9 - 1 1 R e s e a r c h essays

ScholarsFor911Truth.org:
Muddling the Evidence

by
Jim Hoffman
Version 1.1, Feb. 19, 2006
Version 1.0, Feb. 12, 2006

NOTICE, Jan. 11, 2007: A majority of members of Scholars For 9/11 Truth have voted to reorganize under the name Scholars For 9/11 Truth & Justice and establish a new governance structure. The group's website is STJ911.org .

Introduction

Scholars For 9/11 Truth was formed by James Fetzer and Steven Jones in the wake of a huge wave of interest in his paper Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Collapse? The concept of such a group is a noble one. Bringing together a group of scholarly researchers to examine the unanswered questions surrounding the 9/11/01 attack is an excellent way to garner credibility for the 9/11 Truth Movement. As of this writing, the group includes several individuals notable for their expertise in fields relevant to analyzing the attack.

The website ScholarsFor911Truth.org serves as the public face of the Scholars For 9/11 Truth group, but the website's content is not necessarily representative of the views of the group's members. Unfortunately, even a cursory examination of the website suggests that, instead of amplifying the excellent work of Steven Jones and some of the group's other researchers, it promises to undermine that work, and possibly the work of all scholars raising questions about the official story.

Since the tragedy itself, the 9/11 Truth Movement has been plagued by both misinformation, and by deliberate disinformation that has been injected into the debate in order to discredit challenges to the official account. Documenting these poison pills has not redeemed the 9/11 Truth Movement in public opinion because few in the Movement have taken a stand, fearing that to do so would be "divisive." One need look no further than the attack pieces by Popular Mechanics and Scientific American to understand how flimsy, easily debunked claims are highlighted by defenders of the official account to tar the entire community of skeptics as loony conspiracy theorists whose conclusions are not supported by the facts.

Despite the evidence, ScholarsFor911Truth.org has thus far failed to acknowledge that the promotion of nonsensical claims is part of a deliberate strategy to undermine the Truth Movement. Even worse, the website uncritically links to many websites featuring work that is, at best, thoroughly unscientific.

In this essay, I analyze Scholars For 9/11 Truth by examining the two aspects of its website and its representation in the media through its spokesperson James Fetzer.

The ScholarsFor911Truth.org logo was designed by Carl Weis.

The Website

ScholarsFor911Truth.org contains a small website with pages titled Scholars for 9/11 Truth . It has the alias ST911.org, which frames the home page of ScholarsFor911Truth.org. I first examine the contents of the home page, and then look at some of the other pages: the Resources and WhoWeAre pages. This critique is based on the ScholarsFor911Truth.org website as of February 8, 2006. The linkage structure of the website on that date is outlined here.

Peer-Reviewed Papers

The website features three articles that are labeled "Peer-Reviewed."

The term "peer-reviewed," as used in scholarly publications, might not apply to all three of these papers. The posting of the Draft of Jones' paper on the BYU website in November of 2005 elicited several reviews from civil engineers, to which Jones replied.

To my knowledge, Griffin's paper -- a true piece of scholarship -- has not been critiqued by engineers or scientists despite its logical construction and meticulous sourcing.

If Fetzer's paper has received serious peer review, it doesn't reflect that. It advances a series of arguments that have been conclusively debunked. The paper is the subject of reviews by Michael Green and myself.

Links

ScholarsFor911Truth.org avoids the websites of 9/11 researchers and groups who have established reputations for quality work. Instead, it links to numerous websites that promote red herrings, and analysis that is at best incompetent. Consider some of the sites that the home page links to in the 'Free Audio/video files' panel.

