The latest mother of all conspiracy theories — that 9/11 was an inside job by the Bush administration — finds its members following Michael Shermer around on his book tour.
Ever since Skeptic magazine published an investigative article on the 9/11 “Truth Movement” and analyzed their claims, which were found wanting, I have been hounded by the so-called 9/11 “truthers” because I am the editor of the magazine and therefore am suppose to be a “skeptic” of the official explanation for 9/11.
In fact, throughout January I have been on a book tour for The Mind of the Market, my book on behavioral economics and evolutionary economics, and at every event during the Q & A one of these “truthers” pretends to ask a question about economics but then quickly shifts to a rant about what “really happened” on September 11, 2001.
At my appearance at Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon (January 21), for example, someone with a video camera captured the rambling screed and posted it on YouTube the same night:
For my appearance in Seattle (January 23), my webmeister, Emrys Miller, came prepared with a video camera just in case the “troofers” showed up. Sure enough, one did:
There was no need for a camera in Philadelphia (January 15), as the 9/11 conspiratorialists came prepared with their own recording equipment, and captured the moment (video no longer online).
What’s going on here? As Bill Maher discovered one day during the taping of his HBO series “Real Time,” their goal is just to be heard — in any venue at any time under any circumstances. In spring of 2005, for example, I gave a lecture at the Los Angeles Public Library, after which I was buttonholed by a documentary filmmaker with Michael Moore-ish ambitions of exposing the “truth” about the 9/11 conspiracy, and he wanted to know if he could interview me. I responded, “you mean the conspiracy by Osama bin Laden and his nineteen Al-Qaeda operatives to fly planes into buildings?”
“That’s what they want you to believe,” he said.
“Who is ‘they’,” I queried.
“The government,” he whispered in hushed tones, as if “they” might actually be listening in at that very moment.
“Yeah, well, ‘the government’ is a little vague for me,” I suggested. “Who in the government wants me to believe that Al-Qaeda did it?”
“The Bush administration,” was the by now predictable answer.
“But didn’t Osama and some members of Al-Qaeda not only say they did it,” I reminded him, “they gloated about what a glorious triumph it was over America and western capitalism, materialism, and secularism?”
“Oh, you’re talking about that video of Osama,” he exclaimed knowingly. “That was faked by the C.I.A. and leaked to the American press to mislead us. There has been a disinformation campaign going on ever since 9/11.”
“How do you know?” I inquired.
“Because of all the unexplained anomalies surrounding 9/11,” he answered.
“Such as the fact that steel melts at a temperature of 2,777 degrees Fahrenheit, but jet fuel burns at only 1,517 degrees Fahrenheit. No melted steel, no collapsed towers.”
At this point I ended the conversation and declined to be interviewed, knowing precisely where the dialogue was going next — if I cannot explain every single minutia about the events of that fateful 11th day in September, 2001, that lack of knowledge, in his mind at least, equates to direct proof that 9/11 was orchestrated by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the CIA in order to implement their plan for global domination and a New World Order, 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 is there in the details, he explained, handing me faux dollar bill (“9-11” replacing the “1” and Bush supplanting Washington) choc-a-block full of web sites. Where have I heard all this before?
In the early 1990s I launched a full-scale investigation of the Holocaust deniers, initially as the cover story for Skeptic magazine and subsequently expanded into a book length treatment, Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say it? The deniers employ this tactic of anomalies-as-proof to great effect. David Irving, for example, claims that there are no holes in the roof of the gas chamber at Krema 2 at Auschwitz-Birkenau. So what? So plenty, he says. No holes in the roof of the gas chamber at Krema 2 means that the eyewitness account of SS guards climbing up on the roof and pouring Zyklon-B gas pellets through the holes and into the gas chamber below where the prisoners were herded into, means that the eyewitness account is wrong, which means that no one was gassed in Krema 2, which means that no one was gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which means that no one was gassed at any prison camp, which means that no Jews anywhere were systematically exterminated by the Nazis. In short, “no holes, no Holocaust,” says David Irving, a slogan emblazoned on t-shirts of his supporters at his London trial in which he sued a historian for calling him a Holocaust denier.
No holes, no Holocaust. No melted steel, no Al-Qaeda attack. The parallels are equal, and equally flawed. And just as I never imagined that Holocaust denial would wend its way into the mainstream press (Irving’s trial was front page news for months), after my above conversation with the filmmaker I never imagined that 9/11 denial would get media legs. But now it has legs for days, and so we have been forced to provide a public response. To read our complete analysis of the claims of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists, read eSkeptic from September 11th, 2006.