By Muertos (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I'm not quite sure why I subject myself, often on a daily basis, to the quackery, pseudo-scientific gibberish and the downright lunacy of the conspiracy theorist crowd. I guess a large part of it is that when I see a frontal assault on logic, reason and critical thinking I feel a need to combat it whenever I can. I'm under no illusion that I have much of a chance of converting conspiracy theorists, but hope springs eternal, I guess.
Once in a while, the conspiracy theorists find me
--and usually end up wishing they hadn't. Such was the case recently with a woman called "Dr. Babs" who invited me, via Twitter, to comment on the blog she had recently set up. The blog is here
. I wasn't following this person but received this request as an @ reply (I don't recall the person's Twitter handle, and she may no longer be on). When I clicked on her profile I saw that she had made the same request of numerous others, probably a result of some bot that flagged anybody who tweeted about 9/11. (This was about the time that I had my infamous exchange with a global warming denier and 9/11 Truther on Twitter, about which I blogged here
). Likely she did not know that I was a debunker, as I seriously doubt a conspiracy theorist would knowingly invite a debunker to post comments on her blog--but as she had done exactly that (whether knowingly or not), I decided to take her up on the request and clicked on her blog.
As you'll see from the blog, Dr. Babs is a devotee of Judy Wood, a 9/11 Truther noted for her claim that the World Trade Centers were destroyed by a super-secret government weapon that she semi-officially claims is a "directed energy weapon" (DEW) but evidently does not resist the use of the term "Star Wars space beam," since that term appears on Wood's website
. In the writeup for her blog, Dr. Babs passionately anoints Dr. Wood as "an American hero" who is involved in "a tireless search for the mechanism of destruction of the WTC."
Let me repeat that in case you missed it. Judy Wood believes the WTC towers were destroyed by beam weapons from outer space. Yes. Beam weapons from outer space
In case you don't know the history of the 9/11 Truth movement, one of its few "stars" (I use that term guardedly) was a former BYU physics professor named Steven Jones, who is to date the only real scientist (there are plenty of fake ones in the Truth movement) to put his career on the line by claiming that there is some scientific basis for the belief that the WTC towers were destroyed by a "controlled demolition." (There is no scientific basis for that
, which is part of why Jones was cashiered from the BYU faculty--and it's important to note that none
of Jones's findings have ever been validated by the peer review process, which is why Jones created his own bogus "journal" where conspiracy theorists "peer-review" the work of other conspiracy theorists). Essentially, after finding "spherules" in samples of paint from WTC debris--from which there was no chain of evidence, I might add--Jones claimed that the paint was rife with an explosive compound, and this was what destroyed the World Trade Center.
Let me repeat that in case you missed it. Steven Jones believes the WTC towers were destroyed by exploding paint. Yes. Exploding paint
Well, to make a long story short, roundabout 2006, the high water mark of the 9/11 Truth movement, Dr. Wood decided she didn't like what Dr. Jones had to say. Actually it is fairly rare in conspiracy theorist circles for such a public rift to develop over two equally ridiculous theories that are mutually exclusive, considering that conspiracy theorists often incorporate mutually exclusive elements into their convoluted belief structures. However, for whatever reason, Dr. Wood split off with her own followers, and Dr. Jones split off with his, and the two of them have been at war with each other ever since for "the heart and soul of the 9/11 Truth movement." On her blog Dr. Babs makes no secret of which side she's on, claiming that "There are good guys and there are bad guys in the 9/11 truth movement...[and] Steven E. Jones is a bad person." Indeed, it would seem that her blogs (actually she has two, the second one is here
, which I'll discuss in a minute) are mainly aimed at fellow 9/11 Truthers, with the objective of talking up Wood's claims and ripping the holy bejeezus out of Jones's. This is why I don't think she expected to attract a debunker with her Twitter promotional campaign. I can't be sure, but for her the debate appears to be "who is the better conspiracy theorist, Jones or Wood?" as opposed to, "Was there a conspiracy at all on 9/11?" The answer to the latter question appears to be self-evident to the creator of these blogs.