  • Videos and interviews can be downloaded here: [ www.question911.com/links.php ] is a page which provides Loose Change and 911 In Plane Site, and has a Links page which features sites such as:
    • http://www.911inplanesite.com/, a site for selling In Plane Site, a video that is mostly about alleged pods and missile strikes used in the attack on the Twin Towers.
    • http://www.911hoax.com/, a site that praises "The Webfairy" and pushes the most nonsensical theories imaginable.
    • http://webplaza.pt.lu/strasjkl/pentagon.html, a copy of the original "Hunt the Boeing" site.
  • Flash lecture on 9/11 by James H. Fetzer [ www.youtube.com/w/?v=x-RjohsWGO4 ] is a page that features In Plane Site.
  • "Loose Change" (video), 2nd Edition [ http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5137581991288263801&q=loose+change ] promotes the idea that the Twin Towers were not hit by jetliners, and makes all manner of specious arguments about the Pentagon crash, such as suggesting that large debris should have survived, that impact hole was "16 feet wide", and sets up straw man arguments such as mischaracterizing the official account as holding that the plane was vaporized.
  • 911 Eyewitness [ http://www.911eyewitness.com/ ] promotes its $20 DVD, reviewed here, and provides previews of it online in the form of Quicktime videos.
  • Jack White's Photo Studies of 9/11 [ http://www.911studies.com/ ] features a slide presentation about the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, making a long series of transparently erroneous inferences from photographs. At the top of each page is a banner reading "911 Research" -- possibly an attempt to confuse the reader into thinking that this website, long identified as "9-11 Research" or "911Research," is associated with Jack White's website.

Avoiding Peer Review

The 'Free Audio/video files' panel of the home page contains the site's only link to 9-11 Research. Instead of using a direct link to 911research.wtc7.net/talks/b7/ ScholarsFor911Truth.org makes an indirect link using tinyurl.com: http://tinyurl.com/bbxdv. In this way, ScholarsFor911Truth.org offers content on 9-11 Research without contributing any search engine rank to the 9-11 Research website. This is the only instance of the use of link indirection using tinyurl.com on ScholarsFor911Truth.org, which provides links to longer URLs without the use of tinyurl.com.

In my writings I largely avoid hotlinking to websites I think promote disinformation, such as TheWebFairy.com, 911InPlaneSite.com, and 911Hoax.com. By writing their URLs in plain text, I enable readers to visit them with the slight inconvenience of copying and pasting the URLs, but I contribute little to those websites' search engine ranking. This is because I don't want to give ammunition to the opposition in the information war. ScholarsFor911Truth.org's use of tinyurl.com to avoid hotlinking to 911Research appears to be part of a strategy to avoid contributing to the visibility of 911Research.wtc7.net . This link indirection having preceded our publishing articles critical of ScholarsFor911Truth.org or James Fetzer, it is consistent with a policy by whoever controls the content of ScholarsFor911Truth.org to avoid critical analysis of unfounded claims packaged as evidence contradicting the official story.

The Resources Page

Selective presentation of evidence is a technique long used to promote the Pentagon no-jetliner theory, a tradition continued by the Resources page. In this cropped, enlarged, and enhanced version of a photograph matching one in the 9-11 Research archive, fire foam and cropping obscure the 96-foot-wide region of punctures to the facade on the first floor level. The caption reads:
For more photographs:
http://www.serendipity.li/wot/crash_site.htm
That page presents a set of photographs which appear to have been carefully selected to hide the debris field and first-floor damage readily apparent in other photographs.

The resources page avoids any topics that 9/11 researchers agree are well-established evidence against the official story. Instead it lists links to pages with speculative theories that have shown no value other than as distractions over the past several years. The only illustrations on the page are of the Pentagon crash site, implying that the question of what hit the Pentagon is the most important issue to investigate.

The page reproduces two photographs of the Pentagon post-crash facade, in both of which the extent of the damage is hidden by smoke and fire foam. The page also reproduces a photomontage of the facade that creates the deceptive appearance that objects like cable spools were directly against the facade, even though they were actually 35 to 60 feet away. The first photograph is labeled with a link to www.assassinationscience.com/911links.html, which contains a series of links to websites promoting red herrings, such as the idea that the cell phone calls from the hijacked aircraft were faked.

The WhoWeAre Page

ScholarsFor911Truth.org contains a list of names of members. Full members are required to "have or had academic appointments or the equivalent." Unfortunately there appear to be no criteria governing the admission of associate members or student members. Indeed, several of the associate members may exist as internet personas only, such as "Leonard Spencer" and "Brad". Both Spencer and Brad are notorious promoters of transparently nonsensical theories.

Spencer is the author of a set of articles holding that the WTC plane crashes were faked. Spencer's articles have a writing style very similar to that of Peter Meyer, who promotes those articles and is also listed on the ScholarsFor911Truth.org WhoWeAre page. Despite my three years of intensively researching the attack and interacting with people in the 9/11 skeptics' community, I know of no one who has met either Leonard Spencer or Peter Meyer. Meyer has been promoting Gerard Holmgren's ad hominem attacks against me on his website and in public forum, as I describe here.

