- Astute observers of history are aware that for every
notable event there will usually be at least one ,often several wild
conspiracy theories which spring up around it. "The CIA killed
Hendrix" " The Pope had John Lennon murdered ", "Hitler was half
Werewolf", "Space aliens replaced Nixon with a clone" etc,etc. The
bigger the event, the more ridiculous and more numerous are the
fanciful rantings which circulate in relation to it.
- So its hardly surprising that the events of Sept 11
2001 have spawned their fair share of these ludicrous fairy tales. And
as always, there is - sadly - a small but gullible percentage of the
population eager to lap up these tall tales, regardless of facts or
- One of the wilder stories circulating about Sept 11,
and one that has attracted something of a cult following amongst
conspiracy buffs is that it was carried out by 19 fanatical Arab
hijackers, masterminded by an evil genius named Osama bin Laden, with
no apparent motivation other than that they "hate our
- Never a group of people to be bothered by facts, the
perpetrators of this cartoon fantasy have constructed an elaborately
woven web of delusions and unsubstantiated hearsay in order to promote
this garbage across the internet and the media to the extent that a
number of otherwise rational people have actually fallen under its
- Normally I don't even bother debunking this kind of
junk, but the effect that this paranoid myth is beginning to have
requires a little rational analysis, in order to consign it to the
same rubbish bin as all such silly conspiracy theories.
- These crackpots even contend that the extremist Bush
regime was caught unawares by the attacks, had no hand in organizing
them, and actually would have stopped them if it had been able.
Blindly ignoring the stand down of the US air-force, the insider
trading on airline stocks - linked to the CIA, the complicit behavior
of Bush on the morning of the attacks, the controlled demolition of
the WTC, the firing of a missile into the Pentagon and a host of other
documented proofs that the Bush regime was behind the attacks, the
conspiracy theorists stick doggedly to a silly story about 19 Arab
hijackers somehow managing to commandeer 4 planes simultaneously and
fly them around US airspace for nearly 2 hours ,crashing them into
important buildings, without the US intelligence services having any
idea that it was coming, and without the Air Force knowing what to
- The huge difficulties with such a stupid story force
them to invent even more preposturous stories to distract from its
core silliness, and thus the tale has escalated into a mythic fantasy
of truly gargantuan proportions.
- It's difficult to apply rational analysis to such
unmitigated stupidity, but that is the task which I take on in this
article. However, it should be noted that one of the curious
characteristics of conspiracy theorists is that they effortlessly
change their so called evidence in response to each aspect which is
debunked. As soon as one delusion is unmasked, they simply invent
another to replace it, and deny that the first ever existed.
Eventually, when they have turned full circle through this endlessly
changing fantasy fog , they then re-invent the original delusion and
deny that you ever debunked it, thus beginning the circle once more.
This technique is known as "the fruit loop" and saves the conspiracy
theorist from ever having to see any of their ideas through to their (ill)logical conclusions.
- According to the practitioners of the fruit loop, 19
Arabs took over the 4 planes by subduing the passengers and crew
through the use of guns,knives,box cutters and gas, and then used
electronic guidance systems which they had smuggled on board to fly
the planes to their targets.
- The suspension of disbelief required for this
outrageous concoction is only for the hard core conspiracy theorist.
For a start, they conveniently skip over the awkward fact that there
weren't any Arabs on the planes. If there were, one must speculate
that they somehow got on board without being filmed by any of the
security cameras and without being registered on the passenger lists.
But the curly question of how they are supposed to have got on board
is all too mundane for the exciting world of the conspiracy theorist.
With vague mumblings that they must have been using false ID ( but
never specifying which IDs they are alleged to have used, or how these
were traced to their real identities), they quickly bypass this
problem, to relate exciting and sinister tales about how some of the
fictitious fiends were actually searched before boarding because they
looked suspicious. However, as inevitably happens with any web of
lies, this simply paints them into an even more difficult corner. How
are they supposed to have got on board with all that stuff if they
were searched ? And if they used gas in a confined space, they would
have been affected themselves unless they also had masks in their
- "Excuse me sir, why do you have a boxcutter, a gun,
a container of gas, a gas mask and an electronic guidance unit in your
- "A present for your grandmother? Very well sir, on
- "Very strange", thinks the security officer. "That's
the fourth Arabic man without an Arabic name who just got on board
with a knife, gun or boxcutter and gas mask. And why does that
security camera keep flicking off every time one these characters
shows up? Must be one of those days I guess..."
