The honest truth is that I still have no interest in conspiracy theory generally and in this 9/11 Truth stuff specifically. I have been dragged kicking and screaming in to this messed up place. I wish I had never heard of the crap and continued to live my world in naive ignorance. But fate has had different plans for me.
There really was a time when, believe it or not, I had never heard of a 9/11 conspiracy. Like many, I remember exactly where I was when Islamic jihadists crashed hijacked planes into the World Trade Center towers and other targets on the morning of 11 September in 2001. I was at the home of my private student in Taipei City. He was a high school student at the Taipei American School, and his family had a very large-screened TV. His mother interrupted us trying to explain something about how a plane had crashed into the WTC. I remember not fully understanding what she had said until I walked out into their living room, and there, on a wall-sized TV screen, was the WTC 1 with smoke pouring out of it. I stood there transfixed for I don’t know how long.
Then, some time later, I spoke with one of Taiwan’s leading designers of steel structure buildings about the attacks. I had taught English at his company for many years and through this, I had come to know some of the leading project managers and professors of design at national universities. I know personally C.S. Lee, who was the chief designer on the Taipower Building which was, at the time, the tallest steel-structure building in Taiwan. My friend told me that he was not at all surprised by the collapse of the WTC towers and then explained to me in great detail about the chemistry of steel under extreme heat. He told me that if I ever see a large steel structure fire like that in person, run the other way as fast as I can.
That was that. There was no mystery about the 9/11 attacks that needed to be solved. There was no professional doubt. There was no rumour of something that even the experts thought was strange. Here I was in personal contact with leading experts who told me directly that they had no problem with what they say about the 11th of September in 2001.
And on my life went. I do not recall ever hearing another thing about a 9/11 conspiracy until something happened in 2009 that shocked me from my naive slumber and catapulted me into my present world of conspiracy theory. But in fact, this is not at all true. In reflection, I had heard about the 9/11 conspiracy many times before. I once overheard a former colleague who has a drinking problem saying something to the effect that there was a “scientist” in the USA who said the WTC towers were brought down in a demolition. Another time, one of my training partners started going on about faked cell phone calls from United 93. He was doubtful about this, but went on to talk about aliens who occupied the space underneath the Denver International Airport. The point about aliens in Denver stuck in my mind much more effectively and I eventually wrote a piece about this for one of my blogs.
And apparently, a good friend of mine once sent me a link to Penn & Teller’s ranting about 9/11
conspiracy theories, but I had completely forgotten about this until he reminded me many years later after I had begun writing about 9/11 conspiracies.
So it was with an almost virgin mind that one day in the spring of 2009, I ended up trapped in one of the faculty preparation rooms of my school with – and yes, this is his real name – Paul Hyder. Paul was a faculty member at my school. He has since ‘quit’ for reasons which are not altogether clear to me but are widely believed to be more properly labeled as a firing. I don’t know the details of why Paul left our school, but I can say there are a lot of very strange things being said about him since then. Anyway, Paul holds a DELTA, which is an English teaching qualification, and an MA in political science from a nondescript American university. He had taught in Saudi Arabia and openly despises the place. He once told me that it wouldn’t be a bad idea if it was turned into a parking lot. And one day, Paul started ranting on and on to me about how the US government had been involved in the attacks and how the facts of Building 7 made this obvious. When I told him that I didn’t really care, he started yelling at me.
For psychological reasons which I can not explain, I was moved by this experience. So rather than forgetting about it completely, I went home and l looked on the Net for information on this 9/11 conspiracy stuff. Suddenly the world changed before my eyes. After almost 8 years of bliss, I realized that this indescribable level of stupidity was widespread. There really were people who could believe this stuff. It was as if I had been hit in the face with cold water or even reborn. I now saw that I lived in far stupider world than I had ever imagined.
