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9/11 “Truthers” Harass Shermer on Book Tour

broadcast January 2008 | comments (179)

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 here: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?”
“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.

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179 Comments to “9/11 “Truthers” Harass Shermer on Book Tour”

  1. RHM Says:

    These people are beyond annoying at this point. Michael Shermer is not alone, these guys come out for just about any political rally or appearance these days. Unfortunately, many in our population lack the emotional or intellectual maturity to review evidence and make informed decisions. As a result, they have little problem recruiting “activists”.

  2. sid Says:

    OK, whether it was conspiracy or not. Religion made the people do that or religion was used for this purpose, but who is the biggest promoter of the religion in this world. I think you know.

  3. Chris H Says:

    What ever will the troofers complain about when someone from their political party is elected?? Suddenly, their politician will be the voice of reason and truth, and “things will be completely different”. If Hillary is elected, and comes out to say the Eskimos did it, the troofers will no doubt run around trumpeting “SEE!! SEE!! WE TOLD YOU SO!”. This is a group of people who hate the government and will glom onto anything negative about it. What a waste of good breathable air they are…

  4. Bill McLean Says:

    These “truthers” bring to mind the quote which I saw attributed to Leonardo. “most men are naught but machines for turning perfectly good food into s(feces)t”

  5. Rev. Bob "Bob" Crispen Says:

    What ever will the troofers complain about when someone from their political party is elected??

    They have no political party.

    As a duly elected delegate to the Tulsa Democratic Caucus in 1980 (qualifications that beat hell out of any of the “Troofers’ qualifications, I can now say officially on behalf of the Democratic Party that anybody who wants the “Troofers” can have them. We don’t want them. They’ll fit nicely into some other party’s stable (or pigpen) alongside the Timothy McVeagh defenders.

  6. atticus Says:


    Firstly, as I recall, America (and pretty much a quarter of the world) already went to war with Iraq in the 90s – surely if they’d already done it they could have come up with a more creative and productive rationale than murdering 3000 American’s and planting explosions to take down a half a thirty year old American icon.

    Secondly, poking holes in the melting temperature of steel (ignoring explanations from experts), or how WTC 7 collapsed or whatever; none of this strengthens whatever argument “thruthers” have. It is the same fallacy of logic that if you poke a hole in evolution, Christian creationism is the only other default answer.

    And thirdly, I don’t understand why its so hard to believe (a.k.a agree with the evidence) that a handful of religious extremists interpreted their holy text literally and were told they were immortal souls who would be heavily rewarded for eternity if they died for the glory of their god would commit murder-suicide against a country that predominantly follows a rival god. This happens all the time, every day. It just doesn’t happen in the USA every day – however this doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen or that it was never likely. In fact, given the nature of things done in the name of religion this should be relatively unsuprising.

    Also, I am sure the 9/11 report was not 100% accurate and that the government did cover up some measure of accountability – reports predicted the attacks in some form or another long before and up until then. This sweeping under the rug of the governments negligence however does not suddenly assume that the US administration, CIA, FAA, NYPD, NYFD and others were all involved in composing a violent act of murderous treason against their own countrymen – especially to justify a war with tenuous links to the attack, which could have far more easily been sold as an both an economic and political essential and an act of liberation against a suppressed dictatorship.

    I find it irritating that some people decide that evidence is simply not good enough for them whenever they see fit. The light in the sky MUST be a UFO, the moon landing MUST be fake, the towers MUST have been bombed (despite the somewhat bittersweet advent of digital technology giving us dozens of eyewitness camera footage and retrospective engineering analysis on the subject).

    There’s already a fascinating and devestating (and true) conspiracy of religious murderers compelled by god to act against a lazy government and attack its people by using modern technology as weaponry – how much intruige do you really need?

  7. Bitsy Says:

    No matter what temperature steel melts at, rivets melt, or at least soften and deform at a much lower temperature. That’s how they’re used. They’re heated till they can be deformed, pounded into place, and they cool and harden and hold metal girders together. Bet the melting and deforming temperature of rivets is well within the burning temperatures in the towers. Turn the rivets in a building into butter and see what happens. Duh.

