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Terry Allen's Straw Man Attack on the Truth About 9/11/01

by Jim Hoffman
Version 1.0, 12/22/06
Version 0.9, 7/22/06

In this piece trashing alternatives to the official story of 9/11, Allen uses two of the standard tools: psychopatholgizing 'conspiracists' as deluding themselves with a comforting view of the world, and presenting and debunking a few red-herring issues as if they are representative of the conspiracists' case. Allen never even brings up a single valid argument to refute, while nonetheless claiming that she "spent months as a researcher conducting a fact-by-fact dissection" of the view that 9/11 was perpetrated by insiders as a casus belli. Evidence of Allen's fact-by-fact dissection is nowhere to be found in her article.

Since Allen neither reviews nor rebuts any substantial arguments for the case of insider involvement in the attack, her article amounts to nothing more than an appeal to authority: readers of In These Times and Alternet needn't bother with looking at the evidence -- Allen has already done the research, and declared the case lacking.


The 9/11 Faith Movement

By Terry J. Allen, In These Times
Posted on July 12, 2006, Printed on July 22, 2006

Americans love a conspiracy. According to a May 17 Zogby poll, 42 percent believe the U.S. government and the 9/11 Commission are covering up what really happened on September 11, 2001.

There is something comforting about a world where someone is in charge -- either for good (think gods) or evil (think Bush insiders plotting 9/11). Many people prefer to believe a Procrustean conspiracy rather than accept the alternative: Life can be random, viciously unjust, and meaningless; tragedy and joy alike flow from complex combinations of good and bad intentions, careful plotting, random happenstance and bumbling incompetence.

Conspiracy hypotheses often consist of a vast pile of circumstantial evidence shaped into a seemingly coherent whole with the strong glue of faith. Debunk one or even many allegations and the pile still stands, impressive in its bulk and ideological coherence. If size were all, it would convince Pyrrho himself.

Scientific theories, on the other hand, depend on interlocking chains of evidence: The integrity of the whole relies on the soundness of each link. Break any one and the theory founders.

This is the classic smear technique of using a broad brush to assail all those who don't subscribe to some position as suffering from defective reasoning skills. Allen does this without refuting -- or even disclosing -- a single valid argument by skeptics of the official story.

The 9/11 conspiracy is a classic example of a faith-based pile hypothesis. Its proponents cite a mountain of evidence to conclude that the U.S. government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks for its own traitorous ends, chiefly staging "a new Pearl Harbor" to rally support for an invasion of Iraq.

By referring to the mountain evidence of insider involvement as a "pile", Allen attempts to twist the volume of that evidence -- normally an asset in a criminal prosecution -- into a distasteful weakness.

Allen concocts a dichotomy between the neat chains of evidence in science and the unwieldy chaos of a pile of evidence for official complicity. In reality, the scientific method can, and has been, applied to many aspects of the crimes of 9/11 -- particularly to the official collapse theories of WTC 1, 2, and 7.

I spent months as a researcher conducting a fact-by-fact dissection of a few key aspects of this hypothesis. I approached the project knowing that U.S. cabals had previously concocted casus belli to drive public support for war: the Gulf of Tonkin for Vietnam, incubator babies for the first Gulf War. And clearly from its early days, the Bush administration had lusted for war with Iraq.

But the hypothesis that it planned and executed the 9/11 attacks is just not supported by a chain of evidence, nor do the facts support the conspiracists' key charge that World Trade Center buildings were destroyed by pre-positioned explosives.
To the contrary, multiple chains of evidence support the conclusion that the Twin Towers and WTC 7 were felled by controlled demolitions, as outlined in detail in the talk, The World Trade Center Demolition.
Structural engineers found the destruction consistent with fires caused by the jet liner strike; that temperatures need not actually melt the steel but that expansion and other fire-related stresses would account for compromised architectural integrity.

In fact, the engineers who produced the study by the National Institute for Standards and Technology -- the current standard-bearer for the official story -- were apparently unable to get their computer models to predict any kind of collapse, as suggested by their refusal to publish those models.

