- Astute observers of history are aware that for every
notable event there will usually be at least one, often several wild conspiracy
theories which spring up around it. 'The CIA killed Hendrix', 'The Pope
had John Lennon murdered', 'Hitler was half Werewolf', 'Space aliens replaced
Nixon with a clone' etc, etc. The bigger the event, the more ridiculous
and more numerous are the fanciful rantings which circulate in relation
- So its hardly surprising that the events of September
11th, 2001 have spawned their fair share of these ludicrous fairy tales.
And as always, there is - sadly - a small but gullible percentage of the
population eager to lap up these tall tales, regardless of facts or rational
- One of the wilder stories circulating about September
11th - and one that has attracted something of a cult following amongst
conspiracy buffs - is that it was carried out by nineteen fanatical Arab
hijackers, masterminded by an evil genius named Osama bin Laden, with no
apparent motivation other than that they 'hate our freedoms.'
- Never a group of people to be bothered by facts, the
perpetrators of this cartoon fantasy have constructed an elaborately woven
web of delusions and unsubstantiated hearsay in order to promote this garbage
across the internet and the media to the extent that a number of otherwise
rational people have actually fallen under its spell.
- Normally I don't even bother debunking this kind of junk,
but the effect that this paranoid myth is beginning to have requires a
little rational analysis, in order to consign it to the same rubbish bin
as all such silly conspiracy theories.
- These crackpots even contend that the extremist Bush
regime was caught unawares by the attacks, had no hand in organising them,
and actually would have stopped them if it had been able. Blindly ignoring
the stand down of the US air-force, the insider trading on airline stocks
- linked to the CIA - the complicit behavior of Bush on the morning of
the attacks, the controlled demolition of the WTC, the firing of a missile
into the Pentagon and a host of other documented proofs that the Bush regime
was behind the attacks, the conspiracy theorists stick doggedly to a silly
story about nineteen Arab hijackers somehow managing to commandeer four
planes simultaneously and fly them around US airspace for nearly two hours,
crashing them into important buildings, without the US intelligence services
having any idea that it was coming, and without the Air Force knowing what
- The huge difficulties with such a stupid story force
them to invent even more preposturous stories to distract from its core
silliness, and thus the tale has escalated into a mythic fantasy of truly
- It's difficult to apply rational analysis to such unmitigated
stupidity, but that is the task which I take on in this article. However,
it should be noted that one of the curious characteristics of conspiracy
theorists is that they effortlessly change their so called evidence in
response to each aspect which is debunked. As soon as one delusion is unmasked,
they simply invent another to replace it, and deny that the first ever
existed. Eventually, when they have turned full circle through this endlessly
changing fantasy fog, they then re-invent the original delusion and deny
that you ever debunked it, thus beginning the circle once more. This technique
is known as 'the fruit loop' and saves the conspiracy theorist from ever
having to see any of their ideas through to their (il)ogical conclusions.
- According to the practitioners of the fruit loop, nineteen
Arabs took over four planes by subduing the passengers and crew through
the use of guns, knives, box cutters and gas, and then used electronic
guidance systems which they had smuggled on board to fly the planes to
- The suspension of disbelief required for this outrageous
concoction is only for the hard core conspiracy theorist. For a start,
they conveniently skip over the awkward fact that there weren't any Arabs
on the planes. If there were, one must speculate that they somehow got
on board without being filmed by any of the security cameras and without
being registered on the passenger lists. But the curly question of how
they are supposed to have got on board is all too mundane for the exciting
world of the conspiracy theorist. With vague mumblings that they must have
been using false ID - but never specifying which IDs they are alleged to
have used, or how these were traced to their real identities - they quickly
bypass this problem, to relate exciting and sinister tales about how some
of the fictitious fiends were actually searched before boarding because
they looked suspicious. However, as inevitably happens with any web of
lies, this simply paints them into an even more difficult corner. How are
they supposed to have got on board with all that stuff if they were searched
? And if they used gas in a confined space, they would have been affected
themselves unless they also had masks in their luggage.
- "Excuse me sir, why do you have a boxcutter, a gun,
a container of gas, a gas mask and an electronic guidance unit in your
- "A present for your grandmother? Very well sir,
on you get."
