The short answer to the question in the title is no.
The 9/11 truth critics have nothing but ad hominem arguments.
Let’s examine the case against the truthers presented by Ted Rall, Ann Barnhardt, and Alexander Cockburn.
But first let’s define who the truthers are.
The Internet has made it possible for anyone to have a web site and to rant and speculate to their heart’s content. There are a large number of 9/11 conspiracy theorists.
Many on both sides of the issue are equally ignorant. Neither side has any shame about demonstrating ignorance.
Both sides of the issue have conspiracy theories. 9/11 was a conspiracy whether a person believes that it was an inside job or that a handful of Arabs outwitted the entire intelligence apparatus of the Western world and the operational response of NORAD and the US Air Force.
For one side to call the other conspiracy theorists is the pot calling the kettle black.
The question turns not on name-calling, but on evidence.
The 9/11 Truth movement was not created by bloggers ranting on their web sites. It was created by professional architects and engineers, some of whom are known for having designed steel high rise buildings. It was created by distinguished scientists, such as University of Copenhagen nano-Chemist Niels Harrit, who has 60 scientific papers to his credit, and physicist Steven Jones. It was created by US Air Force pilots and commercial airline pilots who are expert at flying airplanes. It was created by firefighters who were in the twin towers and who personally heard and experienced numerous explosions including explosions in the sub-basements. It was created by members of 9/11 families who desire to know how such an improbable event as 9/11 could possibly occur.
The professionals and the scientists are speaking from the basis of years of experience and expert knowledge. Moreover, the scientists are speaking from the basis of careful research into the evidence that exists. When an international research team of scientists spends 18 months studying the components in the dust from the towers and the fused pieces of concrete and steel, they know what they are doing. When they announce that they have definite evidence of incendiaries and explosives, you can bet your life that they have the evidence.
When a physicist proves that Building 7 (the stories not obscured by other buildings) fell at free fall speed and NIST has to acknowledge that he is correct, you can bet your life that the physicist is correct.
When fire department captains and clean-up teams report molten steel—and their testimony is backed up with photographs—in the debris of the ruins weeks and months after the buildings’ destruction, you can bet your life the molten steel was there. When the same authorities report pumping fire suppressants and huge quantities of water with no effect on the molten steel, you can bet your life that the temperature long after the buildings’ destruction remained extremely high, far higher than any building fire can reach.
When the architects, engineers, and scientists speak, they offer no theory of who is responsible for 9/11. They state that the known evidence supports neither the NIST reports nor the 9/11 Commission Report. They say that the explanation that the government has provided is demonstrably wrong and that an investigation is required if we are to discover the truth about the event.
It is not a conspiracy theory to examine the evidence and to state that the evidence does not support the explanation that has been given.
That is the position of the 9/11 Truth movement.
What is the position of the movement’s critics? Ted Rall says: “Everything I’ve read and watched on Truther sites is easily dismissed by anyone with a basic knowledge of physics and architecture. (I spent three years in engineering school.)”
Wow! What powerful credentials. Has Rall ever designed a high rise steel building? Could Rall engage in a debate with a professor of nano-chemistry? Could he refute Newton’s laws in a debate with university physicists? Does Rall know anything about maneuvering airplanes? Does he have an explanation why 100 firefighters, janitors, and police report hearing and experiencing explosions that they did not hear or experience?
Clearly, Ted Rall has no qualifications whatsoever to make any judgment about the judgments of experts whose knowledge exceeds his meager understanding by a large amount.
Ann Barnhardt writes: “I gotta tell you, I’ve just about had it with these 9/11 truthers. If there is one phenomenon in our sick, sick culture that sums up how far gone and utterly damaged we are as a people, it is 9/11 trutherism. It pretty much covers everything: self-loathing, antisemitism, zero knowledge of rudimentary physics and a general inability to think logically.” She goes downhill from here.
Amazing, isn’t she? Physics professors have “zero knowledge of rudimentary physics.”
Internationally recognized logicians have “a general inability to think logically.” People trained in the scientific method who use it to seek truth are “self-loathing.” If you doubt the government’s account you are antisemitic. Barnhardt then provides her readers with a lesson in physics, structural architecture and engineering, and the behavior of steel under heat and stress that is the most absolute nonsense imaginable.
Obviously, Barnhardt knows nothing whatsoever about what she is talking about, but overflowing with hubris she dismisses real scientists and professionals with ad hominem arguments. She adds to her luster with a video of herself tearing out pages of the Koran, which she has marked with slices of bacon, and burning the pages.
