Friday, April 10, 2009

The Politics of Loud Mouthery

The 9/11 "truth" movement has been known to be the refuge of aggressive and obnoxious conspiracy theorists, often searching for any opportunity to push their agenda on anyone at any time.

Their credo seems to be twofold, but rather simple: if someone says something about 9/11, the goal of the 9/11 "truth" movement is to make them regret it. If someone doesn't say something about 9/11, the goal of the 9/11 "truth" movement is to make them regret that, too.

No forum is considered off-limits to the Alex Jones-edifying loons of the 9/11 "truth" movement, and its members are almost always looking for any particular opportunity to strike.

One 9/11 "truth" nut in particular seemed to think he had found an opportunity on the Edmonton LRT yesterday. The opening he thought he'd seen?

I was reading a copy of Vast Left Wing Conspiracy by Byron York.

"Why is it that it's always the left wing that has the conspiracy," he asked, "when it was the right wing that conspired to destroy the World Trade Center, and fake the evidence so they could blame terrorists and go into Afghanistan?"

To which I could only tell him that he's an idiot, and that the US government didn't plan 9/11.

"It's physically impossible for a building like that to collapse in on itself without a planned demolition," the nut attempted to explain.

"Then I guess it's a good thing they didn't," I replied.

"There's 1.6 trillion reasons why they did," he insisted.

To which I could really only offer a dismissive "...ooooookay..."

Interestingly enough, I wasn't even reading this book out of the belief that there is any kind of a left-wing conspiracy. Rather, I was reading it for a chapter on viral politics.

The title was actually an adverse take on Hillary Clinton's speculation that a "vast right-wing conspiracy" had aligned against her husband during the clearly politically-motivated Republican effort to impeach him over the Monica Lewinski scandal.

Overall, the book is about the politically-motivated (duh) attempts to defeat George W Bush in the 2004 Presidential election, and the way many 527 groups (called such because of the tax code that allows them to collect unlimited donations) broke the law in order to contribute to the Democrat campaign (they're forbidden from acting on behalf of any particular political candidate).

Did this particular nut have any idea about that before he jumped on it as an opportunity to spread his 9/11 "truth" nonsense? Probably not. While one cannot pretend that the book's title isn't provacative -- no question it is -- this is clearly an individual who was waiting for what he thought was the perfect opportunity to spread his conspiracy theories.

Not much unlike the individual who was "generous" enough to donate a 9/11 "truth" book to a Raise a Reader event I staffed this past weekend. (I exercised my prerogative to dispose of that particular book appropriately.)

It's impossible to feign patience with the 9/11 "truth" movement. Not when virtually none of their arguments stand up to scrutiny.

It all comes down to minor details -- such as the fact that if the World Trade Center was really a planned demolition, as this particular kook insisted, it was the most poorly-executed planned demolition in history, as the building didn't fall in its own footprint, as planned demolitions are designed to do.

Rather, the debris field extended more than 500 feet in all directions, but not equally in all directions.

Even the "facts" regarding WBC Building 7 they attempt to pass off as evidence of the WTC having been a planned demolition turn out to contradict the accounts of the structural damage taken from firefighters at the scene, and are often based on comically poor-quality video taken of the building's collapse.

Even their claims that the World Trade Center was designed to withdstan the impact of an aircracft are based on smaller and lighter aircraft carrying smaller fuel loads than the planes crashed into the building that day. And conveniently ignoring the fact that, when designing buildings as tall as the World Trade Center, one cannot test the buildings for airplane crash scenarios in the real world, for reasons that are clearly obvious.

Not to mention the entirely contradictory nature of the majority of 9/11 conspiracy theories, ranging from theories that the building owner planned the attacks to collect on the property insurance on the buildings, to theories that the Juice did it (theories to which Alex Jones reacts rather viscerally).

This is, of course, the trouble in dealing with people who consistently cannot be taken seriously. The fact that no one takes them seriously only prods them to become more aggressive and obnoxious with their message. When speaking counter-factually to a room with 10 people in it becomes tiresome they take to the streets and accost anyone who they think offers them an excuse -- such as an individual minding his own business on the train.

But they may be in for a taste of their own medicine. They have a convention in Edmonton coming up, and someone just may be there asking them some uncomfortable questions.

Questions like "how many hijacked airliners have ever been shot down over US territory?" (Answer: zero.)

Questions like "how many real-world examples are there of a Boeing 747 being flown into a 110-story building in order to test its ability to withstand the crash?" (Answer: zero.)

Questions like "how many eyewitness accounts match the accounts of Building 7's collapse that 'experts' have made based on asessment of poor-quality video?" (Answer: zero.)

After all, what's good for the goose has to be good for the gander. If the 9/11 "truth" movement can indulge itself in the politics of loud mouthery, so can anyone else.

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