On the anniversary of 9/11, let’s remember that conspiracy theories are counterproductive

Twin Towers.
Peter Bolton

Wednesday September 11, 2019 marks the 18th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center ‘Twin Towers’ in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. In the 18 years that have passed since that day in 2001, countless conspiracy theories have arisen that reject the mainstream account of what happened and who was responsible. Some of the conspiracies come from the lunatic right such as the notorious Alex Jones of InfoWars. But others appear to come from the left. As anti-imperialists, it can indeed be tempting to believe that the US government and foreign policy establishment conspired to create a justification for intervention in the Middle East. But the reality is that such theories are not only far-fetched but also harmful to the cause of opposing needless war.

A long history

The story of what has come to be known as the ‘9/11 Truth movement’ now has a history spanning almost two decades. Practically as soon as the dust had settled over Lower Manhattan, people began questioning what ‘9/11 Truthers’ call the ‘official account’. About a year after the attacks, street rallies proclaiming that “Bush Did It!” were held in California. Soon, a steady stream of books followed, such as Barrie Zwicker’s Towers of Deception, Michael Ruppert’s Crossing the Rubicon, and Mathias Bröckers’ Conspiracies, Conspiracy Theories and the Secrets of 9/11. The internet, meanwhile, has provided a Petri dish in which followers of 9/11 Truther theories can reinforce their mutual belief that the attacks were an ‘inside job’.

The major pillars of ‘9/11 Truth’

Although – as with all conspiracies – there are various different versions that their purveyors don’t entirely agree upon, the most common 9/11 conspiracy theories make a combination of the following claims:

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  1. The Twin Towers were brought down by a controlled demolition rather than by the impact and explosion of two commercial airliners hitting them.
  2. Tower 7 – a minor building of the World Trade Complex near the Twin Towers – was brought down via planned explosives rather than by the impact and debris from the falling buildings adjacent to it and/or fire.
  3. The US government, rather than the Islamist group Al-Qaida, was the major mastermind behind the attacks, perhaps in order to create a ruse for invading Iraq and/or Afghanistan.

Claims one and two have been extensively studied and thoroughly debunked by the overwhelming majority of experts in the relevant fields. Leaving aside the official 9/11 Commission report – which conspiracy theorists will always naturally dismiss as a US government whitewash/cover-up – subsequent independent studies have confirmed the mainstream account and rejected the claims of the Truther movement. Examples include an extensive report by the magazine Popular Mechanics, which was subsequently turned into a book Debunking 9/11 Myths.

Not just wrong but damaging

Claim three, on the other hand, is naturally more difficult to disprove. The US government has indeed been responsible for some horrendous atrocities throughout the 20th century and has continued to commit more this century. And the administration of George W. Bush did indeed seek a bogus justification for invading Iraq. But as every aficionado of whodunnits knows, that someone has a motive for a crime does not by itself constitute proof they committed it.

But there’s a deeper problem with 9/11 conspiracy theories beyond the merely academic. They divert precious attention and investigative resources away from actual crimes and injustices of US imperialism. They furthermore provide a useful tool for supporters of imperialism and war to paint those who oppose it as deluded crackpots. As Noam Chomsky puts it:

One of the major consequences of the 9/11 movement has been to draw enormous amounts of energy and effort away from activism directed to real and ongoing crimes of state, and their institutional background, crimes that are far more serious than blowing up the WTC would be, if there were any credibility to that thesis. That is, I suspect, why the 9/11 movement is treated far more tolerantly by centers of power than is the norm for serious critical and activist work.

We should heed Chomsky’s words. With many wars still raging and new ones seemingly on the precipice, there isn’t enough time to waste on implausible conspiracy theories peddled by a rag-tag of fringe fantasists.

Featured image via Yann Forget/Wikimedia Commons © Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA

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  • Show Comments
    1. I just come across your website, because I Googled Noam Chomsky, and I found this article.

      And immediately, I was struck by the headline, and the content of this article, and I couldn’t believe what I was reading…

      “Claims one and two have been extensively studied and thoroughly debunked by the overwhelming majority of experts in the relevant fields.”

      That is simply and patently untrue!

      The pre-eminent experts in the area of engineering and architecture, claimed that it was a controlled demolition.

