The thing about Conspiracy Theories is, that there are so many of them. You can choose whichever suits you best, one that confirms to your beliefs, and finally, one that puts those in charge of a whole super-conspiracy you really thought were in charge all along. Sadly, there’s the trouble: They all end up explaining something complicated in a very easy way, draw the world in black and white, and there’s Them, the conspirators, and Us, the victims.
It works like this: Take any event that happened, the more media covering it got the better, blatantly ignore some facts, and fill in the gaps with fabrication.
So, for instance, we’ll take the event of two planes crashing into two skyscrapers 15 minutes apart, with the skyscrapers subsequently crashing into themselves, plus some other buildings nearby also crashing into themselves.
- The first thing we’ll do is to define that this was a “Terrorist Attack”, which is a pretty sound assumption given the low chance of this kind of something like this happening as an accident.
- Next we’ll need to define who the terrorists were. Quickly produce a list of people which might have been on these flights and correlate them with a list of known terrorist suspects. If you’ve got hits, go with them.
- Now you’ll need a mastermind, because its inconceivable that these terrorists did it all by themselves. Find one hiding in some goats shed in a third world country, preferably one who will at least gloat over your misery on television.
- And, the mastermind has of course to have an organisation. Take a name from an earlier but irrelevant guerilla group. If questions turn up, why this organisation wasn’t known, state: “its existence was still a closely held secret.”
Yes, you noticed where this is going. The point is, the official story of what happened on 9/11 satisfies every criterion of the pejoratively used term “Conspiracy Theory”. It’s simple. It clearly identifies a villain drawing strings in the background. It has a mysterious secret organization in it.
Or what about this definition “Conspiracism is a particular narrative form of scapegoating that frames demonized enemies as part of a vast insidious plot against the common good, while it valorizes the scapegoater as a hero for sounding the alarm”? Yep, sounds about right. Now we know of those insidious terrorists.
This of course, is only a preliminary judgement in order to decide whether this theory qualifies to be called a “Conspiracy Theory”, and does not make any assertions about the veracity of its claims. It might be the truth, but this official version still qualifies to be called a “Conspiracy Theory”, unless those claims can be backed up by hard verifiable facts and no falsifiable claims appear.
So to go further we have to investigate the claim separately. Some common standards to assess this are:
- Occam’s Razor: Is this the simplest possible explanation, or is it a more complicated and thus less useful explanation of the evidence?
- Logic: Do the proofs offered follow the rules of logic or do they use fallacies of logic?
- Methodology: Are the proofs offered using sound methodology? Are there clear standards to determine what evidence would prove or disprove the theory?
- Whistleblowers: how many people – and what kind – have to be loyal conspirators?
- Falsifiability: Are there some parts “unfalsifiable” or could it be proven that they’re wrong?
A bit less common known is Henlon’s razor, which states that everything attributable to malice is probably the result of incompetence.
Indeed, some of the above claims do fail some of those tests miserably. Occam’s Razor would be in favour of a) planes crashing into buildings b) buildings crashed because of demolitions, not because of the plane-impact c) planes ignored by air-guards because somebody told the guards to look away d) planes piloted by said terrorists e) terrorists entered USA with consent of the customs f) mastermind not responsible for the attack (but very sympathetic towards it) g) secret organisation invented by the media. Other criterion of course contradict this (as do some of Occam’s Razor; but that’s because they offer the simplest explanations of every separate claim). The Whistleblower-criterion says b) it’s too difficult to wire the building, people would have noticed c) it’s not very likely the air-guard was ordered to look away and e) neither is the customs. Henlon’s razor of course refutes c) and e) outright: The air-guard and the customs were of course incompetent nincompoops. Also a) the planes hitting the towers by accident and b) the buildings crashed because they were built unstable f) there were no terrorists and Bin Laden had nothing to do with it and g) Al’Qaida is a invention of the media by chance.
The hardest evidence against the truthfulness of this Conspiracy Theory come from Methodology, and they concern b), f) and g). b) There is no coherent official explanation of how the plane crash could have brought down the buildings, and even less explanation why they crashed into themselves. And still less explanation for WTC7. f) the official 9/11 report explicitly says “we did NOT follow the money trail”, and only offers circumstantial evidence on how Osama Bin Laden should be linked to the attack. g) There is no evidence given for an organisation by the name of Al’Qaida before 2001.
Surely, some of the claims of the “official theory” of what happened on 9/11 really correspond to reality. But as a whole, the “official theory” qualifies just as much as “Conspiracy Theory” as some other theories on 9/11.