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Loose Brains
When I say "loose brains," I don't mean smart people on the loose: think of something a little more akin to loose stool, but in the cranial cavity. None other than George Monbiot, not exactly a darling of the right wing, rips up the notion of a government conspiracy behind 9/11 -- a theory advocated by the "documentary" Loose Change. Here's an excerpt of Monbiot's piece for Alternet:

The Pentagon, the film maintains, was not hit by a commercial airliner. There was "no discernable trace" of a plane found in the wreckage, and the entrance and exit holes in the building were far too small. It was hit by a Cruise missile. The twin towers were brought down by means of "a carefully planned controlled demolition." You can see the small puffs of smoke caused by explosives just below the cascading sections. All other hypotheses are implausible: the fire was not hot enough to melt steel and the towers fell too quickly. Building 7 was destroyed by the same means a few hours later.

Flight 93 did not crash, but was redirected to Cleveland Airport, where the passengers were taken into a NASA building and never seen again. Their voices had been cloned by the Los Alamos laboratories and used to make fake calls to their relatives. The footage of Osama Bin Laden, claiming responsibility for the attacks, was faked. The US government carried out this great crime for four reasons: to help Larry Silverstein, who leased the towers, to collect his insurance money; to assist insider traders betting on falling airline stocks; to steal the gold in the basement; and to grant George Bush new executive powers, so that he could carry out his plans for world domination.

Even if you have seen or read no other accounts of 9/11, and your brain has not yet been liquidized, a few problems must occur to you. The first is the complete absence of scientific advice. At one point the presenter asks "So what brought down the Twin Towers? Let's ask the experts." But they don't ask the experts. The film makers take some old quotes, edit them to remove any contradictions, then denounce all subsequent retractions as further evidence of conspiracy.

The evidence says otherwise. As do eyewitness accounts; for example:

Read some conflicting accounts, and Loose Change's case crumbles faster than the Twin Towers. Hundreds of people saw a plane hit the Pentagon. Because it collided with one of the world's best- defended buildings at full speed, the plane was pulverised: even so, both plane parts and body parts were in fact recovered. The wings and tail disintegrated when they hit the wall, which is why the holes weren't bigger.

So why do so many people -- including a reasonably intelligent session musician I run into at a café I go to -- believe otherwise? Monbiot's proposal:

People believe Loose Change because it proposes a closed world: comprehensible, controllable, small. Despite the great evil which runs it, it is more companionable than the chaos which really governs our lives, a world without destination or purpose. This neat story draws campaigners away from real issues -- global warming, the Iraq war, nuclear weapons, privatisation, inequality -- while permanently wrecking their credibility. Bush did capitalise on the attacks, and he did follow a pre-existing agenda, spelt out, as Loose Change says, by the Project for a New American Century. But by drowning this truth in an ocean of nonsense, the conspiracists ensure that it can never again be taken seriously.

The film's greatest flaw is this: the men who made it are still alive. If the US government is running an all-knowing, all-encompassing conspiracy, why did it not snuff them out long ago? There is only one possible explanation. They are in fact agents of the Bush regime, employed to distract people from its real abuses of power. This, if you are inclined to believe such stories, is surely a more plausible theory than the one proposed in Loose Change.

The comments (scroll down) at the link don't bode well for the left. They should run ads for tinfoil hats with Monbiot's piece. They'd make a mint.

Posted by aalkon at February 20, 2007 1:22 PM

Comments

These folks are more amazing than the moon landing deniers, but I have not yet developed the desire to encourage them. Doubt that I will.

However, it is the same mentality. The whole world is a conspiracy and we are hust helpless victims.

Shortly after arriving in Miami in January to work the Super Bowl I met a Scotsman at the bar, a telecommunications contractor for the event.

During our conversation the 'fake' moon landing business came up. Otherwise he seemed like a bright guy, but he could not believe that *I* believed the moon landings were real! I was expecting him to accuse me of being a brainwashing victim, but he didn't.

I can just see my son having to listen to the same nonsense about 9/11 in 20 years. Wait, he probably hears more of it now than I do.

Posted by: Guy Montag at February 20, 2007 5:31 AM

A good piece from Monbiot? A broken clock is indisputably correct twice a day, but it's nonetheless useless.

