Mark Steyn on Debunking 9/11 Myths

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mark Steyn does a very entertaining review on Debunking 9/11 Myths . It left me wondering how people can be so crazy as to believe that Bush and Cheney could or would do this. Can you imagine how frustrating this must be for AlQaida, they threaten death and mayhem, issue fatwas and all they get from the loons is a condescending pat on the head.

Who is A. K. Dewdney? He's an adjunct professor of biology at the University of Western Ontario, and he has pieced together the truth about what happened on 9/11. You may be familiar with the official version: "To account for the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush White House has produced a scenario involving Arab hijackers flying large aircraft into American landmarks," writes the eminent Ontario academic. "We, like millions of other 9/11 skeptics, have found this explanation to be inconsistent with the facts of the matter."

Instead, he argues, a mid-air plane switch took place on three of the jets. "The passengers of one of the flights died in an aerial explosion over Shanksville, Pa.," he writes, "and the remaining passengers (and aircraft) were disposed of in the Atlantic Ocean." Most of us swallowed "the Bush-Cheney scenario" because we were unaware that, when two planes are less than half a kilometre apart, they appear as a single blip on the radar screen. Thus, the covert switch. Instead of crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the flights were diverted by FBI agents on board to Harrisburg, Pa., where the passengers from all three planes were herded onto UA Flight 175 and flown on to Cleveland Hopkins and their deaths. By then, unmanned Predator drones had been substituted for the passenger jets and directed into their high-profile targets. The original planes and their passengers were finished off over the Atlantic.

But what about all those phone calls, especially from Flight 93? Ha, scoffs Dewdney. "Cellphone calls made by passengers were highly unlikely to impossible. Flight UA93 was not in the air when most of the alleged calls were made. The calls themselves were all faked." Michel Chossudovsky, of Quebec's Centre for Research on Globalization, agrees: "It was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to place a wireless cell call from an aircraft travelling at high speed above 8,000 feet."

So all the "Let's roll" stuff was cooked up by the government spooks. So, presumably, were the calls from the other planes. Flight 175 passenger Peter Hanson to his father: "Passengers are throwing up and getting sick. The plane is making jerky movements." This at a time when, according to professor Dewdney, Flight 175 was preparing to land smoothly at Harrisburg. Or Flight 11 stewardess Madeline Sweeney: "We are flying very, very low. We are flying way too low. Oh my God, we are way too low." Two minutes later, Flight 11 supposedly crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center -- though, as professor Dewdney has demonstrated, by then the plane wasn't even in the state. These so-called "calls" all used state-of-the art voice modification technology to make family members believe they were talking to loved ones rather than vocally disguised government agents. In the case of Todd Beamer's "Let's roll!" the spooks had gone to the trouble of researching and identifying individual passengers' distinctive conversational expressions.

In the end, says Dewdney, Flight 93 was shot down by a "military-looking all-white aircraft." It was an A-10 Thunderbolt cunningly repainted to . . . well, the professor doesn't provide a rationale for why you'd go to the trouble to paint a military aircraft. But the point is, several eyewitnesses reported seeing a white jet in the vicinity of the Flight 93 Pennsylvania crash site, so naturally conspiracy theorists regard that as supporting evidence that the plane was brought down by the U.S. military rather than after a heroic passenger uprising against their jihadist hijackers. "It was taken out by the North Dakota Air Guard," announced retired army Col. Donn de Grand Pre. "I know the pilot who fired those two missiles to take down 93." It was Maj. Rick Gibney, who destroyed the aircraft with a pair of Sidewinders at precisely 9:58 a.m.

Ooooo-kay. We now turn to a brand-new book edited by David Dunbar and Brad Reagan called Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts. Brad Reagan? There's a name for conspiracy theorists to ponder, notwithstanding his cover as a "contributing editor" for Popular Mechanics. First things first: Maj. Rick Gibney is a lieutenant-colonel. At 9:58 a.m. he wasn't in Shanksville, Pa., but in Fargo, N.D. At 10:45, he took off for Bozeman, Mont., where he picked up Edward Jacoby, Jr., director of the New York State Emergency Management Office, and flew him back to Albany, N.Y., in a two-seat F-16B, unarmed -- i.e., no Sidewinders. The white plane was not an attractively painted A-10 Thunderbolt but a Dassault Falcon 20 corporate jet belonging to the company that owns Wrangler, North Face and other clothing lines. It was coming into Johnstown, near Shanksville, when Flight 93 disappeared and the FAA radioed to ask them if they could look around. "The plane circled the crash site twice," write Dunbar and Reagan, "and then flew directly over it to mark the exact latitude and longitude on the plane's navigation system."

