Date:  September 11th, 2001.
Personnel:  Unknown [designate A], Unknown [designate B], Unknown [designate C].

A:  It's done.  The plane targeted at Congress was crashed by those on-board, but the Pentagon and Trade Center attacks occurred just as scheduled.

B:  Congress seems sufficiently angry in any case.  I don't think the further steps of the plan will meet with any opposition.  We should gain the governmental powers we need, and the stock market should move as expected.

A:  Good.  Have you prepared the conspiracy theorists to accuse us?

B:  Yes.  All is in readiness.  The first accusations will fly within the hour.

C:  Er...

A:  What is it?

C:  Sorry, I know I'm a bit new to this sort of thing, but why are we sponsoring conspiracy theorists?  Aren't they our arch-nemeses, tenaciously hunting down and exposing our lies?

A:  No, my young apprentice, just the opposite.  As soon as you pull off a conspiracy, the first thing you do is start a conspiracy theory about it.  Day one.

C:  What?  We want to be accused of deliberately ignoring intelligence and assassinating that one agent who tried to forward specific information -

A:  No, of course not!  What you do in a case like this is start an accusation so ridiculous that nobody else wants to be associated with the accusers.  You create a low-prestige conspiracy theory and staff it with as many vocal lunatics as you can.  That way no one wants to be seen as affiliating with the conspiracy theorists by making a similar accusation.

C:  That works?  I know I'm not the brightest fish in the barrel - sometimes, hanging around you guys, I feel almost as dumb as I pretend to be - but even I know that "The world's stupidest man may say the sun is shining, but that doesn't make it dark out."

B:  Works like a charm, in my experience.  Like that business with the Section Magenta aircraft.  All you need is a bunch of lunatics screaming about aliens and no one respectable will dream of reporting a "flying saucer" after that.

C:  So what did you plan for the 9/11 cover conspiracy theory, by the way?  Are the conspiracy theorists going to say the Jews were behind it?  Can't get much lower-prestige than anti-Semitism!

B:  You've got the right general idea, but you're not thinking creatively enough.  Israel does have a clear motive here - even though they weren't in fact behind it - and if the conspiracy theorists cast a wide enough net, they're bound to turn up a handful of facts that seem to support their theory.  The public doesn't understand how to discount that sort of "evidence", though, so they might actually be convinced.

C:  So... the Illuminati planned the whole operation?

B:  You know, for someone who reads as much science fiction as you do, you sure don't think outside the box.

C:  ...okay, seriously, man.  I don't see how a theory could get any more ridiculous than that and still acquire followers.

(A and B crack up laughing.)

B:  Hah!  What would you have done to cover up the Section Magenta aircraft, I wonder?  Blamed it on Russia?  To this day there are still people on the lookout for hidden aliens who overfly populated areas in gigantic non-nanotechnological aircraft with their lights on.

A:  So what did we pick for the 9/11 cover conspiracy, by the way?

B:  Hm?  Oh, the World Trade Center wasn't brought down by planes crashing into it.  It was pre-planted explosives.

C:  You're kidding me.

B:  Seriously, that's the cover conspiracy.

C:  There are videos already on the Internet of the planes flying into the World Trade Center.  It was on live television.  There are thousands of witnesses on the ground who saw it with their own eyes -

B:  Right, but the conspiracy theory is, the planes wouldn't have done it on their own - it took pre-planted explosives too.

C:  No one is going to buy that.  I don't care who you bought out in the conspiracy-theoretic community.  This attack would've had the same political effect whether the buildings came down entirely or just the top floors burned.  It's not like we spent a lot of time worrying about at what angle the planes would hit the building.  The whole point was to keep our hands clean!  That's why the al Qaeda plot was such a godsend compared to the original anthrax plan.  All we had to do was let it happen.  Once we arranged for the attack to go through, we were done, we had no conceivable motive to risk exposure by planting explosives on top of that -

B:  Don't take this the wrong way.  But one, you don't understand conspiracy theorists at all.  Two, they bought the aliens, didn't they?  And three, it's already online and the usual crowd of anti-establishment types are already snapping it up.

C:  Are you joking?

B:  Honest to Betsy.  People are claiming that the buildings fell too quickly and that the video showed ejecta corresponding to controlled demolitions.

C:  Wow.  I don't suppose we actually planted some explosives, just to make sure that -

A:  Oh, hell no, son.  That sort of thing is never necessary.  They'll turn up what looks to them like evidence.  They always do.

C:  Aren't they going to, um, suspect they're pawns?

A:  Human nature 101.  Once they've staked their identity on being part of the defiant elect who know the Hidden Truth, there's no way it'll occur to them that they're our catspaws.

B:  One reason our fine fraternity has controlled the world for hundreds of years is that we've managed to make "conspiracy theories" look stupid.  You know how often you've ever heard someone suggest that possibility?  None.  You know why?  Because it would be a conspiracy theory.

A:  Not to mention that the story would be too recursive to catch on.  To conceal the truth, one need only make the reality complicated enough to exceed the stack depth of the average newspaper reader.

B:  And I've saved the dessert for last.

C:  Really?

