An inside job?

News hit me earlier today (because I’ve been very lazy in keeping up to date with my correspondence) about a recent article proposing that the destructions of the Twin Towers and Building 7 on September the 11th, 2001, were the result of a controlled demolition. What makes this article notable (since 9/11 Inside Job hypotheses are not notable in my line of work) is that it was published in Europhysics News, which – while not a magazine that everyone knows about – is prestigious enough to cause waves. Even the editors are aware that they are publishing something outside their usual mix of news stories and research, adding the following caveat to the article:

This feature is somewhat different from our usual purely scientific articles, in that it contains some speculation. However, given the timing and the importance of the issue, we consider that this feature is sufficiently technical and interesting to merit publication for our readers. Obviously, the content of this article is the responsibility of the authors.

And who are the authors? Well, Steven Jones (the most notable name), Robert Korol, Anthony Szamboti, and Ted Walter. Quite the collection1

The piece itself is a fairly standard ‘The official theory about the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7 looks flakey; the best explanation is that it was a controlled demolition (something denied by the official theory)’. It certainly does not say anything particularly new or exciting; if you’ve read blogposts about the controlled demolition hypothesis, then you’ve read what the authors chose to present. What is curious or fascinating about the piece is its place of publication. Europhysics News is not a clearing house of matters conspiratorial (like, say, the Veterans Today website, or InfoWars). It’s a ‘proper’ magazine, with a circulation of 250000 actual print subscribers. Thus the noteworthiness. Thus the caveat at the beginning of the article.

Indeed, if one were to be critical, you’d accuse the authors of a few pieces of sleight of hand throughout the rather slight piece. For example, they talk about the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report about the collapse of the Twin Towers and Building 7 as being largely the result of fires, noting that no other large building has collapsed in a similar way prior or since. The way they introduce the issue in the article, you would think the fires weren’t caused by two massive airliners flying into the towers, and the idea said plane impacts both caused damaged to the fire-cladding on the affected floors, as well as causing some structural damage is really only half-hearted admitted later on in the paper.

Then there’s this:

[A] growing number of architects, engineers, and scientists are unconvinced by that explanation.

That explanation being their presentation of NIST’s conclusions (which is already a fairly suspect disingenuous portrayal). But, really, what does a ‘growing number’ mean here? Surely they do not mean ‘growing number’ in the sense that ‘More and more people have joined Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth because that’s meaningless. Unless they can show that the growing number of dissenters from the official theory outpaces the number of adherents to the orthodoxy, or that such dissenters now make up a plurality of views on the matter, the fact people keep joined some organisation tells us very little. It’s a nice rhetorical move, but little else.

Then there’s Jones’ pet theory, the presence of nano-thermite in the debris of Ground Zero. The article states:

Meanwhile, unreacted nano-thermitic material has since been discovered in multiple independent WTC dust samples.

However, that’s a really quite contentious claim, and it’s a recognised controversy within the 9/11 Truth movement. None other than James Fetzer has argued that adherents of the nano-thermite ‘charge’ might well be overstating their case.

Still, the most interesting part of the article has to be the call to arms for an(other) investigation into the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7.

Given the nature of the collapse, any investigation adhering to the scientific method should have seriously considered the controlled demolition hypothesis, if not started with it. Instead, NIST (as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which conducted a preliminary study prior to the NIST investigation) began with the predetermined conclusion that the collapse was caused by fires.

Yes, and no. There was an obvious (and I would say primary and plausible) hypothesis, which is that the destruction of the Twin Towers was likely due to the impact of the planes, and the resulting damage. The idea that widespread fires lead/contributed to the collapse came out of initial explorations of that thesis.

Now, should NIST have at least entertained the idea that the collapse was the result of demolition charges? Maybe. Perhaps you could run a line where you accept the official theory about who caused the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7, but think that the apparent cause of the collapse of the buildings – the impact of the planes – was a cover for setting off charges in the building. In this version of the story you don’t need to even suggest it was an inside job; all you have to do is say ‘The collapse of those structures looks weird, so I wonder if there was anything else going on…’

Now, I feel I must note that the authors of the Europhysics News piece do not advance any claim of conspiracy. They do not insist the destruction of the Twin Towers has been covered up. They do not make accusations about certain parties having an agenda. All they do is argue that the official theory about the collapse of the Twin Towers and Building 7 is at odds with their expert opinions. It is both a very measured piece in this regard, and somewhat odd. We all know where this argument is meant to lead us, but the authors do not seem to want to admit to it.

