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Thursday, April 20, 2006

San Francisco Chronicle targets 9/11 Truth

One school of journalism dictates that:

1. 9/11 inquiry is a bunch of conspiracy theories

2. Such inquiry is the pursuit of lunatics, anti-Semites and weirdos.

3. Use name calling to silence opponents

A problem with this doctrine is that one can end up pulling two thirds of their 9/11 articles and blame weeks, if not months, of editorial policy on their cat, (while at the same time conceding that Lee Harvey Osward didn't kill John F. Kennedy)

Capitol Hill Blue were so obsessed by the pursuit of point 2, in a response to blogger Kurt Nimmo, CHB wrote a rebutal 1 of sorts to criticism in which they stated "[journalism] requires training and hard work, two items we find lacking in those who claim to know more than us about our chosen profession", but which, like two thirds of their recent 9/11 articles they had to pull as well, the rebutal made the allegation:

"For example, over at HaloScan.Com, one of those anti-Semitic web sites where anti-Jewish propaganda flies like lightning bugs in spring..."

I kid you not. Haloscan is of course a comments service for blogs.

Yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle decided to have an attempt at this too, with essentially yet another piece of off-the-shelf propaganda, where 9/11 inquiry can be squashed with name calling and finger pointng, and that even included the assertion that the 'country saw the plane hit the Pentagon' , a point which they then had to retract 2.

The problem with these kind of articles is, they are all the same:

They don't tackle the issues at hand and go to great lengths to attack those presenting them.

With the mainstream media psychosis over 9/11 briefly shattered by Charlie Sheen in recent weeks, the reality is, and here's the crux of the point which the SFC author Cinnamon Stillwell misses and Doug Thompson missed: there is just no public rally behind 9/11 scholasticism.

And it doesn't matter how painstakingly you try and infer the search for 9/11 Truth as largely or solely the preoccupation, product or badge of fruitcakes and Nazis, the only thing made clear in doing so is your intention to silence the debate.

Stillwell says:

The underlying factors likely have more to do with psychology. Indeed, it is often said that conspiracy theories are born out of a sense of powerlessness

All Americans were affected by such fears. But instead of facing the daunting truth, the Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists chose the path of denial.

I'm sure for many it's not a path of denial as in a choice because it's more cool, perhaps it's more a case of the data not being perceived compelling enough, and too contradicted with too many controversies to sustain unquestioning public support behind the official line.

Yet Stillwell makes the same mistake Doug Thompson did of trying to frame the intentions of 9/11 inquiry as essentially the goals of Nazis and crackpots, but this description is so dangerously incorrect now and equates to nothing more than 'I don't like what I'm hearing so I'm going to try to descredit it'

Indeed no one likes what they are hearing, that's why the world has to continue to push for answers to the difficult questions on 9/11 rather than attacking those trying to do that. It is not satisfactory to waste your time writing smear pieces hoping that if you keep littering your articles with terms like 'anti-Semitism', 'Neo-Nazi', 'denial' that eventually those difficult questions will just magically be buried underneath inflammatory name calling.

Equally, It's no good citing 'debunking' articles from Popular Mechanics; they simply don't address the real problems and essentially create a handpicked collection of issues of great controversy that can be safely ridiculed while ignoring others.

Stillwell inadvertantly answers this dilemma in her piece: The debunking articles and documentaries didn't persude, now 9/11 Truth is one of the burgeoning issues of our times.

She also notes that the US Government point to tapes of Bin Laden confessing. On this she concludes,

"It would be comforting to think that such information would have an impact on the Sept. 11 conspiracists -- but, alas, true believers are rarely moved by facts that contradict their preconceived notion"

But of course, this assertion is not entirely compelling, because exactly the same argument can be made from the opposing point of view.

I encounter this kind of thinking in the form of feverish e-mails from readers insisting that if I just "knew the truth" I too would understand what's behind it all. And no doubt I'll receive more than a few in response to this column. But I've looked into the abyss and I have yet to see or hear anything to validate such fantasies.