B:  Yeah.  You can go totally overboard with these guys.  They never notice and they never suspect they're being used.

C:  Hit me.

B:  We've arranged for them to be called "truthers".

I hereby dub any believers in this theory 9/11 meta-truthers.

I, Eliezer Yudkowsky, do now publicly announce that I am not planning to commit suicide, at any time ever, but particularly not in the next couple of weeks; and moreover, I don't take this possibility seriously myself at the moment, so you would merely be drawing attention to yourselves by assassinating me.  However, I also hereby vow that if the Singularity Institute happens to receive donations from any sources totaling at least $3M in 2010, I will take down this post and never publicly speak of the subject again; and if anyone asks, I'll tell them honestly that it was probably a coincidence.


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Did you happen to see that episode of South Park? It turns out that the 9/11 conspiracy theorists are all government agents trying to make the government seem more competent than it actually is. ;)

Beat me to it! It's also a great episode to watch from a Bayesian standpoint, because throughout it, you see people having to radically shift their views because they see extremely improbable evidence.

Since you've already spoiled it, I want to highlight one scene in particular: Kyle, Stan, and a Truther guy are taken to the White House, where Bush and his cabinet (falsely) admit to having orchestrated 9/11 and then execute the Truther (which later turns out to be fake too). All Kyle can do is respond with, "REALLY?", more incredulous each time.

Link again, thanks Jayson_Virissimo for posting it.

0Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
Nope, didn't see it.
The Mystery of the Urinal Deuce [] aired in late 2006. You are a few years too late.

This controversy reminds me of an astronomy professor of mine. He was semi-obsessed with showing that the moon landing was not faked, to the point of conspiracy-nut enthusiasm, despite supporting the status quo. He'd go off on long anecdotes in class about how he saw some light at such and such a latitude at a certain time, which showed unquestionably that there must have been a man-made vehicle at such-and-such a point. Then, he said one thing that stuck with me: if it were faked, that means there are at least hundreds, more likely tens of thousands, of low- and mid-level government employees who are keeping their lips absolutely, perfectly sealed.

That was all the argument I ever needed to hear to dissuade me from crackpot government conspiracy theories. Once an event reaches a certain magnitude of size, cost, and planning, P:Everyone stays quiet rapidly approaches zero. The payoffs and probability of a guilty conscience are simply too high with a large enough N.

Then, he said one thing that stuck with me: if it were faked, that means there are at least hundreds, more likely tens of thousands, of low- and mid-level government employees who are keeping their lips absolutely, perfectly sealed.

I've always disliked this argument. We do know of programs with tens of thousands and more employees who have kept quiet and regard their silence as a great and honorable accomplishment.

They are the employees of the US federal government's black budget, a >$50 billion annual sink about which the public knows next to nothing whatsoever, and probably never will because records are easily destroyed when they are secret.

If we are lucky, we may get some bare descriptions of what happened, decades after the fact. For example, you've heard of the sick abuses of MKULTRA (which we only know even this much about because the coverup missed some documents), but MKULTRA was only one of many projects being run by the CIA technical division. What do we really know about the MKULTRA programs overseas, like MKCHICKWIT or MKDELTA? Where are all the whistleblowers there, hm? And these were some of the most evil programs around, literally direct descendants from the N... (read more)

I believe my principle stands. Your counterexamples are very different in several important dimensions. You are forgetting context. This is not a covert operation, centered principally around CIA agents or other professionals committed to stealth and secrecy. Nor is it on some issue so obscure that you would have trouble getting a journalist to understand it if you leaked. This is a massive operation that would have involved a large number of scientists and technicians (and just civilians, generally), with several major observable events (i.e. the launch). I'm sure it also involved numerous corporations who had to build materials and keep some form of records. If any one of the doubtless hundreds of important players had come forward with any substantial, credible evidence or testimony demonstrating that the whole thing is a ruse, I imagine it would not have been hard to find a willing medium to communicate such. Also, programs like MKULTRA have almost no visible effects. That is, no one working on MKULTRA would see it on TV with their family. No one involved would really realize that a ruse was being pulled. This is not at all true of something like a moon landing; numerous civilians would probably be aware of the fact that the government was trying to pull a fast one. It's much easier to keep something secret when the people involved don't know it's newsworthy. In other words: is it likely that there are particular government programs about which the public remains entirely ignorant? Yes. For any specific, conspicuous, high-profile government program or event involving large numbers of civilian participants, is it likely that the government managed to fool the public and then maintain perfect silence? No, no it is not.
? A fake moon landing would be the very blackest of black programs/SAPs. Of course the people working on it would be committed to stealth and secrecy. I've already pointed out that the satellite programs like KH-13 involved at minimum thousands of scientists/technicians/civilians. So your point must solely be 'my heuristic is valid when there is high profile media coverage'. But what about the constant media coverage of nuclear explosions and the media assurance to civilians that there was nothing to fear, even though the scientists suspected or knew that the fallout really was dangerous? (You may remember the settlements made a few years ago to Nevadans []). High profile events (nuke tests aren't subtle), thousands of involved civilians, etc. Yet... Yes, no doubt the corporations who consume $50 billion every year in the black budget, and who have consumed similar amounts every year since the Cold War started, have kept meticulous records. For all the good that has done the rest of us... A Noble Lie [] as part of the Cold War against those genocidal atheist Communist foreigners. Where were all these civilians blowing the whistle in things like the Tuskegee experiments? (Murdering a bunch of black people would seem to not need be broadcast on TV before someone says to themselves, 'Hey! Isn't this insanely cartoon-cackling evil?') The Tonkin Gulf? How many of the Plumbers (all civilians, all cognizant of their criminality) blew the whistle? I feel as if this is a good example of disagreements being dishonest. I've stuck only to highly mainstream, well-established conspiracies and systems of evil in just America, and haven't even touched upon the ones which haven't been definitively proven (even though basic logic tells me that some of them are probably true), but your position remains the same as ever. Someone is being intransigent here.

