National Geographic Does 9/11:
Another Icon Debased in Service of the Big Lie
by Jim Hoffman
Version 0.9; August 27, 2009
By now it's quite predictable:
every year as the anniversary of the attack approaches,
some of the most established mainstream media brands
are pressed into service to sell the official story of 9/11.
The 2009 iteration of this spectacle
is notable for the contrast between
the designated brand
and the obligatory message.
That brand, best known for its high-brow photojournalistic
National Geographic Magazine,
has existed since 1889, complete with a non-profit Society dedicated to
education in geography, archaeology, history, world cultures,
and natural science.
One can't help but wonder how National Geographic's many benefactors
would feel if they understood how the brand was being
used to prop up the "War on Terror"
attack piece to be aired on August 31, 2009.
A web feature on the website of the
National Geographic Channel
provides a preview of the show
and a window into the methods and goals of the show's producers.
Those methods are so heavy-handed that the critical reader
can't help but see
that those goals are something very different from educating.
As an exercise, the reader might want to
read the one-page feature first,
and then compare notes with
my analysis of it below.
National Geographic Then and Now
The 2009 documentary isn't the first time the
National Geographic brand has been used to rubber-stamp
the official account of the attack.
On September 17, 2001 an article in
National Geographic News
attempted to explain the "collapses"
with such memetic devices mouthed by "experts" as
"the raging inferno" (likened to a fraction of the Hiroshima A-bomb)
turning the steel to "Play-doh" and precipitating
a "domino collapse" in which
"the buildings' majesty was their own undoing".
as these purported explanations are,
with their transparent appeals to authority and metaphor,
one might excuse them as the attempt of a journalist
to make sense of the horrific events
at a time when rational analysis was eclipsed by shock.
Clearly, something very different is at work
in the 2009 effort,
a fact that is apparent even in its lurid graphical production
reminiscent of the BBC's Conspiracy FIles.
promoting National Geographic Channel's
2009 "documentary" implying that the official account is "science"
and all challenges to it are "conspiracy"
September 2001 article
in National Geographic News
endorsing the official story that the "inferno"
brought down the Twin Towers
Deconstructing "9/11: SCIENCE AND CONSPIRACY"
Below is the
text of the page
in the 2009 National Geographic Channel
feature promoting its "documentary"
9/11: SCIENCE AND CONSPIRACY.
Added comments follow each of its points.
Although I show that every point in the page
appears crafted to mislead the reader about a particular issue,
the greater misdirection lies in how the article frames
the broad subject of the official account of 9/11
and challenges to it.
First, the article gives no sense of the scope of those challenges,
such as is readily surmised by an enumeration of
in the official account.
In other words, the article implies by omission that it has disposed of
the only problems with the official account.
Second, the article selects exactly two prominent assertions
countering the official story:
- That the WTC collapse explanation is flawed
and the Twin Towers must have been destroyed by controlled demolitions
(failing to note the destruction of the third skyscraper
- That the Pentagon was damaged by something other
than the crash of Flight 77.
The placement of these two assertions on par with each other
illustrates a key technique of disinformation in which
a well supported theory is paired with a poorly supported one
in order to discredit the former.
has made the case since 2003 that
the Twin Towers and Building 7 were
subjected to controlled demolitions
and since 2004 that the vigorously promoted theories
that a jetliner couldn't have hit the Pentagon were likely
designed to discredit
the truth movement.
Third, the article uses labels to flog its target
in an obvious appeal to prejudice.
The "Conspiracy" label prefaces each
regardless of whether the claim implies a conspiracy
or how any implied conspiracy compares to
the officially theorized conspiracy.
Conversely, the "Science" label prefaces each
paragraph allegedly debunking the "conspiracy" claim.
Of course, "Scientists" only support the official story,
and only "truthers" question that story.
How comforting that the world is so simple!
Apart from insulting the reader with such patronizing language,
the article also uses language more subtly,
presupposing the official conclusion with repeated use of "collapse"
imagery of the Towers' destruction
that better fits the word "explosion".
CONSPIRACY VS. SCIENCE
Conspiracy theories are put to the test.
How well do they stand up against the visual simulations
of professional engineers?
See how science supports official stories
and debunks the conspiracies below.
THE COLLAPSE OF THE BUILDINGS
Official Story: The collapse was caused by fire initially fed
by the jet fuel from the planes.
