Honesty is the best policy. (Part III)

The previous two parts of this series can be found here and here.

I mentioned at the start of this series that there would be a ‘debunking’ section and a more personal section to the posts. I’ve now finished with the ‘debunking’ section, so I feel that it’s fair warning to remind people that what I’m going to get into now is definitely going to delve into the realms of the NSFW. Specifically, there’ll be NSFW language involved, so if your boss has a habit of reading over your shoulder, I’d suggest waiting till you get home to click through.

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Right back at the beginning of this series, I mentioned that,

“I am only human and, as for anybody, occasionally a particular topic will get under my skin enough to move me beyond irritated frustration and into full blown rage. My particular Hulk trigger are 9/​11 conspiracy theorists, or ‘truthers’ as they are ironically called.“

I also mentioned that this would be my ‘final response’ to the 9/​11 conspiracy theorists on this matter. I say ‘final response’ because I’m not going to completely ignore them or anything quite like that. But, as I’ve said before, beyond a certain point continuing to debate with charlatans does nothing but legitimise a vacuous point of view — it’s much, much better to ignore them and starve them of the attention they so desperately need.

I have heard the argument many times that continual debunking of the 9/​11 conspiracy theories is required to ensure that ‘fence sitters’ who are exposed to the 9/​11 conspiracy can see the arguments torn to shreds, and thus come down on the side of what actually happened. Indeed, I once subscribed to that line of thought myself; however, I feel that there is a strong argument that we no longer need to do so. The danger has passed, I believe, long ago.

In 2006 and 2007, the ‘truth movement’ hit a growth period. They managed to garner more mainstream attention, and attempts to gain pseudo-​​intellectual credibility increased with the beginning of the Journal of 9/​11 Studies — an online ‘journal’ set up to mimic the presentation of peer reviewed journals without the intellectual rigor — and Architects and Engineers for 9/​11 Truth, an inaccurately named organisation that gave the impression that there actually were structural engineers who bought into the conspiracy theory bullshit. During that time, there was a real danger that the movement could go mainstream and infect unprepared minds with its mantras and falsehoods.

Thankfully, by the start of 2008 the movement had lost all its momentum. A few things contributed to this — for one, the lack of a coherent alternative explanation to what was deemed the ‘official’ story led to a splintering off of factions within the movement. Dylan Avery, once considered a truth movement hero for his piece of shit ‘documentary’ Loose Change slowly fell out of favour with many of his former fans, who would accuse him of (rather ironically) being a disinfo shill for the government. The Citizens’ Investigation Team, fronted by Craig Ranke, were banned from forums for their too ridiculous to believe theory that American Airlines flight 77 pulled up at the last minute and flew over the Pentagon. Other people who were respected by the movement, such as Judy Wood, started to show signs of real mental instability. Don’t even get me started on Christophera, who believed that explosives had been planted in the (non-​​existent) concrete core of the Twin Towers during construction, as witnessed by the time travelling Mohawk Indian who told him so.

In addition to internal squabbles, there was a very real and organised opposition to the truthers that contributed to their eventual stagnation. Much like Stop Sylvia Browne, the centre of the opposition was on the JREF forums, specifically the Conspiracy Theory forum. Far and away the most potent ‘debunker’ was Mark Roberts, a tour guide in New York City who made it a personal mission to fight the lies of the conspiracy theorists. He was far from alone though, with many people contributing to specific areas of understanding: Ryan Mackey, Ron Weick, and many other people who I know only by screen name all played their part. One man, a Kiwi who went by the screen name of ‘Gumboot’, became extremely interested in the history and operating procedure of NORAD — as a result, I’d wager he probably knows more about NORAD than anyone who isn’t involved with it (and potentially some who are).

During that time the JREF forums became infamous among conspiracy theorists. The epithet ‘JREFer’ became synonymous with ‘debunker’ and was cast at anyone who came to the forums without buying into the orthodoxy of the paranoid. More than once, a new member at the JREF told us that they had only found out about the forums because they were accused of being a member by someone on the Prison Planet forums or some other such intellectual cesspit. I like to think that in time, they began to think of it as a compliment.

I played my own part in all of this as well — during 2007 and into 2008 I ran a competition on the JREF forums called “Teh Stundies”. Every month I would collect nominations for the stupidest conspiracy theory related quote, and I would shortlist and post the best submissions for voting. My time running the competition is a long and interesting story unto itself (and potentially one I’ll tell you all another time), but my life eventually became too busy for me to continue running it, and I passed organisation of the awards over to another member of the forums.