Just for the record, I believe that a cell of Islamist terrorists led by Mohammed Atta carried out the 9/11 attacks. But that puts me in a fast-shrinking minority. In the fall of 2001, a coast-to-coast survey of Canadian imams found all but two insistent that there was no Muslim involvement in 9/11.

Oh, well. It was just after 9/11, everyone was still in shock.

Five years later, a poll in the United Kingdom found that only 17 per cent of British Muslims believe there was any Arab involvement in 9/11.

Ah, but it's a sensitive issue over there, what with Tony Blair being so close to Bush and all.

Professor Dewdney's plane-swap theory?

Come on, if you already live in Canada, it's not such a leap to live in an alternative universe.

But what are we to make of the Scripps Howard poll taken this month in which 36 per cent of those surveyed thought it "somewhat likely" or "very likely" that federal officials either participated in the attacks or had knowledge of them beforehand?

Debunking 9/11 Myths does a grand job of explaining such popular conspiracy-website mainstays as how a 125-foot-wide plane leaves a 16-foot hole in the Pentagon. Answer: it didn't. The 16-foot hole in the Pentagon's Ring C was made by the plane's landing gear. But the problem isn't scientific, it's psychological: if you're prepared to believe that government agents went to the trouble of researching, say, gay rugby player Mark Bingham's family background and vocal characteristics so they could fake cellphone calls back to his mom, then clearly you're not going to be deterred by mere facts. As James B. Meigs, the editor-in-chief of Popular Mechanics, remarks toward the end of this book, the overwhelming nature of the evidence is, to the conspiratorially inclined, only further evidence of a cover-up: "One forum posting that has multiplied across the Internet includes a long list of the physical evidence linking the 19 hijackers to the crime: the rental car left behind at Boston's Logan airport, Mohammed Atta's suitcase, passports recovered at the crash sites, and so on. 'HOW CONVENIENT!' the author notes after each citation. In the heads-I-win-tails-you-lose logic of conspiracism, there is no piece of information that cannot be incorporated into one's pet theory."

When I was on the Rush Limbaugh show a couple of months back, a listener called up to insist that 9/11 was an inside job. I asked him whether that meant Bali and Madrid and London and Istanbul were also inside jobs. Because that's one expensive operation to hide even in the great sucking maw of the federal budget. But the Toronto blogger Kathy Shaidle made a much sharper point:

"I wonder if the nuts even believe what they are saying. Because if something like 9/11 happened in Canada, and I believed with all my heart that, say, Stephen Harper was involved, I don't think I could still live here. I'm not sure I could stop myself from running screaming to another country. How can you believe that your President killed 2,000 people, and in between bitching about this, just carry on buying your vente latte and so forth?"

Over to you, Col. de Grand Pre, and Charlie Sheen, and Alan Colmes.

The sad reality is that never before has an enemy hidden in such plain sight. Osama bin Laden declared a jihad against America in 1998. Iran's nuclear president vows to wipe Israel off the map. A year before the tube bombings, radical Brit imam Omar Bakri announced that a group of London Islamists are "ready to launch a big operation" on British soil. "We don't make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents," he added, clarifying the ground rules. "Only between Muslims and unbelievers. And the life of an unbeliever has no value."

Our enemies hang their shingles on Main Street, and a University of Western Ontario professor puts it down to a carefully planned substitution of transponder codes.


Seneca the Younger said...

Dewdney too? Crap.

Two of the others are friends of mine --- Jim Fetzer, who I had a lovely set of arguments with that turned into some good papers, and Bob Boyer --- not really a friend, but I worked for him for several years in grad school.

Luther McLeod said...


I haven't read the review (though I will). Your excerpt was damning enough.

I do actually know a couple of (intelligent) individuals who subscribe to just such BS as Steyn illustrates.

I attempted to engage them in 'discussion', but had to cease when confronted by their total obtuseness. Otherwise my head would have exploded.

I have come to the conclusion that half (or better) of the world is insane. I do not have an answer as to how 'we' might reach them.

It is very difficult nowadays, to maintain a stable worldview.

David Thomson said...

I have read this splendid book. The question I have is this: how “mainstream” are these views of the conspiracy nuts? It is my guess that few are center-right Republicans. Most of them are left-wing Democrats. Am I right? Well, let’s encourage professional pollsters to do some studies. We need to find out if any particular major political party has more than its fair share of screwballs.

Barry Dauphin said...

I'd like to see the correlation coefficient between people who endorse the idea of Bush did 9/11 and the levees were blown up in 2005 to flood the lower ninth ward. I'll bet it approaches 1.

truepeers said...

I find this mass departure from reality very depressing. I wonder if Seneca, knowing the cult leaders, has any theories on what is behind their hysteria. Understanding the insanity might help one focus on the problem and thus maintain hope for this world.

terrye said...


I think a lot of these folks are not anything. they probably believe that FDR was either responsible for or complicit in the bombing of Pearl Harbor for the same reasons.