Not very many debunkers would even bother wasting their time trying to debunk space beams. I mean, the idea is so outlandish on its face that it's something akin to the Barack Obama birth certificate conspiracy theory: the believers are so far off in another dimension that you despair of even where to begin. But, foolishly perhaps, I dove in and began to post some comments on Dr. Babs's blog, basic 9/11 debunking 101. The departure point for Wood's theory appears to be that she thinks the WTC towers were "pulverized" (or "dustified," to use her terminology), and that this on its face proves that beam weapons must have been used. Wood also goes into some nonsense about dropping a billiard ball off the World Trade Center, which, to the extent it's intelligible, appears to be a more extreme variation on Truthers' "free-fall" claims (which have all been widely debunked
). Needless to say, as is common with all 9/11 Truthers, Wood's claims are all based on highly selective analysis of photographs and YouTube videos--conspiracy theorists just love YouTube--and give perfunctory treatment, if any at all, on the necessary logical implications of this breathtaking theory, such as what were those big silver things with wings that thousands of eyewitnesses saw crash into the towers (they were holographic projections), who is supposed to have built these weapons (the evil gubbermint, of course) or why no one blew the whistle on this whole thing (no comment).
After posting the usual debunkings of 9/11 conspiracy theories--that the NIST report lays out the comprehensive engineering analysis behind the collapse, that Osama bin Laden confessed, that wreckage of the planes and the remains of their occupants were recovered from the WTC site, that there is not a single shred of evidence of any form of conspiracy whatsoever--I finally got a mention on Dr. Babs's blog. She showcased (link here
) a comment from someone called "Lucy" in rebuttal to me, beginning with this statement:
"Interesting. Muertos (comment) contradicts Dr. Babs with the same propaganda that deceived this nation, his own information being incorrect. Barbara Olsen's cellphone records show she NEVER made the cellphone calls her husband claimed she did."
Actually, they do
(and it was an Airforne, not a cell phone), but Lucy was just getting started. She next launched forth into a diatribe of usual Truther claims which reads like a "greatest hits" of the conspiracist movement, to wit:
- Osama never confessed (false; he did) and is not wanted by the FBI for 9/11 (also false, but there is a reason why 9/11 does not appear on his wanted poster);
- PNAC predicted a "New Pearl Harbor" in 2000 (absolutely meaningless);
- The towers were "dustified" (they weren't);
- The whole thing was trumped up to put an oil pipeline in Afghanistan (debunked in 2002);
- The tired-and-true "the hijackers couldn't fly a Cessna" argument (quote-mined);
- No 757 wreckage at the Pentagon (absolutely false);
- WTC7 was "pulled" (absolutely false, based on a quote-mine);
- Mohammed Atta's passport couldn't have survived the collapse (although many other small items, such as pieces of mail, did); and, my personal favorite
- The hijackers are still alive (ludicrously false, and itself probably the subject of an upcoming blog).
So, all of this is supposed to "prove" that the evil gubbermint blew up the WTC towers with beam weapons from space. Uh, yeah.
I debunked all these claims in turn (see the comments for my reply), and I ended with this:
"Come on, ladies. This is 2010. You're recycling Truther claims that were debunked five years ago or more. You can do better than that, can't you? Or is there nothing new under the sun in the realm of 9/11 conspiracy theories?"
Indeed, everything that "Lucy" (who may be Dr. Babs herself, not sure) threw at me dates from no sooner than 2005, demonstrating that conspiracy theorists do nothing but rehash the same tired crap over and over again, regardless of how many times it has been proven wrong. They simply cannot accept that erroneous claims are capable of being proven erroneous. If there still are any Truthers left in 2021, twenty years after the disaster, they will still be out there claiming that the hijackers are still alive.
From this alone, Dr. Babs's claims wouldn't really be worthy of a blog post. However, her other
blog--on which I have not commented to date--fills out the picture of the kind of person who believes in crap like space beams. For example, take this one: she evidently believes that Jim Fetzer, a well-known 9/11 Truther, and Steven Jones, who she says is a "bad person" remember, were themselves involved in 9/11!
I am not making this up. Read the blog post here
. Classic quote:
"Question from Fetzer about 9/11: "...have you looked into any of these high tech weapons?"