Note that NIST only attempted (and apparently failed) to model some kind of "collapse initiation" event, and explicitly disclaimed any attempt to model "global collapse". But the idea that an initiating event could lead to total collapse is an essential tenet of all the official theories that blame the collapses on the plane crashes. Since there is not a single precedent or experiment that even suggests that an initial collapse event high in a structure could result in total top-down collapse, this supposition is whole-ly unscientific. The utter failure of NIST's engineers to explain the total collapses is a focus of my essay Building a Better Mirage: NIST's 3-Year $20,000,000 Cover-Up of the Crime of the Century.

When David Ray Griffin, a theologian by trade, said it was "physically impossible by laws of physics" for the planes alone to have brought down the towers, I asked what engineers had confirmed that. "I haven't talked to any because they would be too afraid to tell the truth," he said. "How would you be able to protect your family if you were to accuse the government?" he asked, accusing the government.

In the following four paragraphs Allen brings up the collapse of WTC 7 without ever disclosing the essential facts:
  • That the building collapsed straight down, at nearly the speed of free-fall, and totally, leaving a neatly consolidated pile of rubble -- exactly the characteristics of a controlled demolition.
  • That no steel-framed high-rise building has ever collapsed totally due to fires or any combination of fires and structural damage, outside of the alledged cases of the World Trade Center skyscrapers.
Instead, Allen does two things: First, she mentions one statement by Griffin about the sprinkler system without giving the reader a clue of the broad, redundant, and compelling case Griffin makes for demolition in such essays as The Destruction of the World Trade Center: Why the Official Account Cannot Be True.

Second, she presents and debunks one of the most successful red herrings used to divert attention away from the physical facts of the collapse indicating demolition: the "pull-it" remark by Larry Silverstein.

Many conspiracists offer the collapse of WTC Building 7 as the strongest evidence for the kind of controlled demolition that would prove a plot. Although not hit by planes, it was damaged by debris, and suffered fires eventually fueled by up to 42,000 gallons of diesel fuel stored near ground level. Griffin cited as evidence of government complicity that the building's sprinkler system should have, but didn't, put out the fires. But the theologian did not know and had not considered that the collapse of the towers had broken the area's water main.

Allen implies that the sprinkler system in WTC 7 relied on a water main. However, unless the fire suppression system in WTC 7 was radically different from other skyscrapers, its sprinkler system would have been gravity-fed by standpipes from storage tanks near the top of the building. For example, according to NIST, WTC 1 had three 5,000 gallon storage tanks on the 110th floor and three other 5,000 gallon storage tanks lower in the building.

Another conspiracist, Alex Jones, writes on his web site, "Larry Silverstein, the owner of the WTC complex, admitted ... that he and the NYFD decided to 'pull' WTC 7." (Leave aside how unlikely it would be for the government to include Silverstein in a treasonous conspiracy, or that the NYFD was in on it, too.)

Silverstein's actual quote: "I remember getting a call from the fire department commander, telling me that they were not sure they were going to be able to contain the fire, and I said, 'We've had such terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it.' And they made that decision to pull and we watched the building collapse."

Jones continues: "The word 'pull' is industry jargon for taking a building down with explosives." In fact, a Nexis search for a three-year period fails to find one American reference to "pull a building" without the preposition "down" when referring to intentional destruction. An alternative explanation would be that given the lack of water and the number of injured and missing firefighters, the NYFD decided to pull workers from Building 7 to concentrate on search and rescue at the fallen towers.

In the end, this kind of undermining of individual "facts," although relatively easy, is irrelevant for those who base their beliefs on piles rather than chains of evidence.

Voila! Allen debunks one straw-man argument and then claims victory against the case that 9/11 was an inside job.

But the work should be done. Pile conspiracies can be dangerous. Those who deny that HIV is responsible for AIDS, for example, have contributed to unnecessary infections and deaths.

And the 9/11 conspiracy hypotheses distracts from the growing chain of evidence documenting how the Bush administration actually manipulated this country to war on a train of lies riding tracks of fear -- cynically using the bodies of the 9/11 victims as fuel.

In an article deriding the idea that the 9/11 attack was engineered by insiders as faith-based, Allen effectively asks her readers to substitute faith in her evaluation of the issue for genuine examination of the evidence.

Terry J. Allen is a senior editor of In These Times. Her work has appeared in Harper's, The Nation, New Scientist and other publications.

Jim Hoffman is the senior editor of 9-11 Research. His work has been published in Science, Science News, Science Digest, Scientific American, Nature, and Macromolecules.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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