They do not fit in the world so they want to make it the world's fault.

Peter UK said...

The man is an imbecile,his alternative theory is so much more complex than the reality.Why transfer passengers who were to be killed anyway,at some point the radar blips would have to diverge,an A10 is a ground attack plane,as for simulating passengers voices,beyond insanity.
It would be easier to get a bunch of terrorists to fly the planes into buildings.

Why do they persist in this conspiracy theory,apart from the obvious,it is an easy,risk free way of sticking it the administration and boosting their own self importance.It never enters their little heads that if it were true,they too would be in the Atlantic.

Seneca the Younger said...

Peter, the problem is that Dewdney, not to mention Bob and Jim, are not imbeciles. Now, Jim has been a hard-core Kennedy-assassination theorist for years, but his politics, while liberal, weren't otherwise nutcase liberal. (Or at least not in our common circles in academia, I may have a skewed sample.) Bob Boyer is one of the flat-out smartest people I know, and Dewdney is no slouch --- he took over the "Mathematical Games" column from Martin Gardner.

Oh, and David, I've heard these same things promulgated by Republicans --- in the RP in Colorado we call them the "black helicopter Republicans." I think this kind of nuttiness might be orthogonal to the left-right dimension.

Peter UK said...

I used to know the youngest Phd of his generation,extremely intelligent,the weirdest bugger you have ever met,I have since met many others of a similar nature,outside their areas of expertise, they couldn't find their arses with both hands and a searchlight.
Kept within the confines of mathematics and the are fine,let them out of the box...

Skookumchuk said...


...he took over the "Mathematical Games" column from Martin Gardner.

It was one of the reasons I cancelled my subscription. The column just wasn't quite as good or as well-written. Maybe that was 25% of the reason. The remaining 75% was due to the fact they were becoming indistinguishable from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Luther McLeod said...


I just agonized (well kinda) for over two weeks as to whether or not to renew my subscription to SA. For the reason you cite. In the end I decided to renew. One reason was inertia, subscriber since the early 80's. Another reason was to know thine enemy, thanks to blogs I now can bounce the political agenda of SA against other thoughts and sources. Lastly, I am not aware of another magazine that covers a diverse number of subjects as SA. Any recommendations?

As too the subject of the thread, we all know of course that 'smartness' and 'common sense' are not always in proportion in some individuals.

Skookumchuk said...


Any recommendations?

Nope. It really is irreplaceable in that one sense. But you can learn all the same stuff on the web.

David Thomson said...

"Oh, and David, I've heard these same things promulgated by Republicans --- in the RP in Colorado we call them the "black helicopter Republicans."

That is why we need some polling done. It is still my suspicion that a lot of "mainstream" Democrats share these weird views. The number of Republicans are few and far between. Let the pollsters begin their studies.

MeaninglessHotAir said...


New Scientist or Science are superior magazines but New Scientist is expensive.

truepeers said...

It sounds like these Scholars for 9/11 Truth are smart people who are all "reason" and no faith. In other words, they fail to recognize that reason and faith both stem from the same source - that they are ultimately (or were in the beginning) one and the same. Not appreciating this co-dependence, they irrationally choose "reason" over faith and are thus not prone to putting much faith in the not entirely rational human system.

Instead, they choose endless ratiocinating criticism, and that is a recipe for flights of logical fancy that take one into irrationality. They become irrational because they refuse to humble themselves to an "irrational" faith in what the community all share loyalty to. This shared faith is "irrational" because its objects or signs must be somewhat arbitrarily chosen; but these somewhat arbitrary decisions, imposed by an "irrational" authority figure, are necessary to limit our potentially endless reason to the pragmatic end of keeping the community working together.

When faced with a nation in which a third of the people are so "rational" as to believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories, how do we bring them back to the "unreason" of faith, to have enough faith in their system and nation that they can recognize their real enemies for who they are?

Skookumchuk said...


To a small degree, the willingness to swallow these stories may vary with your distance from the event. I don't, for example, know the rescue people who went in to the Pentagon right after the plane hit. But I do know people whose friends and colleagues went in to the Pentagon. No conspiracists there.

Some of this we will always have, largely from the left, but possibly from the far-right, too. It may be due to the fact that for most of us, the war is a far away thing, which is good. But that distance allows this sort of thinking to flourish.

If young Muslim males were 'sploding in American shopping malls, say, three times a week, i don't think the conspiracists would be quite so vocal.


Aren't Science and New Scientist somewhat lefty, too?

terrye said...


I know a woman whose daughter was there at the Pentagon. She went out there because she was engaged to marry a man she had met here at Crane Naval Depot Base who was transferred out there. She was ok, but so far as I know she never doubted a plane hit the Pentagon.