Reply from Steven Jones: "Ah, well, I just read about them. I have not been involved in the event."
And then Fetzer starts talking over him. Do you realize what happened in this interview?
Steven Jones denied involvement in "the event" when the question was about high tech weapons. DING DING DING DING!! Jones denied involvement when the question wasn't about involvement. It's similar to a spouse saying, "Hi, honey. How was your day?" and the spouse responding, "I wasn't flirting with that secretary."
So, there you have it. This is what passes for "evidence" in the 9/11 conspiracy crowd. On the basis of this, Dr. Babs is making the public allegation that Steven E. Jones, the guy who brought you (but can't prove) cold fusion and exploding paint, was complicit in the murder of 3,000 innocent Americans. Some standard of "proof," eh?
By way of background, it should be mentioned that the acrimony between Jones's exploding-painters and Woods's space-beamers is extremely intense. Many "mainstream" 9/11 Truthers (is there such a thing?) believe that Judy Wood and her followers are government plants who are being paid to spread intentionally ridiculous theories so that the mainstream media can more easily ridicule anyone who believes in a 9/11 conspiracy. In short, that the space beamers are "disinformation" (another classic term that conspiracy theorists love to toss around). To say that the space beamers resent this characterization is sort of like saying that Alex Jones stretches the truth occasionally.
It gets better. Further on in Dr. Babs's second blog you get a greater dose of her "activism" and what she thinks is really important: Sarah Palin's kids.
I am not making this up. Here it is
, complete with a photo of Dr. Babs herself protesting outside a Borders somewhere, holding a sign reading "Sarah Palin Is NOT The Birth Mother of Trig Palin." In fact it's one of three
posts she makes about the Trig Palin conspiracy theory.
In case you forgot your 2008 political conspiracy theories, here's a refresher. In 2008 former Alaska governor and losing VP presidential candidate Sarah "Lipstick Bulldog" Palin had a baby named Trig. Not long after, Palin's teenage daughter, Bristol, got knocked up by her then-boyfriend, Levi Johnston (who later bared all in Playgirl magazine), and gave birth to her own child, Tripp. Conspiracy theorists claim that Trig was also Bristol's child, and that he was passed off as Sarah Palin's son in order to avoid the "scandal" of her daughter getting pregnant at an even earlier age. Naturally the theory is ridiculous, but even if it's true (and there is absolutely
no evidence that it is), it definitely falls in the "Who cares?" category. I don't think anybody outside of the habitual consumers of gossip magazines really cares about whether Sarah or Bristol Palin is really Trig's mother. But evidently Dr. Babs does, and she's out there in front of Borders making sure the world knows how crucial this issue is.
Interestingly, in one of Dr. Babs's entries, she posts the words of a supporter on the Trig Palin "issue" who lauds her for her efforts and opines that the Lipstick Bulldog should be pressured to "produce the birth certificate." Hmm, those words sound uniquely similar to another birth certificate hijinx story that was popular in 2008 and 2009, that being the idiotic "Birther" conspiracy pushed by California dentist and sometime lawyer Orly Taitz.
But, back to 9/11. In an amusing post (link here
) Dr. Babs responds to some of her readers' criticism.
At least some other debunker had the guts to take her to task on her space beam nonsense. Here is her response, which I believe encapsulates her views of 9/11:
"You say evil people hijacked airplanes. Fine. You're wrong, but that's OK for now. What actually happened was that an energy weapon dissolved the WTC. One day it will become clear to you on your own, or somebody you trust will give you the news, and you'll finally believe it."
The usual conspiracy theorist line: you just don't understand. You're brainwashed. You're willfully blind. And on the glorious day when 9/11 Truth is trumpeted on CNN or Fox News, only then will you realize that this small, elite group of brave freedom fighters was right all along.
Another response to a debunker:
"One of the things that has been peculiar about my work on medical marijuana and on 9/11 research is that so many people want to tell me their opinion. Not that I'm not open to their opinion, but if their opinion is that the government is telling the truth about 9/11, then just stop. I already know that story. Why force it upon me?"
Um, maybe because what you believe is factually insupportable, corrosive to reason and rationality as well as completely ridiculous, and is pissing on the graves of 3,000 innocent victims of Osama bin Laden?
