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How Conspiracy Theories Work

Testing the Theory

The Pentagon, post-attack
Image courtesy Department of Defense/Tech. Sgt. Cedric H. Rudisill
FBI agents, firefighters, rescue workers and engineers work at the Pentagon crash site on Sept. 14, 2001.

After researching, the conspiracy theorist comes up with his complete theory of what happened on the day of September 11. Now it is time to look at it as a whole. Does it make sense? Is it plausible? Is there a means, motive and opportunity available at every stage? Is there enough evidence to support the theory?

Most importantly, does the conspiracy theory actually explain what happened? Are there more gaps, or fewer gaps, when compared to the official story? In the case of 9/11, this conspiracy theory explains the following anomalies:

  • The fact that the North and South Towers collapsed at all and in identical ways.
  • The fact that the South Tower fell before the North Tower, even though the North tower was hit first, and the South Tower was hit obliquely rather than directly.
  • That WTC 7 fell at all (given that no airplane hit it), and the way that it fell.
    Larry Silverstein's quote about demolition.
  • Why the government was so intent in cleaning up and shipping scrap steel to recyclers instead of letting independent panels investigate the collapse.
  • Why the Pentagon was hit in the part of the building being renovated.
  • The fact that the path of destruction outside the Pentagon, in the outer wall of the Pentagon and in the inner structure of the Pentagon, does not really match the signature of a jumbo jet.
  • All of the secrecy and strangeness around the site of the Pentagon crash, instead of opening the site to a normal crash evaluation.
  • That the Pentagon, which should be the most highly defended building in the best-defended city in the world, was attacked at all.
  • Other strange incidents: the Pentagon war games running on 9/11, the lack of fighter intercepts, Bush's behavior on the morning of the attack, the location of Warren Buffett and other high-profile financiers on September 11, and more.

In other words, the conspiracy theory explains a large number of things that remain mysteries in the official story.

What is missing, of course, is a smoking gun. That is what makes it a conspiracy theory rather than reality. In the absence of a smoking gun -- a leaked internal memo, a whistleblower who actually participated in the event, direct evidence from one of the crash sites, et cetera -- it is difficult to prove a conspiracy theory. The fact that much of the evidence was quickly destroyed makes proof much harder, which in itself is a piece of circumstantial evidence in the conspiracy theory.


9/11 Conspiracy Theory Documentaries

The next step is to get the word out. This process has been greatly simplified by the Internet, but it is still difficult because conspiracy theorists are swimming against the tide. There are four ways to spread the word:

  • Books are the traditional way, and dozens of books have been written.
  • Web sites are perhaps the easiest way. There are hundreds of Web sites with discussions about the 9/11 conspiracy.
  • Documentary films and videos.
  • Interviews on the radio and TV, and in newspapers and magazines, help promote books, Web sites and films.

Recently one of the splashiest efforts has been a documentary film called "Loose Change" that has been released on Google Video and YouTube. The interesting thing about this documentary is that it is one of the first to reach millions of people through free video channels. These open channels on the Internet make it much easier to spread conspiracy theories.

It also makes it easier for conspiracy theorists if they unite their efforts. An entire "9/11 Truth Movement" coalesced, giving individual theorists a stronger voice.

Then, as soon as conspiracy theories gain traction, a new phenomenon appears. People who believe the official story want to debunk the theorists. The debunkers have the same evidence-gathering and promotional tools at their disposal, and they put up resistance to conspiracy theories. One of the most prominent examples of the debunking phenomenon is an article in Popular Mechanics magazine: "9/11: Debunking The Myths". Then the conspiracy theorists react to the reactions (as in Popular Mechanics' "Assault on 9/11 Truth"), and a very large argument can ensue. These arguments can actually be helpful to the conspiracy theorists. The feedback requires them to refine their theories and the noise that the argument creates can attract attention.

Will these 9/11 conspiracy theories ever become more than theories? For example, would Congress ever re-open the 9/11 inquiry because of public pressure? At this point, it is impossible to tell. But it should be very interesting to see what happens.

For lots more information on conspiracy theories and related subjects, check out the links on the next page.



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9/11 timelines:

Articles: Documentaries:
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