Still, I can see why NIST chose not to explore a controlled demolition story at all; they had a proximate cause (the impacts) which seems plausibly-related to the event in question. Why cast about for another explanation, especially if the first one bears fruit upon examination? You don’t need to think NIST were incompetent or negligent in their investigation (or that there was a conspiracy to cover something up). They simply focussed their attention on the most plausible hypothesis available to them at the time.2

Still, this gets into the interesting aspect of the ethics of investigation into claims of conspiracy (my current project in Bucharest). Should there have been another committee, charged with exploring the alternatives? On some level it seems ludicrous to suggest a different conspiracy here. On another, if there are experts raising questions, surely a parallel investigation was – or is still – warranted?

I’m not going to answer that question. At least, not just yet. This post is long enough as it stands. But it’s an interesting question, and 9/11 might well be the best contemporary example (feel free to chime in with even more recent examples). Given the scale of what happened on the day, let alone what happened afterwards, surely asking ‘Was this quite what it seemed?’ is a question some people not only should be asking, but should be able to ask without public opprobrium.

Notes

  1. Interestingly enough, Walter is the director of strategy and development for Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth; the rest of the writers have some background in engineering, whilst Walter’s background is public policy. I’m thinking he actually wrote the article (thus the by-line) or he’s been added to for citation’s sake.
  2. A hypothesis, one should add, that was considered plausible by a lot of people at the time. ‘Growing number’ or not, the official theory has a lot of supporters.

The Ethics of Conspiracy Theory – A workshop review

So, on Friday the 9th, I was at the Ethics of Conspiracy Theory workshop at Deakin, Melbourne. The workshop was organised by Pat Stokes, with help from Chris Fleming, whose mysterious funds helped pay for our get together. So, thanks to both of them for organising my trip to Australia. That being said, now that I am in Bucharest, I hope not to see the inside of an airport again for quite some time. I have spent far too much time looking at departure information in the last two weeks. Far, far too much time.

The workshop was made up of four papers from David Coady, Pat Stokes, Chris Fleming, and me. Overall, it was a good mix of work in particularist philosophy of conspiracy theories. The following mini-reviews are merely in order of presentation, and in no way signals my preferences towards the papers. Well, with the exception of my own, but we’ll get to that shortly.

David Coady’s talk, ‘Cass Sunstein, Conspiracy-Baiting, and the Industry of Conspiracy Theory Expertise’, takes a good, long look at Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermuele’s paper ‘Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures’. He points out that if Sunstein and Vermeule’s paper had been about the causes and cures of scientific theories, it would have been easily rejected, not just because such a proposition is ridiculous, but because the same kind of argument run against scientific theories shows up the flaws in their thinking about theories which are conspiratorial. The implication is that Sunstein and Vermeule’s paper only got through because we keep being told conspiracy theories are bunk.

Pat Stoke’s paper, ‘Auxiliary Accusations: On Some Moral Costs of Conspiracy Theorising’, argues there is a moral cost to some kinds of conspiracy theorising. However, Pat doesn’t want to use this point to argue for a general scepticism of conspiracy theories. Rather, he wants to be a particularist who can principally reject certain kinds of conspiracy theorising. He sees a moral problem when conspiracy theorists defend their theories; as the accusations expand, more people are impugned, thus incurring a moral cost.

Chris Fleming’s paper, ‘Conspiracy Theory as Folk Sociology’, looks at said ‘folk sociology’ and its application to conspiracy theories. Chris’ thesis is that we lack, and thus need, some account of agency when talking about conspiracy theories. His concern is that contemporary academic work doesn’t really offer a solution to agency panic. This explains why the work of debunkers – those devoted to quashing conspiracy theories generally – looks awful and misguided.

