Those who believe that the terror attack on September 11, 2001, in reality was planned by a conspiracy within the American government often defend themselves with the phrase “we are only asking questions”, thus indicating innocence, healthy skepticism and an excuse from coming up with plausible counter-explanations.
However, asking a question without explaining yourself is often in itself an indirect claim, since a question can be subjectively related to the topic and the context in which the question is asked. This is precisely the technique that the conspiracy theorists use.
One example is, “why are there no recognizable plane parts where Flight 93 crashed?” This question contains a number of more or less direct claims.
Let us look at the different claims embedded in the question:
- The premise of the claim is that there should be recognizable plane parts at crash sites in general.
- It follows that if there are nno recognizable plane parts, there cannot be a crashed plane.
- Indirectly, the question presumes that there is agreement on the lack of recognizable plane parts at the crash site in question.
- Finally, the question is a legitimization of an alternative explanation, namely that something else happened to Flight 93 than what is otherwise accepted.
There is a crucial aspect of questions like this: If there is no consensus between the one asking the question and the one answering about point 1, 2, and 3 (what objects should be found on a crash site, what a lack of such objects means, and what is actually found on the crash site in question), the question is at best absurd and at worst manipulating.
It is absurd because the whole basis of the question is dependent on an assumed consensus. The person being asked must already have agreed to point 1, 2, and 3. If that consensus has not been established the question has been asked based on a false assumption.
That consensus has not been established because the proponents of the official account of the events on September 11, 2001, point out and document that there are not always immediately recognizable plane parts at any given crash site, that you cannot exclude, solely from a possible absence of immediately recognizable plane parts, that a plane has crashed, and finally that there are in fact recognizable plane parts at the crash site of Flight 93.
It is manipulative if the question is used to legitimize an alternative explanation as in point 4, since this alternative explanation has been concluded upon the false premise that there is consensus between the questioner and the respondent in point 1, 2, and 3. The manipulation is made worse by the questioner jumping directly to this conclusion if the respondent does not object.
This is exactly how conspiracy theorists apply the question. Under the pretense that it is mysterious and suspicious that there are no visible debris from the plane, it is concluded that no plane has crashed at all, while letting on that a single source – a report from an employee at Air Traffic Control – indicates that the plane could have been effortlessly abducted, while a considerable number of other sources – eye witnesses, police, families of victims, phone calls from the plane, and so on – point to the plane having crashed.
There are other types of question which do not seem absurd or manipulative at first. It could be questions like, “Why haven’t the authorities shown photos of Osama bin Laden’s body?”
On the surface, it is an honest and fair question, because everyone agrees about the premise that photographs have indeed not been shown to the public. Given the importance of his death, it does seem odd that nobody has deemed it necessary to prove, once and for all, that the most prominent and wanted terrorist in the world is dead.
The problem is that the question is used by conspiracy theorists in an implicit context which disqualifies the honest pondering completely. The question is always posed with the preconceived but not always openly expressed opinion: “There must be a conspiracy, because why have the authorities not shown photos of Osama bin Laden’s body?”
It is completely ignored that there could be other reasons, both simple and logical, that the photos have not been shown to the public. For example that it is not customary by the police and the military to show that type of photos out of concern for the family and the public. In this particular case, it could also be for tactical military reasons in order not to entice the enemy, al Qaeda, unnecessarily or provide them with a martyr in visual form.
When more than one possible answer is ignored, because the answer is embedded in the question from the start, the question is reduced from a desire for a deeper investigation to a desire to express an opinion and legitimize a specific (alternative) explanation, making the question as manipulative as the question regarding the crash site of Flight 93.
The manipulation becomes aggravating by an essential but not always obvious rhetorical factor, namely that if the respondent has difficulty answering the question, either because he/she does not know why the photos of Osama bin Laden have not been shown to the public or because he/she believes that there are other explanations, then the lack of response is used by the conspiracy theorists to support their own claim: “See, you cannot explain why the photos of Osama bin laden have not been shown to the public, so we are correct in saying there there is a conspiracy.”