On review, I will admit my original point was framed somewhat imprecisely. I did not mean to imply that it is highly unlikely that the government can manage to keep any large projects secret. I meant (as I think was obvious from the context) that it is very unlikely that the government would be able to keep something as large-scale, civilian-intensive, public, and high-profile as faking a series of moon landings secret for four decades. This probability is particularly low considering the alternative of, "They just did it." As my original point was a rather offhand comment, I did not bother going into this level of detail.

Someone is being intransigent here.

I will confess to not really giving a damn about the details up to now, because I thought my point was rather obvious. I see there's a bit of an inferential gap. In short, I think you vastly underestimate the prior improbability of your own claim, and vastly overestimate the relevance of your counterexamples, all of which are substantially different on numerous dimensions. I'll spell things out in greater detail.

[Having taken two minutes to look at wikipedia, there does seem to be rather solid evidence of its verac... (read more)

TL;DR of my other response to this: "The government, in the case of a very large and public project with substantial corroborating evidence, has in fact lied to us and the whole thing is fabricated" is an extraordinary claim that requires substantial evidence in the absence of major leaks. Or, at least some evidence. Without clear and powerful supporting evidence, it is rational to assume this claim is wrong, because it is really, really complicated and requires a lot of things to go right. I don't think any of your counterexamples contradict that.

An even more unassailable bit of evidence, for me, is that Russia never claimed it was a fake, despite having the obvious capacity to verify (just by training their best telescopes on the landing site, and probably a dozen other ways) and the obvious benefit to them if they could show America had faked it.

No conspiracy short of a One World Government could have pulled off a fake moon landing— and if a conspiracy were powerful enough to orchestrate a fake Cold War, one wonders why they would have even bothered with PR stunts.

Once an event reaches a certain magnitude of size, cost, and planning, P:Everyone stays quiet rapidly approaches zero.

I wonder if there is data/examples supporting this, e.g. a list of failed conspiracies due to someone not being able to stay quiet (or any other relevant reason). Of course we'd also need a list of successful fairly large conspiracies too..

Guy Fawkes
Well there is the case of Kurt Sonnenfeld who was the official FEMA videographer at ground Zero. He has fled to Argentina and published a book about the whole issue: [] As a historical example you have Israel's nuclear program and there was exactly one whistle blower, Mordechai Vanunu [] and he was hunted down and thrown into prison for that. So imagine the amount of people involved in a nuclear program and yet you find only one who speaks out. The thing is, people who are in the know also know why they have to keep quiet and the consequences they will face if they do otherwise. Lets imagine that some hypothetical government agent starts speaking, how could he prove his point? And even if he could wouldn't that speak against him because if he was involved why didn't he say so earlier or do something against it? He probably would be dismissed as another lunatic. EDIT: There is also the ringworm affair [] that happened in the 40s and 50s in Israel and is still controversial and a lot of people have kept quiet about it for decades.
6Paul Crowley13y
You would expect a second whistleblower to step forward after the whistle has already been blown?
I don't understand, why doesn't Sonnenfeld just put up his video on the internet?
You might want to be careful citing Sonnefeld. But perhaps he's being framed [] .
Wikipedia disagrees regarding ringworm.
You are probably talking about this page: [] It doesn't outright deny it but mentions that the israeli government has paid compensation to those affected and it has a link to this article which goes more in depth about the whole issue: []
Maddox mentioned the same thing in his rant against the 9/11conspiracy []. I respect the point-by-point rebuttals people make, but do they work? Maybe to keep people away, but how effective are they at making someone stop believing something ridiculous? In my experience, not very. And when people get fanatical in the direction of truth, that seems to make others cautious of believing it too. Did you have any classmates that ended up believing the moon landing was a conspiracy?
I sincerely doubt it, but I doubt anyone thought it was going in to the class. This was many decades after the moon landing.
Who is to say that those employees were actually involved in the conspiracy? They were just being used by the conspiracy! Flight controllers receiving "telemetry" from a computer/simulation in a basement somewhere, unbeknownst to them, etc. The 100s of low level employees involved weren't a problem - hell, the 10s of thousands of them weren't. They bought the story just like the rest of us! :P

As Napoleon reportedly said, P(incompetence was the cause | bad things happen) > P(conspiracy was the cause | bad things happen).