Posted by: Crid at February 20, 2007 5:42 AM

The single best class I ever took in high school was logic. For those who never took it, and would like to improve their reasoning, sites like criticalthinking.org are very helpful.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 20, 2007 5:43 AM

The fact that it's from Monbiot makes the comments at the bottom all-the-more hilarious.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 20, 2007 5:49 AM

The film's greatest flaw is this: the men who made it are still alive. If the US government is running an all-knowing, all-encompassing conspiracy, why did it not snuff them out long ago?

If this alternate idea has not been voiced yet, expect it any time now:

They are still alive for the same reason that political prisoners who get notoriety are still alive, they are too visible to be killed now. You know, the Amnesty International effect.

Expect an album from Neil Young sometime before 9/11/2011.

Posted by: Guy Montag at February 20, 2007 5:51 AM

> sites like criticalthinking.org

Blech! Blech!

"The Foundation and Center for Critical Thinking aim to improve instruction in primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities. We offer conferences and professional development programs, emphasizing assessment, research, instructional strategies, Socratic questioning, critical reading and writing, higher order thinking, quality enhancement, and competency standards."

Reading and writing are enough; they do their own work and bring their own results. The "critical" part is the where the "Foundation" members drink white wine in the lobby at the conferences while trying to peer down the blouses of the wives of their associates, especially those of the young grad students. WTF is an "emphasized instructional strategy"?

People for whom thinking is not enough, who need for it to be "critical" before it's sufficiently rewarding or productive or impressive to their peers, are trying to prove weird things to people.

That homepage has a lot of pictures of churches on it.

WTF is "higher order thinking"?

These people like to play being smart the way children like to play doctor.

Posted by: Crid at February 20, 2007 6:08 AM

First let me state that I don’t believe that the 911 stuff was done by our government. Now with that out of the way I would have to say that the ‘crazies’ have a lot of history to draw from. The dirty things that our government has done to it’s own citizens and other democracies around the world over the years to back up just about anything the mind can think of. And if the statistics are anything like other criminal things we have only heard the tip of the iceberg of the nasty things that have been done for our own good.

Many things have come out only after a decade or more and lately we have many things coming out about secret spy and kidnapping these last few years which means many more are still hidden. All of these things contribute to not trusting our government for the truth because sadly our government does not tell us the truth all the time. There seem to be so much spin on things our government says now that a person has to use some kind of personal filtering process to see what is really going on, and that is the slippery slope we find ourselves on.

Posted by: -x- at February 20, 2007 6:31 AM

Crid, I believe those are universities.

I discovered the site when I had the sub(standard) assistant, when my smart, thinking assistant was out. There are pamphlets there that looked pretty good. You can think critically, but many people lack even a rudimentary ability to reason. I know -- I'm shocked by their e-mails every day.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 20, 2007 6:45 AM

Blech... Universities... Blech blech. Critical! Higher order! Conference! Critical conference, buzzword. Emphasize strategy, quality enhancement. Nice rack on that undergrad, she looks urban, if you catch my drift. Professional development. Critical! Critical! Socrates in the lobby with a white wine and a canape, talking competency with a critical thinker, a higher-order individual of the first rank attending an emphasized conference of professionals needing assessment. Instructional programs of critical research!

Posted by: Crid at February 20, 2007 7:00 AM

I had this question on a pretest for college students:

Dogs do not talk so if they are sick or hurt we cannot know precisely the ailment. Because dogs cannot talk, they cannot feel pain like humans.

True or False

Over half of the class chooses true to this question consistently. It has been my experience that a lot of people will believe anything if it is in print. When I taught public high school, I had to stop showing students how to post their poetry on a certain website because after you post, you get the "prize correspondence" in the mail. Here's their pitch: If you buy a book with your poem published in it, you are eligible to win the best poem prize of some astronomical dollar amount. My students and their parents were forgoing grocery money for the book in hopes of winning the prize. One of the students who published a poem and bought a book had "their" misspelled as "there" three times. There are a lot of Dumb Asses in this world. We need the website.

Posted by: kg at February 20, 2007 7:50 AM

Actually, I almost posted a comment about how a college education can be overrated -- you can read and study and learn to think on your own. This may help people do it. So, what's the problem?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 20, 2007 8:04 AM

But dogs can not feel pain like humans. Dogs feel pain of course, but they feel it as a dog does.

Posted by: eric at February 20, 2007 8:18 AM

Thanks for that, Eric. The first impulse was to ask the professor: Define your terms! Whatchoo mean, "feel pain like"?

