9-11 Review

Rick Siegel's 9/11 Eyewitness:
Sensationalism and Pseudo-Science

by Jim Hoffman

9/11 Eyewitness is a DVD by Rick Siegel purporting to teach the truth about the attack on the World Trade Center. Instead of elucidating the truth, however, the piece seems designed to hide the reality of the explosive demolition of the Twin Towers by surrounding footage of the demolitions with a verneer of vapid claims and pseudo-scientific analysis. The DVD teaches us that helicopters were instrumental in the Towers' destruction and that it was a "nuclear attack".

People have described the film as tedious and annoying. That's not for want of production values, which are quite good. Perhaps it's the film's intrusive commentary on incidental events. Perhaps it's the talking-down style of the narrator. In any case, the DVD provides a great example of how to deter critical thinkers from looking at the evidence that the Towers were demolished.

The DVD is built around footage of the World Trade Center attack filmed by Siegel from across the Hudson in Hoboken. It shifts between segments of three different types:

  • Interview: Siegel in a brown shirt and sunglasses talking to the camera while standing on the pier from which he filmed the attack
  • Live video: Siegel's WTC footage, much with radio broadcast audio, and sometimes annotated and overlaid with markers and text.
  • Lesson narration: Graphics with a voiceover by a narrator not sounding like Siegel purporting to describe the events or explain physical principles in relation to the events.

The interview segments contain the few valid arguments for demolition, although they are not articulated clearly. The live video segments are peppered with overlays highlighting and jumping to conclusions about alleged events that are not or are barely perceptible, if at all. The lesson narration segments suffer from glaring errors in interpreting data from the video.

On his website, Siegel claims that his DVD is the "Zapruder film of 9/11". Since the Zapruder film contains the only footage capturing the assassination of JFK, Siegel's claim suggests that his DVD contains the only footage capturing the explosive destruction of the Towers. To the contrary, there are dozens of other video clips and scores of photographs capturing those events, and many, unlike Siegel's footage, are in the public domain.

To be sure, Siegel's DVD does contain valuable and unique footage. Unfortunately, Siegel negates its value as evidence by superimposing an overlay of distracting and nonsensical interpretations and claims. Siegel does not use his footage to illustrate verifiable features of demolition, such as their rapidity, explosiveness, pulverization and symmetry. Rather, he uses it as a backdrop for claims, many packaged as questions, about real and imagined events such as smoke rising from their base, and explosions long before their falls. Some of these alleged events are contradicted by evidence, and others have plausible explanations apart from demolition. Siegel thus gives the rational viewer many reasons to reject the demolition thesis by associating it with obviously flawed analysis.

Mission Accomplished

The viewer will not have to wait long to get a sense of Siegel's sensationalistic style of highlighting and attributing great significance to details without any rational basis. As the Towers burn, numbered annotations follow helicopters as they fly around the smoke. At more than one point overlays appear reading:


The implication is that the helicopter made the South Tower collapse.

Mission indeed accomplished, if the mission is to convince the viewer that this film, and perhaps all talk of demolition of the Towers, is a load of nonsense.

Helicopter Flash

It gets worse. The narrator attaches great import and suspicion to a momentary flash from a helicopter as it passes in front of the smoke. In all likelihood, the flash is simply sunlight reflecting off the helicopter, it being only slightly brighter than portions of the smoke illuminated by sunlight. But Siegel ignores the obvious to promote a theory, without ever explicitly asserting it, that the helicopter was instrumental in the demolition of the South Tower.

What could those bright flashes be?
Why did the bright flashes occur just before the collapse?

It needn't be a coincidence that the helicopter catches the sun just before the South Tower starts to fall -- the film could have been edited.

There's more than a flash, according to Siegel, who claims he saw the helicopter drop a line around the time of the flash -- something that close examination of Siegel's own footage doesn't support. This is just one of a numerous examples of dissonance in the film: claims that are belied by what the film actually shows.

Siegel's Explosions

The claims about the helicopters give way to a long and tedious series of claims about explosions -- not the explosions of the Towers themselves, but supposed explosions long before each Tower's destruction. The basis for these claims is a soundtrack supposedly recorded by Siegel's camera. Even if one assumes that the soundtrack is real, there is no basis for assuming that spikes of pink noise are explosions from the World Trade Center 1.8 miles away. For all we know, the sounds could be nothing more than the sound of wind rushing past the microphone.

The sensationalist claims about explosions start slow and build as the film progresses, with the first mention at 3:43:

Did you hear that? More explosions?

The alleged explosions are numbered, and circles and boxes outline supposed areas of rising dust supposedly corresponding to the purported explosions. An obvious rational explanation for the faint light-colored patches that Siegel calls "dust clouds" is that smoke is rising from the tons of burning materials that spilled from the Towers following the crashes. Once again, Siegel ignores the obvious explanations in favor of a theory with no corroborating evidence.