      Has the author of this tabloid puff piece, ever heard of this respected organization?

      https://www.ae911truth.org/

      And has the author of this article caught up with the latest news?
      A rhetorical question it seems…

      https://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2019/09/06/the-official-story-of-the-collapse-of-wtc-building-7-lies-in-ruins/

      Yes, Alex Jones is a crank, but occasionally he says something that is thought-provoking and relevant.

      Either the author of this article is willfully ignorant of respected people and organizations willing to speak out against 911, or he just didn’t do his research.
      Either way, this article is a mess.

      “On the anniversary of 9/11, let’s remember that conspiracy theories are counterproductive.”

      Absolutely and diametrically wrong, because when you sweep under the carpet, clear and present questions regarding a legitimate conspiracy, you are counterproductive in not seeking out the truth.

      In years to come, or perhaps in decades to come, when the truth eventually comes out, the attitude of the author of this article, will be righty deemed as totally counterproductive, because of the years wasted ignoring the obvious signs of a deliberate and systemic conspiracy.

    2. What is The Canary doing publishing this puff piece of establishment propaganda?

      Over 3,000 architects and engineers have signed the petition saying that the offical account of how three building fell into theitr own footprints is false – these people have put their professional reputations on the line. Currently the evidence they have provided is being considered by a Grand Jury in NY.

      1. This is an independent comment, not a reply, I had trouble with posting a comment. I too am disappointed in this biased and dismissive article. There may be some argument to be made that continued emphasis on the many problems with the mainstream 9-11 narrative is a political dead end, unless a major insider spills some beans. But the engineering questions are many and Popular Mechanics is hardly a high reputation engineering source. It has generally been a build-a-one-person-helicopter-in-your-own-backyard kind of magazine. The first time I saw the footage it looked like controlled demolition. No fire has ever produced such results in a steel frame high rise. So I read through the various opinions including the popular mechanics arguments and counterarguments and I decided the mainstream story was not accepted because it is best supported by evidence but because the possibility of an inside job was too dreadful to consider. I never include it in my political arguments because one is immediately dismissed if one questions the established narrative. One thing I can say with deep conviction is that this crime was not treated properly with a full and thorough, no holds barred investigation.

        As to conspiracies always leaking, that just isn’t true, many large conspiracies were uncovered only by thorough investigations or a random exposure of documents. Let’s face it; for the most part governments don’t investigate themselves, the military doesn’t investigate itself, intelligence agencies don’t investigate themselves. And when they do the conspiracies are usually worse than anyone thought.

    3. Guiding principles for assessing conspiracy theories are:

      – Occam’s razor;

      – William James’, “What is the cash value of this idea?” (‘cash’ meaning utility);

      – the likelihood of a conspiracy staying under wraps decreases at faster rate than linear proportionality to the number of conspirators (up to geometrically depending on the organisational structure of conspirators e.g. individuals and cells) and decreases with time passing since an event.

    4. Also surprised to see this piece in The Canary – seems anachronistic. Aside from the evidence put out by people whose careers have been threatened or ruined as a result, actually watching the footage and seeing with your own eyes tells you the official version is not right.

    5. I believe it’s because 9/11 was in the pipeline that the Republicans had Clinton impeached, to try and ruin the Democrat chances of election in November 2000. They had to be in the White House to control the event on the day, like turning back the fighter jets and putting the idiot Bush in Florida all innocent-like, but also because the security agencies under a Gore White House would have uncovered the treasonous plot as the day approached.

      When the impeachment failed to stop the Democrat vote and Gore won the Republicans then had to actually go in and steal the Presidency, which they achieved with help from friends in control in Florida. Otherwise they would all have risked treason charges, a capital offence in America. Instead we ended up with neo-fascists rampaging across the world.

    6. I totally agree with the posters above, this article is a ‘stick-your-head-in-the-sand’ and ‘think-as-you-are-told-to-think’ article.

      There is another reason why the conspiracy theories started immediately, and that is because the hand of the state is clearly visible to people who don’t go around blindly accepting blatant lies and cover-ups just because someone else tells them to.