- Asking any of these basic questions to a conspiracy
theorist is likely to cause a sudden leap to the claim that we know
that they were on board because they left a credit card trail for the
tickets they had purchased and cars they had rented. So if they used
credit cards that identified them, how does that reconcile with the
claim that they used false IDs to get on to the plane? But by this
time ,the fruit loop is in full swing, as the conspiracy theorist
tries to stay one jump ahead of this annoying and awkward rational
analysis.They will allege that the hijackers' passports were found at
the crash scenes. "So there!" they exalt triumphantly, their fanatical
faces lighting up with that deranged look of one who has just a
revelation of questionable sanity.
- Hmm? So they got on board with false IDs but took
their real passports with them? However, by this time the fruit loop
has been completely circumnavigated,and the conspiracy theorist
exclaims impatiently, "Who said anything about false IDs? We know what
seats they were sitting in! Their presence is well documented!" And so
the whole loop starts again. "Well, why aren't they on the passenger
- "You numbskull! They assumed the identities of other
passengers!" And so on...
- Finally, out of sheer fascination with this circular
method of creative delusion , the rational sceptic will allow them to
get away with this loop, in order to move on to the next question, and
see what further delights await us in the unraveling of this
marvelously stupid story.
- "Uh, how come their passports survived fiery crashes
that completely incinerated the planes and all the passengers? " The
answer of course is that its just one of those strange co-incidences,
those little quirks of fate that do happen from time to time. You
know, like the same person winning the lottery four weeks in a row.
The odds are astronomical, but these things do happen...
- This is another favourite deductive method of the
conspiracy theorist. The "improbability drive" , in which they decide
upon a conclusion without any evidence whatsoever to support it, and
then continually speculate a series of wildly improbable events and
unbelievable co-incidences to support it, shrugging off the
implausibility of each event with the vague assertion that sometimes
the impossible happens (just about all the time in their world). There
is a principle called "Occam's razor" which suggests that in the
absence of evidence to the contrary, the simplest explanation is most
likely to be correct. Conspiracy theorists hate Occam's razor.
- Having for the sake of amusement, allowed them to
get away with with the silly story of the 19 invisible Arabs, we move
on to the question of how they are supposed to have taken over the
- Hijacking a plane is not an easy thing to do.
Hijacking it without the pilot being able to alert ground control is
near impossible. The pilot has only to punch in a four digit code to
alert ground control to a hijacking. Unconcerned with the awkward
question of plausibility, the conspiracy buffs maintain that on that
Sept 11, the invisible hijackers took over the plane by the rather
crude method of threatening people with boxcutters and knives, and
spraying gas (after they had attached their masks, obviously), but
somehow took control of the plane without the crew first getting a
chance to punch in the hijacking code. Not just on one plane, but on
all four. At this point in the tale, the conspiracy theorist is again
forced to call upon the services of the improbability drive.
- So now that our incredibly lucky hijackers have
taken control of the planes, all four pilots fly them with breath
taking skill and certainty to their fiery end, all four pilots
unflinching in their steely resolve for a swift meeting with Allah.
Apart from their psychotic hatred of "our freedoms" , it was their
fanatical devotion to Islam which enabled them to summon up the iron
will to do this. Which is strange, because according to another piece
of hearsay peddled by the conspiracy buffs, these guys actually went
out drinking and womanizing the night before their great martyrdom,
even leaving their Korans in the bar -really impeccable Islamic
behavior - and then got up at 5am the next morning to pull off the
greatest covert operation in history. This also requires us to believe
that they were even clear headed enough to learn how to fly the huge
planes by reading flight manuals in Arabic in the car on the way to
the airport. We know this because they supposedly left the flight
manuals there for us to find.