Which just leaves my presentation. How did I think it went? Well, it’s probably the least of the four pieces presented at the workshop. That’s not necessarily all that condemning; the three papers previously mentioned where very good. Still, my paper was mostly promises of future work, whilst everyone else had strong theses to propound in the here-and-now. You can take a gander at my slides, and accompanying audio, below. Points to the person who is first to work out which slide I accidentally left in…

My Life with Icke – Redux

Five years ago I spent eleven hours listening to David Icke, and wrote near nine thousand words on the topic. Here are the cliff notes, in preparation for his ten (I’m assuming ‘plus’) hour talk this coming Saturday.

#Introduction

Back in 2011 I spent eleven hours of my life listening to David Icke talk at the Manukau Events Centre . Not just that, but I was nursing a newly sprained ankle, had spent $80 getting to the venue, and stumped up $120 for the ticket. ‘The Lion Sleeps No More’ was a big investment no matter how you look at it.

Don’t let anyone tell you I don’t do my research before opining on a subject!

This summary of the 2011 talk largely follows the order in which Icke presented his views. If you only like reptiles, and don’t favour philosophy, it’s best you skip ahead to the third section.

I won’t be offended, honest.

##The Epistemic Icke

Let’s start with philosophy, since that is, after all, my primary interest. Icke’s general philosophical thesis resembles both the co-opted (or pseudo) Eastern mysticism which generated conspiracy and UFO theories in the 1960s and 70s (such as the Hidden Masters thesis), as well as the Phenomenalism that was popular at the end of the 19th, and beginning of the 20th Century. In essence (ha, Philosophy joke), Icke believes that the world in which we live is illusory, and there are multiple levels of existence. These are:

  1. The Vibrational,
  2. The Electrical,
  3. The Digital, and
  4. The Holographic/Hologrammatic.

Each level of existence sits on top of another, and have different vibrational frequencies and densities. The workings and relationships between these different, and nested, levels of reality allows Icke to tell a story about the existence of other entities, life on other planets, the non-existence of resource scarcity, and the like, whilst at the same time explaining how certain entities control how we perceive the world. In essence his view boils down to the claim that our limited perceptual access to just one of these levels (the holographic) means we cannot see how the world is really constituted.

Icke’s overall theory, that we live on a ‘prison planet’ is based, then, upon us just not being able to perceive the more fundamental layers of reality. No. It is also the claimed that the physical world which we perceive is illusory! That is to say, it is not a true representation of what really exists in the world around us. We are imprisoned in a holographic version of reality, controlled by outside forces operating at higher planes of existence.

Now, the problem everyone points out about this view is this: how can someone – anyone, not just Icke – piece together the information about the other layers if everything is mediated by the illusory? Isn’t our limited perceptual experience blocking our ability to discover the truth of how things really are? Icke has an answer to this, which is based in a physio-epistemological theory, one that concerns hearts and minds.

The heart, according to Icke, is the organ for knowing, or finding out, about the true nature of things. This is an intuitive process.

The brain/mind (which is not embodied consciousness, because consciousness is infinite and unlimited) merely believes things.

By ‘hearts’ and ‘minds’ Icke doesn’t necessarily claim we are talking about literal hearts and minds; I’m fairly sure that he would see a cardiologist if he had a heart attack. Rather, this is talk of feels and rationality, where feels have the ability to reach beyond our limited perceptual ability, whilst rationality is constrained by the level in which we exist.

Icke’s argument, then, for knowing about the other levels is that intuitive knowledge (heartfelt intuitions) gives us knowledge about the other realities, whilst the justified beliefs of the mind are limited to beliefs about the level we are stuck perceiving (thus placing us in a ‘prison’ planet).

This is an interesting model because Icke buys some version of the justified belief model with respect to knowledge, in that the mind can be justified in its beliefs, but it cannot know; that function belongs to the heart, which is an intuition-pump.1

Then there is the role of synchronicity. Aside from being a holistic/lateral thinker, Icke also believes that synchronicity is an important factor in working out how to break free of the prison we are in. Icke places a lot of importance on events being meaningfully connected: for example, he might read a book on psychics, and then have a vision about how that work connects to his overall theory. He might wonder whether the Moon is actually a spaceship, and a week later reads an article which says that it is: these events, he takes it, are not just coincidental but connected in a meaningful, synchronistic, way.