      The attacks of 9/11 and 7/7 were also the subject of pre-existing emergency response training scenarios conceived and enacted in both the USA and the UK JUST BEFORE and ON the day of the attacks, which helped to add to the confusion for public and military services who thought they were training even as the real attacks were taking place.

      In addition, a spin-off of the X-files was cancelled after its first screening test, approximately a year prior to those attacks, and it turns out that this pilot episode’s subject matter was an event build-up that matched the events of 9/11 spookily accurately. Does the author believe in pre-cognition?

      Why was the show pulled if it was just another X-files-like scenario? Why would anyone have got the jitters at the subject matter BEFORE the event had actually occurred for real?

      It’s not like we haven’t seen disaster movies and tv shows before is it? The story-telling industry has never shied away from unpleasant, or even deeply disturbing scenarios, and we have even deigned to call that entertainment, so why pull a show that was covering a situation that had not occurred yet, and would normally have just joined the ranks of other X-files/Science-Fiction works according to its merits?

      There are multiple claims that these conspiracy theories have been properly debunked, yet few if any of those debunkings stand up to scrutiny themselves, leaving just as many questions unanswered than they actually answer.

      It is a fact that The USA was fed up with being prevented by Vetos from Russia and China in multiple sessions of the UN Security Council, from carrying out its outrageous desires and designs on the rest of The World.

      Time after time, Russia and China said NO to the USA’s imperialistic attempts to bring death and destruction on innocent peoples, and after the Russians ‘dared’ to stand up to NATO in Bosnia (where the US/NATO illegally used depleted Uranium rounds), the USA decided enough was enough, and it needed an excuse that would garner sympathy and support in the Security Council (even from Russia and China), and that is EXACTLY what 9/11 and 7/7 gave them, the ability to murder hundreds of thousands of humans and steal trillions in wealth, without the UN Security Council getting in the way.

      Those who claim that 9/11 7/7 were NOT false-flag ops are either ignorant of the facts, wilfully or otherwise, or are cognitively dissonant on these subjects because it shakes their already tenuous hold on reality.

      The reality is that it is highly probable that the USA and the UK, both with foreknowledge and planning, enabled those events to take place, going so far as to even pre-create excuses for those events.

      It is a fact that both countries had pre-planned training scenarios that exactly matched the events that unfolded, scheduled for the very day the attacks happened. The poor excuse that terrorists must have gotten wind of both governments’ training initiatives, and themselves planned the attacks to be exactly what had been planned for in training, on the same day, is preposterous.

      It is preposterous because that would mean that both nations would have to have had the most inept security practices and spy agencies on the planet, so much so that when even other security agencies warned ours about those possible attacks they were ignored, and even as those attacks were occurring, they still somehow managed to act in such a way as to enable those attacks’ successes.

      Conversely, it is preposterous because that implies terrorists have not just parity with the greatest and most powerful intelligence and military alliances in history, but exceed their abilities utterly.

      The very fact that Saudi Arabia was implicated, yet literally no international condemnation occurred, and received instead continued friendship (and arms sales) being lavished on them, whilst Iraq was falsely implicated, shows that a cover-up was in progress even as events were unfolding. This despite Osama Bin Laden’s (and others) ties to the Saudi Government being extremely suspicious.

      There have been so many cover-up stories, mainly by the Lame-Stream-Media, that even the most die-hard sceptics must at least accept that the waters of Truth have been deeply muddied, and whilst this is so, those who died cannot be properly or accurately honoured.

      I agree that just because there is a theory, that doesn’t automatically mean someone is guilty of what they have been accused of, however to jump to the opposite conclusion, whilst ignoring the most pertinent facts, and whilst ignoring a great many ‘coincidences’ is just as serious a mistake as a fake conspiracy theory.

      At the very least, due to the sheer level of potential fakery involved, this subject cannot and will not be accepted by everyone in the form that Governments and the MSM so desire, particularly as the USA and the UK have a long history of creating false flag situations for whatever invasion/nastiness they deem necessary (so long a history of getting away with it, that they barely hide their corruption due to how unassailable they feel).

