Debunking The Debunkers
By Joel Skousen
World Affairs Brief - c. 2005 Joel Skousen
Partial quotations with attribution permitted.
Cite source as World Affairs Brief
In every major conspiracy to cover up government criminal activity, agents of change or naïve "experts" have been hired by the establishment media to debunk conspiracy theories and facts. Walter Cronkite was trotted out of retirement to host a PBS documentary debunking the conspiracy facts surrounding the assassination of JFK (which was hardly convincing). In like manner, other programs have been produced at great expense to discredit the charges of government cover-ups in the Vince Foster and Ron Brown murders, the downing of TWA 800 by a missile, and the OKC bombing of the Murrah building.
The professional debunkers use four primary tactics to accomplish their propaganda feats:
1) They refuse to mention, much less attempt to disprove, the most irrefutable and damaging evidence.
2) They take great delight in debunking only those conspiracy theories that are the weakest or that are planted by other government sympathizers to help discredit the more credible conspiracy facts. This is what is referred to as a "straw man" argument, where a weak or false argument is set up so that it can easily be knocked down.
3) They only select "experts" who agree with the official conclusion.
4) They snicker at or mock anyone who believes that government engages in criminal behavior or covers up crimes in collusion with judges, investigators, prosecutors, media heads, and hand-picked commissions. Worse, they label dissenters as unpatriotic or mentally imbalanced.
So it is with the latest government attempt to debunk the evidence of government collusion in the 9/11 attacks. For over a decade now, the PTB have used an odd vehicle to do their debunking on a variety of issues-Popular Mechanics Magazine (a Hearst publication). I suppose they are targeting the back-yard mechanic and auto-enthusiast crowd, who are often prone to accepting conspiracy facts and theories.
In the March 2005 issue, PM magazine singled out 16 issues or claims of the 9/11 skeptics that point to government collusion and systematically attempted to debunk each one. Of the 16, most missed the mark and almost half were straw men arguments-either ridiculous arguments that few conspiracists believed or restatements of the arguments that were highly distorted so as to make them look weaker than they really were. PM took a lot of pot shots at conspiracy buffs, saying that those "who peddle fantasies that this country encouraged, permitted or actually carried out the attacks are libeling the truth - and disgracing the memories of the thousands who died that day."
That would be true only if there was no basis in fact for these controversies. I am one of those who claim there are factual arguments pointing to conspiracy, and that truth is not served by taking cheap shots at those who see gaping flaws in the government story-especially when you don't address the really tough questions in your rebuttal. Here is a quick run down of the claims (some lumped together) and why PM's debunking was superficial and distorted:
1) The bulging projection (pod) visible on the bottom of Flight 175 as it struck the south tower
If the bulge is real, critics claim it means the aircraft was modified for the attack, which could not have been done by hijackers. PM says the anomaly was simply the bulging faring under each wing root which hides the landing gear. This is a possibility since the bulge viewed on all pictures of Flight 175 is in the same location as the landing gear faring. However, the bulge is significantly bigger than the actual faring, and casts a shadow on the bottom of the aircraft. The real landing gear faring is flush with the bottom of the plane and could not cast a shadow on that area.
Besides, I talked to Boeing about the bulge and a woman spokesperson admitted that Boeing had studied the bulge and concluded, "It wasn't modified by Boeing." She didn't deny the bulge wasn't there, nor did she try to persuade me it was the landing gear faring. However, I don't have an answer for what the purpose of the modification might have been.
Later PM turns a related claim by a witness (that there were no windows on this aircraft) into a major issue to debunked. This was a straw man issue that was easily debunked with a photo of the plane's debris, with windows. This was never a credible issue with most conspiracy theorists.
2) The "stand down" order to stop intervention against the hijackers
PM cites the existence of a few scrambled jets as proof there was no "stand down" order given. This is a straw argument because key facts are omitted. There is other evidence to show that these fighters were called out purposely from bases too distant to make the intercepts-and never engaged afterburners for extra speed, indicating no sincere attempt to intercept. I received an email from one of the tower operators at McGuire AFB telling me he had received a call from the base commander ordering him to shut down military flight ops and not let fighter-interceptors take off. This was before the general shut down of the air traffic system by the FAA. This indicates that aircraft closer to the hijacked planes were told to stand down.