Brad's 911Review.org prominently and uncritically links to the sites 911blimp.net, Letsroll911.org, TheWebfairy.com and batr.org/911 -- some of the websites most identified with the missile pod and hologram-plane "theories." It archives the original 911Review.org site, which contains the article attacking me as a government agent, [ http://www.911review.org/Wiki/911Review.Com.shtml ], which I deconstruct here.

Ad Hominem Attacks

Not only are ad hominem attacks prominent on websites of some Scholars For 9/11 Truth members, they have been featured on ScholarsFor911Truth.org itself. Before January 28, 2006, the home page listed as the first item under the "In the News" header an article hosted on the site and with the title attribute "Press Release". In the article, Peter Meyer and Ian Henshall gossip about Victoria Ashley, a Scholars For 9/11 Truth member, and myself, with innuendo about our being "disinformation agents":

[HENSHALL:] I had indeed come to the view that Hoffman's approach could have the effect of coralling the movement into an issue that is susceptible to a cover story (that the buildings were mined as a precaution).

[MEYER:] Or rather, a fall-back position, to be resorted to when controlled demolition is accepted by too many people to be denied.

[HENSHALL:] I am not assuming he and Victoria Ashley are disinformation agents as several have emailed me to say

[MEYER:] I incline toward that opinion, but it's also possible that they simply wish to be seen as the primary revelators of the 9/11 inside job and resent anyone or anything which threatens to undermine their place in history (in particular, anyone who draws attention to no-757-hit-the-Pentagon). A proper history, however, would note that they appeared quite late on the 9/11-truth scene, perhaps two years ago, by which time there were already many websites (some of which had been up for a year or two) providing convincing evidence that 9/11 was an inside job.

(When I complained to Steven Jones and James Fetzer about the article, much of it, including the above excerpt, was immediately removed, for which I thanked them. At the same time, a number of new links appeared on the site to even more prominently feature productions like Loose Change.)

For the record, 9-11 Research and WTC7.net have been up since mid-2003. Attacking activists for being latecomers is a common tactic used by the 9/11 no-jetliner theorists. It would seem to be an effective way to dissuade people from joining the movement.

The idea that the controlled demolition of the Twin Towers could be admitted by authorities while still maintaining the fiction that the attack was the work of al Qaeda is one of the recurring themes of Henshall's book 9/11 Revealed, and is promoted by Peter Meyer, and "The Webfairy." The absurdity of this idea is a sign of how desperate the no-jetliner theorists are to minimize any case for official complicity that is actually supported by evidence.

Scholars For 9/11 Truth has a private discussion forum. On the forum, one member who soberly argued against endorsing "no-planes theories" in order to avoid being discounted and discredited by the public was described by an anonymous poster as a saboteur, a disinformation artist, and an agent for another researcher. Although the forum has a stated policy that ad hominem attacks are not tolerated, these comments were not only posted but also permitted to remain. The directors of the Scholars For 9/11 Truth forum show no appreciation for how commonly such personal attacks serve as a substitute for substantive discussion as part of a disinformation campaign.

One of the telltale signs of disinformation is that the people promoting it engage in personal attacks. Such attacks have been effectively used to intimidate logical critiques of nonsensical theories. A current example of such an attempt is the attack by Gerard Holmgren against Steven Jones for Jones' daring to state that he considered pod and no-plane theories junk science.

Governance and Media Outreach

Although Scholarsfor911Truth.org lists over a dozen full members, it is not clear how decisions are made about such critical matters as the website's content. The website's linkage to other sites strongly parallels the ideas that co-founder James Fetzer supports on his own site AssassinationScience.com, such as that the moon landing was faked, that no jetliner crashed at the Pentagon, and that the cell phone calls from the doomed jetliners were faked. Like ScholarsFor911Truth.org, AssassinationScience.com promotes Jack White's Photo Studies of 9/11, Loose Change, and Serendipity.li. In fact, ScholarsFor911Truth.org's Resources page is very similar to the 911 Web Sites page on AssassinationScience.com [ http://www.assassinationscience.com/911links.html ].