      Our so-called democracies are quite capable of murder and theft for greed, profit, and power at all scales. Look at history, and stop believing that we are part of something morally superior to everything else. It is highly probable that a whole bunch of the criminally corrupt got together to plan to murder thousands of innocents (like that’s never happened before) just to give them the excuse to murder even more, and to steal their wealth, whilst painting it as some kind of humanitarian revenge/intervention or the like.

      Human beings are quite capable of lying to each other, and do so with alarming constancy, and consistency. The more power there is to be had, the more lies are told. In fact many will, and do lie on the spot, in an instance, and without thought for the sheer damage that lies create, such is our species’ aversion to truth, and love of the illusorily power that lies bring.

      Human beings are quite capable of torturing and murdering innocent people even for things that they could have achieved by fairer and kinder means.

      Human beings have a distinct track-record of murder and destruction, unlike any species we know of in the universe. Currently as we have no proof of life of any kind anywhere else, we are THE MOST DESTRUCTIVE, DISHONEST, AND MURDEROUS species in the entirety of existence…..what a legacy!

      These are hardly things that empower me with trust in my fellow man, let alone in provably corrupt political and corporate systems, and as a result I and many others will continue to call out that which appears to be false.

    7. The North Tower Burning at the very Top . Heat Travels Up. For “Pancaking” to happen, All the Connections to Inner and Outer Columns would have to Fail Simultaneously. That would leave the Columns intact; Each Floor only Weighed 400 Tons. “Pancaking” could only happen if the Columns were Severed with Demolition Charges.

    8. I am utterly shocked that the Canary has posted this ‘big brother’ propaganda on it’s site!

      There was absolutely no possibility that the twin towers came down for reason’s other than controlled demolition!

      The very first instance was the way the smoke and dust billowed out in what is known as a pyroclastic flow and there is only two ways that can happen in the atmosphere: 1) from a volcano and 2) from a controlled demolition. This is a well known phenomena.

      Then one tower drops perfectly on it’s footprint, the chances of which, in a random collapse must be untold millions to one. Then the second one did the same, giving odds of probably billions to one.

      These facts on their own are enough to blow the official story out of the water, yet alone all of the many other anomalies along with dubious behind the scene dealings involved.
      And that is long before one needs to mention Building 7.

      Yes, there are plenty of wacky nutjob conspiracy theories as well, no doubt a few started by US government agencies and they all serve to confuse the issue, but one thing is certain, the official story is a load of poppycock …

      The Canary should be ashamed of publishing this bunkum!

    9. I was considering supporting the Canary financially, but do I see the suggestion that someone else might be?

      I mean what is this??? I don’t need to go into details as those above have so eloquently done so already. It’s not even a conspiracy theory – it’s some proven DODGY SHIT. Black mark for theCanary – shame.

    10. I agree with just about everything said in the comments above. Shame on Peter Bolton who is obviously a troll for the establishment and shame on The Canary for publishing such errant nonsense.

    11. Still support the Canary but sad that a (nothing to see here) piece such as this has been produced. There are many unanswered questions regarding the events before, during and after. In the absence of these answers, what else is left but to try and establish what happened. Good people have done extensive work on this only for this article to dismiss them.

    12. wow!
      “conspiracy theories peddled by a rag-tag of fringe fantasists”
      Such language is vapid and horrendously dismissive, let alone insulting.
      Really, really, really, really didn’t expect this from The Canary.

      I think the 3000+ architects and engineers for TRUTH know a good deal more than the author about Building 7, let alone 1 and 2. The recent release of the 4 year study by the University of Alaska Fairbanks is probably worth noting here too, although the author obviously doesn’t think so.

      As to the “overwhelming majority of experts in the relevant fields” who’ve so “thoroughly debunked” all claims and concerns, I ain’t come across ’em.

      Popular Mechanics’ 9 researchers and reporters plus the 70 experts they consulted fair no better than the Commission upon peer review.
      The NIST report itself is so full of holes and omissions, cited by those involved, that it would be laughable if it wasn’t so craven.

      Those who died on the day, the emergency service workers who have subsequently suffered ill health and all those murdered and displaced by the psychotic wars that followed and were largely predicated on this event deserve so much better.

      After the extensive, non-establishment questioning and investigation of the innumerable inconsistencies and implausibilities regarding the 911 attacks that have been undertaken over the past 18 years, in good faith, by appropriately qualified professionals, you’d have to be either stupid or ludicrously naive to trot out the official narrative as if it were fact.