There is no non-conspiracy hypothesis regarding 9/11. No one thinks it was an accident. :)

Ha, touche. Now there would be quite the prospiracy-Truther [] position--advocating the view that it was all just an accident...
Actually a lot of people think that the non-prevention of 9/11 was an accident due to incompetence and specifically a lack of data-sharing among intelligence agencies. Of curse, there was a lot of guilt-induced hindsight bias at the time. Meanwhile, some of the conspiracy theorists were claiming that the government could have stopped the attack but decided not to. In this case, incompetence seems the likelier cause, like Napoleon said.
The name for that is "expected consequences", not "an accident".

I'm curious if the donation total for 2010 has been been calculated yet?

The googler invasion that results from this will be ten times worse than influx following the Knox discussion.

You missed a critical factor. Volume. It's not about making up one single ludicrous claim. If you really want to distort the discussion you put 100 different ludicrous claims out. If the noise is greater than the amount of real evidence, truth won't come to light.

I almost made such a point myself, in the post I made on the subject. This was the essence of what I learned about counter-intelligence when I worked in Europe during the Cold War... "The Noise to Signal Ration must be kept high enough that those without the appropriate filter will have no clue as to what is going on."

The goal for the Counter-Intelligence agent is to make others think that they have found the correct filter.

Off hand, what is the prior probability that SIAI takes in 3 million this coming year?

Low enough that I didn't much expect to have to take the post down by accident, high enough that I could still honestly say afterward that it was probably coincidence.

So this seems like the most logical thread to bring this up in. There's now a suggestion that the towers were brought down in part by thermite that was inadvertently created by a combination of the airplane hulls and the water from the sprinkler systems. (Yeah, you probably weren't expecting that sentence to end as it did...)

This looks wrong to me simply because the quantities seem to be too small unless they happened to be in exactly the right places with near perfect mixtures. But this does worry me in that if this was a major part of what brought down the towers then this indicates a substantial failure of rationality if this was actually necessary. I strongly suspect that this is not going to go anywhere. But if it does, it should worry us that engineers and laypeople looking at this essentially dismissed truthers claims that this looked like a thermite fire.

Ok. Faster than light neutrinos, potential contradiction in Peano Arithmetic, and now the WTC may have been brought down by thermite. Quite an interesting last few days.

The only catch is that aluminium & water isn't a thermite reaction. In fact, "thermite" isn't mentioned anywhere in the AFP story [] and SINTEF press summary [] linked in that BoingBoing post. The "thermite" hook seems to be made up from whole cloth.
Hmm, that's a good point. BoingBoing may have added the word, but I think they are sort of justified. The primary reaction of aluminum thermite is iron oxide and aluminum which seems to be one of the reaction types being talked about here. But you are right, this is only marginally like thermite, especially if the primary reaction is the water and aluminum and the rust reaction is only secondary. Edit: Also, whether or not this should be termed thermite (you've convinced me that BoingBoing's terminology is unjustified) the idea that there may have been a much hotter reaction than jet fuel and burning paper is still pretty far from the standard story.

I used to work with someone, when I lived in Europe during the Cold War, who did something very similar to exactly what Eliezer has described.

I doubt that it was done for 9/11, as it doesn't seem to fit with the profile of what/when/where they would use this sort of counter-intelligence, but the theory behind it is absolutely founded.

Usually, it was so that everyone would be looking east when something very wrong was going to be happening in the west. Every time I hear about the Dancing lights in the sky that are claimed by the ignorant to be UFOs, yet the military says "No, those were just Hi-MAT (Highly Maneuverable and And Tactical) flares" (I'm pretty sure they changed the names since 1986) I believe that they were flares... But, I wonder... "What was on the opposite side of the sky that they wanted everyone looking at the flares for?"

It is amazing some of the things that they do in Mil-Intelligence and that spooks get up to (course, spooks have really been trying to get back in the game since the end of the Cold War...). So, as my own contribution to the meta-conspiracy:

It was all CIA spooks who were doing a budget op in order to get themselves re-funded af... (read more)

Just curious, but didn't those buildings really come down faster than they should've, assuming structure was intact?

The explanation I've heard is that once few of the top floors fall on one of the floors below them, the effect is sort of like it was being hit with a hammer, all the supporting columns of each floor below snap instantly as they are hit, so it's almost free fall from then on.

Be careful not to explain data that turn out to be false. IIRC (someone else could look it up if they were really interested) the "free-fall" part is bogus, the free-fall time was 9 seconds and the actual time was 15 seconds or something like that.

I don't know why you were downvoted but you are asking the right question.

I'm puzzled over why the comments in this thread are being downvoted, as well. I can't help the feeling that there's more "we'll downvote things that we disagree with" going on in this community than there should be - this is far from the first place where it has looked like that.