    Also, doesn’t coal burn at a lower temperature than steel melts? But it’s used in the refining and casting processes of the metal. The trick is to add lots and lots of oxygen/air in a powerful flow through the burning fuel, which is then transferred to the target material. Smithies have always used bellows to accomplish this. I think they call it a “blast furnace” today, and it can raise the temperature of the target material much higher than the burning temperature of the fuel. Same process is used in kilns to make ceramics. The violently burning fuel in the higher floors sucked air to itself through the many elevator and stairway tubes.

    Plus, I never heard that the girders in the ruins were found to have actually been melted. They were found to have been softened and deformed, hardly a surprise.

  8. Wallace Schwam Says:

    I do not believe that 9/11 was a Bush Administration conspiracy. That said, there is this architech, I think is name is Craig or Cage, that has put out a very interesting DVD suggesting that the buildings were imploded. Has anyone else seen this DVD and do we have equally qualified architechs and engineers who can give an alternative explanation for why the buildings came down as they did?

    I’d like some help in countering demolition theorists.

  9. ref Says:

    To Wallace Schwam.

    Qualified people of NIST, and other qualified people like Dr. Bazant have explained the collapse initiation and progressive collapse. Here are some links to explore. The first two are Bazant papers, next is NIST report, then a couple of conspiracy theory debunking links regarding WTC.

    The person you are talking about is Richard Gage. He is not to be taken seriously. He has not presented one single claim or calculation of his own. He repeats the old and usual claims of other conspiracy theorists. And he has shown he has no understanding of even basic engineering.

  10. Rafe Furst Says:

    One of my favorite quotes is, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” That said, I believe that large-scale conspiracies are too hard to keep secret these days and there are always alternative explanations that explain the facts better. The general disconnect has to do with a common but flawed understanding of causality:

    Conspiracy theorists are blind to unintentional acts and multi-actor effects. But skeptics are sometimes unwilling to admit shades of grey, especially where strong incentives cause group bias either in action or inaction.

    Perhaps we should admit to a middle ground, call it “soft conspiracy” or “emergent conspiracy” (a phrase coined by Derek Abbott) to explain situations like 9/11.

  11. peter Says:

    I suppose you could respond that steel melts at 2,777, but it softens at a much lower temperature… fire-proofing in metal frame buildings is only designed to prevent softening for 60-90 minutes, no more etc. etc. etc.

    the important thing that most people who claim the title of skeptic forget is that you must be also skeptical of your own theories. not just everyone else’s. It’s amazing how easily they may find the holes/gaps in your theory, but completely blind to the holes in their own. your holes are gargantuan, their holes are trivial.


  12. hrvoje Says:

    Hi, i’m from Croatia and i know what happened on c2c show on January 22.2006.

    do you?

  13. Thomas J. Theobald Says:

    “Isn’t it more likely that some people in the Bush admin. knew about the impending attacks and sort of “let” them happen?”

    Actually, this is exactly what happened. If you recall, the memo “bin Laden determined to strike at US” floated over the desk of the President a month prior to the attacks.

    However, this doesn’t mean the administration passed over this information for some nefarious purpose – they passed over the information because they just didn’t care. The idea that 9/11 was some kind of “Gulf of Tonkin” episode is just plainly idiotic. Bush was determined to attack Iraq, not Afghanistan. If anything, 9/11 interrupted his plan to launch the Iraq invasion and preempted that action for over a year. There was never a strategic or tactical gain in the outcome of that attack for the administration.

    Allow me to point something out to the “truthers” here: your opinion is not on an equal footing against persons who spent their entire careers studying these subjects – like building demolition. Or terrorism. Oh sure, it’s entirely possible that there might have been a conspiracy, but was it likely? Not in the slightest.

    To have set explosives within one or two floors of where EACH jet was to hit…no, no way.