- "Very strange", thinks the security officer,
"that's the fourth Arabic man without an Arabic name who just got
on board with a knife, gun or boxcutter and gas mask...and why does that
security camera keep flicking off every time one these characters shows
up? Must be one of those days I guess..."
- Asking any of these basic questions to a conspiracy theorist
is likely to cause a sudden leap to the claim that we know that they were
on board because they left a credit card trail for the tickets they had
purchased and cars they had rented. So if they used credit cards that identified
them, how does that reconcile with the claim that they used false IDs to
get on to the plane? But by this time , the fruit loop is in full swing,
as the conspiracy theorist tries to stay one jump ahead of this annoying
and awkward rational analysis. They will allege that the hijackers' passports
were found at the crash scenes. "So there!" they exalt triumphantly,
their fanatical faces lighting up with that deranged look of one who has
just a revelation of questionable sanity.
- Hmm? So they got on board with false IDs but took their
real passports with them? However, by this time the fruit loop has been
completely circumnavigated,and the conspiracy theorist exclaims impatiently,
"who said anything about false IDs? We know what seats they were sitting
in! Their presence is well documented!" And so the whole loop starts
again. "Well, why aren't they on the passenger lists?" "You
numbskull! They assumed the identities of other passengers!" And so
- Finally, out of sheer fascination with this circular
method of creative delusion, the rational sceptic will allow them to get
away with this loop, in order to move on to the next question, and see
what further delights await us in the unraveling of this marvelously stupid
- "Uh, how come their passports survived fiery crashes
that completely incinerated the planes and all the passengers? "The
answer of course is that its just one of those strange coincidences, those
little quirks of fate that do happen from time to time. You know, like
the same person winning the lottery four weeks in a row. The odds are astronomical,
but these things do happen.
- This is another favourite deductive method of the conspiracy
theorist. The 'improbability drive', in which they decide upon a conclusion
without any evidence whatsoever to support it, and then continually speculate
a series of wildly improbable events and unbelievable co-incidences to
support it, shrugging off the implausibility of each event with the vague
assertion that sometimes the impossible happens - just about all the time
in their world. There is a principle called 'Occam's razor' which suggests
that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the simplest explanation
is most likely to be correct. Conspiracy theorists hate Occam's razor.
- Having for the sake of amusement, allowed them to get
away with with the silly story of the nineteen invisible Arabs, we move
on to the question of how they are supposed to have taken over the planes.
- Hijacking a plane is not an easy thing to do. Hijacking
it without the pilot being able to alert ground control is near impossible.
The pilot has only to punch in a four digit code to alert ground control
to a hijacking. Unconcerned with the awkward question of plausibility,
the conspiracy buffs maintain that on that September 11th, the invisible
hijackers took over the plane by the rather crude method of threatening
people with boxcutters and knives, and spraying gas - after they had attached
their masks, obviously - but somehow took control of the plane without
the crew first getting a chance to punch in the hijacking code. Not just
on one plane, but on all four. At this point in the tale, the conspiracy
theorist is again forced to call upon the services of the improbability
- So now that our incredibly lucky hijackers have taken
control of the planes, all four pilots fly them with breath taking skill
and certainty to their fiery end, all four pilots unflinching in their
steely resolve for a swift meeting with Allah. Apart from their psychotic
hatred of 'our freedoms', it was their fanatical devotion to Islam which
enabled them to summon up the iron will to do this. Which is strange, because
according to another piece of hearsay peddled by the conspiracy buffs,
these guys actually went out drinking and womanizing the night before their
great martyrdom, even leaving their Korans in the bar - really impeccable
Islamic behavior - and then got up at 5 o'clock the next morning to pull
off the greatest covert operation in history. This also requires us to
believe that they were even clear headed enough to learn how to fly the
huge planes by reading flight manuals in Arabic in the car on the way to
the airport. We know this because they supposedly left the flight manuals
there for us to find.