There are two witnesses (a general and a Congressman) who said VP Dick Cheney was operating under stand-down orders, except as pertaining to Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. PM tried to make the case that NORAD had never vigorously followed standing orders to intercept hijacked aircraft, and that their high definition radars were all pointed outside the US boundaries (like a doughnut). Neither is true. There were dozens of intercepts in the two years prior to 9/11 (PM said there was only one) and NORAD has complete radar coverage within the US.
PM also presented disinformation when it claimed that if an airliner turns off its transponder, the controller can no longer distinguish the aircraft from thousand of other smaller blips on his screen. Not so. First, there aren't thousands of unlabeled blips on the screen in any given sector, and second, the actual radar return is still on the screen at the same approximate position of the transponder data symbol, making it easier to acquire.
PM neglected to mention the more powerful evidences of cover-up and collusion here, including the FAA's destruction of the tape recording of air traffic controllers' description of the events, the FAA refusing to turn over tape recordings of the ATC controllers talking to the pilots when the hijackings were declared, and the discrepancies between the claims of when the FAA supposedly notified NORAD.
3) Explosives brought down the twin towers (puff of dust, etc.)
This is only a partial straw man argument. There is significant evidence that the aircraft impacts did not cause the collapse, but PM only discussed the fire and explosive claims that were easily explained away. An early claim making the rounds was that the towers couldn't have collapsed since fuel doesn't burn hot enough to melt steel. PM correctly pointed out, as I have also in my briefs, that steel trusses supporting the floor system only need be heated to the point of sagging-not melting-in order to give way.
Early conspiracists claimed that the puffs of smoke coming out of the windows as each floor pancaked down on another were evidence of demolition charges. Once again, PM correctly pointed out that the crushing of sheet rock interiors can cause this. I was never convinced of controlled demolition myself, since it would have required months of prep work inside the building, unbeknownst to all the tenants.
But conspicuously absent from the PM arguments was the blockbuster evidence that the 42 main pillars in the central core of the building had been taken down by a combination of explosives and thermite charges-which can melt steel like butter. The head of the company removing the debris from the WTC said in an interview that there were large pools of hot molten steel in the lowest basement where the main support pillars had stood. No expert has claimed that either fuel or burning debris falling into an oxygen starved basement would have been capable of creating the huge quantity of concentrated heat needed to melt 42 huge pillars with two-foot-thick steel walls. Numerous witnesses and fire fighters heard large explosions in the lower section of the building just prior to the collapse. One video shot of the south WTC (whose central core was not even damaged by Flight 175) gives clear evidence of the central core being collapsed prior to the general collapse: the center mounted TV towers started descending downward well prior to the outer section of the building. PM was silent on these major anomalies, and so was the 9/11 Commission, which indicates they were avoiding the tough issues.
PM did attempt some sleight of hand, with some remarks by a paid "expert" trying to explain away the symmetrical and absolutely vertical collapse of WTC building #7 that was only slightly damaged on one side. A video of the collapse does show the telltale signs of explosive demolition on each floor-which would have been impossible if the building was heeling over toward the damaged side.
4) The Pentagon crash
PM discussed the common arguments against the official version: the penetration hole was too small; there was not enough debris outside; windows close to the impact were still intact. The window argument was a straw man with an easy explanation-they were reinforced security glass. The issues of the penetration hole and the lack of large pieces of debris simply do not jive with the official story, but they are explainable if you include the parking lot video evidence that shows a huge white explosion at impact. This cannot happen with an aircraft laden only with fuel. It can only happen in the presence of high explosives. Some witnesses saw a smaller aircraft, others saw the Boeing. One or two saw and heard a missile launch. Could all three have been present? I think so.