    To have those explosives SURVIVE the massive destruction and subsequent immolation for over an hour AFTER each jet had hit…no, no way.

    To have nineteen hijackers armed with only boxcutters which were snuck onto the passenger planes be responsible for the hijacking? Huh? If you’ve already been crafty enough to get a professional demolition crew into each tower to plant an appropriate explosive load in exactly the right place when those are some of the busiest office buildings IN THE FREAKING WORLD, don’t you think they could come up with something more effective than some stupid boxcutters? Sneaking a few firearms aboard the planes seems trivial in comparison. Again, major hole in the logic.

    There are dozens of other factors that could be chewed through like this, but I’ll hold up the final question: given the Bush administration’s ability to screw up magnificently on even the smallest deal, please explain for our edification how they could have pulled off such an operation so perfectly, so completely flawlessly, that absolutely no evidence for such a plot has ever been discovered? Where are the whistleblowers? Where are the assassinated employees who’d shown signs of being disgruntled? Where are the cordoned-off ruins being cleaned up by chemical-suited secret agents?

    Next, motivation. What’s the motive here? Who benefits? As I mentioned earlier, no one gained from this. Nobody. Maybe a few contractors who profited from the Afghan action. But that isn’t the Bush admin, their interest was Enron and Iraq.

    To have set aside Occam’s razor and gone with this whole “truther” line of BS is just plainly and simply stupid. You heard me, you truthers are just exercising your stupidity. Furthermore, as has been mentioned numerous times, questions about one explanation do not inherently prove another. Until and unless you can provide some evidence for your suppositions, you’re just another gang of fools to be pigeonholed with the Scientologists, Holocaust deniers, McCarthyists, and Mormons.

    Get over yourselves, and rejoin reality. Barring that, arrange a quick exit for yourselves.


  14. Jared Ihlefield Says:

    The WTC was not built as traditional skyscrapers were built. The outside of the structure bore most of the load. Not having large windows was not an aesthetic choice but a solution to increase space. Also, fire retardant material blown onto all structural steel was not to code. And if you have ever been in that building you would know that no single elevator shaft ran from the lobby to the top of the building. It had three express elevators and you would get off in a certain sector then continue to your final floor on a second if need be, notice how the towers looked as though they were sectioned as you look up, three different sections.
    Did everyone forget how patriotic we all felt that day? And if it were BUSH why did he get re-elected. Even if that were a conspiracy shouldn’t he have lost under a landslide if people really thought that we as a country had done the wrong thing by FINISHING a war that was brought to our soil? No one wanted to enter WWII until Pearl Harbor so should I start to suspect our government had a hand in that?
    Always look at who stands the most to gain. September the eleventh 2001 was the anniversary of G.H.W. Bush’s speech were he first used the term New World Order and I think that scared many wrong doers into action as their would be no place for their scare tactics to exist. If the towers fell when attacked under Clinton’s watch then theories would be much different as to the reason the towers fell. I guess the Clinton’s weren’t smart enough to pull off a fruitful attack on our own country.
    Thank you for giving me a place were I can express my views as people around me seem to think that the United States of America wants them all but dead with everything from seeding clouds to poison in the drinking water. Go live somewhere else and fight for your rights, just please wash your hands of us if you hate it so much. If you can ever say “I told you so” then you will be glad to know the gassed air and deadly water will leave your words floating by on deaf ears.

  15. John Says:

    It’s grossly inaccurate to compare 9/11 Truthers to Holocaust Deniers.

    I have known many who doubt the Bush Administration’s official story who would never deny the Holocaust. I, myself doubt the official story and it’s not because I’m easily led but rather, I’ve heard arguments for and against and I’ve considered both sides. But more importantly, I’ve heard the administration dodge questions, hide in a blanket of secrecy and just plain lie. Why shouldn’t I have a right to doubt them?

    It seems many people are generally more apt to believe that some dictator, somewhere else could commit atrocities, than the possibility that an American leader or leaders would ever do any such thing. Why? Are American’s morally superior to non-American’s? Why would it be impossible to believe that the same could happen here?