I'm not particularly puzzled (9/11, cultural identity, arguments are soldiers, etc). But I certainly disapprove of downvotes of Jonii's question in particular. It is the right kind of thing to ask, just so long as the asking is not rhetorical.
Indeed. Jonii wasn't even expressing support for a conspiracy theory, he was simply asking for clarification. (And even he was expressing support, that wouldn't by itself be reason for a downvote, for as long as it was well-argued.)
The wrong way to profess a controversial claim is to just assert it or even worse assume it in some other claim. The right way is to give arguments. What is considered correct in the community is very much relevant to how one makes an assertion. The problem isn't that controversial claims are being made, but the irresponsible way they are being made.
I don't have an objection to the way PlaidX's comments have been voted down when they've clearly contained faulty reasoning. I do have an objection to people being voted down for making honest questions.
We'd have to move to specific examples.
I don't object to these comments being downvoted: 1 [] 2 [] 3 [] 4 []. The first one is unfoundedly dismissive about evidence opposing one's own argument, the second presents evidence against one's own argument (even in failed demolitions, buildings don't actually fall over) and tries to present it as evidence for the argument, and the third claims to provide links to original sources without actually doing so. The fourth is making a bold claim that contradicts scientific research, without really backing up that claim in any way. I do object to these being downvoted (this list includes some that don't have a negative karma now, but did before): 1 [] 2 [] 3 []. The first asks an honest question, the second seems to provide a reasonable answer to the question presented, and the third makes a perfectly valid query. I'm ambivalent on these being downvoted: 1 [] 2 []. The first one is made in a tone that is possibly a bit too confident and it does feel like it's grasping at straws a bit, but then the first two sentences do make a very valid point. The second is implicitly throwing its support behind the conspiracy theory interpretation without backing it up any more, but then it is drawing attention to the fact that the parent was needlessly downvoted. It's also good to express that some particular question might be important, but at the same time it would again be nice if a be
On the second list, I agree about the first [] comment, disagree about the last [] (the answer to the question as stated should be obvious: improbable a priori, so the valid question needs to be more specific), and partly about the second [] (the first part of the comment is informative, but the second part talks of black boxes not surviving "conveniently" and speculates on stuff that requires more support and sounds dubious without it (passenger lists).
Just so long as you are ready to accept an answer of 'no' once you look into the relevant engineering theory.

Count me as one of the meta-truthers - more or less. As George Carlin said "When you've got a bunch of people with similar backgrounds, similar social scenes, and similar interests, who are out of touch with contemporary society, you don't actually need a formal conspiracy to have the same effect."

To be honest though, I don't mind living in a dystopia. It's a lot more interesting, right? I mean, if you could actually trust the cops to perform their jobs with dignity, and politicians to serve the community rather than their own interests, how boring would that get?

Jim Henley doesn't think the reality would be entertaining enough for tv [] either.

The point about the buildings not needing to fall was always my favorite objection.

I do like one 9/11 theory, that flight 93 might have been shot down. Here's a piece on it from Stuart Buck (occasional OB contributor) on the idea, dating back to Oct '01.

Add to this Rumsfeld's odd slip that the terrorists "shot down" the plane over Pennsylvania ( and I think p=.5 that that plane was shot down and the authorities took advantage of the cal... (read more)

See, now that is at least plausible (on the surface, I know nothing of details). I can very easily see a responsible military officer making that call and deciding to keep it a secret.

There were lots of unexplained bits about Flight 93, including the many local residents who saw a fighter plane immediately before/after the crash. See this video, and don't miss the interview with John Fleegle at about 2:30 (and especially 4:30), and then the interview with Susan McIlwain at 5:08 through about 7:00: [] Yes, it's by and large a conspiracy-minded video from unreliable sources, but the interviews with local residents were real, and there's no good reason to ignore what these people say.
Why is it that conspiracy-minded types always link to videos instead of written sources?
The interviews with local residents were done on video. You'd prefer a written transcript to being able to assess the residents' believability for yourself? And I'm not a conspiracy minded person at all; every other conspiracy re: 9/11 is absolutely idiotic, but Eliezer is right in noting that if someone did try to shoot down Flight 93 (as would have been readily feasible given the timeline), it would be more politically palatable to say that the heroic passengers did it all themselves.
Not trying to imply that you were; just noting that it's kind of a pain.
At least in retrospect, it would have been beneficial for Bush to be able to show he was capable of ordering planes shot down. But that may not have occurred to the administration until much later.
Another oddity, besides the debris from Flight 93 found miles away, the second airplane that local residents saw before the crash, the lights flickering in local business and homes, etc: The C-130 -- described by one Pentagon witness as looking like a "Navy electronic warfare aircraft" -- that admittedly was on the scene of both the Pentagon crash and the Flight 93 crash. [] Alone this doesn't prove anything, but isn't it odd that on a day when all of these supersonic F-16s supposedly can't reach any of the hijacked aircraft in time, a single C-130 comes across two of them? I.e., the C-130 just happens to cross paths with the Pentagon plane, and then rather than landing and getting the heck out of the way, it just continues on a pre-existing flight path (as if nothing had happened) that just accidentally happens to intercept the flight path of a second hijacked aircraft?
The really big problem with that theory is that one can hear sounds of struggle and the terrorists saying, "Is that it? I mean, shall we pull it down?" just before the plane entered a steep dive into the ground. If the plane had been shot down, the terrorists wouldn't have reacted in the same way, and the flight path from that point on would have been significantly more erratic.
Is there reason to think someone would feel the need to cover that up? Shooting down the plane seems like the kind of decision most Americans would be fine with.