It didn’t help that, over time, I’d become rather tired of ‘debunking’. By the time I left the Stundies, I’d seen the truth movement descend into complete irrelevancy. I was happy to have played a part in the process — I’d achieved a level of infamy among the movement due to my involvement with the Stundies — but it seemed as though in continuing to debate, we were doing little more than attaching jumper cables to a dead horse as an excuse to beat it some more. Academically, it faded into nothingness for me — the real world impact of the truth movement so obviously amounting to shit all.

Emotionally, however, the truth movement still has a great deal of effect on me. As I previously mentioned, it takes a lot to really get me angry, yet 9/​11 conspiracy theorists can get me riled up in a matter of moments.

When I organised the Stundies, I was commonly accused of using ad hominem arguments against the truthers — the irony that I was simply reposting exactly what they had written in the first place seemed lost on them. Looking over the comments on my articles that prompted this response, it seems as though very little has changed:

“Beware of Richard’s Logical Fallacy

Throughout his article Richard utilises an appeal to emotion, to common belief, to flattery (“don’t you feel proud” Lol). He confuses correlation with causation and makes blatantly illogical (non-​​​​​​sequitur) arguments.

He even retorts with a bit of good old-​​​​​​fashioned Ad hominem – personal attack.”

…and…

“Dear Richard Hughes,

You are a troll. You know that, I know that, and most of the readers of this page know that.

You offer no argument at all, just ad hominem abuse.

You are such a sad joke of a human being, I cannot be bothered taking you seriously.

You have dishonoured yourself with this page. Nobody agrees wth you. What an embarrassment to your mummy.

Poor little Richard.”

It seems as though once you become a 9/​11 conspiracy theorist, you find it hard to not talk out of your own arse. To give the brief rebuttal that really shouldn’t be necessary, I’m not committing the logical fallacies of confusing correlation with causation, or making non-​​sequitur argument. I’m also not making faulty appeals to emotion, or ad hominem arguments — the fact that not a single example is cited ought to act as a wee bit of a giveaway there.

I am, however, an emotional creature. All people who aren’t sociopaths are, and the idea that I or anyone else should be devoid of emotion in communication is completely antithetical to what it means to be human. When I hear conspiracy theorists talking tosh I tend to get very angry; I ask no one to believe I am right because I am angry, however I feel that people should probably be able to empathise with my anger.

Moreover, I absolutely insult 9/​11 conspiracy theorists. I ask no one to believe me because I insult them, but the fact of the matter is this: In over eight years, the conspiracy theorists have yet to provide any evidence to support their claims of an ‘inside job’. In over eight years, they have yet to provide a coherent alternative narrative for what happened that day. For over eight years now, we have been subject to the lies and distortions of a movement that says it wants the truth, but rebuffs any explanation that fails to conform to their ill conceived Manichaean narrative. They are a movement that asks questions, but ignores answers.

They are bastards, and I reserve the right to call them bastards.

As a caveat, there are a few types of people who, while they buy into the conspiracy, the above few paragraphs do not apply to. The first, and most obvious, is the mentally ill. You cannot blame a person for believing crazy things when the decision is out of their control. The second group are the new initiates — those who have heard and perhaps started to buy into the conspiracy, but who have not yet bought completely into the craziness and potentially never will. We all know people like this — friends and family who raise the topic at dinner or drinks, and who you may be able to dissuade, or not. Often the matter is of peripheral importance to them. They heard it once, thought it was interesting, but treat it more as a stray thought that occasionally wanders into view than as a position to be seriously held.

But then there is the core of the movement, and I have absolutely no issue expressing how I feel about them. They lie, and they accuse innocent people of being part of a coverup — party to a conspiracy of mass murder. They exploit the deaths of over three thousand people for personal gain. Some of them make money out of it. A much larger contingent use it to feed masturbatory fantasies of persecution. For all intents and purposes they are pissing on the graves of the dead for personal thrills, and that should make you angry. It makes me angry as hell.

Those people — especially the ones who are profiting off the dead — are bastards. And I am not afraid to call it for what it is. I’m done feeding their fantasies, and as such this is my ‘final response’ — but at the same time they can expect that if they show up, I will not hesitate to roundly mock them, and I will not hesitate to get angry. They deserve nothing more.