A subset of this questioning strategy is to ask questions that cannot be answered in the positive or perhaps with great difficulty. An example would be, “Where are the photos of the plane hitting the Pentagon?” Another is, “Where is the wanted poster where the FBI names Osama bin Laden as a suspect for the terror attack on September 11, 2001?”
When the answer is, “They don’t exist”, the response is something in the vein of “There you go, it is all a big mystery”, meaning that there is a conspiracy, ignoring that there is a logical and mundane explanation in both cases that does not confirm or deny a conspiracy but is certainly not mysterious either.
It should be noted that conspiracy theorists rarely, if ever, pose the problem as a postulate. An example would be, “When there is no photo of a plane hitting the Pentagon, it cannot have been a plane causing the destruction and thus, it has to be a conspiracy.” Another would be, “If the FBI only wants Osama bin Laden for the terror attacks in Africa but not for the terror attack on September 11, 2001, it must mean that Osama bin Laden was not behind the terror attack on September 11, 2001, and thus it has to be a conspiracy.”
The reason is simple enough: The mystery is gone, and the false conclusion becomes obvious. Logically, there could be a plane hitting the Pentagon without anyone taking photos. Logically, it could be Osama bin Laden who was behind the terror attack on September 11, 2001, without him being wanted for the crime. One is not dependent on the other.
But for both, other evidence must be considered in order to settle the case, and then it suddenly turns out quite differently. There are more than 100 eye witnesses who have seen a plane hit the Pentagon. It is standard operation procedure that the FBI does not issue new warrants on people who already have warrants, since that is not needed to arrest them. Instead, the reward is increased as new and more serious crimes are committed. This is what happened in the case of Osama bin Laden whose capture amounted to the highest in the world: $25 million.
The questioning manipulation of the conspiracy theorists is completed if the respondent answers the question: The reaction will be something along the lines of “You still have not convinced us”, or they start asking new questions, often about something else entirely, without considering the respondent’s answer and argument about the first subject.
A striking example of this is the question which was asked before the death of Osama bin Laden, “Why has the most powerful military power on Earth not caught Osama bin Laden?” If not, there must be a conspiracy behind. At the same time, alternative explanations were tossed about that Osama bin Laden was already dead or in captivity somewhere. But even the death of Osama bin Laden did not satisfy the conspiracy theorists. Instead, the question was merely changed to the question, “why have the authorities not shown photos of Osama bin Laden’s body?” Thus, the suspicion was merely transferred to the new event in order to maintain the thesis that there must be a conspiracy behind.
In that way, there can never be satisfactory answers or evidence, because conspiracy theorists are locked in a specific mindset instead of taking an open-minded approach.
It should be noted that the conspiracy theorists are not particularly willing to answer questions themselves. When asked an uncomfortable question, they usually respond with “We do not have to answer, because we are just asking questions”.
In other words, “we are just asking questions” becomes: “Regardless of what you say, it is a conspiracy, and we are right, because you cannot prove that we are wrong, because we are just asking questions.”
If this form of argumentation, “we are just asking questions”, is to be regarded as objective and acceptable, the opposite must also be the case. In the following – purely to demonstrate the point – we will “just ask questions.” As long as conspiracy theorists are not prepared to present a documented explanation of how the events on September 11, 2001, may be an inside job, it is vice versa not necessary to explain in detail, why it was a terror attack planned and executed by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
In the questions that follow, we have made an extra effort to point out self-contradictions and/or illogical consequences embedded in the many individual claims that flow freely among conspiracy theorists.
The questions span six subjects which cover the most frequently debated areas:
There are mainly two claims presented: That Flight 93 was abducted or that it was shot down.
- If Flight 93 was abducted, why is there a crash site?
- If Flight 93 was shot down, why did it change course and was heading back before it was shot down? (Because it wasn’t both hijacked and then shot down by the same conspiracy?)
- If the population was to be alarmed, why abduct a plane when a suicidal crash would be more violent and visually frightening?
- If the population was to be alarmed, why shoot down the plane instead of letting it hit its target?
- If the population was to be alarmed, why shoot down the plane in a secluded spot, instead of shooting it down where it would be captured live by television cameras?
