Talk:9-11 conspiracy theory

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 Definition Theories about the attacks on September 11, 2001 that presume foreknowledge or participation of the U.S. Government. [d] [e]
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 Workgroup categories History, Politics and Sociology [Editors asked to check categories]
 Talk Archive none  English language variant American English

Good start in the Controversies Write-a-Thon

But how do you see this progressing as an encyclopedia article? Under the neutrality policy, I don't think we can simply leave things as questions on controversial areas. This isn't an absolute; in one draft article, Vietnamese Communist grand strategy, I admit that there is still at least one question of intent, and try, at least, to put out the plausible alternatives.

That is also in an area where I do have detailed background, and credibly can set out the options. In general, CZ is a lot more flexible about sourcing when the author has direct experience, but when controversial claims are made, such as the 9/11 Commission ignoring evidence, that really does need sourcing unless you were privy to their discussions.

From my own background, I think that the answer to "is it really plausible that the air defense system failed so completely for so long, and why should we be convinced by the changing explanations for that failure?"

The answer to this is fairly straightforward to anyone with a detailed knowledge of the 2001 vintage air defense network: as opposed to the system of the fifties to mid-sixties, which might well have been able to intercept, the 2001 system was totally focused for threats coming in from outside the U.S. borders. There were no intercept radars or fighter ground control stations covering the inland areas. This was a "peace dividend" of the Cold War, and the cutbacks on defense against a no-longer-plausible threat of Soviet manned bombers. It's also important to understand how air traffic control tracks airliners (i.e., principally transponders, not radar), and how the fighters could have been controlled; the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) was still being tested in fighters. At least at the level of technical description, I haven't been aware of changing explanations; NORAD operated within its capabilities, and executed the SCATANA contingemcy plan of grounding all aircraft.

There's a very practical issue of what, precisely, the air defense fighters could have done. First, with the transponders turned off and the aircraft in busy airspace, visual identification would have been necessary to know if the pilot was looking at the right 757. Assume he could make positive identification. Remember, by the time the Washington and New York fighters were anywhere near the airliners, they were over congested areas. Assume they fired four AIM-7 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and they all hit. A 100-ton aircraft is not going to vaporize from those hits; it's going to come down somewhere with major damage on the ground. Howard C. Berkowitz 06:25, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

I've done some copy and style editing, but some material needs more development.

I'm speaking here as a Military Workgroup Editor. On a first pass, I did some reformatting to CZ styles; please look at the citation conventions and specifically indicate who charges what.

I'm sorry, but I don't think certain text, in its present form, meets CZ policies for text, so I've moved it here. I have made responses about air defense under another heading, but even there, you're going to need to be much more specific about the nature and source of allegations.

- technical and therefore infinitely debatable questions about the Twin Towers'

collapse: what was the real cause of collapse? Why was red-hot molten metal visible? How hot can a air-starved jet-fuel fire get? Why did the buildings' central columns break up into such short pieces? Can the official collapse

theory explain the speed and violence of the collapse?

meets CZ standards of neutrality and verifiability. There are official and unofficial answers to these questions, but we can't simply have an article that raises suspicios.

There are some things that can be answered technically, such as fuel fire heat. I'd want to see a lot more data indicating it was air-starved.

The National Institutes for Standards and Technology have issued extensive reports on modes of collapse. If you want to challenge them on technical grounds, feel free to so, but we do expect that either you have expertise on the subject, or cite authoritative sources.

many inconsistencies surrounding the incident at the Pentagon, which is

not connected to American Airlines Flight 77 or to any Boeing 757 by any

evidence available to the public.

Frankly, I'm lost by these fairly vague comments. Minimally, the operational pattern is consistent with that observed in New York. While I was not at the Pentagon that day, I was about four miles away, heard it clearly, and saw quite a bit of the damage, as well as the detailed after-action reports from the Arlington Fire Department. Could you be more specific about inconsistencies, please? 06:50, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

Apparently, I put in an extra tilde above, in the attempt to sign. I freeze in the arctic glare set upon me, shatter into a million fragments, and die. I vaporize in the heat of the critic-sun, and my ashes float onto myriad insignificant windlets, and die. The only consolation is the scorpions who were chastising me got theirs too. Howard C. Berkowitz 01:19, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

Where I was going with this

I am not personally committed to any theory of the 9/11 attacks. I don't think that an online encyclopedia is a good place for attempting to prove any such theory, and I wouldn't try to do so if I had a pet theory. What I think does belong here is a discussion of the fact that alternative theories exist. In this context, suspicions ARE facts. I am perfectly happy to keep them separate from the main 9/11 article. Obviously in my first session I provided very few specifics - if I go on to offer more examples of conspiracy claims, my job will be to state the claim and the purported evidence for it, not to attempt to prove or disprove the content of the claim. The wiki format invites people to join in and offer better explanations. I hope people do so not by removing things they consider fully debunked, but by filling in the debunking. T. Mark Ellis 20:16, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