- It gets better. Their practical training had
allegedly been limited to Cessnas and flight simulators, but this was
no barrier to the unflinching certainty with which they took over the
planes and skillfully guided them to their doom. If they are supposed
to have done their flight training with these tools, which would be
available just about anywhere in the world, its not clear why they
would have decided to risk blowing their cover to US intelligence
services by doing the training in Florida, rather than somewhere in
the Middle East, but such reasoning is foreign to the foggy world of
the conspiracy theorist , too trapped in the constant rotation of the
mental fruit loop to make their unsubstantiated fabrications seem even
- Having triumphantly established a circular delusion
in support of the mythical Arabs, the conspiracy theorist now
confronts the difficult question of why there's nothing left of the
planes. Anybody who has seen the endlessly replayed footage of the
second plane going into the WTC will realize that the plane was packed
with explosives. Planes do not and cannot blow up into nothing in that
manner when they crash.
- Did the mythical Arabs also haul a huge heap of
explosives on board, and mange to deploy them in such a manner that
they went off in the exact instant of the crash, completely
vapourizing the plane? This is a little difficult even for the
conspiracy theorist, who at this point decides that its easier to
invent new laws of physics in order to keep the delusion rolling
- There weren't any explosives. It wasn't an inside
job. The plane blew up into nothing from its exploding fuel load!
Remarkable! Sluggishly combustible jet fuel which is basically
kerosine,and which burns at a maximum temperature of around 800 C has
suddenly taken on the qualities of a ferociously explosive demolition
agent, vapourizing 65 tons of aircraft into a puff of smoke. Never
mind that a plane of that size contains around 15 tons of steel and
titanium, of which even the melting points are about double that of
the maximum combustion temperature of kerosine - let alone the boiling
point - which is what would be required to vapourize a plane. And then
there's about 50 tons of aluminium to be accounted for. In excess of
15lbs of metal for each gallon of kerosine.
- For the conspiracy theorist, such inconvenient facts
are vaguely dismissed as "mumbo jumbo". This convenient little phrase
is their answer to just about anything factual or logical. Like a
conjurer pulling a rabbit out of a hat, they suddenly become
fanatically insistent about the devastating explosive qualities of
kerosine, something hitherto completely unknown to science, but just
discovered by them, this very minute. Blissfully ignoring the fact
that never before or since in aviation history has a plane vapourized
into nothing from an exploding fuel load, the conspiracy theorist
relies upon Hollywood images, where the effects are are always larger
than life, and certainly larger than the intellects of these
- "Its a well known fact that planes blow up into
nothing on impact." they state with pompous certainty. "Watch any
Bruce Willis movie."
- "Care to provide any documented examples? If it's a
well known fact, then presumably this well known fact springs from
some kind of documentation - other than Bruce Willis movies ?"
- At this point the mad but cunning eyes of the
conspiracy theorist will narrow as they sense the corner that they
have backed themselves into, and plan their escape by means of another
- "Ah, but planes have never crashed into buildings
before, so there's no way of telling." they counter with a sly
- Well, actually planes have crashed into buildings
before and since, and not vapourized into nothing.
- "But not big planes, with that much fuel ", they
shriek in hysterical denial.
- Or that much metal to vapourize.
- "Yes but not hijacked planes!"
- "Are you suggesting that whether the crash is
deliberate or accidental affects the combustion qualities of the
- "Now you're just being silly".
- Although collisions with buildings are rare, planes
frequently crash into mountains, streets, other aircraft, nosedive
into the ground,or have bombs planted aboard them, and don't vapourize
into nothing. What's so special about a tower that's mostly glass? But
by now, the conspiracy theorist has once again sailed happily around
the fruit loop. "Its a well documented fact that planes explode into
nothing on impact."
- Effortlessly weaving back and forth between the
position that its a "well known fact" and that "its never happened
before, so we have nothing to compare it to", the conspiracy theorist
has now convinced themselves ( if not too many other people) that the
WTC plane was not loaded with explosives, and that the instant
vapourization of the plane in a massive fireball was the same as any
other plane crash you might care to mention. Round and round the
- But the hurdles which confront the conspiracy
theorist are many, and they are now forced to implement even more
creative uses for the newly discovered shockingly destructive
qualities of kerosine. They have to explain how the Arabs also
engineered the elegant veritcal collapse of both the WTC towers, and
for this awkward fact the easiest counter is to simply deny that it
was a controlled demolition, and claim that the buildings collapsed
from fire caused by the burning kerosine.
