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See Inside June 2005

Fahrenheit 2777

9/11 has generated the mother of all conspiracy theories
Michael Shermer



BRAD HINES

Noted French left-wing activist Thierry Meyssan's 9/11 conspiracy book, L'Effroyable Imposture, became a best-seller in 2002. But I never imagined such an "appalling deception" would ever find a voice in America. At a recent public lecture I was buttonholed by a Michael Moore¿wannabe filmmaker who breathlessly explained that 9/11 was orchestrated by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the Central Intelligence Agency as part of their plan for global domination and a New World Order. That goal was to be financed by G.O.D. (Gold, Oil, Drugs) and launched by a Pearl Harbor¿like attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, thereby providing the justification for war. The evidence was there in the details, he explained, handing me a faux dollar bill (with "9-11" replacing the "1," a picture of Bush supplanting that of Washington) chockablock with Web sites.

In fact, if you type "World Trade Center" and "conspiracy" into Google, you'll get more than 250,000 hits. From these sites, you will discover that some people think the Pentagon was hit by a missile; that U.S. Air Force jets were ordered to "stand down" and not intercept Flights 11 and 175, the ones that struck the twin towers; that the towers themselves were razed by demolition explosives timed to go off soon after the impact of the planes; that a mysterious white jet shot down Flight 93 over Pennsylvania; and that New York Jews were ordered to stay home that day (Zionists and other pro-Israeli factions, of course, were involved). Books also abound, including Inside Job, by Jim Marrs; The New Pearl Harbor, by David Ray Griffin; and 9/11: The Great Illusion, by George Humphrey. The single best debunking of this conspiratorial codswallop is in the March issue of Popular Mechanics, which provides an exhaustive point-by-point analysis of the most prevalent claims.

The mistaken belief that a handful of unexplained anomalies can undermine a well-established theory lies at the heart of all conspiratorial thinking (as well as creationism, Holocaust denial and the various crank theories of physics). All the "evidence" for a 9/11 conspiracy falls under the rubric of this fallacy. Such notions are easily refuted by noting that scientific theories are not built on single facts alone but on a convergence of evidence assembled from multiple lines of inquiry.


No melted steel, no collapsed towers.

For example, according to www.911research.wtc7.net, steel melts at a temperature of 2,777 degrees Fahrenheit, but jet fuel burns at only 1,517 degrees F. No melted steel, no collapsed towers. "The planes did not bring those towers down; bombs did," says www.abovetopsecret.com. Wrong. In an article in the Journal of the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society and in subsequent interviews, Thomas Eagar, an engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explains why: steel loses 50 percent of its strength at 1,200 degrees F; 90,000 liters of jet fuel ignited other combustible materials such as rugs, curtains, furniture and paper, which continued burning after the jet fuel was exhausted, raising temperatures above 1,400 degrees F and spreading the inferno throughout each building. Temperature differentials of hundreds of degrees across single steel horizontal trusses caused them to sag--straining and then breaking the angle clips that held the beams to the vertical columns. Once one truss failed, others followed. When one floor collapsed onto the next floor below, that floor subsequently gave way, creating a pancaking effect that triggered each 500,000-ton structure to crumble. Conspiricists argue that the buildings should have fallen over on their sides, but with 95 percent of each building consisting of air, they could only have collapsed straight down.

All the 9/11 conspiracy claims are this easily refuted. On the Pentagon "missile strike," for example, I queried the would-be filmmaker about what happened to Flight 77, which disappeared at the same time. "The plane was destroyed, and the passengers were murdered by Bush operatives," he solemnly revealed. "Do you mean to tell me that not one of the thousands of conspirators needed to pull all this off," I retorted, "is a whistle-blower who would go on TV or write a tell-all book?" My rejoinder was met with the same grim response I get from UFOlogists when I ask them for concrete evidence: Men in Black silence witnesses, and dead men tell no tales.

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