Saturday, June 23, 2007

This Weekend in Farce: Vancouver 9/11 Truth Conference

"Truth" likely to be in short supply at 9/11 conference

Somewhere in East Vancouver, Kevin Potvin is surely knee-deep in his own glee.

Starting yesterday, and continuing until tomorrow, the Vancouver 9/11 Truth Society is hosting a 9/11 Truth Conference.

Dr. Steven Jones -- pushing the envelope of credulity

Among the speakers at the conference is Doctor Steven Jones, a retired professor from Brigham Young University (an institution owned by the Church of Jesus Christ for Latter-Day Saints -- also known as the Mormons), who will claim that the official 9/11 report cannot explain that collapse of the World Trade Center. Dr Jones, whose specialties include "metal-catalyzed fuision, archaeometry and solar energy", claims the only way to explain how a pair of 110-story skyscrapers could collapse as they did is that they were demolished by pre-set explosive charges, as used by demolitions experts.

According to Dr Jones, the 650 degree celsius temperature generated by the fires from burning jet fuel from the two airliners would have not been enough to melt the steel girders of the two buildings. He also argues that, historically, when such buildings have collapsed (most often as a result of earthquakes) they have always toppled over sideways.

Dr. Jones even claims he can identify microexplosions, where thermite demolition devices are being detonated sequentially as the building collapses.

However, Dr. Jones' "peer-reviewed work" quickly falls into credibility pitfalls. For example, his work is consistently touted as peer-reviewed -- but it was never peer-reviewed by a civil engineer. He is noted to have no experience in building collapse forensics. Even his own university rejected his paper. Dr. Woodruff Miller, BYU's chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering said, "the structural engineering professors in our department are not in agreement with the claims made by Dr. Jones in his paper, and they don't think there is accuracy and validity to these claims."

Dr. Jones' "peer-reviewed work" was not even peer reviewed by the engineers at his own university. Perhaps there's some sort of "consipracy" at work here, too.

Dr. Jones' claims rely on skepticism regarding the alleged "pancake effect" where the floors fall neatly into each other at freefall speed, as in a professional demolition. For evidence of this, he relies on video footage. Yet, when the video footage is more closely examined, it becomes ovbious that this "pancake effect" never truly occurred. Much of the debris fell faster than the debris cloud, which fell faster still than the building itself. Dr. Jones' primary argument holds no credibility.

Not only are Dr. Jones claims refuted by examining the video footage which he, himself, uses to try to refute the official story, but they are also refuted by virtually every legitimately peer-reviewed study on the subject.

Even then, Dr. Jones' claims suffer from one fatal flaw: demolitions charges need to be set up before they can be used to demolish a building. Yet, no one working in the World Trade Center reported seeing anyone setting up such charges. Not one.

So much for Dr. Jones.

Robin Hordon and the politics of the 9/11 truth movement

Another speaker at the Vancouver 9/11 Truth Conference, Robin Hordon, describes himself as a commendated air traffic controller, certified air, ground and facility instructor and designer of the Boston Center Descent and Metering Program. He has worked on numerous in-air emergencies, and two hijackings.

Hordon insists that he knew 9/11 was a "false flag" operation (an attack carried out under the guise of another country or group) hours after. He insists that "there is absolutely no way that four large commercial airliners could have flown off course for 30 to 60 minutes on 9/11 without being intercepted and shot out of the sky by our jet fighters unless very highly placed people in our government and our military wanted it to happen."

Despite the fact that no hijacked plane in the history of the United States has ever been shot down, Hordon does begin to make a persuasive case. He notes that a sophisticated system was in place, prior to June of 2001, that would enable fighter jets to intercept any suspicious airliner within 10-15 minutes of a potential problem.

Yet Hordon's claims over look two very serious issues: firstly, a number of war game exercises were being conducted on September 11, 2001, diverting figher jets that otherwise would have been available to intercept the jetliners. Secondly, the FAA was not dealing with one hijacking on 9/11. They were dealing with four largely simultaneous hijackings.

Hordon is actually much more revealling as to his true motivations for his claims when he begins to discuss his political views. "I see September 11th as being a symptom of a far bigger problem. A problem that Dwight David Eisenhower had brought to our attention as he left office in the 1950s when he he warned [the United States] about two significant elements of our economy looming above us: the Military Industrial Complex and the Military Industrial Congress. 9/11 served the goals of both those elements."

"That I can show how Rumsfeld's Military reshaped interceptor protocols so that 9/11 could happen without the airliners being shot from the sky, is but a small bit of evidence that is flooding past the Bush regime," Hordon insists.

