Thursday, March 20, 2008

An Open Letter to Richard Borshay Lee

Richard Borshay Lee is an anthropologist of some renown who is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto. He is sympathetic with the misnamed "9/11 Truth" movement, having authored a paper entitled "The Elephant in the Living Room: What really happened on 9-11?" (scroll down on that link). Last night, he was the "moderator" (as described on flyers for the event) for the debate-that-was-not-a-debate hosted at the University of Waterloo.

The role of a moderator is not to take sides. Lee didn't observe this rule, however, as he launched an attack against the "official version" of 9/11 in his introduction.

Lee claimed that "Serious scholarship will be presented to you tonight". In fact, what we heard were the standard falsehoods of the 9/11 Truth movement, and discussion of the fine points of building collapse by a man not even remotely qualified to discuss the issue. Lee claimed that he would present "a forum in an atmosphere of open-minded scholarly challenge". But there was no challenge, since no one from the opposing side was permitted to speak. The question period was extremely limited.

Here is my open letter to Prof. Lee. If he responds, and agrees to let me post his response, I will post it below.

Dear Prof. Lee:

Last night, I witnessed your performance as "moderator" of the event "A Forensic Analysis of September 11, 2001: Questioning the Official Theory" that took place at the University of Waterloo.

The role of a "moderator" is not to take sides, and yet you did. In your opening, you repeated several falsehoods of the misnamed "9/11 Truth" movement. You sneered at the idea that the 9/11 hijackers could "expertly" pilot the planes and crash them into their targets.

However, your objections are not based on any rational evidence. The hardest part of flying a plane is taking off and landing, and the hijackers didn't have to do either one. In each plane, one hijacker received significant flight training; all 4 were certified pilots. Hanjour, for example, had extensive simulator training on small commercial jets. The others "had all logged a minimum of 250 cumulative flight hours" (Dunbar and Reagan, 2006). Hanjour and Jarrah had "training flights down the Hudson Corridor, a busy low-altitude path along the Hudson River that passes by the World Trade Center" (Dunbar and Reagan). Furthermore, there is good evidence that the hijackers didn't "expertly" pilot their planes. "The planes made sharp turns of up to 330 degrees and at times dropped precipitously. Passengers and flight attendants on all four planes reported erratic flying." (Dunbar and Reagan)

You also claimed that "No steel frame building in history ever collapsed before." This is not true. I would advise you to look into the 1967 collapse of the McCormick Center in Chicago, a steel-frame building that was left in rubble after a fire. The New York Times article of January 17, 1967 said "Heat from the blaze twisted and curled massive steel girders."

I see that you have had a distinguished career as an anthropologist at the University of Toronto. When you repeat falsehoods that are so easily refuted, you sully your own reputation, and you bring ridicule to your institution. You should be ashamed.

Should you choose to reply, please let me know if I can post your reply on my blog,

Citation: Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts, Dunbar and Reagan, eds., Hearst Books, 2006.


will m said...

Knowing Truthers, he'll reply by attacking the credibility of Reagan, Dunbar and other critics of the 9/11 Truth Movement.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

He never responded. Not surprising in the least.