      They are not all conspiracy theories, there are numerous conspiracy realities evident and you do your readership a disservice by suggesting otherwise.

      Oh Canary! I hope you’re not doing a Guardian on us……

    13. Wow – who knew we had so many regular Canary readers who have either never commented before today, and/or suddenly decided they just HAD to open an account?! With such increased levels of reader engagement, the Canary will be able to attract further investment, helping independent media to continue to thrive – a win/win for all concerned! 🙂

      1. mmmm, not sure it’s a win/win now, at least not for me,
        Article left a sour taste when I came across it and it was my respect and appreciation for The Canary that prompted me to join up and comment.
        However, upon reflection, that ‘sour taste’ has grown a little nauseous over the past couple of days.
        I’m quite cautious as to where I go for my daily news due to the perception management mostly evident in the mainstream and, sadly, I don’t find myself quite so confident with this site as a result of the article, which seems increasingly ,,,,,,,, ‘fake’, the more I think about it.
        As such, The Canary gets booted out of my ‘dailies’ bookmark folder,
        my loss, perhaps,
        perhaps not,
        but definitely not a “win” for me.

    14. I’ve found Peter Bolton’s articles on the Canary usually to be right on the money, but here he seems to have tripped up.
      Some elements of his article have merit, but it’s unfortunate that he’s chosen a conspiracy theory to attack which does not deserve it. In fact the 9/11 “conspiracy theory” is undoubtedly fast becoming a “conspiracy truth” (if we discount the more whacky propositions).
      Yes we should beware that conspiracy theories can “…divert precious attention and investigative resources away from actual crimes and injustices…” but on the other hand journalists like mr. Bolton should be keeping an open mind on everything and most definitely do proper research on any subject they write about, especially if they are going to go on the attack!
      There are serious questions that need answering, and having read the Popular Mechanics article and some of the other “debunking” articles I don’t seem to be finding anything solid, especially where Boltons claims 1 and 2 are concerned, whereas evidence in favour of these claims, for example from the University of Fairbanks seems pretty solid.
      I would suggest “Architects and Engineers for 9/11 truth” (https://www.ae911truth.org/)
      as a starting point for anybody wanting to get a reasonable view of the erguments behind calls for a proper independent investigation.
      And yes, even Noam Chomsky can be wrong about some things!

    15. Like the people above, I’m surprised at the Canary publishing this article – have they been ‘got at’ – like the Guardian?

      Way too many respected, intelligent people have researched this ‘theory’ and spoken out to say they consider it true – as someone else said, endangering their career, and possibly, life; people don’t do that lightly. I’d go as far as to say that a significant number of people who have some sort of authority, and whose opinion carried some weight, have died as a result of speaking out.

      Is this man related to ‘the’ John Bolton in the US? Curious he tells us not to waste energy in researching the circumstances of 911. It’s documented that there was in existence a list of 7 countries that the US wished to invade – most of them now have been – and John Bolton certainly wished to adhere to this. They needed their ‘Pearl Harbour’ to trigger a countrywide attitude that these invasions would be in defence of their country. 9/11 conveniently came along. Coincidence?; I don’t think so.

      Actually just been listening to a long interview with David Icke. Despite what people may think of him, he comes out with an amazing amount of detail which is easily verified, or not. I don’t think he’d do that if it was all based on some specious concept

      Belief in who are the true perpetrators of 9/11, surely, reinforces how strong is the power of those who, in truth, are also responsible for the injustices, etc which we are supposed to be fighting; surely at heart they are the same people.

    16. I would like to point out in the interests of fairness, that whilst I was surprised at this article, I welcome it.

      I welcome it because it gives us a chance to say something, and for The Author/The Canary to gauge strength of feeling on this subject. I am not saying that this was what the author/The Canary may have intended, but it does serve to highlight a very important fact.

      That fact is that if we want fair, unbiased reporting, we cannot have an echo-chamber.

      I don’t want yet another news outlet to behave like all the others, bigoted, biased, filled with only ‘approved-narrative-stories’, with highly censored comments sections.

