In their flight of fancy, the ideology of conspiracy-mongers is in sync with the ideology of terrorist groups, for both point to omnipotent villains controlling world events. When we see falsehoods masquerading as facts, it is our duty as free citizens to chime in: "Wait a minute — how do you know that to be true?" That would be the best way to honor the victims of the worst terror attack ever to occur on American soil.
First of all, if the ideology of “(alternative) conspiracy-mongerers” is “in sync” with the ideology of groups like Al Qaeda, then couldn’t the same be said about those who support the Bush Agenda and the so called “War on Terror?” For instance, the Bush Administration points to “omnipotent villains” conspiring to destroy the United States and its “freedoms.” These villains include Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda terrorists, Saddam Hussein (until he was removed from power), Iran, North Korea, etc. The list of villains held by the critics of the government’s account of 9/11 includes the world leaders that were just listed, but also includes leaders of western nations. The reason this issue is so difficult to resolve is because it is not black and white, it’s not just the Free World versus the Axis of Evil; there are many, many, grey areas. So Mr. Alben is correct, “it is our duty as free citizens to chime in: ‘Wait a minute — how do you know that to be true?’" Only this question is more appropriately asked of those expounding the myth of the official account of 9/11, an account which has been proven over and over again to be unsubstantiated. Settling for answers that can’t be supported when scrutinized is no way to honor those who died on 9/11, in fact, it is the opposite.