I never know quite what to say from year to year on this anniversary. I used to have a LOT to say, now I reserve a moment of quiet reflectiveness. But maybe I can move away from the emotional aspect just a bit and talk about my first run-in with 9/11 conspiracy theories.
Going back a little bit further, I wasn’t always a terribly critical thinker. One conspiracy theory that I fell for, hook, line, and sinker, involved the JFK assassination. Although it is a topic that I never went back to research in depth again, I can hardly imagine that it stands up to scrutiny. I came to this conclusion as I watched a modern mythology grow out of the ashes of the attacks on September 11th.
I can’t remember exactly when or in what context I first encountered a 9/11 conspiracy theory. I know it was shortly after the attacks, on a scale of maybe a year or so. I know it was on the internet, in some forum somewhere, but the details are fuzzy. But I do remember that a person I had just started talking with suddenly decided to introduce me to the possibility that 9/11 was an inside job. His main claim was that the Pentagon was not hit by a plane… and I flipped out. I flipped out online at someone I didn’t even know, and I don’t think I had ever done that before or have done it since. My nasty comments and subsequent blocking of that person and mental blocking of all things conspiracy were probably irrational. I knew someone who was on that plane, how DARE you tell me it didn’t go down.
That rude awakening was probably one of, but not the most effective, pushes towards my full-blown skepticism. Only a year ago or so did I hear about Debunking 9/11, a very good resource for those seeking to learn more about these conspiracy theories and their resolutions. The skeptical movement took to task the conspiracy theorists right at the beginning. Popular Mechanics also did an incredible special report. Much work was done by Mark Roberts, and you should listen to his interview on the very first podcast episode of the SkepticZone. The physics, the engineering, the eyewitness reports, and logic all point to a coherent story of what happened that day. It makes me sick to think that conspiracy theorists and deniers (I won’t use the term “truthers”) took up a national, and for some, personal, tragedy and sullied it for some weird cause. And I applaud the people who stood up to them early on and said, “We’re stopping this nonsense now.”
One thought on “Remembering September 11th… Skeptically”
A few years ago, when I was student teaching, I actually worked with a mentor teacher who fell for the 9/11 conspiracy claims hook line and sinker. In fact, she obtained a copy of the documentary “Loose Change” and showed it in class. To about a a hundred students.
At the time, I knew nothing about the 9/11 conspiracy theories, but something about the documentary felt “off” to me. I did some research and, let’s just say I am now livid when I think of all those impressionable teenagers who went away believing that 911 was an inside job. I know that a few of them did research like I did and came away with a different conclusion, but too many people buy into the drama of the conspiracy and don’t take the time to research things. Besides, when you’re young, you believe the things your teacher tells you. You trust them not to feed you bad information, or, say, propaganda.
The Popular Mechanics report was, as you said, wonderful. I hope more people check it out…
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