Unfortunately, sometimes the debunking isn't a simple explanation. For example, the various suspicion about why the air defense network didn't respond better involves understanding some of the design goals both of the air defense network and the air traffic control system.
I can say that the inland air defense control radars, bases, and control centers were largely retired when certain Cold War threats were no longer credible, but what if that gets challenged by someone convinced it existed, or that every aircraft in the U.S. is tracked on true radar. There's also a need to understand that FAA air traffic control "radar" depends significantly not on classic radar reflections, but on transponders aboard the aircraft, which were turned off. I started on an air traffic control article, offline, but am not going to put much effort into it for a while.
So, I'm not convinced that debunking, which gets into lots of counterargument, is the sort of issue that can ever get solved in an encyclopedia. I still wonder about whether Stanton was involved in the Lincoln Assassination, but long ago accepted I'll never know.Howard C. Berkowitz 18:49, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

please put in your signatures!

Hey, people, PLEASE put in your sigs in the above comments -- it's really hard to figure out how much credence to give to anybody's comments unless we know just who is saying what. Otherwise I'll come up with my *own* conspiracy theory about things! Thanks! Hayford Peirce 17:58, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

I agree. Exactly four tildes. --Larry Sanger 20:03, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

Lame excuse - I had saved my comment and was looking up how to sign things while the page was being moved. T. Mark Ellis 20:20, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

Naw, that's a good excuse. I've had things go wrong because of Edit Conflicts.... Hayford Peirce 21:16, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

this article needs to be very heavily edited and rewritten

There is a lot of heavy breathing and mystery-mongering going on here -- more facts and sources are needed. Howard, are you an Editor on this? Hayford Peirce 23:36, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

With the currently listed categories, no. On the other hand, if Military and/or Engineering substitute for History and/or Sociology, I am. Let's put it this way: when someone starts talking about the failings of the U.S. air defense network, I have been through some of those arguments before, and they frequently are based on very wrong assumptions about air defense, radar, air traffic control, etc. I'm not a structural engineer, but I do know some fire protection engineers with whom I've discussed the collapse models. I'm also sufficiently knowledgeable with at least tactical explosives and demolition to make a few meaningful comments about controlled implosion.
I can't quite call myself a Topic Informant, but I was close enough to the Pentagon that my windows shook. I am trained in the Incident Command System and have been through the after-action reports from the Pentagon. A colleague of mine got all his people out of one of the Twin Towers. He spent twelve years on submarines, and there's a saying that there's no such thing as a minor accident aboard a submarine. He tells me that it was the only time he invoked his authority as a (technology) vice-president of a brokerage, and, while the public address system was urging "stay calm", he got people to start moving down thirty-odd flights of stairs.
My only concern is that debunking can turn into a time sink. Howard C. Berkowitz 23:55, 11 January 2009 (UTC)
I'm not sure who has the authority to change workgroups. Just to take the mystery-mongering out of air defense, I'd be fascinated to have someone tell me, step by step, what the optimal response would have been, given open-source information on what the capabilities of NORAD and the FAA were at that time. Just as one item, I'd expect someone to know, which was available at the time, exactly who would direct the fighters, with what communications systems (I shall note that JTIDS Link 16 was still in engineering test on the F-15; I don't think the F-16 got it until Block 50/52), how the specific airliner would have been identified, and, given the weapons loadout of an F-15 Eagle or F-16 Fighting Falcon (usable, given some very simple constraints, would have been 20mm cannon and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles). When someone can tell me how the system should have worked, I think they've established credibility about critiquing it. I've seen a number of scenarios that would have had, for example, the F-15's crashing with empty tanks before they made the intercept, assuming they knew the exact position of the airliner. Howard C. Berkowitz 00:54, 12 January 2009 (UTC)
Did you write a lot of stuff up above and NOT put your sig on? If so, would you please do so? If you *didn't* write it, would you please SAY so, so that I can bug someone else about it? Thanks! Hayford Peirce 01:02, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

collaboration -- Howard, grab your tools!