- It gets better. Their practical training had allegedly
been limited to Cessnas and flight simulators, but this was no barrier
to the unflinching certainty with which they took over the planes and skillfully
guided them to their doom. If they are supposed to have done their flight
training with these tools, which would be available just about anywhere
in the world, its not clear why they would have decided to risk blowing
their cover to US intelligence services by doing the training in Florida,
rather than somewhere in the Middle East, but such reasoning is foreign
to the foggy world of the conspiracy theorist, too trapped in the constant
rotation of the mental fruit loop to make their unsubstantiated fabrications
seem even semi-believable.
- Having triumphantly established a circular delusion in
support of the mythical Arabs, the conspiracy theorist now confronts the
difficult question of why there's nothing left of the planes. Anybody who
has seen the endlessly replayed footage of the second plane going into
the WTC will realize that the plane was packed with explosives. Planes
do not and cannot blow up into nothing in that manner when they crash.
- Did the mythical Arabs also haul a huge heap of explosives
on board, and mange to deploy them in such a manner that they went off
in the exact instant of the crash, completely vapourizing the plane? This
is a little difficult even for the conspiracy theorist, who at this point
decides that its easier to invent new laws of physics in order to keep
the delusion rolling along.
- There weren't any explosives. It wasn't an inside job.
The plane blew up into nothing from its exploding fuel load! Remarkable,
quite remarkable. Sluggishly combustible jet fuel which is basically Kerosene,
and which burns at a maximum temperature of around 800 degrees Celcius
has suddenly taken on the qualities of a ferociously explosive demolition
agent, vapourising sixty-five tons of aircraft into a puff of smoke. Never
mind that a plane of that size contains around fifteen tons of steel and
titanium, of which even the melting points are about double that of the
maximum combustion temperature of Kerosene - let alone the boiling point
- which is what would be required to vapourise a plane. And then there's
about fifty tons of aluminium to be accounted for. In excess of 15lbs of
metal for each gallon of Kerosene.
- For the conspiracy theorist, such inconvenient facts
are vaguely dismissed as 'mumbo jumbo'. This convenient little phrase is
their answer to just about anything factual or logical. Like a conjurer
pulling a rabbit out of a hat, they suddenly become fanatically insistent
about the devastating explosive qualities of Kerosene, something hitherto
completely unknown to science, but just discovered by them, this very minute.
Blissfully ignoring the fact that never before or since in aviation history
has a plane vapourised into nothing from an exploding fuel load, the conspiracy
theorist relies upon Hollywood images, where the effects are are always
larger than life, and certainly larger than the intellects of these cretins.
- "Its a well known fact that planes blow up into
nothing on impact", they state with pompous certainty, "watch
any Bruce Willis movie."
- "Care to provide any documented examples? If it's
a well known fact, then presumably this well known fact springs from some
kind of documentation - other than Bruce Willis movies?"
- At this point the mad but cunning eyes of the conspiracy
theorist will narrow as they sense the corner that they have backed themselves
into, and plan their escape by means of another stunning backflip.
- "Ah, but planes have never crashed into buildings
before, so there's no way of telling." they counter with a sly grin.
Well, actually planes have crashed into buildings before and since, and
not vapourised into nothing. "But not big planes, with that much fuel",
they shriek in hysterical denial. Or that much metal to vapourise.
- "Yes but not hijacked planes!" "Are you
suggesting that whether the crash is deliberate or accidental affects the
combustion qualities of the fuel?" "Now you're just being silly".
- Although collisions with buildings are rare, planes frequently
crash into mountains, streets, other aircraft, nosedive into the ground,
or have bombs planted aboard them, and don't vapourise into nothing. What's
so special about a tower that's mostly glass? But by now, the conspiracy
theorist has once again sailed happily around the fruit loop. "It's
a well documented fact that planes explode into nothing on impact."
- Effortlessly weaving back and forth between the position
that its a "well known fact" and that "its never happened
before, so we have nothing to compare it to", the conspiracy theorist
has now convinced themselves - if not too many other people - that the
WTC plane was not loaded with explosives, and that the instant vapourisation
of the plane in a massive fireball was the same as any other plane crash
you might care to mention. Round and round the fruit loop.
- But the hurdles which confront the conspiracy theorist
are many, and they are now forced to implement even more creative uses
for the newly discovered shockingly destructive qualities of Kerosene.
