Thursday, March 20, 2008

An Evening with 9-11 Deniers

Last night I attended a presentation hosted by the University of Waterloo Debate Society entitled "A Forensic Analysis of September 11, 2001: Questioning the Official Theory". It was a truly shameful event, and there was plenty of shame to go around.

Let's allocate the shame:

A large portion of the shame goes to the Debate Society, which plastered the campus with misleading flyers that suggested to many that a genuine debate would take place. I met students in the hall who expected to hear both sides presented, and were surprised when I told them that the presentation would be completely one-sided. The student organizer of the debate, Adnan Zuberi, refused to answer my e-mail questions about why there would not be a speaker presenting the other side; when I asked him again at the debate, he claimed he never received my e-mail (although I sent it multiple times to two different addresses, including the one on the event flyer). I asked Mr. Zuberi if he was part of a "9/11 Truth Group", and he refused to answer. (I was told by other members of the Debate Society that Mr. Zuberi is, indeed, a member of a "9/11 Truth" group.) Casting even more shame on the Debate Society, everybody involved in the public presentation, including Richard B. Lee, the "moderator", and Michael Keefer, the man who selected questioners at the end, was part of the "9/11 Truth" movement.

Why didn't the Debate Society present someone on the other side? I was told they tried, but couldn't find anyone. But they are a "debate society", not a "one-sided presentation" society, and they had an obligation to find someone to respond to the falsehoods that were presented.

Next, there's an ample portion of shame to be allocated to the four academics who participated in this event. As academics, they should have ensured that contentious issues are treated fairly and that valid opposing views are noted. As academics, they had an obligation not to speak outside their areas of expertise (at least, not while relying on their credentials as professors, which were prominently featured on the flyers and in the introductions). Instead, what did we get?

At the opening, we got an admonition by Richard B. Lee (a retired professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto) about how his views deserve respect, an admonition that included long-debunked false claims about the piloting abilities of the 9/11 hijackers.

We got a presentation by Alexander Dewdney, my former colleague in the Computer Science department at Waterloo, filled with distortions, non sequiturs, and falsehoods (more later).

We got another presentation by Graeme MacQueen, a retired professor of Religious Studies at McMaster, that prominently featured an analysis of the physics of 9/11 building collapse (although MacQueen has no formal training in the subject).

And we got questions chosen by Michael Keefer, who was a professor of English and Theatre at the University of Guelph.

To my knowledge, none of the four men had any formal training in civil engineering, telephone networks, or building contruction; yet these subjects featured prominently in the presentation.

I'll have more to say about the arguments presented and the psychology of denialism in future posts.

And here are some of them:

Dewdney, Part 1

Dewdney, Part 2

Graeme Macqueen

Questions and answers


Corey said...

I have heard these deniers claim that bombs from inside the towers caused them to fall. But the video show that the towers fell from the top down (disintergrated) as opposed to an implosion from below (collapse).

Also, the fourth plane that crashed in Pennsylvania rarely gets explained and they come up with an excuse that makes no sense in relation to the other incidents.

Matt said...

In talking to a past president of the debate society, I got the impression that the event was solely organized by Adnan Zuberi and his Truther friends. The past prez. expressed quite a bit of angst/regret over the fact that only one side(nonsense) was being presented.

My guess, Adnan Zuberi used the Debate Society's name to give his event legitimacy, and the debate society was likely far to complacent in allowing or not stopping this and ruined their reputation(for some).

You may recall that at the beginning of the 'colloquium' a second 'colloquium' representing the other side would be held. This was plain rubbish. I asked members of the debate society when was this meeting being held. Quietly, with a look of shame for their club, they shook their heads. Obviously the truthers were trying to diffuse the ill will that had been brought upon by their extremely misleading advertising.