The claimed explosion events multiply as the film goes on. Eventually, about ten "Pre-collapse Explosions" are listed for each Tower, some long before the "collapses" began, all based on the soundtrack. Not only is the soundtrack uncorroborated by any evidence of verifiable origin, it is contradicted by the accounts of people on the ground. For example, the vast body of oral histories by emergency responders released in mid-2005 contains numerous accounts of explosion sounds at the onset of the explosion of each Tower, but apparently does not contain accounts of such sounds occurring before the explosions. Other witnesses in the vicinity of the Towers also did not hear the alleged explosions long before the collapses.

Furthermore, seismic records of the events in Manhattan on 9/11/01, such as illustrated by the Palisades chart, don't show any activity above baseline in the minutes before the explosive collapses began.

Uncorroborated claims of explosions at times that are clearly contradicted by other bodies of evidence effectively function to distract from accounts of explosions that precipitated the destruction of the Towers. The invention of such uncorroborated explosions is a theme that runs throughout the video.

In lesson narration mode, the alleged explosions are annotated on a sound amplitude graph. One doesn't have to look too closely to see that the alleged explosion sounds and their labels don't match the graph. Thus, not only is Siegel's "evidence" contradicted by verifiable evidence, it contradicts itself.

The labeling of the sound graphs emphasizes the film's tendency to indulge in interpretations that there is no basis for. For example, the "WTC1 Event" graph labels the first spike "Bedrock Foundation" and a span about 15 seconds later "internal". The film does not attempt to explain these interpretations.

Seismic Sophistry

Having ignored the fact that the seismic evidence contradicts Siegel's pre-collapse explosions, the lesson narrator indulges in a series of fallacious inferences about the seismic evidence.

Showing the graphic on the right from FEMA's report, the narrator states:

The North Tower created an 8-second signal, far too short to represent the collapse of debris.

No, eight seconds is about the span between the times that the bottoms and tops of the rubble clouds reached the ground. This frame breakdown of the CNN live footage of the North Tower's destruction shows that the rubble reaches the ground from approximately T+12 to T+20.

Next, the narrator asserts that the energy of the "collapse" events can be calculated from the magnitude of the largest spikes recorded at the Palisades station:

Next we see that the magnitude of the North and South Towers is 2.1 and 2.3 respectively.

To the extent that the energy of the events could be inferred from seismic data, it would be roughly proportional to the magnitude of the signal over time, not the magnitude at one instant in time. The magnitude at an instant would correspond to power or force, not energy. The most elementary physics text will explain the difference between power and energy.

Anything But the Actual Explosions

Next in the parade of errors is the assertion that projections extending out of the North Tower's exploding dust cloud are explosions. However, by watching the video, one can easily see that the projections are chunks of the Tower's shattered skeleton on the edge of the dust cloud.

Once again, 9/11 Eyewitness labels as explosions events that are not explosions. How better to distract from the actual massive explosion that is converting the skyscraper onto dust and shards of steel?

Imagined Trajectories

The film's next foray into nonsense is to pretend that the shape of the North Tower's dust cloud represents a particle trajectory. 9/11 Eyewitness selects a frame from about 10 seconds into the North Tower's "collapse" in which the top of the right side of the dust cloud has a roughly parabolic shape. It then asserts that this shape is the trajectory of a particle, and superimposes an animation of a cannonball trajectory which roughly traces the profile of the dust cloud.

9/11 Eyewitness uses this exercise to assert that the debris from the Tower was propelled upward during the "collapse". There are two problems with this "analysis", which become readily apparent from watching the video:

  • The profile of the dust cloud is clearly not a particle trajectory, since the entire profile descends and changes shape over time.
  • Little upward movement is evident anywhere in the rubble cloud during the event, especially in the region that the film shows as the upward portion of its alleged particle trajectory.


This is not an exhaustive review of 9/11 Eyewitness but it highlights two of the film's dominant features:

  • It trots out a series of sensational conclusions that are obviously not supported by evidence -- such as that the demolition of the South Tower was accomplished by a helicopter, and that it was a nuclear attack.
  • It packages erroneous claims as science lessons. Examples include: asserting that there were numerous pre-collapse explosions on the basis of an unverifiable sound track, confusing the peak amplitude of seismic signals with the energy of the generating events, and assuming that the profile of the North Tower's dust cloud represents particle trajectories.

One might ask, why does Siegel indulge in such obvious errors logic and science? Is 9/11 Eyewitness simply an effort to capitalize on footage of the attack, playing up sensational claims and taking a devil-may-care attitude toward the science? Or is its purpose to discredit the idea that the Twin Towers were destroyed by explosives by superimposing nonsensical claims on footage of the crime, facilitating future straw man attacks of the type Popular Mechanics and other mainstream press outlets wield to such great effect?

Copyright 2006, 911Review.com