The Big Tent
The Big Tent refers to strategy of inclusiveness
to grow the 9/11 Truth Movement.
Big Tent emphasizes tolerance of diverse ideas and theories
over quality of evidence and reasoning.
The strategy has long been reflected in websites
and books that uncritically endorse
the gamut of materials purporting to disprove the official story,
as if the authors never met a theory of official complicity they didn't like.
The Appeal of the Big Tent
The Big Tent idea appeals to the egalitarian and idealistic
values of grassroots activists in social justice movements such as
the 9/11 Truth Movement.
It seems to represent a kind of antithesis to the
values of whoever was apparently behind the crimes of 9/11/01 --
a highly exclusive and secretive cabal wielding murderous power.
In particular, Big Tent seems to embody at least three values,
each seemingly beneficial to the Movement:
Treating all ideas equally values each person's contributions
and gives them a place in the movement.
Being open to all ideas makes everyone feel welcome and
grows the movement.
Avoiding criticism of each other's ideas fosters unity,
essential to the cohesiveness and effectiveness of the movement.
The fact that these values closely parallel the
egalitarianism, tolerance of diversity, and coalition-building
championed in populist and progressive social movements
makes them difficult to criticize.
However, unlike the application of these values to people
in traditional social movements,
the 9/11 Truth Movement's Big Tent applies them to ideas.
Conflating the respect due people
with the respect due ideas
is a fundamental error at the heart of the Movement's failure
to break into the mainstream thus far.
Putting All Your Soldiers in One Tent
This website demonstrates in a number of ways that the
primary weapon of the cover-up in the information war
is the showcasing of unfounded and absurd theories purporting
to disprove the official story.
Represented as typifying the work of 9/11 "conspiracy theorists",
such theories serve to create a false dialectic
with the effect of overshadowing challenges to the official story
based on evidence and reason.
To the extent that all of the work of 9/11 skeptics
can be successfully portrayed as belonging to the same ball of wax,
it can be dismissed as the work of conspiracy theorists
with deficient critical thinking skills,
the quality of the better work notwithstanding.
The Big Tent strategy thus plays into the primary
tool of the cover-up.
In a shooting war, it is foolish to house all of an army's soldiers
in one big tent where they could be wiped out by a single bomb attack.
In a similar way, the Big Tent is a poor strategy in an information war
since it makes all the ideas under one tent
vulnerable to an attack on the weakest ones.
Rather than growing the 9/11 Truth Movement, the Big Tent strategy
limits it by facilitating straw man attacks such as
and by discouraging the peer review that the work of 9/11 skeptics
To be taken seriously, any investigation must have a means of distinguishing
between baseless and substantial claims.
The progress of science is a result of the application
of the scientific method, which subjects theories to a repeated
process of observation, hypothesis, experiment, and revision,
enforced by peer review.
Theories not supported by or invalidated by observation are discarded.
The 9/11 Truth Movement's Big Tent has functioned in a way that is
antithetical to the process of science,
as it does not recognize any process for invalidating theories.
Let's revisit the three values enumerated above,
noting their implied proscriptions and prescriptions.
No researchers should be regarded as more credible than any others,
and all theories should be treated as equal.
No researchers should be ignored (faults in their work
or proven associations --
such as with Nazi groups
and no theories should be dismissed.
Researchers should avoiding criticizing each other's ideas,
and should support the work of other 9/11 skeptics,
because they are on the same side.
It is as if the 9/11 skeptics have been stuck in a brainstorming stage
ever since the 9/11/01 attack.
Most of the behavioral norms described above are appropriate
in the initial stages of a project,
as they help avoid the premature elimination, due to preconceived ideas,
of possible explanations and approaches that might bear fruit.
However, a fixation at the brainstorming stage has prevented
the 9/11 Truth movement from evolving to a second stage of investigation,
in which many of the options on the table are recognized
as absurd or untenable. A process of discernment and verification
should have emerged, resulting in a core of widely agreed-upon hypotheses
that are well supported by the evidence.
Individual researchers have in fact conducted such a process,
and published their findings, on the Internet, in books, and on a few DVDs.
Yet the work of such careful, principled researchers has been largely
eclipsed by material that mixes sensationalism with unverifiable
to patently absurd claims, for a number of reasons, including:
- The lack of any official sanction or venue in which the evidence
against the official story of 9/11 can be debated by qualified people
without fear of professional or personal retribution.
ScholarsFor911Truth.org website presents the appearance of such
a venue but is anything but.)
- The uncontrolled and anonymous nature of the Internet,
making it an ideal vehicle for the injection of an ever-changing array
of disinformational claims and attacks against genuine researchers
by Internet personas.
- The inability of careful researchers to match the resources
behind slick productions like In Plane Site,
Loose Change, and 9/11 Pentagon Strike.
The refusal to recognize the importance of enforcing reasonable standards
of evidence and argument is reinforced by the assumption --
which ignores the history of COINTELPRO-type programs --
that all people proclaiming themselves to be 9/11 skeptics are sincere.
Even if that assumption were correct,
the strategy would be counterproductive to the development
of credible challenges to the official story because it engenders
a culture that is hostile to constructive criticism.
Researchers who debunk unfounded theories and address
the need for quality work are
castigated as divisive, jealous, biased, and disrespectful.
With no procedure for rejecting a theory,
the Big Tent adherents continue to give space to such theories
as the following, despite their having been conclusively debunked:
For over four years in some cases, the same theories have
continued to recirculate, often with slight variations and
claims of new evidence to support them.
Professor Steven Jones noted the potential for untestable
claims (such as the pod-plane theory) to damage the efforts
of serious investigators of the 9/11/01 attack.
e x c e r p t
Those espousing weak or untestable claims should realize that they may be
damaging the effort to achieve a rational debate of important issues by
poisoning the process with "junk science". Likewise, the notion that the
"explosive demolition" hypothesis should not be debated since it would
imply a "conspiracy theory" departs from good science as well as from
numerous historical precedents of empirical conspiracies (Jones, 2005).
Scientific inquiry is not or should not be dictated by politics
page last modified: 2007-06-10