  16. Mik Says:

    AT the moment of the attacks I watched in horror along with the world. I love my country and want to see Americans looked at with pride and respect. The results of the Bush Administration and the unknown global powers of the Central banking organizations make for interesting and treasonable bed fellows. As an American I call for the citizens of this great and noble nation to stop watching silly shows and focus on your LIBERTY! Do the honest research as caring Americans about the 911 attacks. This issue will not just vanish because it is important to each and every individual in this country and therefore the World. The number of people questioning this is growing daily and the issue itself rips at the core of faith, morality, trust. This is why we should pursue further investigation into the events before, during and after 911. Don’t tare this nation apart with out confirming the facts fully!


  17. All I really needed to know I learned from playing Starcraft « Den of Hydralisks Says:

    […] without a Truther present in the audience to stand up and press him with uncomfortable questions. When he reported this at his website, Truthers emerged from the four corners of the Internet to argue against […]

  18. hrvoje Says:

    That’s right, our government loves us. Every day they are doing best they can do to make our lives better. Go back to sleep, big brother is watching over you.

  19. Rich Says:

    Tired games… This man tries to equate “the 9/11 truth movement” (seeking, NOT proclaiming) with anti-semitism…


    “Conspiracy Theorist” “kook” “Truthers” “kool-aid drinkers” tin foil hat wearers”


    Psyhcological propaganda technique to discredit a dis-enfranchised public by the very people who dis-enfranchised them…. Anybody defending the official story when the government acts like a monster… welll……


  20. Lisa Says:

    Here are just some of the people Pam Miller is calling “losers in the game of life.”

    Architects & Engineers

    Pilots & Aviation Professionals

    Survivors & Family Members

    Senior Military, Intelligence & Government Officials


  21. Lisa Says:

    They are REALLY being careful what they will allow to be posted under these comments. They allowed a lot of links to be posted that “debunk” the 9/11 “conspiracy theories,” yet when I tried posting links that give huge lists of architects, engineers, professors, victim’ family members, 9/11 survivors, pilots, and aviation professionals, the post was removed. Perhaps by some chance they’re still “approving” the post, but I said very little. I just stated that these people are what someone above is calling “losers in the game of life.” Were the links somehow threatening to them? Did it give too much credibility to the “conspiracy theorists,” so it had to be removed? That kind of filtering of information has happened a LOT around this issue. I hope you skeptics realize that.

  22. Charles Says:

    Hmmm, I must say, WTC7 certainly did look like a controlled demolition and we have the eyewitness testimony of Barry Jennings who was in the building before either tower collapsed. He states “We made it to the eighth floor. Big explosion. Blew us back into the eighth floor…”. He goes on to testify that he was trapped for the next hour and a half during which time he hears explosions going off throughout the building. While trapped, he’s calling out a window for help but notes that both towers are still standing. I’m certain Shermer will have a good explanation for this, but I’d be more interested in hearing the hard evidence linking Bin Laden to the attacks, since the FBI admits they don’t have any.

  23. Misnomered Says:

    As annoying as these Troofers are, after 9/11, I certainly wondered about disparities between what the 9/11 Commission reported and basic Newtonian and Galilean physics–just recalling physics classes in high school.

    We should study not only the physical evidence but the actions of various governments with as many documents as we can get a hold of. Granted, many of us are rightly skeptical about the “troofers” and how much they really have examined the evidence and on what authority they are basing their judgements.

    Though much of the evidence as to what happened was quickly removed within hours of these tragedies and much closeup filming of the events was confiscated–in addition, none have yet been made available for study by independent scientists, we skeptics would do well to at least examine what evidence has been left for us to examine and draw our own conclusions and test as well we can the claims of the “troofers”. It could well be that there is nothing there to validate their claims of conspiracy. However, I am as skepical of the government as I am of the Troofers.

    On the one hand, why are the people in government dragging their heels so long in producing hard evidence of what happened. Why don’t they present the actual physical artifacts for independent forensic scientists to study–just like they do in all other airline crashes and building disasters?