There are credible witnesses who saw many small pieces of aluminum scattered about, plus a few larger pieces. If the larger Boeing was blasted apart at impact with high explosives it would explain the shower of aluminum shards that littered the road. The Pentagon parking lot video tape (which strangely fails to show a large Boeing aircraft) does show a huge white explosion-the unique sign of high explosives. An aircraft laden only with fuel gives off the red and black signature only-nothing white or bright. If the Boeing was laced with explosives, it would also explain why the wings didn't totally penetrate the structure. I have checked the photographs of major engine and landing gear pieces among the wreckage and they do match the Boeing aircraft, so I do think a Boeing hit the Pentagon. But I am not buying PM's statement (given without any evidence or photos) that a landing gear was responsible for the 12-foot round hole that penetrated three rings of the Pentagon. The landing gear is a long, gangly affair, and it didn't even make it through the first ring, according to photos I have seen. Only a missile could have penetrated that far. Was a missile on the smaller jet seen by witnesses used to prep the hardened Pentagon façade?
PM's glib explanations did not do justice to the multiple possibilities. Besides, if the government version is true, why is the FBI refusing to turn over the two video surveillance tapes (one from a gas station and one from a hotel) that would show what really happened?
5) Flight 93 was shot down by an F-16
PM discussed all the key issues: a small white private jet that was shadowing the flight; engine parts apart from the main wreckage; debris two miles away in Indian Lake; and the purported identity of the F-16 pilot. But in each case, it falsified the evidence by quoting erroneous, distorted or planted theories by government experts.
For example, while it finally acknowledged the presence of a white unmarked jet, it claimed it was a private jet flying at 30,000 feet, asked to descend from high altitude and check out the crash. This was impossible as witnesses saw the plane before the crash. PM even claimed to have talked to the company (which conveniently didn't want to be named) that owned the jet. But this is at variance with prior admission by a leasing company that said the jet was theirs and was leased to the government (the CIA often uses white unmarked jets).
This story by PM was a total fabrication. I have listened to the private transcripts of the radio talk between Cleveland Center and all the other airliners controlled by ATC in that sector (including Flight 93). Even the 9/11 commission refused to address this private tape, which was recorded by one private jet that was in the area, and is still available on the internet. Nowhere in that transcript is any private aircraft asked by Cleveland Center to follow or descend with Flight 93. In fact, the one airliner that was closest to Flight 93 was asked by Cleveland Center to verify visually the condition of Flight 93 after the Center and all other aircraft on that frequency heard the pilot of the aircraft announce that "there was a bomb on board." The aircraft acknowledged seeing Flight 93 in the distance and then suddenly announced that he observed an explosion. This was while Flight 93 was at altitude, confirming reports from ATC controllers who had vectored an F-16 to Flight 93, and witnesses who saw the shoot down from the ground.
It also explains why one of the engines was found miles away. PM tried to divert its readers from the issue by telling about another part of the engine found about 300 meters from the crash site-which is explainable, if you don't address the issue of the other engine. Many witnesses saw streams of papers, luggage and even body parts falling some distance from the crash site. PM blamed this on an updraft-but luggage and body parts don't blow two miles away in a gentle breeze.
Lastly, the issue on the identity of the pilot of the F-16 (a Major Gibbons) is problematic. The source is a retired Colonel Donn de Grand-Pre, who makes many claims about hobnobbing with big wigs in Washington that I find uncredible and suspicious. He claims he was at an awards ceremony in North Dakota when Major Gibbons was supposedly awarded a medal for shooting down Flight 93. I always found this a little fantastic. Why would the government give out a public award for something they were trying to keep secret? The government still doesn't admit to shooting down Flight 93, let alone disclose who did it. Of course, if they did allow a private awards ceremony, it would explain why they would have Major Gibbons deny it. While PM's debunking of the Gibbons story may be true (they claim he was using his F-16 to pick up a big-wig in Montana), their explanation was also a bit fantastic: people have to be trained in ejection seat procedures prior to flying in a high performance jet.
Germany's unforgivable crime before the Second World War was her attempt to extricate her economy from the world's trading system and to create her own exchange mechanism which would deny world finance its opportunity to profit.
— Winston Churchill