- For this, its necessary to sweep aside the second
law of thermodynamics and propose kerosine which is not only
impossibly destructive, but also recycles itself for a second burning
in violation of the law of degradation of energy. You see, it not only
consumed itself in a sudden catastrophic fireball , vapourizing a 65
ton plane into nothing, but then came back for a second go, burning at
2000C for another hour at the impact point, melting the skyscraper's
steel like butter. And while it was doing all this it also poured down
the elevator shafts, starting fires all through the building. When I
was at school there was a little thing called the entropy law which
suggests that a given portion of fuel can only burn once, something
which is readily observable in the real world, even for those who
didn't make it to junior high school science. But this is no problem
for the conspiracy theorist. Gleefully, they claim that a few thousand
gallons of kerosine is enough to
- : completely vapourize a 65 ton aircraft
- : have enough left over to burn ferociously enough
for over an hour at the impact point to melt steel ( melting point
about double the maximum combustion temperature of the fuel )
- : still have enough left over to pour down the
elevator shafts and start similarly destructive fires all through the
- This kerosine really is remarkable stuff! How
chilling to realize that those kerosine heaters we had in the house
when I was a kid were deadly bombs, just waiting to go off. One false
move and the entire street might have been vapourized. And never again
will I take kerosine lamps out camping. One moment you're there
innocently holding the lamp - the next - kapow! Vapourized into
nothing along with with the rest of the camp site, and still leaving
enough of the deadly stuff to start a massive forest fire.
- These whackos are actually claiming that the raging
inferno allegedly created by the miraculously recycling, and
impossibly hot burning kerosine melted or at least softened the steel
supports of the skyscraper. Oblivious to the fact that the smoke
coming from the WTC was black, which indicates an oxygen starved fire
-therefore, not particularly hot, they trumpet an alleged temperature
in the building of 2000 C , without a shred of evidence to support
this curious suspension of the laws of physics.
- Not content with this ludicrous garbage, they then
contend that as the steel frames softened, they came straight down
instead of buckling and twisting and falling sideways.
- Since they're already re-engineered the combustion
qualities of jet fuel, violated the second law of thermodynamics, and
re-defined the structural properties of steel, why let a little thing
like the laws of gravity get in the way?
- The tower fell in a time almost identical to that of
a free falling object, dropped from that height, meaning that its
physically impossible for it to have collapsed by the method of the
top floors smashing through the lower floors. But according to the
conspiracy theorists, the laws of gravity were temporarily suspended
on the morning of Sept 11. It appears that the evil psychic power of
those dreadful Arabs knew no bounds. Even after they were dead, they
were able, by the power of their evil spirits, to force down the tower
at a speed physically impossible under the laws of gravity, had it
been meeting any resistance from fireproofed steel structures
originally designed to resist many tons of hurricane force wind as
well as the impact of a Boeing passenger jet straying off
- Clearly, these conspiracy nuts never did their
science homework at school, but did become extremely adept at
inventing tall tales for why.
- "Muslim terrorists stole my notes, sir"
- "No miss, the kerosine heater blew up and vapourized
everything in the street, except for my passport."
- "You see sir, the schoolbus was hijacked by Arabs
who destroyed my homework because they hate our freedoms."
- Or perhaps they misunderstood the term "creative
science" and mistakenly thought that coming up with such rubbish was
in fact, their science homework.
- The ferocious heat generated by this ghastly
kerosine was, according to the conspiracy theorists, the reason why so
many of the WTC victims can't be identified. DNA is destroyed by heat.
(Although 2000 C isn't really required, 100C will generally do the
job.) This is quite remarkable, because according to the conspiracy
theorist, the nature of DNA suddenly changes if you go to a different
- That's right! If you are killed by an Arab terrorist
in NY, your DNA will be destroyed by such temperatures. But if you are
killed by an Arab terrorist in Washington DC, your DNA will be so
robust that it can survive temperatures which completely vapourize a
65 ton aircraft.