      Democracy and fairness are best served when people are able to freely express themselves, whether their opinion is right or wrong is not the issue, the discussions and arguments that come as a consequence are, and it is that interaction with each other that sharpens, hones, or breaks our democratic desires and skills.

      I do not agree with the Author’s assessment, nor did I appreciate the tone, however I do welcome the fact that he created (intentionally or not) a forum for debate, and a reminder that some things need to be discussed until the Truth is revealed, and 9/11 7/7 are such subjects.

      I do not think The Canary is at fault for letting this author post their story, and to me this is further evidence that The Canary actually understands what Democracy is really about, it is about communicating ideas (bad as some may be) for the purpose of discovering, formulating even, a better way or solution, to that which is being discussed, or at the least it is about finding the Truth amongst all the confusion, lies, and downright fake news.

      At least here on The Canary, due to its lack of censorship, we can challenge, question, inquire, moan, and generally say what’s on our minds (so long as it is legal), and in a democracy, that is supposed to be a very good thing indeed.

      I fully respect people’s choice to put forth their ideas (article-writers too).

      Personally though, flaws and all, I will point out anything I think is wrong, but I accept my views and opinions may also be wrong/misinformed. I welcome education, I welcome differences of opinion, because at the end of the day, what does it profit any of us to operate an echo-chamber? Echo chambers do nothing but entrench false ideas and ideals, and prevent effective communication from freeing us from ignorance.

      If you are planning to leave The Canary because you read stuff which doesn’t agree with your politics or opinions, I urge you as a contributor myself, to think again. Do you really want articles that ‘go-down-easily’, or do you want articles that get your neurons churning in a democratic way? Are we all so sure opinions are facts?

      I wasn’t happy with this article for what it said, however I am happy that The Canary’s Editor allowed it, because it creates a reason to debate, and to not forget (probably) the worst case of false-flaggery-ops in history (allegedly, but allegedly at a stretch). The Skripal event was literally the most rushed and botched attempt at one in living memory, and that because the perpetrators have become so blasé and arrogant about what they think they can get away with, that they assumed;

      a) no-one would/could tell the difference
      b) no-one has the power but them to do anything about it
      c) we are mostly too stupid and tied up with the other problems they have created to care

      9/11 7/7 were in my opinion, the greatest False flag ops in modern Human history. They were planned for, for years in advance, and executed with such precision and co-ordination, that the only suspects there can be are those who posses that level of technological sophistication and logistical coverage, and yes whilst terrorist organizations may get that level of funding, they cannot get that level of logistical competence without the tacit approval and support of a much more organised, extraordinarily well-funded and connected entity, like the USA and its allies.

      I suspect they’d like us all to believe that terrorist organisations are THAT well advanced, and our much vaunted security services suddenly and without warnings of any kind became utterly incompetent, but that just isn’t the truth.

      Don’t forget that this ushered in a new era of lies, wars, wars without declaration of war, and fake news. Each false event since 9/11 7/7 has occurred on the back of, and because of the success The U.S.A, Saudi Arabia, The UK (and other 25-eyed nations) achieved in fooling most of the World.

      Don’t believe me? Then ask these questions; Are we at war with Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Venezuela, and more? If not, then why are we behaving as if we are?

      Truth is the first casualty of War is it not? so why does the USA have over 800+ military bases around The World, literally surrounding those nations, if its intention is NOT imperialistic? They know full well that amassing troops and military equipment on or near another Nation’s territory is ALWAYS a prelude to war, or hostile intentions, it has always been so, and always will be so, because pointing any weapon at anyone has ALWAYS been interpreted as a bad thing.

      Under international law, it is ILLEGAL to threaten other nations with military or economic attacks (sanctions are immoral in that they always target the very people they are supposed to help, how stupid is that?).

      You can fool SOME of the People ALL of the time, you can fool ALL of the People SOME of the time, but you can’t fool ALL of the People ALL of the time.

    17. The author of this article really should have done some research prior to publishing. I’ll give you a starter. An Aluminium aircraft CANNOT go through a steel, reinforced, concrete building and come out of the other side, with it’s Aluminium nose cone intact. Shame really, I’ve just started subscribing and now I’m having doubts…

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