Howard, what's gotten into you? Too much BS at the homeopathy article? Why don't you take out your scalpel and do what is necessary here -- most of the article (aside for the lede para, now) is slanted v. heavily towards an agenda-driven position. Grab your tools! Hayford Peirce 01:46, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

I'm not terribly interested in conspiracy theories. Yes, it's slanted, to an extent that if I were an editor for a workgroup containing it, I would move the text to a talk page or recommend deletion. Now, if someone wants to talk specifics about NORAD/FAA, or controlled implosion, or specific actions, I might work with them. I wouldn't have created this article, so why should I rewrite it? Howard C. Berkowitz 02:07, 12 January 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, I see that. Well, I don't know if I want to edit it all by myself.... But I don't want to see a lot of this stuff remain here.... Hayford Peirce 02:49, 12 January 2009 (UTC)
Well, I sent a note to the Constabulary to find out who has authority to change workgroups. Are there any Politics or Sociology editors?
I certainly hope there's no rigmarole associated with changing workgroups after some twit author (that would be me) assigns groups off the top of his (my) head. You could just ask. -Derek Hodges 16:05, 12 January 2009 (UTC)
My thought is that the author put it here as a starting point. I vaguely remember a rule that a WP-imported article has to start getting edited within some short number of days. No, I don't want to see it here either. As Tom observed, this can't be judged only by humanities and social sciences, at least if any physical events are being claimed.
I just glanced at a random "what the air defense system didn't do" at [1].
  • Paragraph 1 talks about 2002-2003 procedures and assumed they existed in 2001.
  • Paragraph 3 speaks of the fighters flying at a fraction of top speed. Top speed requires they go into afterburner. There are a number of variables, but a rough guess is that an F-15 runs out of fuel in 11 minutes at afterburner, although it has a reasonable time at non-afterburner cruise.
  • Paragraph 4 really doesn't say much.
  • Paragraph 5: The National Military Command Center is on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Pentagon. There's about an error every couple of words after that. For example, the air defense center that covers the Washington area is at Tyndall AFB in Florida (see NORAD and Air Combat Command. Transponder signal loss triggers an FAA computer, not a radar. In 2001, there was no direct linkage between the FAA National Airspace System and the NORAD systems, other than voice. Even if NORAD had the link, they had no data link to the fighters; JTIDS was still in testing and not in operational squadrons.
It goes on and on with utter nonsense to anyone who has a passing acquaintance with the system. For example, yes, there may patrols in the offshore ADIZ. ADIZs are 200 nautical miles offshore. Anyone looking at a map, a fuel consumption table, and the flight paths doesn't need to do a lot of math.
I'll stand on material in the NORAD article and could expand it, but I do not know where to start with this article, as it's more vague than the air conspiracy link. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:28, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

Article review

This article does need significant cleanup. The following things are the main, glaring problems I see:

  • The introduction uses a lot of 'term' language. If we have an article on any other social, historical or political movement or event, we don't spend a lot of time talking about the word. An article on the Holocaust should be talking about gas chambers and concentration camps, the reasons behind them, the historical background (etc.), not the semantics of the word 'Holocaust'. Similarly, in this article, it should be about the conspiracy theories rather than the term 'conspiracy theory'. 'Conspiracy theory' is a difficult word. Personally, I prefer the term 'paranoid theorizing', which gets over the problem that everything is a conspiracy (your local coffee shop conspires to sell coffee), but doesn't exactly provide a neutral term (even though I would say that paranoia is a perfectly adequate description of what we today call conspiracy theory).
  • The article name: I would suggest that we should consider whether or not "9-11 conspiracy theory" is a good name. I'm tempted to say that we should change it to either "September 11 conspiracy theories" (September 11 internationalizes better than 9-11, which non-USians read as the 9th of November). I would suggest that we could do even better than that and redirect all these pages to a new page called "Alternative theories about September 11 attacks". This side-steps all the discussion of the fairness of the word 'conspiracy theory' - I've discussed with plenty of conspiracy theorists, and this long and quite tedious argument about semantics actually allows them to sidestep the real issues. Another possible name is the "September 11 Truth Movement".
  • There is currently no discussion of the evolution of the September 11 conspiracy theories - and there is a fascinating story to tell here, with the wide range of people who are involved, how the ideas have propagated, how things like Loose Change and Zeitgeist have used the Internet to spread their ideas, the politics of the conspiracists, who exist both at the fringes of the far-left and far-right.
  • This kind of article looks like a prime candidate for breaking the Workgroup system. History, Politics and Sociology are the current workgroups, but I think that if we are to have a decent article on the Truther movement and their ideas, we'll need to have expert oversight from those in the physical sciences - aeronautic engineers, demolition engineers, materials scientists, chemists, police forensic/scene-of-crime people, firefighters, mechanics and so on. There's no way the humanities types (as a philosophy graduate, that includes me!) that serve as editors in History, Sociology and Politics are suitable for providing an expert analysis of the physical claims of the Truthers.
  • The current section, 'The Evidence' is ridiculous. The main evidence it cites is that the Bush Administration was uncooperative with the Commission. How does this prove they did it or at least let it happen? George W. Bush's administration not cooperating with such a Commission is not really proof of anything. On pretty much every issue from foreign policy and anti-terrorism through to healthcare and education, he wasn't exactly fond of oversight or being held responsible to anybody else. The 'unitary executive', executive privilege and power have all been big buzzwords for the last eight years. It would have been out-of-character for Bush and his administration to have co-operated willingly.

