Well, I went and did it, I spent another three hours in the company of Richard Gage and his cohort of Truthers. In the process I learnt something new about myself.
1) I’m a glutton for punishment.
2) Apparently I’m one of the country’s top debunkers1.
It’s hard to know where to start with Gage’s version of the ‘Inside Job’ thesis of 9/11. He certainly seems sincere in his belief, even when he was asking for money towards the end. It might just be my impoverished student state, but when a man complains that he’s only on half the income he had as a ‘prestigious’ architect that doesn’t really cry poverty to me.
Anyway, some thoughts, culled from both presentations.
1. The Truthers claim they are not a fringe group, but with only 960 architects and engineers in their group and 4,000 non-professional members, they certainly seem fringe-sized.
2. Gage’s 90% conversion rate seems to be fair. At the Wellington event there were 340 in the Soundings Lecture Theatre. 27 of us were supporters of the Official Story at the beginning, 97 were unsure and the remaining 216 were Truthers. By the end there were 3 of us Official Story supporters left and 67 unsure (including Hugh Young, of the New Zealand Skeptics, I might add). That meant that 270 people were Truthers by the end. Auckland was pretty similar; of the 125 people, 12 were supporters of the Official Story at the beginning; 2 were left at the end.
3. You could play ‘M(ain)S(tream)M(edia) Bingo’ based upon the number of times he says ‘Mainstream Media’ in a derogatory fashion.
4. Apparently, even given the MSM, the media attention here is much better than anything they’ve had in the States for years.
5. He really emphasises his love of the Scientific Method. Pity he gets it a bit backwards. He says we have to collect data before we decide on an hypothesis to test, but that gets it backwards. If you collect data you are already collecting data with respect to some hypothesis; he assumes the truth of his Controlled Demolition Thesis, essentially before he hypothesises it.
6. I would really like to see some work on the reliability of the eye-witness testimony he keeps referring to with regards to claims of heard explosions and the like. Psychologists will tell you that you have to take most of this stuff with a grain of salt; memories are being changed within minutes of the event happening and pre-conceptions get filtered in immediately; we expect explosive sounds to go with big events like collapses so people ‘read in’ that sound. Now, this doesn’t mean the testimony is actually unreliable, but it certainly is not beyond reasonable doubt.
7. Given a choice between someone being incompetent or someone being a liar, Gage goes with the liar thesis every time, it seems.
8. I don’t think he understands that the kind of analogies he uses don’t give him entailment (A is B) but rather, at best, strong suggestion (A is probably B). He argues by analogy a lot and always overstates the strength of the logical inference. Indeed, he’d have a half-decent thesis if he simply said ‘All I’m doing is arguing that controlled demolition might the case’ rather than insisting that it is.
9. Also, the low probability of an event seems to mean that the event cannot have occurred that way, which is also a problem for him. Low probability events happen all the time; they just aren’t as common as mid to high probability events.
10. Related: He really needs to stop asserting as fact controversial premises (such as the claim the jets of material preceding the collapsing floors are ‘squibs’ when, really, they could well be pressure exhausts2. Controversial premises and overstated inferences a bad argument make.
11. He has to touch on the Official Story from time to time to make his, excuse the potential pun, thesis fly, but whenever he presents the Official Story of, say, the destruction of the Twin Towers he presents a simplified version. He talks about the fire but not the damage caused by the impact. It’s easy to make the Official Story sound implausible if you don’t mention all of its salient points.
12. For someone who claims he isn’t a Conspiracy Theorist he certainly advocates them. In his list of things caused by 9/11 he has ‘World Financial Meltdown.’ He also makes caged references to a link to the Oklahoma City Bombing.
13. Gage wants it both ways; he wants to merely argue that he thinks another investigation, based upon new evidence, is warranted, which is an admirably weak conclusion which might be worthy of discussion, but then he asserts it is an ‘Inside Job,’ which means he’s already prejudiced in regard to the outcome, which means he’s not open to an enquiry that might just confirm the Official Story (which, if we really are arguing what happened that day, might still be the case even if some of his points are taken on board).
14. Apparently it would only require 100 people to be in the know to pull off the controlled demolition.
15. He hasn’t actually read the NIST report on 9/11. For someone who keeps telling people ‘Don’t believe what I tell you; research it for yourselves’ this seems a terrific oversight on his part.
16. There is a clever aspect to his argument, in that he argues by analogy that if WTC7 was destroyed by a controlled demolition, then the Twin Towers must have been as well. WTC7 is the little known third high-rise destroyed on the 11th of September; Gage focuses most of his efforts to persuade you that it was a planned destruction rather than mere gravitational collapse. Because so little is said about WTC7, he can argue more directly for a rival candidate explanation of the event and, once he has persuaded his audience, claim that the Twin Towers show the same features.
Now, to do the latter he has to make a particularly interesting claim. In the WTC7 case he argues that the buidlings started to collapse from the base, which he takes to be a sign of controlled demolition, but he can’t do the same with the Twin Towers because they, quite evidently, started to collapse from the point of the airliner impacts. To get around this obvious disimilarity he pulls a move that, really, is very clever and yet is also a quite significant weakness if you think about it. The point of impact is the base for the controlled demolition of the upper half of each building; once that starts ‘they’ then begin to set off the charges in the lower part of the building.
Which raises the question “How did they manage to get the planes to impact exactly where they wanted them to?”
Of course, that question can be answered, but it makes for a spectacularly complex plot on the part of the conspirators, one that almost beggars belief.
17. Penny Bright might be concerned about your water bills but she is a Climate Change Skeptic.
I haven’t even touched on the nano-thermite; I’ll try to collect my thoughts on that topic before the show this coming Sunday.