- A photo, taken shortly after the crash showing a dust cloud is claimed to be faked, but if someone wanted to fake a photo, why settle for a photo of a dust cloud and not fake a photo or a video of a plane crashing from the sky?
The most popular claim is that no plane hit the Pentagon.
- If the Pentagon was hit by anything else than a plane, why are there debris from a plane at the crash site?
- It is claimed that the debris at the crash site is not from a plane but if that is true, why claim it was from a plane, when it would have been just as alarming if it had been a bomb or a missile?
- Why use a missile or anything else than a passenger plane? That would immediately expose who had “sent” it.
- It is claimed that the authorities are hiding the photos of what really hit the Pentagon, but if the attack was an inside job done by powerful people, why haven’t they faked photos of a plane?
- It is claimed that the terrorists could not steer a plane as controlled as needed to hit the Pentagon where it was hit, but also that the planes hitting the Twin Towers were steered in a very controlled manner. How does that work?
The Twin Towers
The most popular claim is that there were explosives in the Twin Towers.
- If there were explosives in the Twin Towers, why let planes hit them as well?
- If there were explosives in the Twin Towers with the goal of scaring and killing, why not time the impact of the planes with ignition of the explosives so that everything would be destroyed at the same time, resulting in many more victims?
- Why not blow up the World Trade Center 7 at that time as well?
- It is claimed that the planes were used to ignite the explosives in the Twin Towers, but why place the ignition spot at different levels (the World Trade Center 1 was hit higher up than the World Trade Center 2)?
- It is claimed that the terrorists had poor flying skills, but if that is true, why let them hit predetermined floors at 800 km/h?
- It is claimed that the planes were remotely controlled and that there were no terrorists at all, but if that is true, why not fake clear photos of the claimed terrorists at the airports?
The World Trade Center 7
The most popular claim is that there were explosives in the World Trade Center 7.
- As already asked above, why wait seven hours to blow up the building drawing unnecessary attention?
- If the public were to be alarmed, why wait to blow up the building until after it was evacuated?
- It is claimed that there were several types of explosives used to blow up the building, one being the so-called nanothermite. Why use more than one kind, if conventional explosives were sufficient and would be far easier to get hold of than nanothermite?
- Why use nanothermite at all, if using it would be so spectacular that it immediately would expose who the “sender” was?
- If the plan was to lie about the reason for the collapse, namely fire, why not make sure that fires were clearly seen everywhere from the outside, thus avoiding unnecessary attention?
The most popular claim is that the U.S. Government planned and executed the terror attack as a political excuse to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other reasons to secure oil supplies to the U.S.
- If an excuse was needed to start a war against Iraq and Afghanistan, why claim that it were Saudis who hijacked the planes? Should Saudi Arabia not be invaded instead, a country which has a lot more oil?
- If the population were to be alarmed, why plan four attacks at the same time, each of which could go wrong and expose those who planned it? A single attack would be terrifying enough to achieve political support for just about anything.
- If a powerful conspiracy is behind the terror attack, why has it not killed a lot of those conspiracy theorists working to expose the conspiracy, like Steven Jones or Niels Harrit?
- If the motive was to get easy access to oil, why attack Iraq when Iran would be a much better choice? Iran produces twice the oil that Iraq does, is about the same distance from the U.S., and is hated by just about everyone in the West and the Middle East, especially the clerical rulers which were not exactly to the liking of George W. Bush, a confirmed Christian.
Finally, some blatantly obvious questions, if conspiracy theorists are to be taken literally:
- If a terror attack were to be faked, why not fake one that looked like other terror attacks, instead of planning an executing a unique attack that would draw unnecessary attention to itself, raising suspicion every which way?
- If a secret powerful conspiracy was behind the terror attack on September 11, 2001, why was (and is) the conspiracy on one hand so eminently well organized and on the other almost mindlessly sloppy?
At present, no conspiracy theorist has been able to present a comprehensive alternative explanation that is not also blatantly self-contradicting and far more complicated and imaginative than the official account. As mentioned in the beginning, it is difficult enough to get conspiracy theorists to present even a small fraction of an explanation.
For, as they say, “we are just asking questions!”