Then again, I could be part of the conspiracy, too.


Well more part of a trend. Part of trend of being allowed to write articles on 9/11 Truth as long as they are written in a disparaging light so as not to offend government or advertisers. Part of a trend to uncomfortably look over your shoulder, twitch the net curtains and attack those trying to do the hard work. And as the mainstream media can no longer so easily maintain the self-induced autism on 9/11 it once did, part of a trend to waste it's resources in trying to rubbish those raising concerns, instead of doing some serious investigative journalism on the topic.

Did Stillwell's article tell us the Truth about 9/11 Conspiracy theories as it's title stated ?

No, it just poured on the denial, although as it was so copiously linked to sites trying to make people aware of the issues perhaps partly to try to discredit them, to lump them together, I detect more than a hint of a concerned piece buried inside a hit-piece. But that is no excuse. It would be much better for Cinnamon to drop the fluff, and at least say yes I am concerned about this and America, and it's allies and the world now deserve better answers. Indeed, skeptics should welcome such a drive insteading of trying to resist it.

The real truth is, irrespective of whether one feels it is a good thing or a bad thing, sanitised, unquestioning serfdom towards 9/11 orthodoxy has became as effectively evaporated as sections of the steel members of the WTC 7 were reported to be by the New York Times.

Again skeptics should vigourously debate the issues, but predominantly, that's not what Stillwell is doing, it's not what Doug was doing, instead she's presenting a case to attack 9/11 inquiry itself, and her article is sadly just another hodgepodge of name calling and willfull denial of the problems at hand, and whatever you personally feel about 9/11, about conspiracy theories, about anything, that just isn't good enough anymore.

Please sign the petition over at Scholars for 9/11 Truth.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What we are seeing with 911 orthodoxy is the turning of that event into religion, the same way that scientists have their religion about the 'laws of physics'.

Readers of USENET have encountered the same false logic and nonsense that props up thes religions. Here is a good primer on how to spot these idiots and ther pathetic tactics:

---------------------

Date: 8 Apr 1998 01:19:29 GMT From: DOwens6683 dowens6683@aol.com Newsgroups: alt.paranormal
Subject: Stupid Skeptic Tricks

Ever get into an argument with a skeptic only to end up exasperated and feeling you've been bamboozled? Skeptics are often highly skilled at tying up opponents in clever verbal knots. Most skeptics are, of course, ordinary, more-or-less honest people who, like the rest of us, are just trying to make the best sense they can of a complicated and often confusing world. Others, however, are merely glib sophists who use specious reasoning to defend their prejudices or attack the ideas and beliefs of others, and even an honest skeptic can innocently fall into the mistake of employing bad reasoning.

In reading, listening to and sometimes debating skeptics over the years, I've found certain tricks, ploys and gimmicks which they tend to use over and over again. Here are some of 'em. Perhaps if you keep them in mind when arguing with a skeptic, you'll feel better when the debate is over. Shucks, you might even score a point or two.

* * *

1.) RAISING THE BAR (Or IMPOSSIBLE PERFECTION): This trick consists of demanding a new, higher and more difficult standard of evidence whenever it looks as if a skeptic's opponent is going to satisfy an old one. Often the skeptic doesn't make it clear exactly what the standards are in the first place. This can be especially effective if the skeptic can keep his opponent from noticing that he is continually changing his standard of evidence. That way, his opponent will eventually give up in exasperation or disgust. Perhaps best of all, if his opponent complains, the skeptic can tag him as a whiner or a sore loser.

Skeptic: I am willing to consider the psi hypothesis if you will only show me some sound evidence.

Opponent: There are many thousands of documented reports of incidents that seem to involve psi.

S: That is only anecdotal evidence. You must give me laboratory evidence.

0: Researchers A-Z have conducted experiments that produced results which favor the psi hypothesis.