Also, does anyone really believe that teaching people their theres and they'res will help them understand that a gift for poetry is not a lightning strike of good luck, like the lottery? We needn't be eager to call people dumb asses... There will always, always be reasons to do so. And we needn't be in a hurry to think of ourselves, or anybody else, as "critical."

Posted by: Crid at February 20, 2007 8:29 AM

It goes back to the fundamentals of a real education over educationism. Knowledge over emotion. Teaching over social engineering.

Personally, I recommend Schopenhauer's The Art of Controversy to explain how people use logical fallacies in their arguments. The manipulation of words. The abuse of rhetoric to hide their lack of knowledge. What is left? A person's ideas not grounded in any form of reality.

Would this only apply to kooks with conspiracy theories?

Posted by: Joe at February 20, 2007 8:37 AM

I agree Amy. Autodidacts are very underrated in this country.

Posted by: Joe at February 20, 2007 8:43 AM

It's just that academics are overrated.

Posted by: Crid at February 20, 2007 8:54 AM

Quite so, Crid. A great many of them lost in their own intellectual games.

Posted by: Joe at February 20, 2007 9:13 AM

Forgive me for returning to the topic of the looney left, and the articles of their faith, but "x" if you expect truth from government in the form of full disclosure, then you're a prisoner of fantasy. There are many things an informed citizenry need not know.

Posted by: Casca at February 20, 2007 9:57 AM

> There are many things an informed
> citizenry need not know.

Frogwash! There are things an IC need not care about, but that's not the same thing. If you did it --or figured it out-- with my tax dollars, I wanna know about it.

Posted by: Crid at February 20, 2007 10:02 AM

Hey Amy, Did you see that Susan Spano is leaving Paris? I'm sure that you are very triste... xo

Posted by: Emmanuelle at February 20, 2007 10:28 AM

One of my friends at Slashdot posted some links to a BBC special in the comments where I mentioned this story.

Might be worth checking out, if you care enought to debunk the conspiracy clan. Leading them down their own path of ever increasing nonsense can be fun too. Kind of like telling the pot guys about the cotton lobby plot to keep hemp illegal.

Posted by: Guy Montag at February 20, 2007 10:31 AM

Here's an MIT physicist/engineer getting in on the act. He makes a few good points...

www.youtube.com/watch?v=FujppU50EpA&mode=related&search=

Posted by: Hasan at February 20, 2007 10:42 AM

don't bode well for the left. They should run ads for tinfoil hats with Monbiot's piece. They'd make a mint.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that I don't know anyone credible on "the left" ("credible" being the operative word) who would buy into or promote those kind of conspiracy theories. And I'd also reckon that the TinFoil Millinery does a good bit of business on the extreme ends of both left and right.

Posted by: deja pseu at February 20, 2007 11:26 AM

deja pseu,

Thanks for reminding me. There were several folks like that running around, from the so-called Right, immediatly after the Oklahoma City Bombing. G. Gordon Liddy had one on his show a couple of times, who wrote a book about how the OKC building was a controlled demolition.

Posted by: Guy Montag at February 20, 2007 12:07 PM

Casca

It is true I am a prisoner of fantasy, but the point I was trying to make was the US Government has a long history of doing conspiracy stuff. So when something happenings and the gov. spin comes out so does everyone else spin.

Posted by: -x- at February 20, 2007 12:15 PM

Hasan, this is not an attack on your post. Just my problem with the video and the 'academic' surface appearance that most conspiracy theories hide behind.

Did one person plant the various explosives on the WTC towers prior to September 11, 2001? A whole team? How can all of them keep the secret so well? Were they executed? Were they free-lance foreign operatives?

I'm simply amazed on how many screw ups the government commits and have these perfect operations conducted like clockwork. Perhaps the screw ups are part of the conspiracy too? A disinformation campaign.

Was that the entire video? I would like to have seen his structural math proofs. He only showed a few diagrams. Pictures accompanied by some phrases. Hardly any footnotes. Except the comparisons in spending on the WTC investigations versus the Clinton Sex scandal.

Jeff King is not an engineer at MIT. He got his degree in electrical engineering from MIT. If the collapse of the towers were caused by an electrical wiring problem... then Jeff King would be a valuable source. Maybe, I'm part of the conspiracy to smear Jeff King's credibility?

By the way, I did some work on helping patients recovering from recent heart attacks a few years ago. Does that make me qualified to perform open heart surgery? I could probably wing it. Any volunteers?