Now this is especially telling:
"I'm the researcher, here. I'm the one who spends night and day and every moment in between trying to figure out 9/11, not you...I've done my homework on this. I've spent the best years of my life nearly constantly searching for answers to the question, "What destroyed the WTC?""
If indeed Dr. Babs has spent "night and day and every moment in between" researching 9/11, I'm surprised she doesn't know that the hijackers are dead, or that the towers did not collapse at free-fall speeds. I can find that information within minutes. The only explanation is that she willfully chooses not
to accept these facts--which is irrational.
But Dr. Babs's statement is important also for another reason: here we have another classic conceit of the conspiracy theorist, that of casting themselves in the role of a valiant sleuth trying to solve a mystery. Actually this view is key to understanding the bizarre pathology of people like Judy Wood and her followers. Notice she uses the words "figure out
9/11" and "searching for answers to the question
." This indicates that she believes what happened on 9/11 is some sort of mystery. She says it too on the write-up on her blog (emphasis added): "This blog is dedicated to her [Judy Wood's] tireless search
for the mechanism of destruction of the WTC...Judy Wood got the right answer to the question
"What destroyed the WTC?"... in the future she will be known for solving
This is classic conspiracy theorist ideology. Historical events, even those about which there is no reasonable debate, are re-cast as "mysteries" to be "solved," like police investigating a murder or the NTSB investigating the cause of an air crash. Why do conspiracy theorists like to do this? First, it affirms their worldview that they're privy to secret knowledge that almost no one else accepts or understands, and that this knowledge will change the world. Second, it puts their conspiracy theories on the same footing as provable fact: that is, that event X is unknown or misunderstood, and is susceptible to more than one reasonable explanation. The JFK assassination is the paradigm example of this--conspiracy buffs love to refer to it as "the mystery of the century" and with other such hyperbole--but more extreme 9/11 deniers also exhibit this tendency.
Dr. Babs and other conspiracy theorists seem to think that 9/11 goes something like this:
*WTC centers blow up*
PUBLIC: "Oh, wow! That was unexpected! How did that happen? What caused it?"
EVIL GUBBERMINT (without evidence): "It was Osama and his Al-Qaeda hijackers!"
PUBLIC: "Okay, I believe that because you said so."
CONSPIRACY THEORIST (with mountains of convincing evidence): "No! Don't fall for it! It was actually the Bush administration that blew up the towers with space beams!"
PUBLIC: "Wow, thanks, Conspiracy Theorist! You solved the mystery of 9/11!"
Of course, it's not like this at all. What happened on 9/11 is not a mystery and never was. Just as in the JFK case, the truth was known within hours: Oswald assassinated John Kennedy. On 9/11, the investigations led immediately and unmistakably to Al Qaida and the 19 Saudi hijackers. All
of the evidence that has come to light since 9/11 has merely confirmed that unmistakable conclusion. Not some of it. Not selective pieces of it. All
But the "it's a mystery!" and "how was it really
done?" memes make it very easy for conspiracists like Judy Wood and her followers to breeze past the mountains of evidence about what really happened. To them, 9/11 is a mystery by definition. Therefore, what they term the "official story," which to them is a single monolithic pronouncement by a single entity, can at best only be a theory on which reasonable minds can differ. When your starting point of inquiry is, "We don't know how 9/11 happened except that we know it didn't happen the way they
said it happened," then the battle between space beamers and exploding painters suddenly becomes much more important--when in the real world it's merely one group of tinfoil hatters trying to tear down another.
Will there ever be an end to this nuttery? I doubt it, unfortunately. Forty-seven years on people are still convinced that the CIA, Mafia, LBJ or the Cubans whacked Kennedy. Probably in the year 2057 there will still be idiots running around out there thinking that the World Trade Center towers were intentionally demolished. Hopefully Judy Wood's "space beams" lunacy will die down long before then, and it's not as if I think it's particularly likely to catch on. Space beams is super-fringe stuff even by 9/11 Truthers' low standards. Hell, if Steven Jones, the guy who believes in exploding paint
, tells you that you're nuts, you've really
got a deep hole to dig yourself out of.