S: Those experiments are not acceptable because of flaws X,Y and Z.

0: Researchers B-H and T-W have conducted experiments producing positive results which did not have flaws X,Y and Z.

S: The positive results are not far enough above chance levels to be truly interesting.

0: Researchers C-F and U-V produced results well above chance levels.

S: Their results were achieved through meta-analysis, which is a highly questionable technique.

O: Meta-analysis is a well-accepted method commonly used in psychology and sociology.

S: Psychology and sociology are social sciences, and their methods can't be considered as reliable as those of hard sciences such as physics and chemistry.

Etc., etc. ad nauseum.

2.) SOCK 'EM WITH OCCAM: Skeptics frequently invoke Occam's Razor as if the Razor automatically validates their position. Occam's Razor, a principle of epistemology (knowledge theory), states that the simplest explanation which fits all the facts is to be preferred -- or, to state it another way, entities are not to be multiplied needlessly. The Razor is a useful and even necessary principle, but it is largely useless if the facts themselves are not generally agreed upon in the first place.

3.) EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS: Extraordinary claims, says the skeptic, require extraordinary evidence. Superficially this seems reasonable enough. However, extraordinariness, like beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder. Some claims, of course, would seem extraordinary to almost anyone (e.g. the claim that aliens from Alpha Centauri had contacted you telepathically and informed you that the people of Earth must make you their absolute lord and ruler). The "extraordinariness" of many other claims, however, is at best arguable, and it is not at all obvious that unusually strong evidence is necessary to support them. For example, so many people who would ordinarily be considered reliable witnesses have reported precognitive dreams that it becomes difficult to insist these are "unusual" claims requiring "unusual" evidence. Quite ordinary standards of evidence will do.

4.) STUPID, CRAZY LIARS: This trick consists of simple slander. Anyone who reports anything which displeases the skeptic will be accused of incompetence, mental illness or dishonesty, or some combination of the three without a single shred of fact to support the accusations. When Charles Honorton's Ganzfeld experiments produced impressive results in favor of the psi hypothesis, skeptics accused him of suppressing or not publishing the results of failed experiments. No definite facts supporting the charge ever emerged. Moreover, the experiments were extremely time consuming, and the number of failed, unpublished experiments necessary to make the number of successful, published experiments significant would have been quite high, so it is extremely unlikely that Honorton's results could be due to selective reporting. Yet skeptics still sometimes repeat this accusation.

5.) THE SANTA CLAUS GAMBIT: This trick consists of lumping moderate claims or propositions together with extreme ones. If you suggest, for example, that Sasquatch can't be completely ruled out from the available evidence,the skeptic will then facetiously suggest that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny can't be "completely" ruled out either.

6.) SHIFTING THE BURDEN OF EVIDENCE: The skeptic insists that he doesn't have to provide evidence and arguments to support his side of the argument because he isn't asserting a claim, he is merely denying or doubting yours. His mistake consists of assuming that a negative claim (asserting that something doesn't exist) is fundamentally different from a positive claim. It isn't. Any definite claim, positive or negative, requires definite support. Merely refuting or arguing against an opponent's position is not enough to establish one's own position.. In other words, you can't win by default.

As arch-skeptic Carl Sagan himself said, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. If someone wants to rule out vistations by extra-terrestrial aliens, it would not be enough to point out that all the evidence presented so far is either seriously flawed or not very strong. It would be necessary to state definite reasons which would make ET visitations either impossible or highly unlikely. (He might, for example, point out that our best understanding of physics pretty much rules out any kind of effective faster-than-light drive.)

The only person exempt from providing definite support is the person who takes a strict "I don't know" position or the agnostic position. If someone takes the position that the evidence in favor of ET visitations is inadequate but goes no farther, he is exempt from further argument (provided, of course, he gives adequate reasons for rejecting the evidence). However, if he wants to go farther and insist that it is impossible or highly unlikely that ET's are visiting or have ever visited the Earth, it becomes necessary for him to provide definite reasons for his position. He is no longer entitled merely to argue against his opponent's position.