It seems highly unlikely that the majority of the membership would favor the website directly linking to sites that prominently question the moon landing, the Holocaust, and whether jetliners hit the Twin Towers.

The most prominent links on Scholars For 9/11 Truth co-founder James Fetzer's website are to stories holding that the moon landings were faked: The skeleton in NASA's spacesuit, and America's Moon Expedition a Fake?.

Amputating the Best Foot

Although ScholarsFor911Truth.org is relatively new, it has been effectively promoted in national mainstream media, and functions as the public's main source of information about the group. Because of the sudden notoriety of Steven Jones, the website is undoubtedly drawing many curious and naive readers questioning the official story for the first time. Thus, the quality of the website is all the more crucial because, as most long-time 9/11 researchers know, the first impressions are difficult to overcome, and can be a deciding factor in an individual's choice to join the movement.

My link analysis shows that the site directs readers to some of the least credible sources of information about the attack, while effectively ignoring the websites of some of the most respected researchers of the attack, such as CooperativeResearch.org, FromTheWilderness.com, 911Truth.org, OilEmpire.us, 911Research.WTC7.net, Ratical.org/ratville/CAH/, and WTCEO.org. These websites represent the efforts of people who have been effectively dealing with the media, the victims' families, and members of Congress for years.

The lack of appreciation of the history of the 9/11 Truth Movement is reflected in the forum, which is dominated by discussions of what hit the Pentagon.

Eschewing Credibility

Instead of promoting educational and research resources, such as the websites listed above, ScholarsFor911Truth.org promotes commercial endeavors utilizing techniques of propaganda such as 911Eyewitness, whose primary purpose is to sell a $20 DVD, and Loose Change, which lacks scientific merit and is full of distortions of evidence. Instead of linking to referenced educational resources, ScholarsFor911Truth.org emphasizes materials lacking in scholarship and packaged as entertainment.

Rather than steering academics, reporters, and others to the questions of the Family Steering Committee which remain unanswered (such as the question "Why did [WTC 7] fall"), readers are directed to sensationalist productions and obviously flawed sources which embed long-debunked 9/11 hoaxes and potentially repugnant references denying the existence of the four jetliners, the moon landing, and the Holocaust.

The website, by focusing on the least verifiable claims, -- many with "X-Files"-type mystique -- attracts people drawn toward sensationalism rather than sober, critical analysis.

Spokesperson James Fetzer

Not only does James Fetzer appear to control the content of the website, he has also assumed the position of the group's main spokesperson to the media. He gave two radio interviews on February 3, 2006, in which he represented Scholars for 9/11 Truth. In the interviews, Fetzer stridently asserts that the official explanations of the World Trade Center building collapse are false, but fails to articulate any of most compelling arguments against them. Instead, he makes flawed arguments that disserve the group he represents. Following are some excerpts from the Air America interview.

FETZER: The first is, according to the government, of course, that the planes crashed into the buildings and created these massive fires. The fires melted the steel and in turn that led to a collapse of one floor onto another that brought the buildings down. Now, number one, the temperature at which steel melts is about 2800 degrees Fahrenheit. The maximum temperature of jet fuel under optimal conditions when it's fed with pure oxygen is only 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, that a thousand degrees short of the melting point of steel. Number two, in order to get the steel that hot you'd have to have that temperature for a long period of time. Even Underwriters Laboratories certified the steel used in the World Trade center to 2000 degrees for six hours. But the South Tower, which was hit second, fell in less than an hour and the North Tower, which was hit first, fell in a little over an hour and a half, not nearly long enough to ...

Contrary to to Fetzer's statement that "according to the government ... the fires melted the steel," not a single US government report asserts that fires melted the structural steel. Thus, the public spokesperson for the Scholars proves himself incompetent about one of the most fundamental elements of the official account of 9/11, discrediting the Scholars and the 9/11 Truth Movement in one fell swoop. By grossly mischaracterizing the government's account, Fetzer invites a straw man attack frequently used by defenders of the official account: that skeptics don't understand the account that the fires weakened the steel structures, causing them to buckle. This very attack is used to great advantage by Scientific American and Popular Mechanics. Is Fetzer just ignorant of these high-profile attacks? He claims to have read my Popular Mechanics critique, which specifically addresses how Popular Mechanics attacks "conspiracy theorists" who claim that fire cannot have melted the steel, by pointing out that no official government account requires melted steel. In my critique of Popular Mechanics I state:

The [PM] article implies that skeptics' criticism of the official account that fires weakened the towers' structures is based on the erroneous assumption that the official story requires that the fires melted the steel.