Do also consider the fact that even if the story of flight 93 occurred exactly according to the official story, the heroic passengers saved zero lives. Jets had been scrambled. Shoot down orders had been given. The flight was not going to hit its target.

Yes, the passengers may have been heroes in the sense that they did not "freeze up" and tried to save themselves or (possibly) others.

Yet the most popular story presented by the press and government, and lodged in the public consciousness, is that the passengers prevented a final strike.

Realistically, they may have prevented a fighter pilot from having to commit an act that could have scarred him emotionally.

So, yes, I am confident the event was "spun." The question is to what degree.

I don't really know, but I suspect that many would be horrified by the deliberate use of American military force against American civilians, no matter how good the argument for it. (Arguably, it would actually be use of force against the terrorists with inevitable civilian casualties, but I suspect many wouldn't see it that way, and many who did would still be horrified.) And all a cover-up requires is that someone judge the same way (or just think it likely enough), justified or not.

As long as we're on the subject, my latest fictional piece is here. One of those story ideas that got stuck in my head and wouldn't leave until I wrote it. The philosophical depths thereof wouldn't be new to this audience, but it might serve for those who know aught of Suzumiya Haruhi. I'll delete this notice shortly.

Wow. I hadn't heard of the series but that piece caught my attention. I've just ordered all the books.

I'm afraid you'll find that the books are nowhere near as good as Eliezer's writing. This should probably not surprise you, though. ..for the love of god, Eliezer. You cannot be serious. Stopping there?
It's a rare talent to stop at the right time. Skilled art teachers for small children can produce surprisingly good paintings by applying it well. Without it, one gets Atlas Shrugged, or Lord of the Rings the movie, which whatever their artistic merits, could have been considerably improved just by ending them earlier.
The first time I read Atlas Shrugged, the final chapter was missing. I was blown away when I was leafing through a friend's copy a year or so later. Such a better place to end the book.
The story is certainly more powerful because he stopped when he did, but it's missing any sense of closure. Your mileage will vary on what the correct tradeoff is, there. Personally, I find this kind of ending very unsatisfying. It makes me want to write fanfiction.
I just read the first three. I'm inclined to agree. If I didn't know better I'd call the books the 'fanfic'. Tell me about it.

Eliezer kudos for you to touch such a hot iron! There is at least one professor in the US who lost his tenure because of his contrarian views in regard to 911.

IIRC, I think that case was about a lot more than just his contrarian 9/11 views, although I suppose they were instrumental in shining a spotlight on him bright enough to reveal all the other ways in which he was a fraud.

ETA: Okay, found his name: Ward Churchill. Intro matches my summary:

In January 2005, Churchill's work attracted publicity, with the widespread circulation of a 2001 essay, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens. In the essay, he claimed that the September 11, 2001 attacks were provoked by U.S. policy, and referred to the "technocratic corps" working in the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns".

In March 2005 the University of Colorado began investigating allegations that Churchill had engaged in research misconduct; it reported in June 2006 that he had done so. Churchill was fired on July 24, 2007, leading to a claim from some scholars that he was fired over the ideas he expressed.

So he was officially fired for research misconduct, but that misconduct would probably have gone unnoticed if not for his look-at-me-I'm-a-contrarian spiel.

Note: If you have a cushy job predicated on fraudulent work you've done in the past, and ethics don't trouble you, try to keep a low profile, moron.

4Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
I hope you're congratulating me for touching the hot iron rather than picking it up, metaphorically speaking?
I don't get the difference, sorry I'm not a native english speaker. I googled "hot iron" but didn't find information to clarify it.
Getting associated with a low prestige topic can lower someone's status even if they are on the side that isn't stupid. (See OvercomingBias.) If picking up a hot iron can be considered to be advocating a stigmatised contrarian position then even just mentioning the topic without advocating for it could perhaps be considered 'touching the hot iron rather than picking it up'. (I think Eliezer made this up on the spot by expanding on the metaphor that you provided.)
4Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
If this is the case, yes I don't think that he picked it up. He just touched it in a clever way making people think about it. I suppose he is in the know but doesn't want to be open about it and it's the right thing to do in his position, living in the US. Btw, AFAIK this metaphor is widely used, no?
Don't know. I don't think I have heard it before but it sounds like the kind of thing that is a popular metaphor.
It seems that I unknowingly got influenced by my german background where this metaphor is quite common.

Haruhi fanfiction by Eliezer? You, sir, just delivered Christmas a few days early.

Indeed, that fanfic was pretty good. (I know about Haruhi Suzumiya from that wiki that ruins your life, although I haven't actually watched the series.)
I'm saving it for Boxing day, to combat those post-Christmas blues.

You mean 9/11 wasn't aliens?

It doesn't tie directly with this story, but several years ago (I didn't date the note I jotted) I wrote:

Of course, if there really is some vast conspiracy out there, it is to the conspirators' advantage to have everyone automatically discount "conspiracy theories".