There is the question of honesty. Someone who claims to take the agnostic position but really takes the position of definite disbelief is, of course, misrepresenting his views. For example, a skeptic who insists that he merely believes the psi hypothesis is inadequately supported when in fact he believes that the human mind can only acquire information through the physical senses is simply not being honest.

7.) YOU CAN'T PROVE A NEGATIVE: The skeptic may insist that he is relieved of the burden of evidence and argument because "you can't prove a negative." But you most certainly can prove a negative! When we know one thing to be true, then we also know that whatever flatly contradicts it is untrue. If I want to show my cat's not in the bedroom, I can prove this by showing that my cat's in the kitchen or outside chasing squirrels. The negative has then been proven. Or the proposition that the cat is not in the bedroom could be proven by giving the bedroom a good search without finding the cat. The skeptic who says, "Of course I can't prove psi doesn't exist. I don't have to. You can't prove a negative," is simply wrong. To rule something out, definite reasons must be given for ruling it out.

Of course, for practical reasons it often isn't possible to gather the necessary information to prove or disprove a proposition, e.g., it isn't possible to search the entire universe to prove that no intelligent extraterrestrial life exists. This by itself doesn't mean that a case can't be made against the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, although it does probably mean that the case can't be as air-tight and conclusive as we would like.

8.) THE BIG LIE: The skeptic knows that most people will not have the time or inclination to check every claim he makes, so he knows it's a fairly small risk to tell a whopper. He might, for example, insist that none of the laboratory evidence for psi stands up to close scrutiny, or he might insist there have been no cases of UFO's being spotted by reliable observers such as trained military personnel when in fact there are well-documented cases. The average person isn't going to scamper right down to the library to verify this, so the skeptic knows a lot of people are going to accept his statement at face value. This ploy works best when the Big Lie is repeated often and loudly in a confident tone.

9.) DOUBT CASTING: This trick consists of dwelling on minor or trivial flaws in the evidence, or presenting speculations as to how the evidence might be flawed as though mere speculation is somehow as damning as actual facts. The assumption here is that any flaw, trivial or even merely speculative, is necessarily fatal and provides sufficient grounds for throwing out the evidence. The skeptic often justifies this with the "extraordinary evidence" ploy.

In the real world, of course, the evidence for anything is seldom 100% flawless and foolproof. It is almost always possible to find some small shortcoming which can be used as an excuse for tossing out the evidence. If a definite problem can't be found, then the skeptic may simply speculate as to how the evidence *might* be flawed and use his speculations as an excuse to discard the information. For example, the skeptic might point out that the safeguards or controls during one part of a psi experiment weren't quite as tight as they might have been and then insist, without any supporting facts, that the subject(s) and/or the researcher(s) probably cheated because this is the "simplest" explanation for the results (see "Sock 'em with Occam" and "Extraordinary Claims"; "Raising the Bar" is also relevant).

10.) THE SNEER: This gimmick is an inversion of "Stupid, Crazy Liars." In "Stupid, Crazy Liars," the skeptic attacks the character of those advocationg certain ideas or presenting information in the hope of discrediting the information. In "THE SNEER," the skeptic attempts to attach a stigma to some idea or claim and implies that anyone advocating that position must have something terribly wrong with him. "Anyone who believes we've been visited by extraterresrial aliens must be a lunatic, a fool, or a con man. If you believe this, you must a maniac, a simpleton or a fraud." The object here is to scare others away from a certain position without having to discuss facts.

* * *

To be fair, some of these tricks or tactics (such as "The Big Lie," "Doubtcasting" and "The Sneer") are often used by believers as well as skeptics. Scientifc Creationists and Holocaust Revisionists, for example, are particularly prone to use "Doubtcasting." Others ploys, however, such as "Sock 'em with Occam" and "Extraordinary Claims," are generally used by skeptics and seldom by others.