Now we come to Alex Cockburn. He is certainly not stupid. I know him. He is pleasant company. He provides interesting intellectual conversation. I like him. Yet, he also arrogantly dismisses highly qualified experts who provide evidence contrary to the official government story of 9/11.
Alex avoids evidence presented by credentialed experts and relies on parody. He writes that the conspiracists claim that the twin towers “pancaked because Dick Cheney’s agents—scores of them—methodically planted demolition charges.”
Little doubt but there are bloggers somewhere in the vast Internet world who say this. But this is not what the professionals are saying who have provided evidence that the official account is not correct. The experts are simply saying that the evidence does not support the official explanation. More recently, an international team of scientists has reported finding unequivocal evidence of incendiaries and explosives. They have not said anything about who planted them. Indeed, they have said that other scientists should test their conclusions by repeating the research. After calling experts “conspiracy kooks,” Alex then damns them for not putting forward “a scenario of the alleged conspiracy.”
Moreover, not a single one of the experts believes the towers “pancaked.” This was an early explanation that, I believe, was tentatively put forward by NIST, but it had to be abandoned because of the speed with which the buildings came down and due to other problems.
Unlike Rall and Barnhardt, Alex does refer to evidence, but it is second or third-hand hearsay evidence that is nonsensical on its face. For example, Alex writes that Chuck Spinney “tells me that ‘there ARE pictures taken of the 757 plane hitting Pentagon—they were taken by the surveillance cameras at Pentagon’s heliport, which was right next to impact point. I have seen them both—stills and moving pictures. I just missed seeing it personally, but the driver of the van I just got out of in South Parking saw it so closely that he could see the terrified faces of passengers in windows.’”
If there were pictures or videos of an airliner hitting the Pentagon, they would have been released years ago. They would have been supplied to the 9/11 Commission. Why would the government refuse for 10 years to release pictures that prove its case? The FBI confiscated all film from all surveillance cameras. No one has seen them, much less a Pentagon critic such as Spinney.
I have to say that the van driver must have better eyes than an eagle if he could see expressions on passenger faces through those small airliner portholes in a plane traveling around 500 mph. Try it sometime. Sit on your front steps and try to discern the expressions of automobile passengers through much larger and clearer windows traveling down your street in a vehicle moving 30 mph. Then kick the speed up 16.7 times to 500 mph and report if you see anything but a blur.
Alex’s other evidence that 9/11 truthers are kooks is a letter that Herman Soifer, who claims to be a retired structural engineer, wrote to him summarizing “the collapse of Buildings 1 and 2 succinctly.” This is what Soifer, who “had followed the plans and engineering of the Towers during construction”, wrote to Alex: “The towers were basically tubes, essentially hollow.” This canard was disposed of years ago. If Alex had merely Googled the plans of the buildings, he would have discovered that there were no thin-walled hollow tubes, but a very large number of massively thick steel columns.
Alex’s willingness to dismiss as kooks numerous acknowledged experts on the basis of a claim that a van driver saw terrified faces of passengers moving at 500 mph and a totally erroneous description in a letter from a person who knew nothing whatsoever about the structural integrity of the buildings means that he is a much braver person than I.
Before I call architects kooks whose careers were spent building steel high rises, I would want to know a lot more about the subject than I do. Before I poke fun at nano-chemists and physicists, I would want to at least be able to read their papers and find the scientific flaws in their arguments.
Yet, none of the people who ridicule 9/11 skeptics are capable of this. How, for example, can Rall, Barnhardt, or Cockburn pass judgment on a nano-chemist with 40 years of experience and 60 scientific publications to his credit?
They cannot, but nevertheless do. They don’t hesitate to pass judgment on issues about which they have no knowledge or understanding. This is an interesting psychological phenomenon worthy of study and analysis.
Another interesting phenomenon is the strong emotional reactions that many have to 9/11, an event about which they have little information. Even the lead members of the 9/11 Commission itself have said that information was withheld from them and the commission was set up to fail. People who rush to the defense of NIST do not even know what they are defending as NIST refuses to release the details of the simulation upon which NIST bases its conclusion.
There is no 9/11 debate. On the one hand there are credentialed experts who demonstrate problems in the official account, and on the other hand there are non-experts who denounce the experts as conspiracy kooks. The experts are cautious and careful about what they say, and their detractors have thrown caution and care to the wind. That is the state of the debate.