Last comment for now, Dewdney was asked a question similar to this: Popular Mechanics says people have been able to make cellphone calls from airplanes before. How do you justify your position.
His response(rougly paraphrased): Well how do you know that person's not lying? Also, I've heard these self proclaimed experts repudiating my claims, but I don't put much faith in them. Anyone can say they're an expert.
Hello Dr. Dewdney!! By dismissing the counter evidence that way you have dismissed yourself, a self proclaimed expert with extremely shoddy experimental methodology.

Anonymous said...

I dont understand, we're sitting here rolling around in cobwebs. The bigger picture is unfolding, it doesn't matter if you figure ANYTHING out at these little local meetings, get everyone you want to know. It is OBVIOUSLY an inside job, no question about it. What these meetings and what people need to focus on is what is going to happen this year. Especially in November. You thought 9/11 was something? We didnt have resources like youtube, where everyone speeks the truth on 9/11 videos, and know it, in 2001 like we do now. The next inside stunt that gets pulled will cause the entire collapse. the minute ANYTHING suspect happens within that government system below us (canada), EVERYONE will know whats up, instantly. If you recall reichstag (sp?) fire Nazi Germany, same difference. In Feb. 2011, our human conscious begins the Universal Conscious step on the mayan pyramid of conscious evolution, sure you probably dont follow, just wait til 2012. December 21, 2012.

Caleb said...

Does anyone have a copy of the text of the questionnaire that was passed out at the beginning? I only got a glance at it, but the questions were a bit ridiculous.

Jeffrey Shallit said...


Yes, I've posted the questions as a new blog entry.

Caleb said...

Do you see parallels between the 9/11 deniers and creationists?

For example: It looks like [it was controlled demolition/ it's designed] so it must be so, there is no way [the buildings collapsed from the impact of planes and fire/ it evolved]. Even though few qualified [structural engineers/ scientists] agree, I know what happened.

There's also the desire for purpose and the feeling that someone has control over what happens that is common in both movements. For 9/11 deniers it's the government, for creationists it's god.

Granted, this may be a bit of a stretch.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Yes, Caleb, I do see very strong parallels. But I think the parallels are even stronger between 9/11 denialism and Holocaust denialism, and that'll be the subject of a future post.

Caleb said...

Google is a wonderful thing: Here's some solid evidence to point to the fact that Adnan Zuberi (public relations manager of the "debate" society) is a 9/11 denier, if you don't like to take other people's word for it:

Scroll down to International -> Canada -> Waterloo to see Zuberi's name listed as a grassroots contact.

Besides, it's pretty obvious from his quote in The Record about the debate what side he's on.

Anonymous said...

Good posting.

You're right to compare the Truethers to Holocaust denial.

Neo-Nazis use Holocaust denial to project their Jew-hatred.

Truethers use 9-11 denial to project their animosity toward America - and/or Israel and/or Jews depending on who they figure as the evil masterminds behind it all.

Brian Henry

Tommy Blanchard said...

Thanks for posting about the 9/11 event. I had meant to go but couldn't make it. I was wondering how ridiculous it was going to be (and secretly hoping you would be attending and would write a blog entry about it).

ConsDemo said...

Professor Shallit, thanks for going and posting this information. The 9/11 conspiracy theorists like to pretend they are "just asking questions" and their views are driven by "science" but if you dig deeper it becomes pretty clear their views are driven by ideology, a vitriolically anti-American ideology.

Anonymous said...

For a view of how Holocaust denial works, you might want to check out a short piece I wrote for the Jewish Tribune. It’s available on-line here:
“Professor Shiraz Dossa and Holocaust denial”
You're invited to make your own comparisons with the 9-11 Truether movement.

Anonymous said...

I don't recall an email address being listed on the flyer... some people will go to extreme extents to defame others.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Dear Anonymous:

Just because you didn't see a flyer with an e-mail address, Mr/Ms Anonymous, is no reason to imply that I lied.

There were at least two different flyers posted for the event. Some of them had an e-mail address, and some didn't. You can see an image of one that did here:

You must be really desperate if you would think I would lie about such an inconsequential detail.

Kevin said...