They have to explain how the Arabs also engineered the elegant veritcal
collapse of both the WTC towers, and for this awkward fact the easiest
counter is to simply deny that it was a controlled demolition, and claim
that the buildings collapsed from fire caused by the burning Kerosene.
- For this, its necessary to sweep aside the second law
of thermodynamics and propose Kerosene which is not only impossibly destructive,
but also recycles itself for a second burning in violation of the law of
degradation of energy. You see, it not only consumed itself in a sudden
catastrophic fireball , vapourising a sixty-five ton plane into nothing,
but then came back for a second go, burning at 2000 degrees centigrade
for another hour at the impact point, melting the skyscraper's steel like
butter. And while it was doing all this it also poured down the elevator
shafts, starting fires all through the building. When I was at school there
was a little thing called the entropy law which suggests that a given portion
of fuel can only burn once, something which is readily observable in the
real world, even for those who didn't make it to junior high school science.
But this is no problem for the conspiracy theorist. Gleefully, they claim
that a few thousand gallons of Kerosene is enough to:
- - Completely vapourise a sixty-five ton aircraft
- - Have enough left over to burn ferociously enough for
over an hour at the impact point to melt steel - melting point about double
the maximum combustion temperature of the fuel
- - Still have enough left over to pour down the elevator
shafts and start similarly destructive fires all through the building
- This Kerosene really is remarkable stuff! How chilling
to realize that those Kerosene heaters we had in the house when I was a
kid were deadly bombs, just waiting to go off. One false move and the entire
street might have been vapourised. And never again will I take Kerosene
lamps out camping. One moment you're there innocently holding the lamp
- the next - kapow! Vapourised into nothing along with with the rest of
the camp site, and still leaving enough of the deadly stuff to start a
massive forest fire.
- These whackos are actually claiming that the raging inferno
allegedly created by the miraculously recycling, and impossibly hot burning
Kerosene melted or at least softened the steel supports of the skyscraper.
Oblivious to the fact that the black smoke coming from the WTC indicates
an oxygen starved fire - therefore not particularly hot - they trumpet
an alleged temperature in the building of 2000 degrees centigrade, without
a shred of evidence to support this curious suspension of the laws of physics.
- Not content with this ludicrous garbage, they then contend
that as the steel frames softened, they came straight down instead of buckling
and twisting and falling sideways.
- Since they're already re-engineered the combustion qualities
of jet fuel, violated the second law of thermodynamics, and redefined the
structural properties of steel, why let a little thing like the laws of
gravity get in the way?
- The tower fell in a time almost identical to that of
a free falling object, dropped from that height, meaning that its physically
impossible for it to have collapsed by the method of the top floors smashing
through the lower floors. But according to the conspiracy theorists, the
laws of gravity were temporarily suspended on the morning of September
11th. It appears that the evil psychic power of those dreadful Arabs knew
no bounds. Even after they were dead, they were able, by the power of their
evil spirits, to force down the tower at a speed physically impossible
under the laws of gravity, had it been meeting any resistance from fireproofed
steel structures originally designed to resist many tons of hurricane force
wind as well as the impact of a Boeing passenger jet straying off course.
- Clearly, these conspiracy nuts never did their science
homework at school, but did become extremely adept at inventing tall tales
for why. "Muslim terrorists stole my notes,Sir." "No Miss,
the Kerosene heater blew up and vapourised everything in the street, except
for my passport." "You see Sir, the schoolbus was hijacked by
Arabs who destroyed my homework because they hate our freedoms."
- Or perhaps they misunderstood the term 'creative science'
and mistakenly thought that coming up with such rubbish was in fact, their
- The ferocious heat generated by this ghastly Kerosene
was, according to the conspiracy theorists, the reason why so many of the
WTC victims can't be identified. DNA is destroyed by heat - although 2000
degrees centigrade isn't really required, 100 degrees centigrade will generally
do the job. This is quite remarkable, because according to the conspiracy
theorist, the nature of DNA suddenly changes if you go to a different city.