When Air America's host asks the obvious question about the fires merely having to weaken the steel, which is in fact the government's position, Fetzer goes on in blithe ignorance of this crucial claim. Fetzer's only answer is to assert that even weakening the steel would not be sufficient to cause collapse, based solely on his authority as a philosopher of science:

HOST: But you don't even have to melt the steel though, you'd just have to to weaken it right?

FETZER: Oh it wouldn't even significantly weaken it under these conditions, Charles, believe me, OK, this is a completely phony story. It cannot have happened the way the government has described, In fact, that's one reason why I as a philosopher of science have found this case so interesting, because the official report on what happened is just fine if you're willing to believe impossible things. But if you understand the laws of nature cannot be violated and cannot be changed then you realize it's a completely impossible, a physically impossible scenario.

Publicizing his ignorance of the basic facts, and relying on his self-important bona fides as Distinguished McKnight Philosopher of Science, Fetzer's performance amounts to this, 'Trust me Charles, I don't have a basic grasp of the details necessary to address the official account of how the Towers collapsed, and here I am to represent Scholars for 9/11 Truth, but take my word for it, the government is lying and they did it!'

Fires visible on several floors of the North Tower more than an hour after the jetliner impact do not appear to be "oxygen-depleted."

Fetzer then minimizes the fires in the Twin Towers:

FETZER: Let me give you a second consideration, Charles, not only was there not .. and remember those gigantic fireballs burned off most of the fuel, and if you remember the dark billowing smoke that was coming from those buildings, that's a sure sign that the building was, that the fires was oxygen-depleted, which means they're burning at even lower temperatures than they would burn if they had massive amounts of oxygen, were not present there.

While this is true of fires in the South Tower before its collapse, it is not true of fires in the North Tower, which spread as time progressed. Again, Fetzer hands opponents of the demolition theory another in a series of convenient straw men to attack.

FETZER: Moreover the steel was all protected by an asbestos coating so that there was an additional reason that the UL actually estimated that the most likely temperature for those fires was only around 500 degrees Fahrenheit overwhelmingly too low to cause them to melt

Here Fetzer reinforces the melted steel straw man, and brings up the subject of insulation, without noting that insulation failures are a key component of NIST's collapse theory. NIST's claim that the aircraft impacts knocked off large amounts of insulation is easy to rebut, but Fetzer doesn't even try.

Fetzer claims, erroneously, that Underwriters Laboratories (UL) estimated fire temperatures of 500 degrees Fahrenheit in the Towers, when they did no such thing. Fetzer's remark is apparently a reference to a letter from former UL manager Kevin Ryan to NIST employee Frank Gale, written by Ryan in an unofficial capacity. The 500 degrees in the message refers to NIST's study, not UL's. Ryan writes:

The evaluation of paint deformation and spheroidization seem very straightforward, and you noted that the samples available were adequate for the investigation. Your comments suggest that the steel was probably exposed to temperatures of only about 500F

Next, Fetzer comes close to but avoids describing one of the real smoking guns -- the halt in rotation of the South Tower's top.

FETZER: Now here is the smoking gun, Charles, The South Tower -- 30 floors of the south tower -- the plane was hit at the 80th floor, in the terms of the North Tower the 96th, The 30 floors above the 80th floor on the South Tower at one point started to tilt. Now if there had been no energy applied here -- no forces affecting those 30 stories except gravity -- then those thirty floors should have fallen rather like a wedge, beside the building down to the ground where they would collapse and create a massive amount of dust, debris, chunks of concrete, steel, all that. This is not what happened.

Fetzer's description of what should have happened, which includes "massive amount of dust, debris, chunks of concrete, steel," is not far from what did happen. Listeners, recalling images of Ground Zero, will think: 'but that is what did happen,' and will not be persuaded by Fetzer's "smoking gun," which serves as a foil against the real smoking gun of the South Tower top's disappearing angular momentum.

