9/11 Conspiracy Theories - Criticism

Criticism

Critics of these conspiracy theories say they are a form of conspiracism common throughout history after a traumatic event in which conspiracy theories emerge as a mythic form of explanation. A related criticism addresses the form of research on which the theories are based. Thomas W. Eagar, an engineering professor at MIT, suggested they "use the 'reverse scientific method'. They determine what happened, throw out all the data that doesn't fit their conclusion, and then hail their findings as the only possible conclusion." Eagar's criticisms also exemplify a common stance that the theories are best ignored. "I've told people that if the argument gets too mainstream, I'll engage in the debate." According to him, this happened when Steve Jones, a physics professor at Brigham Young University, took up the issue.

Michael Shermer, writing in Scientific American, said: "The mistaken belief that a handful of unexplained anomalies can undermine a well-established theory lies at the heart of all conspiratorial thinking. 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."

Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, and The Skeptic's Dictionary have published articles that rebut various 9/11 conspiracy theories. Popular Mechanics has published a book entitled Debunking 9/11 Myths that expands upon the research first presented in the article. In the foreword for the book Senator John McCain wrote that blaming the U.S. government for the events "mars the memories of all those lost on that day" and "exploits the public's anger and sadness. It shakes Americans' faith in their government at a time when that faith is already near an all-time low. It trafficks in ugly, unfounded accusations of extraordinary evil against fellow Americans." Der Spiegel dismissed 9/11 conspiracy theories as a "panoply of the absurd", stating "as diverse as these theories and their adherents may be, they share a basic thought pattern: great tragedies must have great reasons."

Journalist Matt Taibbi, in his book The Great Derangement, discusses 9/11 conspiracy theories as symptomatic of what he calls the "derangement" of American society; a disconnection from reality due to widespread "disgust with our political system". Drawing a parallel with the Charismatic movement, he argues that both "chose to battle bugbears that were completely idiotic, fanciful, and imaginary," instead of taking control of their own lives. While critical, Taibbi explains that 9/11 conspiracy theories are different from "Clinton-era black-helicopter paranoia", and constitute more than "a small, scattered group of nutcases they really were, just as they claim to be, almost everyone you meet."

Historian Kenneth J. Dillon argues that 9/11 conspiracy theories represent an overly easy target for skeptics and that their criticisms obfuscate the underlying issue of what actually happened if there was not a conspiracy. He suggests that the answer is criminal negligence on the part of the president and vice president, who were repeatedly warned, followed by a cover-up conspiracy after 9/11. This was expanded upon by columnist Matt Mankelow writing for the online edition of the British Socialist Worker. He concludes that 9/11 truthers while "desperately trying to legitimately question a version of events" end up playing into the hands of the neoconservatives they are trying to take down by creating a diversion. Mankelow noted that this has irritated many people who are politically left wing.

David Aaronovitch, a columnist for The Times, in his book entitled Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History that was published in May 2009, claimed that the theories strain credulity. Aaronovitch also charged that 9/11 conspiracy theorists have exaggerated the expertise of those supporting their theories, and noted that 9/11 conspiracy theorists including David Ray Griffin cross cite each other.

Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein co-authored a 2009 paper which used members of the 9/11 Truth movement and others as an examples of people who suffer from “crippled epistemologies,” to public trust and the political system. He wrote that "They do not merely undermine democratic debate...In extreme cases, they create or fuel violence. If government can dispel such theories, it should do so.”

In June 2011 the Royal Institute of British Architects was criticized for hosting a lecture by Richard Gage, president of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Rick Bell, the director of the American Institute of Architects New York chapter, who was a witness to the 9/11 attacks, said that “no amount of money” would persuade him to allow the group to talk at his headquarters and stated that Gage lacks credibility among the professional community. Eugine Kohn, former spokesperson for the American Institute of Architects, said Gage's theories were "ridiculous", "There were no explosives planted”, and “The buildings were definitely brought down by the planes". The decision to host the event was also criticized by the former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the founding president of the American Institute of Architects United Kingdom chapter. Gage has been warned by the AIA against giving a false impression that he has a relationship with them. A July article in the organizations magazine criticized Gage for continuing to intimate that he has an association with them and claimed there were no architects at an Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth screening held in an American Institute of Architects boardroom The Royal Institute of British Architects released a statement saying the perception that the group endorses events held in its buildings is "regrettable", and said they would review policy on "private hire" of its buildings. Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan offer scathing criticism of many of the above theories in The Eleventh Day, their 2011 investigation of the attacks.

U.S. representative Peter T. King, chairmen of the House Homeland Security Committee, said 9/11 conspiracy theorists "trivialize" the "most tragic event to affect the United States" and that "People making these claims are disgraceful, and they should be ashamed of themselves".

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