Just finished supper with old friends. Table talk was mellow until he asked me what I believed about 9/11. Turns out he’s been sucked into the Twin Towers conspiracy theory. It’s where radical jihadis never went to U.S. flight schools to learn enough to fly hijacked jetliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, where the towers were brought down by phased explosive charges, where software created holograms of the planes disappearing into the skyscrapers, where Jews were spared because they were forewarned not to show up for work that day. No aircraft debris in the ruins, no black boxes because there were no hijacked jetliners and the only tangible proof of the fiction was rush loaded into containers and shipped to China. All a plot by unnamed conspirators for undefined purposes.
Logic and attributable facts have no place in this discussion. Nor is there any point in asking why the World Bank/U.S. State Department/CIA/FBI/Mossad would engineer such a conspiracy, let alone how conspirators managed to keep it secret through 15 years of financial crisis and political turmoil.
We hammered away at one another until the women declared the topic closed, which is just as well, because I felt common sense was on the run. Contempt and sarcasm are poor weapons against the impenetrable armour of absolute conviction worn by someone armed with what passes for analysis in web forums.
I could have left it there but it bothered me that I didn’t know enough about the conspiracy theory to be able to debunk it. So I spent some time following World Trade Center conspiracy threads through the internet. I learned more than 60% of Americans don’t believe the official 9/11 version – of how four commercial aircraft were hijacked by Salafist jihadis, some of whom had undergone training in U.S. commercial-licence flying schools, then flown into the twin towers, the Pentagon and into the ground in rural Pennsylvania when passengers thwarted an attack on the White House. Close to half don’t believe Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden had anything to do with it.
Even a quick search shows the complexity and contradictions within the 9/11 conspiracy camp. One group concentrates on proving there are no other examples of modern high-rise structures collapsing as the result of fire. (What other modern tower was struck by a fully fuelled 757 at 300 mph?) Engineering consultants can’t explain why top floors collapsed in sequence, tearing floors beneath them loose from the curtain walls in a catastrophic cascade. No explanation? Then try the use of shaped explosive charges. Anyone good at manipulating the public knows the selective use of fact at a precise point can move minds.
One of the challenges in debunking a logic-defying structure of half-truths and opinions is knowing where to begin. (I go back to a line drawing in a late-nineties edition of the Concordia Student Guide depicting a commercial aircraft being flown toward the twin towers during a period when the downtown campus was struggling to prevent being transformed into a madrasa.) Following the failed bombing of the WTC by Mullah Omar’s plotters in 1993, the towers became the obvious target of choice. Another attack was inevitable.
Once you’re into it, questions present themselves. I found myself rerunning memory video of a frozen Bush upon learning of the attacks in the midst of an elementary school photo op. Within hours and despite a continent-wide lockdown of U.S. airspace, anyone connected with the Saudi royal family and its retainers had been spirited out of America. If there’s a conspiracy, I thought, this is part of it.
I plead guilty to having promulgated conspiracy theories. The role of the French secret service in the assassination of former Quebec deputy premier Pierre Laporte three years after French president Charles de Gaulle’s ‘Vive le Quebec libre’ is one. Another hypothesizes the existence of a carefully crafted vote-rejection system to disqualify No votes in the close-call 1995 Quebec secession referendum. But these are local currency, chump change compared to 9/11. Not even the assassination of JFK compares with the impact of the collapse of the twin towers on 21st-century life.
Next time we sit down, 9/11 won’t be at the table. Too many people are spending too much of their time rewriting history according to what they trawl from the web. I can’t see that as a plus for humanity.