FETZER: If you notice when that 30 floors starts to teeter, all of a sudden -- poof! -- like a magician waving his wand it disappears, all 30 floors disappear into a vast cloud of smoke and dust, which is very fine, the very fine conversion of the concrete into dust that required a massive amount of energy, Charles. Now there is no way to provide that energy on the government's official account. The fires weren't hot enough; the planes had already impacted. So the question becomes, what could possibly have caused that tilting 30 floors structure massive structure to disappear into a cloud of dust. The only explanation that fits this scenario is controlled demolition.

Asking what source of energy could have pulverized the concrete, Fetzer mentions only the fires and plane crashes as sources admitted by the official account, inviting the reader to supply the answer: gravity. Now the listener has yet another reason to dismiss the demolition scenario.

Fetzer brings up the lack of historical precedent for fires collapsing steel-framed buildings, only to undermine the argument:

FETZER: The only time it has ever happened is on nine-eleven, when we are supposed to believe that three different buildings collapsed because of fire -- or -- some other cause that wasn't present in any other building that's ever collapsed in the history of structural engineering. Something very odd is going on.

Fetzer's use of "some other cause" invites the listener to fill in the blank -- voila ... plane crashes.

The final topic that Fetzer brings up is that the collapses of the WTC buildings exhibited many features of controlled demolition, an argument developed by David Ray Griffin.

FETZER: I was just going to say all together there are ten at least ten indications of controlled demolition, at least ten properties of these -- about the rate of fall the symmetry of the fall the falling into its own foot .. footprint the rate of fall the the which, the order of fall that are consistent with controlled demolition, and inconsistent with the government's official account. This is a massive hoax, Charles, on an enormous scale.

Let's help Fetzer out here. In his paper, Griffin lists eleven features of demolition in the section Multiple Evidence of Controlled Demolition:

  1. Sudden Onset
  2. Straight Down
  3. Almost Free-Fall Speed
  4. Total Collapse
  5. Sliced Steel
  6. Pulverization of Concrete and Other Materials
  7. Dust Clouds
  8. Horizontal Ejections
  9. Demolition Rings
  10. Sounds Produced by Explosions
  11. Molten Steel

The "at least ten indications of controlled demolition" is clearly a reference to Griffin's seminal paper, which Fetzer doesn't cite. Vaguely alluding to Griffin's second and third features in "rate of fall the the symmetry of the fall," Fetzer invents a false feature by stating that each Tower collapsed by "falling into its own foot .. footprint." In fact, the Towers exploded outward, dispersing their mass over regions many times the area of their footprints.

The host of the Air America interview could hardly have been more sympathetic to Fetzer and the case for demolition of the buildings. One wonders how Fetzer would have performed in a less supportive environment.

Fetzer shows tremendous energy and conviction as he attacks the official story. Unfortunately, conviction alone is not sufficient to overcome the presumption of the infallibility of the official story. The correct arguments need to be made and backed up with facts and references.

It is not clear why Fetzer, who doesn't have a background in the physical sciences, is choosing to speak on behalf of the group on issues he is not competent to address. In the interview, Fetzer could have directed listeners to researchers and websites on points he wasn't qualified to address. Instead, he appealed to his authority as a philosopher of science.

Conclusion

The idea of Scholars For 9/11 Truth is a very powerful one, given the respect people give to credentialed individuals. Since November of 2005, Steven Jones has made tremendous progress in getting people to seriously consider the possibility that the World Trade Center skyscrapers were destroyed by controlled demolition, largely because of his qualifications as a professor of physics. Sadly, Scholars For 9/11 Truth might not have its intended effect of building on Jones' work. Instead it is likely to have the effect of discrediting it by associating it with junk science, such as that used to promote the no-planes theories. Because of the visibility of the flawed ScholarsFor911Truth.org website, this seems probable despite the good intentions and excellent credentials of many of the group's members.

In late 2005, people looking into Steven Jones' work would be directed to his paper on the Brigham Young University website. Now, people are directed to ScholarsFor911Truth.org, which mixes the scholarly work of Steven Jones and David Griffin with unscientific, sensationalist, and even offensive material. In the context of the flawed ScholarsFor911Truth.org website, Jones' work will be much easier to dismiss as the product of a group of "conspiracy theorists."




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