Posted by: Joe at February 20, 2007 12:40 PM

What the hell, I'm in.

Posted by: Crid at February 20, 2007 12:59 PM

Joe,

In college some of the Middle Eastern students would tell me and the other guys of military background that we were 'being brainwashed by CNN, proven to be owned by Jews and that the Jews ran the US government and military, we were brainwashed there too . . .' NO, I did not make any of that up either.

Interesting quirk that I had not noticed until recently, they would say "Jews" until they hung out with certain American or "Western" students for a while and switch that to "Zionists". This article (check the WSJ original if you like) seems to be about what was going on behind the scenes at the time.

Note, I said SOME. Many of the students from Kuwait, Yemen and other places never brought it up and had plenty of other stuff to talk about, like cars and our classwork. Even after the liberation of Kuwait was in the works we just added the war talk and they were pro-liberation. They did not seem to associate closely with the "bad attitude" bunch, but the worst they would so is ask "what is wrong with those guys?"

Posted by: Guy Montag at February 20, 2007 1:05 PM

I've had my similar experiences in my travels in the Middle East. Besides their 9/11 conspiracies, I've had many Egyptians tell me plenty of conspiracies behind Israel's victories in 1967 and 1973. Such as phantom US special forces units and UK SAS assisting the IDF.

When I would tell them how the Israelis had the suspicion of a possible attack was so simple. They couldn't believe it was mostly based on hospital clerical information. The Mossad had many paid informants in Syria, Jordan and Egypt. These informants worked in various hospitals in the various nations. When the clerical invoices for HUGE increases in emergency medical supplies at the various hospitals at the same time. Well, it doesn't take a genius to understand that there could be a possible future military attack coming.

An out of the ordinary increase of emergency supplies to handle a large amount of casualties. Coinciding with military training maneuvers near the various borders. A possible attack imminent???

There is a major psychological factor that lies behind believers of various conspiracies. Normally, they come from people or groups of people who are marginalized. Who feel powerless in their lives. That horrible events cannot have a simple conclusion, but a massive hidden perfectly orchestrated conspiracy.

Posted by: Joe at February 20, 2007 2:00 PM

I knew someone would say dogs don't feel as humans feel. First, how do you know? Second, I wish my students would argue that point in that way. I'd give it to them in a heartbeat. Anyway, that wasn't the point of my comment. Believe me, when a single woman who happens to be the ripe old age of twenty with four children discusses her hard life and then takes no responsibility for her actions by exclaiming her predicament is God's will, you see the need for a little critical analysis.

Posted by: kg at February 20, 2007 2:20 PM

I would love to play this thinking game with you kg, but it would probably distract. I did understand that with at least three false suppositions in the argument, it would be false. For example, can a doctor precisely diagnose and heal a mute's broken leg, even if he is not told about it? Of course. Do dogs communicate with each other even though they don't "talk". I think so. Picking apart these hypotheticals is great fun...

Back to the whackos....

Posted by: eric at February 20, 2007 2:58 PM

Thank you deja pseu. I still have not seen those liberal sites that I visit, or the liberal pundits that I read buy, into this conspiracy theory. Perhaps Larouchies, but they are a force unto themselves.

Posted by: moe99 at February 20, 2007 4:41 PM

Folks, this was the best "they are not dead" defense so far on my /. journal. Really funny, like a MADOXX thingie. EXTTRA BONUS! The $20 buill trick AND the $100 bill trick!

Posted by: Guy Montag at February 20, 2007 6:59 PM

On the doggie thing, perhaps they feel pain the same as we do, but they are just tougher?

I suggest that "tough as a dog" is not a human construct, but one by the Greys. Plenty of evidence on The Art Bell Overnight Show, there is a concensus that we are being visited.

Now, the cats, they are truly of another world and I respect them. Dogs have owners, cats have staff. This is not an accident of nature.

Amy, are you trying to cheat nature AND the heavens with a cat-like dog?

Posted by: Guy Montag at February 20, 2007 7:09 PM

Plenty of evidence on The Art Bell Overnight Show, there is a concensus that we are being visited.

You're joking, right?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 20, 2007 7:59 PM

You're joking, right?

Yes, it is a joke!

The best jokes are the purly factual ones, like the 'concensus' on anthropological global warming, Art Bell guests think extraterrestrials are visiting us or my Hydrogen Powered 1996 Jeep Cherokee.

Posted by: Guy Montag at February 21, 2007 8:29 AM

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