- You see, these loonies have somehow concocted the
idea that the missile which hit the pentagon was not a missile at all,
but one of the hijacked planes. And to prove this unlikely premise,
they point to a propaganda statement from the Bush regime, which
rather stupidly claims that all but one of the people aboard the plane
were identified from the site by DNA testing, even though nothing
remains of the plane. The plane was vapourized by the fuel tank
explosion maintain these space loonies, but the people inside it were
all but one identified by DNA testing.
- So there we have it. The qualities of DNA are
different, depending upon which city you're in, or perhaps depending
upon which fairy story you're trying to sell at any particular
- This concoction about one of the hijacked planes
hitting the Pentagon really is a howler. For those not familiar with
the layout of the Pentagon, it consists of 5 rings of building, each
with a space inbetween. Each ring of building is about 30 to 35 ft
deep, with a similar amount of open space between it and the next
ring. The object which penetrated the Pentagon went in at about a 45
degree angle, punching a neat circular hole of about a 12 ft diameter
through three rings ( six walls).A little later a section of wall
about 65 ft wide collapsed in the outer ring. Since the plane which
the conspiracy theorists claim to be responsible for the impact had a
wing span of 125 ft and a length of 155 ft, and there was no wreckage
of the plane, either inside or outside the building, and the lawns
outside were still smooth and green enough to play golf on, this crazy
delusion is clearly physically impossible.
- But hey, we've already disregarded the combustion
qualities of jet fuel, the normal properties of common building
materials, the properties of DNA, the laws of gravity and the second
law of thermodynamics, so what the hell - why not throw in a little
spatial impossibility as well ? I would have thought that the
observation that a solid object cannot pass through another solid
object without leaving a hole at least as big as itself is reasonably
sound science. But to the conspiracy theorist, this is "mumbo jumbo".
It conflicts with the delusion that they're hooked on, so it "must be
wrong" although trying to get then to explain exactly how it could be
wrong is a futile endeavour.
- Conspiracy theorists fly into a curious panic
whenever the Pentagon missile is mentioned.They nervously maintain
that the plane was vapourized by it's exploding fuel load and point to
the WTC crash as evidence of this behavior. (That's a wonderful fruit
loop.) Like an insect which has just been sprayed, running back and
forth in its last mad death throes, they first argue that the reason
the hole is so small is that plane never entered the wall, having
blown up outside, and then suddenly backflip to explain the 250 ft
deep missile hole by saying that the plane disappeared all the way
into the building, and then blew up inside the building (even though
the building shows no sign of such damage). As for what happened to
the wings - here's where they get really creative. The wings snapped
off and folded into the fuselage which then carried them into the
building, which then closed up behind the plane like a piece of
- When it suits them, they'll also claim that the
plane slid in on its belly, (ignoring the undamaged lawn) while at the
same time citing alleged witnesses to the plane diving steeply into
the building from an "irrecoverable angle." How they reconcile these
two scenarios as being compatible is truly a study in
- Once they get desperate enough, you can be sure that
the UFO conspiracy stuff will make an appearance. The Arabs are in
league with the Martians. Space aliens snatched the remains of the
Pentagon plane and fixed most of the hole in the wall, just to confuse
people. They gave the Arabs invisibility pills to help get them onto
the planes. Little green men were seen were seen talking to Bin Laden
a few weeks prior to the attacks.
- As the nation gears up to impeach the traitor Bush,
and stop his perpetual oil war, it's not helpful to have these idiots
distracting from the process by spreading silly conspiracy theories
about mythical Arabs, stories which do nothing but play into the hands
of the extremist Bush regime.
- At a less serious time, we might tolerate such
crackpots with amused detachment, but they need to understand that the
treachery that was perpetrated on Sept 11, and the subsequent war
crimes committed in "retaliation" are far too serious for us to allow
such frivolous self indulgence to go unchallenged.
- Those who are truly addicted to conspiracy delusions
should find a more appropriate outlet for their paranoia.
- Its time to stop loony conspiracy theories about
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