Mostly from reading Hogan's "The Mirror Maze", Fellows's "Operation Damocles", and especially Chalker's "A War of Shadows" within a relatively short time.

[comment deleted]

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

Even if it isn't quite the same as the actual conspiracy, what is the probability from known evidence that Bush actually liked the fact 9/11 happened due to the political opportunities it gave him?

Comments about 9/11 "cover-up" theories belong here. Hint, hint.

But the people who are wrong on the internet are wrong over there!

Replying to Jonathan_Graehl in the other thread:

Evidence of how the alleged demolition was accomplished is best eliminated by demolishing the building?

No, I'm saying this METHOD of committing the crime allows the evidence to be more easily cleaned up, much as a murderer would chop a person into small pieces. They don't commit the murder to conceal the murder, that would be idiotic.

Ironically, what you find to be an ironic coincidence sends the signal that you're inappropriately excited by cute but totally non-causal coincidences.

I don't see how tha... (read more)

I love how the fact that you're not able to reconstruct the exact process of the collapse working backward from the rubble is taken as further evidence of a conspiracy that cleverly anticipated your forensic efforts, by creating difficult-to-interpret rubble (do you really think a tall building can fall over in such a way as to leave things intact? that's a lot of energy), and "quickly" disposing of rubble ("quickly" means nothing - compared to what? initially they hoped to find survivors, later work may have come quickly so folks could have the feeling of doing something about the catastrophe).
When an airplane crashes, the wreckage is preserved in painstaking detail, often re-assembled in warehouses in exactly the configuration it was found at the crash site, in order to determine exactly what went wrong. You would think that when a 47 story skyscraper spontaneously collapses, a wholly unprecedented event, that this engineering failure would be investigated even MORE thoroughly. But instead, it's simply melted down in blast furnaces, over the objections of the victims' families and, among others, fire engineering magazine, which said something like "this destruction of evidence must stop immediately".
If you're referring to WTC 7, it didn't spontaneously collapse, it collapsed because of a fire. There was 91 000 liters of diesel fuel stored in that building for generators. Anyway, a few years ago a similar university building collapsed in Netherlands I believe. Even if it didn't, just because something happens the first time, doesn't mean the official report is wrong. A lot of things happen the first time, like a nuclear plant has exploded only once in history.
The NIST report states that fuel had nothing to do with the collapse.
So we can all have it as a reference instead of vaguely referring to it, here's a summary: []

I had a theory that the faked Iraqi soldier abuse photos were faked by the government to cast doubt on the [genuine] photos of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse. I had zero evidence for this theory; I just knew someone had faked photos of British soldiers abusing Iraqi POWs and thought about who would be the most likely group to benefit from this.

Similarly, I think that if 9/11 was a plot by the US government [I am very, but not totally, confident that it wasn't], it would have been far simpler to actually train suicide bombers to fly into the World Trade Centr... (read more)

[-][anonymous]13y 0

South Park did this story: Mystery of the Urinal Deuce

The way people interpret the data in favor of one side or the other has more to do with the basic assumptions under which they operate. I want to write an article about this.

So if you are one who generally distrusts the government like most libertarians you will find it easy to see a conspiracy. If you generally trust the government you will tend to dismiss any conspiracy.

One question you have to ask yourself in this specific context is: what do you think about secret services in general(not only the american ones), what is their mission? Once you understand that they are not there to protect the people or democracy but to advance the geopolitical interests of their respective nations you are set.

Redirecting discussion from here []. Surely the question is "What caused WTC7 to collapse" - we would have no cause to ask about explosives if it hadn't collapsed? It is known with great confidence that two commercial airliners with tanks full of jet fuel crashed into nearby buildings six hours earlier, causing their total collapse. That's an unlikely enough event. The conjunction of two airliners crashed into nearby buildings AND planted explosives is by necessity less likely.
Seeing a conspiracy requires a distrust of the government AND an astoundingly high opinion of their competence.
Are you implying that this is a contradiction?

Not a contradiction, but they are two distinct claims. Whether the government is untrustworthy and whether it's competent are separate arguments.

Most libertarian criticisms of the government that i've heard have focused on arguments that the government is inefficient and incompetent.

What are you talking about with the Secret Services?
I don't understand your question.
In the original comment to which I responded, you make a query about "what do you think about secret services in general, what is their mission?" Where you referring to THE Secret Service... Or to more general services of some sort that also happen to be secret?
I assume that by "secret services" he was referring to the CIA (known for covert ops and espionage), rather than the agency called the Secret Service (known for its presidential bodyguards).
Secret services in general all over the world: Russian FSB, british MI6, CIA, NSA, etc... I mean it in the sense of wikipedia: Secret service, umbrella term for various kinds of police or intelligence organizations [])
That's a rather loose association of organizations there, as they each have a very different mission (although MI6 & CIA are mostly on the same page for each respective country). The NSA, though, is mostly just about crypto and hiding things, where the others are usually more concerned with finding things. They are a sort of necessary evil that really needs some newer controls for their operations in this day and age.
BTW, here [] is a handy graphic representing the relation between the various U.S. intelligence agencies.