I'm a bit too busy to rewrite the article, but I hope the criticisms above will prompt someone to change this article to be more in line with the standards of the Citizendium. --Tom Morris 02:10, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

I think that I agree with everything you have said above. But particularly about the name of the article. I think it should be changed to what you suggest, with a gazillion redircts. Hayford Peirce 02:47, 12 January 2009 (UTC)
Here's what was going through my mind when I started this - I got the email about the "controversies" write-a-thon, I was curious about whether a 9-11 conspiracy page existed, and I thought, well, it might be fun to start one. I admit that by the time I got to "evidence," I was ready to go on to something else. It's great that this has generated so many comments on the discussion page, but I had hoped other people might be interested in fleshing out the article, which is certainly not worth reading at this point. If the article stays around for a few days, under some name or other, I'll continue to add to it - if not, I suppose it's no great loss. T. Mark Ellis 04:23, 12 January 2009 (UTC)
I do want to thank you for starting it. I think that when I, or someone else, rips into an article, we are not trying to rip into you personally, but rather treat you with the respect of not tiptoeing around. Keep being bold and opinionated - I'd rather we have messy articles that need clean-up than no articles at all. --Tom Morris 06:21, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

I'm not happy with Hayford's edit changing the heading 'the evidence' to the 'purported evidence presented by believers in a conspiracy', which is rather going the other way. I think in articles like this, we need to talk in the language of claims and counter-claims, and as part of each claim, evidence is presented. --Tom Morris 06:21, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

Mark, let me also thank you, now that I know the context. I'm not always wildly enthusiastic, at our stage of development, with having extremely controversial articles that can take up an enormous amount of attention.
Nevertheless, if we were to work with this — this is first a question for Tom Morris, which also addresses the workgroup issue — how do we deal with claim-counterclaim, when the counterclaim does require a certain amount of engineering or science preparation to understand? Taking the air defense system example, very briefly, I have yet to speak to a military specialist, or can think of any scenario from my own nontrivial experience in these areas, who could come up with any good military solution once the hijackings took place. Washington is the only U.S. city, as far as I know, to have any antiaircraft missiles, which are now much better hidden than they were shortly afterwards. Nevertheless, there is no antiaircraft missile in existence that would turn a wide-body transport into a harmless cloud, once it was over a populated area.
Many of the air defense failure claims come from very basic misunderstanding of system capabilities. A sad personal recollection was that when the Pentagon was hit, I heard a loud noise, and my windows shook, about 4 miles away. It sounded rather like a fireworks display, and my first reaction was why would fireworks be used at that time of day? Within a very few minutes, however, I realized something unusual was happening when I heard fighters overhead, and I recognized the sound of full military power (NOT afterburner). Even had those fighters been able to intercept, I can think of no outcome that would not have been disastrous in some way. If it had to hit a building, it hit a place that was probably the most prepared, and also an area not fully occupied after renovation. Draw a five-mile circle around the Pentagon, and I can name numerous places where the casualties would have been worse. Howard C. Berkowitz 15:09, 12 January 2009 (UTC)
Until we have people in the physical sciences who are willing to look over the article's claims, I'm going to try and do point-counterpoint from the conspiracy theorist websites (as well as movies - I've suffered through watching Loose Change and Zeitgeist and felt like I've lost plenty of perfectly good neurons in the process) that I can find on Google and some of the responses from both Popular Mechanics and some of the less professional (but still very good) debunking sites including Screw Loose Change, Debunking911.com, AE911Truth.Info and also the debates such as the Democracy Now! televised debate between the authors of the Popular Mechanics articles on Truther claims and the producers of Loose Change.
As for a perfect military solution to the attacks? Of course it's not possible. But the paranoid theorizers think that the US Government is powerful enough that they could blow a plain out of the sky without there being a molecule of debris. This nearly omnipotent government still allows a couple of college kids with a knocked-off copy of Final Cut Pro spread all the gory truths about them. --Tom Morris 17:47, 12 January 2009 (UTC)
Good rewrite, Tom. Changing all the header titles to "Claims etc." is excellent. Hayford Peirce 15:54, 12 January 2009 (UTC)
Thanks Hayford. I tried very hard not to get sucked into Homeopathy, but I think that this article may sap a large chunk of the attention I should be paying to, oh, ensuring that this time next year, I'm meaningfully remanded in a place of higher learning. --Tom Morris 17:47, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

Steve Jones

This physics professor from Utah has always been the recurring name I associate with the 911 conspiracy theories. Strangely, he was also involved in all the cold fusion hulabaloo. Chris Day 18:00, 12 January 2009 (UTC)