Haha the guy a few comments before me NAILED the Sept.- Oct. financial crisis from last year in MARCH! I hate to sound cliche but WAKE UP! If you want to make the comparison between 9-11 Truth and Holocaust deniers go ahead. You have to also see the parallels between the burning of the Reichstag, "terrorism", and Jews during the 3rd Reich. Hitler called Jews "terrorists" in plain German. There truly are a lot of idiots who think the planes were fake, or that the buildings were imploded. The real evidence is in the pools of molten metal, the evidence of iron oxide and aluminum (thermite) and the quick sale of the scrap steel from ground zero to China.


Also, do you honestly stand behind FEMA? I mean they clearly demonstrated their astounding ability to fail in an epic manner during Katrina. Why would you not want another investigation besides the FEMA report and 911 Commission? Ask anybody involved with law (I have 6 lawyers in my family) Why on earth would we allow Bush and Cheney to testify together? What a bunch of baloney! Never would we allow two witnesses to stand together on the stand to give their testimony in the United States. It should have been completely obvious to you sir that something stunk to high hell on 9/11 and it wasn't just the jet fuel, carpet and papers burning in the WTC.

I doubt you'll allow my comment to pass through because you are the one in denial. You are the one who can only do as your told and you hope one day that you'll be a "winner" in America (ie Achieve the American dream of being Filthy Freakin' Rich!). You are the one who believes whatever the media throws at you, you are not a free thinker at all and I'm willing to bet you are not creative in the least bit.

How can you call 9-11 truth Un-American? We want our country back the way it was before 9-11, before our freedoms were impinged upon. Giving up Liberty for Security is the most Un-American you could possibly be. Dont you know how we got this country in the first place? Read some history and you'll realize this kind of false flag "terrorism" has been done a thousand times and the losers NEVER write the history books.

Jeffrey Shallit said...


You say: The real evidence is in the pools of molten metal, the evidence of iron oxide and aluminum (thermite) and the quick sale of the scrap steel from ground zero to China.

"Pools of molten metal" present no problem, as it is well-known that certain alloys melt at temperatures which would have been experienced during a jet-plane strike. Other claims of "molten steel" have not been supported.

"Thermite" presents no problem, as conspiracy theorists have yet to prove that thermite was found. Yes, aluminum was found, and iron oxide was found, but these are common components of a skyscraper and do not prove the existence of "thermite".

Your last "proof" is simply silly, as it presupposes a conspiracy.

Anonymous said...

I guess the old addage has some truth, the more YOU seem to hysterically protest tells me he may have something here :o(

Anonymous said...

What a sorry blog entry. How is anyone reading your article going to know what was ACTUALLY said at the event? Your bashful tone reminiscent of that of a bully is hard to miss. Your lack of subjectivity also supports that claim. Aside for your harsh criticism of the 'debate' you boast nothing but how the event organizers mislead people. You are as guilty of being biased as the organizers of the event whom you're criticizing for it. Hypocrite. Yes, if the second side is not present it's not a debate, but why get hung up on that? Despite it all, don't you think the readers would want to know, at least, what WAS said by that one side? Moreover, I would assume someone who is so deeply concerned with the lack of adequate representation would at least attempt to provide that missing point of view. Yet you provide neither. I'm sure your fans would love to see you participate in one of those debates. You're either missing the point or just being a bully. In either case, with argumentative skills like that and an ignorant outlook, it's hard to imagine why anyone would not take you seriously. Good job.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Dear Anonymous:

I'm sorry you seem so confused, but then "truthers" exhibit a real deficiency of reasoning ability.

Did you read the last line of the post? Apparently not, since it says "I'll have more to say about the arguments presented and the psychology of denialism in future posts."

Do you understand what "future posts" means?

Did you bother to search for my other posts on the debate?

I guess not. Poor truthers, so incompetent.

But to help you, I've added four of the 6 or 7 links. Isn't that nice of me?

Anonymous said...

Uh, the "official story" IS the other side.