    On the other hand, what hard evidence do the “Troofers” have to back up their allegations of conspiracy between the U.S. government and international bankers, corporations, etc.?

    With you, I am skeptical about knee-jerk reactionary rhetoric about “conspiracy”. But with the “Troofers”, I believe the U.S. citizenry deserve to have some basic, common-sense questions answered, preferably by an independent group of scientists with no obligations to anyone and no axe to grind.

  24. Moranen Says:

    I explain the “No holes, no ‘Holocaust'”. According to structural engineering there definetely had to have been the 4 alleged square holes in the roof of Krematorium II morgue 1, if the ‘gassings’ had happened there as claimed. There are no holes. Therefore according to structural engineering the alleged gassings could not have happened as claimed. In addition there is no Zyklon B residue; gassings did not happen there.

    There is a hierarhy of evidence: material evidence, and documentary evidence always will refute witness testimony. Eyewitnesses are the most unreliable form of evidence. There is no other evidence about the alleged ‘gassings’ than witness claims. Chemistry and engineering have refuted witnesses. Gassings did not happen in Krema II. Therefore, because gassings did not happen in Krema II, they did not happen in Krema III either, because it was a mirror image, and the same witnesses who had lied about Krema II similarly lied about Krema III. Therefore, at least 750,000 “gassing victims” have to be reduced. And because the gassings were a lie in Krema II & III, they too were a lie in other places in Auschwitz. The same witnesses claimed ‘gassings’ for the other places.

    Gassings in Auschwitz did not happen. And because they did not happen in Auschwitz, it’s just stupid to believe that they happened in Aktion Reinhard, using diesel or gasoline gases. (Google: Dissecting the Holocaust.)

  25. Moranen Says:

    In addition, those who claim that there are holes are simply claiming that irregular rubble and irregular holes made after the war are the alleged ‘Zyklon B holes’. The Krema II morgue 1 roof is at least 1/3 intact, so there definetely should be at least 1 or 2 square holes. There are no square holes. And no Zyklon B residues. I spent in Auschwitz 4 days.

  26. CDG Says:

    I can’t believe that Skeptics are engaging in logical fallacies regarding 9/11.

    Always amazed me. Skeptics who are allegedly for truth.. and the right to question.. yet.. they believe, hook line and sinker an “official” report from the U.S. Govt.

    and insinuate condescendingly that those who speak out.. are “wackos” or ooooh “CONSPIRACY theorists” or even worse.. “HOLOCAUST Deniers”.. effective use of a logical Fallacy.. disarm your opponent with accusations…

    I suggest that folks investigate Jan Irvin’s Gnostic Media website and Mark Passio’s What on Earth is Happening. Jan Irvin has been discussing in detail the TRIVIUM and QUADRIVIUM as well as Critical thinking skills.


  27. hicusdicus Says:

    The 911 conspiracy theories are just more positive truth that human intelligence is the most over rated commodity on this planet. Don’t forget that we never did land on the moon, it was all just a government spoof. Where is that big asteroid strike when we need one? It would give intelligence a chance for a come back.

  28. Skeptic Griggsy Says:

    CDG and the other nuts, why don’t you take off your blinders and actually study what real experts maintain? Oh, that would upself you!
    We hope that bystanders who are not that caught up in being so nutty or not at all nutty will accept the truth.
    Skeptics should never lie about claims, distort facts, quote wrongly and deny the evidence as those fools do.
    This skeptic finds those fools love to let others deride them so they can feel better! Why do they have so law self-esteem?

  29. Cory Withers Says:

    To all of you who consider yourselves skeptics, would you consider Daniel Ellsberg a crazy conspiracy theorist? Do your baseless psychological evaluations apply to him as well?

    While we’re all appealing to various authorities in this debate, I’m gonna put a bit more faith in Ellsberg’s ability to tell the difference between a conspiracy a “crazy conspiracy theory” over Michael Shermer’s (no matter how much I respect him on other topics).