Unfortunately, effective debating tactics often involve bad logic, e.g. attacking an opponent's character, appeals to emotion, mockery and facetiousness, loaded definitions, etc. And certainly skeptics are not the only ones who are ever guilty of using manipulative and deceptive debating tactics. Even so, skeptics are just as likely as anyone else to twist their language, logic and facts to win an argument, and keeping these tricks in mind when dealing with skeptics may very well keep you from being bamboozled.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Gert said...

Anon:

This is a ridiculous rebuttal of the scientific method.

We've seen this so many times: when a theory doesn't pass rigorous scientific testing, the method itself is blamed.

Truth is, the scientific method itself is constantly being internally scrutinised.

I once entered into a debate regarding the alleged planet Nibiru (aka Planet X) which the Sumirians are supposed to have seen once.

If you look at the "evidence" presented for the existence of Nibiru, it's indeed completely risible. Problem is, believers in Nibiru don't need evidence: they just want to believe it anyway.

This is also true of most UFO stories and quackery surrounding 9/11. And if others don't believe this kind of quatch, they call it a "cover up"...

Sorry, but I'm not buying.

5:29 PM  
Blogger J.UL1R4 said...

Thanks very much Anon, very interesting, I will read this over time.

Gert: Thanks, I do feel there is a big difference between Planet X and 9/11.

I don't have an ideological or principled rejection of a blowback hypothesis on 9/11 becuause it's not glamourous and sexy enough. There's nothing inherently wrong with that position, indeed it makes a lot of sense in the general narrative of things, but personally I don't find it remotely sustainable and presumbably it's proponents do have an ideological rejection of other views.

Irrespective of whether one thinks it was an inside job or not most are genuinely sickened by the manufactured wars and premises for war, with a shadowy threat of terror and WMDs and all of the crap being misued to enable what's happening in the world.

Similarly, most passionately don't believe the way of facing 'real' security threats is through a horrific police state and the endless giving up of liberty until you get to some singularity of total control. You know how I feel about that and I'm sure we would both agree that in the UK at least, there has been a deliberately and gratuitous manufacturing of fear as a kind of political mandate. Indeed most of the serious media are saying this now.

However, specifically on 9/11 I think a very very compelling case has been laid down, particularly re the controlled demolition of the Towers. Personally I find the case for that alone very strong indeed, and not really ignorable on the basis of one doesn't like where it's pointing.

Additionally, the difference between Planet X, UFOs, Sasquatch etc and 9/11 is quite clear: If there's even a reasonable possibility that 9/11 was an inside job that's a deep and life threatening problem of great urgency for all of us including here in the UK, I believe it's something people have to continue to talk about.

We'll have to agree to disagree on this Gert, but if you haven't already done so I would recommend reading some of David Ray Griffin's stuff and listening to some his interviews.

Here's a good piece that talks about controlled demolition and what is an outrageous conspiracy theory etc, there's another great piece here where we goes over the oral histories that the NYT and the families had to take to court to get released, the descriptions of explosions are quite unambigous from fire fighters and paramedics.

The only real barrier I see on 9/11 is a sense that a Western government would never do or participate in that and so it's outrageous and so shocking a proposition that's it's better not to speak about it lest one gets burdened with the label of conspriacy theorist. But I feel that thinking is no longer satisfactory.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Gert said...

In the case of 9/11 there's the assumption that someone would have benefitted from controlled demolition and that's what I find preposterous, frankly speaking.

Also, the involvement of al-Qaeda is an undeniable fact, dragging controlled demolition into this makes this an altogether highly unlikely scenario.

Besides re 9/11 there are many other theories, as there are also surrounding JFK, Timothy McVeigh etc etc. The Americans aren't just masters of spin, they're also masters of conspiracy theory.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Gert said...

and Anon:

"What we are seeing with 911 orthodoxy is the turning of that event into religion, the same way that scientists have their religion about the 'laws of physics'."