Under his view the synchronic connection between all things is evidence they are that way. Scientists, who think with their heads, and rarely with their hearts, are simply unable to connect the dots. Not just that, but science is a system of control, designed to manipulate and eliminate imagination.

##That’s no moon…

Here’s an example of Icke’s epistemic system in action, which just happened to be the second topic of the day.

The Moon is a spaceship, and it is transmitting and amplifying a signal from Saturn, a signal which is locking us into this holographic reality/prison planet. This signal affects our DNA, which has been modified through interbreeding, and this allows the reptilians to gain control over our genetic characteristics; thus the signal allows them to control us.

Icke’s theories on the Moon and Saturn were all rather new at the time, and it felt apparent that Icke was still formulating how to talk about this whilst he was on stage. Icke’s revelation started with a thought-form (an idea that was placed into his mind by another, higher entity). The thought-form contained the revelation that the Moon was an non-natural satellite. As a firm believer in synchronicity, this thought-form was shown to be true because within days he found that other people had had exactly the same thought(form) as well.

But, really, you are here for the lizards, right?

##On the reptilian rulers of our prison planet

Who controls the world? Well – at least back in 2011 – it was these four interests:

  • The Freemasons,
  • Satanists,
  • Child-abusers (and their support networks), and
  • Rothschild-Zionists

I’m going to push that last one to the side for just a moment (and it really is just a moment). If we just focus on the first three, this is not an unsurprising set of ‘bad people who want to ruin the world for the rest of us’: for example, local conspiracy theorists like Ian Wishart and Greg Hallet (with his probably fictional mate, ‘the Spymaster’) have long argued that our political realm is dominated by non-Christian child abusers, who just happen to be homosexuals. Child abuse and Satanism is a well-worn link in many a conspiracy theory, and Satanism and Freemasonry has a similar association in the literature.

It’s the fourth group that is controversial in a ‘even controversial amongst conspiracy theorists’ sense, because Icke has often been accused of being an anti-Semite. Now, he denies that he is anti-Semitic. Rather, he is anti-Zionist (well, specifically, anti-Rothschild-Zionist).

So, what is this Rothschild-Zionism that Icke is so concerned with. It is part-and-parcel of the claim that the State of Israel is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Rothschild family, and their interests. For Icke, Israel is not a nation but, rather, part of a global conglomerate that is run for, and by, big business.

Icke does not like the Rothchilds. Amongst the list of things the Rothchilds are responsible for are the Simon Wiesenthal Center (a ‘worthless institution’, apparently), and Mossad (which he claims is the enforcement arm of the Rothschild family). Among the many things the Rothchilds’ are responsible was the Arab Spring. He is sceptical of the role of social media and Google in the fomenting of revolutions (because Google, et al, are all Rothschild organisations). So, as such, he is deadset against the revolutions in the Arab world because they are the product of a conspiracy designed to control us all.

Now, Icke argues that we need to distinguish between Zionism and Judaism. He, correctly, points out that you can be Jewish without being a Zionist, and that there are Zionists who are not Jewish. He singles out Zionists as being the problem, but his rhetoric all-to-often falls back on the usual canards of anti-Semitism. He talks about the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ as being a blueprint for a master plan to take over the world, whilst admitting that the work itself is fake. He talks about the purported practice of Jewish people drinking the blood of Gentiles (since it ties in the vampirism he says the hybrids practice), and the infiltration and control of the media industry by Jewish figures. These all come straight out of the anti-Semite playbook, and it’s not at all obvious how these stories figure into Rothschild-Zionism specifically. If Icke wants to avoid being labeled an anti-Semite, he really needs to do more work to ensure that he doesn’t echo anti-Semitic language and arguments.