- That's right, if you are killed by an Arab terrorist
in New York, your DNA will be destroyed by such temperatures. But if you
are killed by an Arab terrorist in Washington, your DNA will be so robust
that it can survive temperatures which completely vapourise a sixty-five
- You see, these loonies have somehow concocted the idea
that the missile which hit the pentagon was not a missile at all, but one
of the hijacked planes. And to prove this unlikely premise, they point
to a propaganda statement from the Bush regime, which rather stupidly claims
that all but one of the people aboard the plane were identified from the
site by DNA testing, even though nothing remains of the plane. The plane
was vapourised by the fuel tank explosion, maintain these space loonies,
but the people inside it were all but one identified by DNA testing.
- So there we have it. The qualities of DNA are different,
depending upon which city you're in, or perhaps depending upon which fairy
story you're trying to sell at any particular time.
- This concoction about one of the hijacked planes hitting
the Pentagon really is a howler. For those not familiar with the layout
of the Pentagon, it consists of 5 rings of building, each with a space
inbetween. Each ring of building is about 30-35 feet deep, with a similar
amount of open space between it and the next ring. The object which penetrated
the Pentagon went in at about a 45 degree angle, punching a neat circular
hole of about a 12 foot diameter through three rings - six walls. A little
later a section of wall about 65 foot wide collapsed in the outer ring.
Since the plane which the conspiracy theorists claim to be responsible
for the impact had a wing span of 125 feet and a length of 155 feet, and
there was no wreckage of the plane, either inside or outside the building,
and the lawns outside were still smooth and green enough to play golf on,
this crazy delusion is clearly physically impossible.
- But hey, we've already disregarded the combustion qualities
of jet fuel, the normal properties of common building materials, the properties
of DNA, the laws of gravity and the second law of thermodynamics, so what
the hell - why not throw in a little spatial impossibility as well? I would
have thought that the observation that a solid object cannot pass through
another solid object without leaving a hole at least as big as itself is
reasonably sound science. But to the conspiracy theorist, this is 'mumbo
jumbo'. It conflicts with the delusion that they're hooked on, so it 'must
be wrong' although trying to get them to explain exactly how it could be
wrong is a futile endeavour.
- Conspiracy theorists fly into a curious panic whenever
the Pentagon missile is mentioned. They nervously maintain that the plane
was vapourised by it's exploding fuel load, and point to the WTC crash
as evidence of this behavior. That's a wonderful fruit loop. Like an insect
which has just been sprayed, running back and forth in its last mad death
throes, they first argue that the reason the hole is so small is that the
plane never entered the wall, having blown up outside, and then suddenly
backflip to explain the 250 foot deep missile hole by saying that the plane
disappeared all the way into the building, and then blew up inside the
building - even though the building shows no sign of such damage. As for
what happened to the wings - here's where they get really creative. The
wings snapped off and folded into the fuselage which then carried them
into the building, which then closed up behind the plane like a piece of
- When it suits them, they'll also claim that the plane
slid in on its belly - ignoring the undamaged lawn - while at the same
time citing alleged witnesses to the plane diving steeply into the building
from an 'irrecoverable angle.' How they reconcile these two scenarios as
being compatible is truly a study in stupidity.
- Once they get desperate enough, you can be sure that
the UFO conspiracy stuff will make an appearance. The Arabs are in league
with the Martians. Space aliens snatched the remains of the Pentagon plane
and fixed most of the hole in the wall, just to confuse people. They gave
the Arabs invisibility pills to help get them onto the planes. Little green
men were seen talking to Bin Laden a few weeks prior to the attacks.
- As America gears up to impeach the traitor Bush, and
stop his perpetual oil war, it's not helpful to have these idiots distracting
from the process by spreading silly conspiracy theories about mythical
Arabs, stories which do nothing but play into the hands of the extremist
- At a less serious time, we might tolerate such crackpots
with amused detachment, but they need to understand that the treachery
that was perpetrated on September 11th, and the subsequent war crimes committed
in 'retaliation' are far too serious for us to allow such frivolous self
indulgence to go unchallenged.
- Those who are truly addicted to conspiracy delusions
should find a more appropriate outlet for their paranoia.
- Its time to stop loony conspiracy theories about September