The whole idea just seemed so dumb to me that I couldn’t understand how anyone could believe this. My initial reasoning for this had to do with videos I saw where some youngsters from a group I later came to know as We Are Change were discussing how New York City emergency response personnel must have had knowledge about a government plot to destroy the WTC. The idea behind this is that EMT and 1st responders to the 9/11 attacks have been cowered into silence by threats of some sort, perhaps concerning their pensions. But just the idea of this seemed so dumb that I couldn’t understand how anyone could believe it. I have known many EMTs – mostly police – but some firefighters and paramedics. If you have ever met police or firefighters for any period of time you would know that the idea of threatening these guys into silence is mind-numbingly stupid. And hence my first intellectual question about the 9/11 conspiracy…how could there be people so isolated from social reality this could make sense to them? To put it another way, who believes in a 9/11 conspiracy?
That summer, I sat down at my dad’s house in Canada and decided to answer this question. By the end of the summer, I had enough information to answer at least part of it. Much of the results of this appear in an article I wrote for Michael Shermer’s Skeptic Magazine called Who Still Believes in 9/11 Conspiracies? published in 2011. Here are the contents from that issue.
You can find a copy of this paper here
This is the official version of the scan from The Skeptic Magazine. Anyway, I am quite pleased with the results, however, there is one factual error contained in it. If anyone can find the error and tell me what it is, I owe them a beer.
In the article I published in Skeptic last year,
I documented the relationship between right-wing political beliefs and conspiracy beliefs, particularly the 9/11 conspiracy. In addition, many of these people are right-wing Christians who believe that President Obama is somehow associated with a secret global government that is trying to murder millions of people. It’s complicated and the details are not so important. The best way to describe the beliefs of these people is that they are unaffiliated Christians. Most do not attend church regularly and are not affiliated with a church or denomination. But there is no question about their Christianity. Some are members of the right-wing Constitution Party that wants American law to reflect the Bible. Others are pro-life advocates.
I have always had trouble dealing with another aspect of 9/11 conspiracy beliefs. Prior to the election of President Obama, the most visible segment of 9/11 conspiracy beliefs refereed to themselves as professional groups for 9/11 Truth. This includes,
Lawyers for 9/11 Truth http://l911t.com/ – whom I have tried to contact and have been told they no longer function.
Pilots for 9/11 Truth http://pilotsfor911truth.org/ – run by some people who call themselves the Citizens Investigation Team who have, among other things, accused a 70-year-old Washington DC taxi driver of being a key player in a global conspiracy.
There’s a bunch of them, but the most active of these is
Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth http://www.ae911truth.org/
AE9/11T is the brainchild of architect Richard Gage.
Groups like this I have always discarded as left over from the time when 9/11 conspiracy was seen as an anti-Bush statement or something about the war in Iraq. But I have recently discovered that Richard Gage is in fact a devoutly religious man. Over on the James Randi Forum, a member describes the conclusions of his research into the background of Richard Gage
He links to other posts he has made on this point
In summary, he found that Gage is a member of a group called the Union Church which is a sort of New Age liberal type Christian church which I do not clearly understand. I have since found that several people who appear in Gage produced 9/11 conspiracy videos are affiliated with these sorts of New Age Christian beliefs.
In this context, this post from the JREF should not be missed
This quote from the post is significant. Brainster is absolutely correct, as he is in the post, linking 9/11 Truth leaders to other quasi-Christian cults
This is all made even more significant by the role of David Ray Griffin. Griffin is quoted frequently by these people, including Gage, as their inspiration. Griffin is a former faculty member of the Claremont Graduate University School of Theology and a major figure in a type of theology called Process Theology. And, in the strange world that my life has become, he is the doctoral supervisor of George Hermanson, whose services conducted at the University of British Columbia for the United Church of Canada I used to attend,
Strangely, their liberal church background has not stopped them from associating with an increasingly dark crowd. So Gage speaks at events hosted by groups that fit in well with the American Patriot Movement and Griffin deals with racist organizations and Japanese fascist groups.
More recently, I discovered that one of the solid 9/11 conspiracy groups is Religious Leaders for 9/11 Truth
Check out the names on their petition. You may be surprised about whose name is up there.
Anyway, my point is that activists promoting 9/11 conspiracy and related beliefs appear to almost all be devoutly religious Christians of some sort, either affiliated with churches, practicing in an unaffiliated manner or in a quasi-Christian group.
So dominant has Christianity become among the existing activists for a 9/11 Truth that I currently describe the conspiracy beliefs as an internal struggle between different kinds of American Christians.