The likening of science to a religion shows you for what you are: an ignoramus and rather an insulting one too.

If this is the level of thought in the 9/11 conspiracy camp, then we shouldn't expect much in terms of rational debate, instead belief systems will fly about...

Anon invokes logic whilst at the same time refuting it but can't see the contradiction in that. He must have his own, unique brand logic: "qlogic" perhaps?

5:42 PM  
Blogger J.UL1R4 said...

In the case of 9/11 there's the assumption that someone would have benefitted from controlled demolition and that's what I find preposterous, frankly speaking

Gert, well I would say, and perhaps you would agree, without the collapse of the towers 9/11 is just a nasty terrorist event, not a symbolic world changing event which various Neocons and others refer to today.

Could one have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq without the dramatic total global collapses of the Towers?

Could the US justify pumping up Pentagon spending dramatically with intention of weaponizing space without the dramatic total global collapses of the Towers?

Could Bush be talking about a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran without the dramatic total global collapses of the Towers?

As for who else benefitted Silverstein reaped an enormous insurance payout and didn't have to deal with the expensive asbestos clearance that loomed.

The 9/11 Commission's executive findings state in bold capital letters:

A NATION TRANSFORMED

(Which is Zelikow's ideology)

Also, the involvement of al-Qaeda is an undeniable fact

Gert moves to LIHOP ? :)

I don't know the status of cutting edge info on this right now, and without going through the 9/11 report, a lot of the US goverment's strongest position on this line which they cite on the State Dept's website are various confessions by Bin Laden, as well as information gleaned from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alledged 9/11 mastermind.

KSM has, according to Human Rights Watch, been the subject of torture. You may remember the first of Blair's dodgy dossiers... on Bin Laden pre Afgahnistan...heavily criticised at the time for being thin on the facts. You're probably following the trial of Moussaoui who keeps changing his story every day.

And it's worth recalling that 7 months after 9/11 the FBI's Robert Mueller went forward to say there was no evidence linking the hijackers to 9/11.

dragging controlled demolition into this makes this an altogether highly unlikely scenario

I would strongly look at it the other way round Gert, the destruction of the Towers being 9/11 and Al Qaeda being dragged into that.

Besides re 9/11 there are many other theories, as there are also surrounding JFK, Timothy McVeigh etc etc. The Americans aren't just masters of spin, they're also masters of conspiracy theory

You know I think it's very interesting that skeptics on 9/11 like Doug Thompson still don't believe in the official JFK line.

I've got no personal interest in making an allegation about the Bush administration because it's more interesting, I'm genuninely concerned to be honest.

Just curious, do you think the 9/11 Commission was a good commission Gert ?

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuck the crap about the twin towers not being an inside job, it most probably was.
Twin towers wazzizname my ass.
This awareness of the alternative positions as not stated in the 9/11 commission report had to start somewhere, so it's well done to all interested in discovering what really went down.
Anon's contribution (quite long) was extremely well put together, enjoyed reading it.
Yolande.

8:27 PM  
Blogger J.UL1R4 said...

Well maybe I got a little bit carried away here as usual. We don't know for sure in that sense, and Gert is right to be cautious, my personal view is that a compelling case re the WTC demolition has been made.

To be fair there is lot of 'background' on the alleged hijackers and associations to Al-Qaeda, and then there's Atta and the Hamberg cell etc. Although some of is extraordinary, like Atta telling US officials about his plans for crop dusters and such... this is what I mean none of it makes a lot of sense.

Then there is all the mind blowing stuff about the hijacker's identities, which is far as I can were never even updated even for the 9/11 Commission which just used the original names.

I think the most important thing would be for Americans to get some kind of new inquiry, I do believe the Commission was an appalling whitewash and quite amazing in what it left out and distorted, of course Griffin has written a book about that.

8:52 AM  

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