This is to say that all of this talk of Rothschild-Zionism as one of the four great evils really just looks to be a way of preserving traditional European anti-Semitism, dressing it up with a new name. In the old days ‘they’ drank the blood of children: now they are the vassals of inter-dimensional, big business. Signalling out the Rothschild (a Jewish family) as being of similar kind to Satanists and child abusers seems suspiciously like traditional anti-Semitism: blaming a group of outsiders (the Jews) for the West’s self-made problems.

Ah, but Icke claims, this is a red herring. The real issue is that the Rothschilds are one of the many families of reptile-human hybrids. They are lizards. He’s not anti-Semite. Rather, he’s anti-reptile. It just happens that the Rothchilds masquerade as Jewish. You could say that if David Icke hates Jews, it’s only lizard Jews he has issue with.

That seems like cold comfort if you don’t believe in the existence of alien, shape-shifting reptiles.

The human hybrid thesis is possibly the thing Icke is most famous for, and it is difficult not to talk about it, because of its notoriety. That being said, whilst there was a lot of talk of hybrids in his talk, it’s not clear whether it is as central to his story now as it was in the Nineties. Yes, he does definitely believe that lizards control the world, but that’s not as interesting to him (so I gathered) as the system by which they control the world. Icke seems more interested in dismantling the matrix of control than trashing the alien. If the former goes, then the latter goes with it, whilst too much focus on the latter just enforces the system of control. As Icke himself regularly joked through the talk, who seriously listens to someone who talks about alien lizard rulers?

#Conclusion

David Icke is not stupid. He has a dogged determination to get to the bottom of things, which is admirable. He has the charisma and presentation skills to keep an audience captivated for eleven hours.2 No matter what you might think of his views, he has a very systematic, fine-grained model of the world, and how he thinks it works. Icke is no vapid conspiracy theorist; his views may be controversial, and his beliefs may well be considered weird, but he advances non-trivial arguments for his views. Those of us interested in discussing and dissecting conspiracy theories would be wise to paid heed to what he says. After all, even if people disagree with his conclusions, the arguments he cites in support of them are by no means trivially unsound.

Which is why, when walking (or, in my case, hobbling) away from Icke marathon presentation, I was struck by the curious tenor of his overall message. Icke doesn’t really advocate people doing anything to change the world themselves; he doesn’t require that we do anything other than continue to believe that we can be free. Rather, everything will be okay as long as we are awake to the reality of the world in which we live.

That is his message: hope for the best, and it will be realised in your lifetime. Icke’s thinking is that if enough people know the truth, then the truth will set the world free. He wants us to embrace a spirituality that will bring us together in some earthly paradise, free from the sins of those who would have control over us. It is an oddly passive message, I find; think the right thing, free yourself of the shackles of the prison planet, and hope that everyone else is doing that too. That way lies freedom, or so he claims. I can’t help but think that it smacks a little too much of ‘think as I think’ sans ‘do as I do’. It’s an easy recipe for feeling good about your own little acts of transgression, but surely what is needed is a call to arms which is less a spiritual battlefield, and more an actual revolution?

Notes

  1. Another philosophical joke. Thank you!
  2. Even true believers get leg cramps, the urge to eat and the like, but this crowd stayed the duration.

Putin and Me

So, Wikileaks, eh?

Doubtless you have heard of the trove of Democratic Party emails Wikileaks have released just prior to the Democratic Party National Convention. Here’s a small sampling of the headlines:

Wikileaks Proves Primary Was Rigged: DNC Undermined Democracy

WikiLeaks email trove plunges Democrats into crisis on eve of Convention

‘RIGGED’: Trump slams DNC for ‘vicious plan to destroy’ Bernie exposed in WikiLeaks emails

Wikileaks emails: Democratic officials ‘plotted to expose Bernie Sanders’ as an atheist

Newest WikiLeaks email dump proves DNC officials colluded to secure Clinton nomination

Wikileaks email dump suggests DNC favored Clinton over Sanders – understatement of the year award winning headline, that one.

Wasserman Schultz resigning as party leader

WikiLeaks Just Published Tons of Credit Card and Social Security Numbers

Guess which one was the Russia Today headline?