Science: Using original construction blueprints, photographs,
and construction data, Purdue University,
along with the American Society of Civil Engineers,
created a model structure of the north World Trade Center tower
and a scaled 767 jetliner.
To model the fuel load, Purdue launched aluminum cans filled
with liquid to represent an airline wing colliding with a steel column.
The final simulation showed the internal destruction of supporting columns,
the disintegration of the jetliner, the atomizing of the fuel,
and the resulting fires that softened the steel framework
of the building and brought it down.
Conspiracy: The fire could not have gotten hot enough to melt the steel.
Science: The Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC)
designed explosives to test the effects of burning jet fuel on steel.
EMRTC used a bare steel beam because the National Institute of Standards
and Technology reports that much of the any fireproofing [sic] material
would have been knocked off at the moment of impact.
Within two minutes of igniting the fuel, the temperature peaked
just above 2,000 Fahrenheit and complete structural failure
occurred in less than four minutes.
Conspiracy: The collapse was caused by controlled demolition.
Science: The film crew recorded the demolition
of a college dormitory building to learn all that is involved
in the process of prepping and loading.
The first step was to expose the columns
in order to attach explosives to them.
The World Trade Center had 47 inner core columns that would
have needed to be prepared.
To cut the steel beams the demolition team used a shape charge,
which is piece of copper apportioned to a shape-charged weapon.
When an explosive is attached and ignited, the device implodes
and forms a stream of liquid copper that cuts through the steel.
A demolition of this scale would leave clear evidence behind,
but no such traces were found at Ground Zero.
Conspiracy: Thermite, which is less traceable,
was used in the controlled demolition that brought down the towers.
Science: Some truthers claim dust that some New Yorkers found after
the attack shares the components of thermite.
Scientists assert that even if this dust did contain thermite,
it would be impossible to determine whether the thermite came
from a controlled demolition or simply from the melting of the airplanes.
EMRTC designed an experiment to see if thermite was a plausible option
in the collapse of the towers.
The thermite in the test was not even able to melt a column
much smaller than those in the World Trade Center.
THE ATTACK ON THE PENTAGON
Official Story: Hijackers caused a commercial airplane to crash
into the building.
Science: Purdue University created a visual simulation of the crash,
which indicated the victims’ bodies would have been pushed forward
in relation to one another, just as they were in the actual attack.
To further investigate, EMRTC launched a projectile into a simulated structure.
They did not include wings in the projectile model because
Purdue asserted they were of little consequence as the Pentagon was
so heavily reinforced.
The experiment created a hole in the structure the approximate size
of the projectile - similar to photo evidence from the actual attack.
Conspiracy: The Pentagon was either bombed or hit by a missile.
Science: EMRTC also planted an explosive in the same model
structure and compared the results to photos of the Pentagon after the crash.
The explosive test demonstrated a different sort of damage.
The structure blew out from the point of the explosion,
causing complete destruction of floors and walls.
This dispersed debris did not match the photo evidence.
It's interesting that the article cites alleged experiments by EMRTC
(The Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center)
to support most of its "Science" points.
One prior connection between EMRTC and 9/11
is that explosives expert
who gained some notoriety with his
initial candid observations that there
must have been explosives in the Towers, was
Director of the EMRTC
a period of active research
into the kind of nanocomposite explosives
found in the WTC dust.
Romero appears to have been
for retracting those observations.
Whatever role EMRTC may have had in the development of
advanced energetic materials such as found in the WTC dust,
it is clear that there are
between these weapons technologies
and the authors of the official reports certifying the collapse theory --
connections that are all the more interesting when one considers the
refusals of the same authors to test for residues of explosives.
The Opposite of Education
I'm confident that the producers of this article and its sequels
will carefully shield the reader from the above-mentioned scientific paper
Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe,
Journal of 9/11 Studies,
from any meaningful
critique of NIST,
and from anything else that would dispel the fiction
that the official story equates with science.
Why am I confident of this?
Apart from the obvious construction of the web feature
the show's producer, Robert Erickson,
was making excuses for not covering the subject of nano-composite explosives
and their development in US government labs
in private communications before the show aired.
The matter of what the show's producers knew and when they knew it
is the focus of Kevin Ryan's essay
Finally, an Apology From the National Geographic Channel.