A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
I was 16 when the towers came down. I had just come home from school and sat myself in front on the TV. Sky 1 was showing some Indiana Jones knock off when a breaking news banner scrolled across the screen. By the time I had turned to the news, both buildings had already collapsed onto themselves and the footage was being replayed endlessly. The video of the second plane hitting was being shown in a continuous loop, an already burning North Tower shown as moments later another plane would disappear into the South Tower. The next days I sat and watched the footage over and over again, the building imploding, a hole in the pentagon, a man with a brief case, his face reddened and handkerchief pushed to his mouth as a makeshift gas mask, a hole of burnt and blackened grass where a plane had found its way to the ground. New words names and places would enter my vocabulary Al-Qaeda, Bin Laden, Afghanistan. Days and weeks would pass and more footage would be added to the loop, Bin Ladan with an AK-47, rescue teams at ground Zero. But at some point, during the days or weeks after, sat there, watching the building come down for the thousands time, I thought to myself, “That looks like one of those controlled explosions”.
Life would go, I would leave school, get a job, life went on. I really did not think a great deal about any of it to be honest and as hard as the media would try to convince me that ‘9/11 changed everything’ , I can still remember an article in ‘Empire’ that argued that the attacks had changed Hollywood and the movies it would produced forever. I just didn’t see it. The Middle East was in turmoil, America was at war (and as I write this, ‘The Expendables 4’ is currently in production), nothing new there, nothing different.
That was until I stumbled upon the truth, until I stumbled upon ‘Loose Change’. I have a friend who was ‘Saved’ (found Jesus) while at his sink peeling potatoes, he described to me how he was just standing there passively, then out of nowhere he felt something come over him, he had just realized that he had been lost, but now was found, was blind, but now could see. I have to imagine that my first viewing of ‘Loose Change’ was something very similar, my feels and thoughts at that moment could probably be accurately described as a religious experience. A veil had lifted, I now knew the ‘Truth’. For those that don’t know ‘Loose Change’ was an 90 minute long documentary which claimed to provide evidence that the attack were not in fact carried out by Bin Ladan, but something more nefarious. It all made sense to me, it all clicked into place. The reason that the Twin Towers collapse looked like a controlled explosion, was because it was. Clearly it was, you don’t need to be an expert to see that, just look at it. How could a fire have just taken them down, no steel frame building has every collapsed due to fire and then three come down in one day, you don’t need any specialist training to know that something is wrong there. And who was responsible? It’s like Lenin said, you look for the person who will benefit and no group benefited more than the Bush Administration. Case Closed.
The next months I spent my time doing what most do after finding religion, I went out and began to convert the non-believers, all the time watching more and reading whatever bits I could find that confirmed my beliefs. I would talk to who ever would listen about ‘The Big Lie’, the propaganda technique Hitler had used during WW2, the idea being to tell a lie so colossal, that no one would believe that someone would make it up. How a steel beam expert who work for the company that help build the twin towers was sacked after claiming that the jet fuel could not burn hot enough to have done that much damage. How a B42 Bomber had crashed into the empire state building and not done a fraction of the damage and I would win the arguments, at the start anyway. These arguments would be used by me and every other conspiracy nut so it didn’t take long before each could be easily taken apart with a single search on Google. My apparently air tight evidence started springing leaks.
‘The Big Lie’ was not something that Hitler used himself; it was something it was something he accused the Jews off using.
The ‘steel beam expert’ you are talking about is called Kevin Ryan and he’s not a ‘steel beam expert’ he’s a Water Tester and what about the hundreds of other working for the company, are they all in on it?
Hold on a second Dickhead, I think you’ll find that a B42 is significantly smaller that a 7-11, it was travelling a much, much slower speed and was not filled with fuel.
Every argument in favour of the ‘9/11 was an inside job’ hypotheses had a better explanation, could be refuted, or could just be caulked up coincidence and human error. My faith began to waiver. The final nails in the coffin of my ‘Truther’ status came with a debate between “Loose Changes” Dylan Avery and Jason Bermas and ‘Popular Mechanics’ James Meigs and David Dunbaran. It’s an uncomfortable watch in which the guys from ‘Loose Change’ made fools of themselves “I’m not calling anyone a liar” Jason would shout “I’m calling you a liar sir” I cringed into my hands. I was so embarrassed, how could I have invested so much time into this, how could I have been so fucking stupid.
How I could have been so fucking stupid or Cognitive Bias in Action
We like to think that we are perfectly rational beings, making decisions based on facts and evidence. We are not. We are talking monkeys, talking monkeys that have spent the vast majority of out existence picking berries and avoiding large predators. I had tricked myself into thinking I was an expert, tricked myself in think that all I need to understand everything from Air crash investigations and geo-politics was to watch the right videos on YouTube.
Looking back on it now I was probably a prime candidate to become a ‘Truther’. I had always been fairly anti-establishment as a teenager (and by fairly anti-establishment I mean that I disliked authority figures and liked Eminem before that was socially acceptable) and was more than a little into Conspiracy Theories. I believe largely because I wanted to believe. It fitted with my world view and probably because it made me feel smart and important.
Before writing this, I sat down to watch ‘Loose Change’ once more, now older, better read, aware of my own ignorance and a hell of a lot more skeptical. The ‘documentary’ felt like a wonderful bit of fiction, filled with scary truths, half truths, blatant lies and coincidences all tied together into a semi-coherent narrative with some nice editing and music. It has it all, a mystery to be solved, an evil mastermind and at the end turning into a heist movie, suggesting that the attacks were really a cover to steal the gold from under the buildings (essentially stealing the plot from Die Hard: with a Vengeance). I can easily see how I and so many others have got caught up in it. Human beings like stories and say what you want about these guys, they told a good story. This is why we need to be aware of our biases, why we need to constantly question, not just what we believe, but why we believe what we believe.