Yet, Hordon is exaggerating the Pentagon's eagerness to shoot down hijacked airliners, particularly when full of civilians. Despite the 75-150 high-speed scrambles he notes were performed by military aircraft each year in the United States for ten years, not a single plane was ever shot down. Surely, at least one of these 1,500 scrambles would have been related to a plane off course for at least 30-60 minutes.

Finally, there is the matter of shooting down civilian airliners over populated areas, such as New York City. When examined on merely the basis of the procedures in place to deal with hijacked aircraft, Hordon's claims are very persuasive. When compared to the actual situation on 9/11, they don't hold water.

Furthermore, it isn't as if events such as those surrounding Hurricane Katrina don't demonstrate that the proper procedures can fail when human error causes them to be disregarded.

Like any good 9/11 conspiracy theorist, however, Hordon doesn't seem to let facts or even proper analysis get in the way of politics. While shooting down flights 11 and 175 could have prevented the World Trade Center disaster, it still would have resulted in thousands of casualties. The decision to shoot down the planes would have also had to have been made at a time when the applicable authorities couldn't have known the true goal of the hijackers.

Certainly, there is a degree of negligence in the FAA's handling of 9/11. But negligence doesn't demonstrate complicity, and certainly not in the conspiracy that Hordon and his cohorts allege.

In short, Hordon has traded his air traffic controller's hat for that of a base conspiracy theorist, and surrendered his credibility for activist cred. It isn't as good a fit as he'd like to think.

Rowland Morgan - Contradicting the conspiracy

Among one of the most amusing claims about 9/11 is made by British author Rowland Morgan, who will be speaking at the conference as well. Morgan actually claims that a drone Boeing 747, painted with American Airlines colours, was flown into the Pentagon.

This is an especially amusing claim considering that it contradicts one of the most popular 9/11 conspiracy theories, one that insists a missile, not a jetliner, hit the Pentagon.

He, along with his co-author Ian Henshall (who together wrote 9/11 Revealled) make this claim despite the positive identification of all 64 passengers & crew of the downed aircraft.

Rowland will also speak to his claims that United Airlines flight 93 (crashed in Pennsylvania) was actually shot down, as opposed to being accidentally crashed in the process of re-taking the plane from the hijackers. This, despite the number of family members of UA 93 victims who reported that their loved ones had told them of their intention to re-take the plane, and the lack of any confirmation of orders to shoot down the plane.

Remember also that one of Robin Hordon's complaints is the lack of any such order (an absense he feels lends credence to conspiracy theories).

This demonstrates the greatest weakness shared by the entire "9/11 truth movement" -- a myriad of competing, contradictory, and usually far-fetched claims about an event that unfortunately lends itself to shameless sensationalism.

The conference will also feature a collection of social and political commentators, whose area of expertise is related to the consequences of 9/11. This is a much fairer point. There is a litany of concerns shared by citizens of many countries the world over, ranging from US President George W Bush and his War on Terror to the errosion of civil liberties in many countries around the world -- particularly western democracies that are under threat of further attack.

Consider also that an order to shoot down a hijacked airliner is much more likely to be issued today, in the post-9/11 era, than six years ago.

These speakers, such as Ken Fernandez and Connie Fogal, have much more solid ground to stand on. At least they don't need to resort to trying to contradict facts, hide contradictory evidence, or (often) engage in often-vicious anti-semitic rhetoric or counter-factual arguments in order to make their case.

There is a great deal of room to debate the consequences of 9/11. The actual events? Not so much.

The fact is that all too many 9/11 consipracy theorists make it immediately apparent that they don't exactly represent the best and brightest our civilization has to offer. Take, for example, Youtube denizen Dadabase 2006, who posted a video in which he makes the suggestion that people should vote for the embattled Potvin based on his beliefs regarding 9/11 -- essentially turning a Canadian federal election into a referendum on 9/11.

"Dadabase", as well as his bestest-buddy Kevin Potvin, will most certainly be sitting front-and-center throughout this (mostly) perverse conference in Vancouver.

Fortunately, the public at large is more than able to identify these individuals for what they are: politically deranged kooks, looking to distort one of history's greatest tragedies into fodder for their own extreme political views.

In that sense, they really aren't that much different from Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his guests at the Holocaust denial conference in Tehran. Whomever may actually show up to attend their conference, one thing is certain: their minds are made up, and any conclusions drawn from the Vancouver 9/11 Truth Conference will reflect their predecided conclusions.

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