Now, a lot of the leaked material is not shockingly new, although it does prove that Democratic Party insiders have been acting in a shockingly cavalier manner with respect to the candidate they decided they didn’t want from the outset. That is to say, I’m not surprised at the revelations, but a lack of surprise does not mean one should simply go ‘That’s how it is, these days, when it comes to politics…’ This is no way to run a party. Well, no ethical way…1

Let’s also leave to one side WikiLeaks continuing inability to redact the personal information of people not central to the purpose of the leak. Rather, let’s look at the identity of the leaker, Guccifer 2.0. According to both Motherboard and The Washington Post the hacker is likely not a singular person, but a group of Russian hackers (and probably hackers employed by the Russian State). The evidence for this is in part circumstantial; Cyrillic keyboard bindings; metadata which references former KGB heads; Russian-type smileys, and part historical; the Democratic National Committee was hacked by the Russians earlier this year, and this seems more of the same. Yet it paints, overall, a plausible picture; it seems reasonable to at least consider the possibility that either WikiLeaks has been played by Russian security forces, or WikiLeaks is doing the bidding of the Kremlin.

The latter theory is fascinating in its own right, because Assange (and WikiLeaks generally) has an interesting relationship with Russia (as this article goes some way to showing.). But perhaps more interesting is the relationship between the Russian Establishment and one Donald Trump, Republican nominee for President of the United States of America.

Trump’s policy platform has always been weird, insomuch that he doesn’t seem to have much of one. That’s seems like a novel concept for a potential president of a superpower. ‘Vote for me and get me! I’ll stand for whatever takes my fancy this week!’ However, where Trump seems curiously invested is things like NATO (and how the US shouldn’t necessarily support it’s NATO allies), and his budding romance with Russia’s resident Bond villain, Vladimir Putin. Trump talks up how great Putin is a lot. Moreso than he does other despots. There seems to be a good reason as to why, too; Trump’s business empire is rather reliant on Russian money (which seems to be one argument as to why Trump refuses to release his tax returns) now that the big banks in America have decided that Trump isn’t too big to fall after all.

Could Trump be Russia’s politician? I’m not suggesting that Trump is a plant, or some brainwashed candidate, sent in by a foreign power in a Denzel Washington/Frank Sinatra way. Rather, there are vested interests at stake. Trump needs a positive relationship with Russia, because that’s necessary to keep his varied business interests afloat. It explains Trump’s attitudes towards Russia, and Russian interests.

Russia also would, I think, prefer to be able to engage in politicking and military manoeuvring near its borders without the USA baring its teeth, rattling its sabre, and doing whatever else that chimeric monster might use as a display of force. Russia, for example, might like to ‘take back’ the Baltic States, and, because said states are members of NATO, the USA would be obliged to come to their support. Helping out a candidate whose policy platform seems pro-Russia seems like a no-brainer.

Which is to say that there is a case for saying that the leaked DNC emails are not just a Russian plot, but one that works in favour of the Republicans not by accident, but by design, and may or may not have been aided consciously by WikiLeaks. This might be a headless conspiracy.2 This doesn’t need to be a plot masterminded by Vlad. Russian security services (which I am told are notoriously competitive with one another) might well be working to please the Russian Premier, whilst WikiLeaks’ cosy relationship with Russia simply meant they were the easiest vector to get the information out, all of which benefited a potential president of the USA who would look upon Russia with favour.

Or, this could be a plot with a set of singular villains, a stew of Putin, Trump, and Assange, working to prevent yet another Democratic administration. Each of those three men have their own vested reasons to oppose ‘yet another Democrat’ in the the White House.

Whatever the case, the story of the DNC email leaks is likely to get messy for everyone.

The Russia Today headline was, of course, “‘RIGGED’: Trump slams DNC for ‘vicious plan to destroy’ Bernie exposed in WikiLeaks emails”.

Notes

  1. Although I am constantly surprised by the requirement US politicians need to be seen as theistic, and preferably Christian. Get your act together, USA. That’s a really weird requirement, especially since there’s no real evidence Christians make better people.
  2. Headless in that it might be a bunch of actors, working in secret, towards a set of goals which happen to be shared with other actors working on similar projects unbeknownst to each other.