I, Eliezer Yudkowsky, do now publicly announce that I am not planning to commit suicide, at any time ever, but particularly not in the next couple of weeks


You might be interested to know that there are plenty of truthers who believe controlled demolition IS disinformation. Your whimsical idea is not a new one.

Personally, I think controlled demolition was necessary to bring down the buildings, as flying an airplane into a skyscraper won't make the skyscraper fall down. Why the planes, then? To prove that it was terrorists. Planes = suicide = zealots = terrorists.

It's too bad we can't just move the comments from the other thread over here. What I was getting at is that I think just listing improbable events and strange coincidences is noise. We have an accepted account of what happened and a bunch of evidence supporting that account. If you want to provide a case for a conspiracy you actually need to provide a hypothesis and show how that hypothesis is a better explanation of the evidence than the standard account.
That's a very reasonable objection. It's certainly true that if you look at anything in enough detail, be it 9/11, the JFK assassination, or the king james bible, you'll start to notice peculiarities. To reply to your post in the other thread: The insurance check went to larry silverstein, owner of the WTC complex (who purchased it two months prior to the attacks. Sorry if that's just noise). Presumably this was his slice of the pie for facilitating the operation, the PRIMARY motive of which was to create a pretext for war and politically beneficial hysteria.
Wouldn't Silverstein collect plenty just from the towers?
By that logic, why should rich people ever take risks at all? Aren't they already rich? I'd say it was a pretty smart move on his part. Conspiracies don't get revealed by the straw that breaks the camel's back anyway, the camel is already buried in a mountain of straw, the trick is finding the needle... I've mixed my metaphors. But you get the point. Considering he's sitting pretty, greedily taking that seventh box of money was the optimal move.
The question isn't "Why the planes". It's "Why the explosives." After all, as you say, the planes already sufficed to imply terrorists, so that's all that would be needed to incite war or whatever the motive was.
Destroying skyscrapers is a far bigger punch to america's gut than impotently crunching planes into them.
Let me guess: goading the terrorists into hijacking and piloting the jets into the buildings was easy enough, but getting the terrorists to plant sufficient explosives in the structure to demolish straight up (with intentionally lax security) would have been beyond the competence and reach of your conspirators? After all, terrorists like to put explosives somewhere and detonate them; why do the conspirators have to do it and then frame up the terrorists?
Well, as I said in cheesy equation form three comments above you, using planes cements the notion of suicide bombing. If some shady guys plant explosives somewhere, they could've been working for anybody, but if the method necessarily involves killing themselves, it has to be the work of somebody crazy. Additionally, doing this all with just a few pairs of box-cutters is much more fear-inspiring than doing it with explosives. If all it takes to bring down a skyscraper is the will to throw away your life, there's nothing we can do to save ourselves but retreat into jingoistic paranoia, or so the thinking goes. As mentioned elsewhere in the thread, many truthers don't think there really were any hijackers at all, but it's possible an inside job involved them, not too long ago the CIA was arming and funding the mujahideen, they were a tool of US foreign policy. On september 10th 2001, george hw bush was at a meeting of the carlyle group, together with shafiq bin laden, but that's probably a meaningless coincidence, it's not like he's osama's brother or anything. He's only his half-brother.
It's quite clear that you're desperate to confirm. Box cutters and airliner hijackings - no, those were not more terrifying to me than the idea that terrorists can plant explosives sufficient to demolish any building I might be in. Consider the likelihood of another box-cutter airliner hijacking succeeding after seeing the consequence (3rd plane arguably proved this). People didn't fight vs. box-cutters only because they had some hope of hijackers landing the plane safely. Someone was at a meeting with someone else? So? CIA doing shady things - generally true, but what does that demonstrate? You fail because all the details you point out that are somewhat more likely given conspiracy (than no conspiracy) and the observed evidence, are not nearly as impressive as your bias leads you to think, and more tellingly, you think arguing over how impressive they are matters at all, when even a 100-fold difference is still dwarfed by: 1) the details you weren't motivated to select, which in fact weigh in the opposite direction (the official straightforward story of how the buildings collapsed is likely true); or as a proxy for that, a lack of appreciation for the expected number of cool coincidences about any significant event that draws the attention and imagination of millions of people. 2) your incredibly wrong prior for the leadership of the US wanting planes full of its citizens crashed into buildings, and worse, wanting the economic damage (including deaths) of the full collapse of those buildings.
I've attempted to simply reply to people's questions and objections as they're made, thus visiting the weaker parts of my position. The evidence for controlled demolition, the starting point of this argument, is far from unimpeachable. I certainly wouldn't call it a "slam-dunk", and there are many truthers who think it's misinformation, as yudkowsky jokingly proposes. The best evidence of complicity, at least in my opinion, is the behavior of the administration following the attacks. Their efforts to hinder the investigation are a matter of public record, and quite inarguable. [] I am sorry for linking to things rather than making my arguments in my own words, but I'm arguing with about a dozen people at this point and I'm spread pretty thin.
As far as I can tell you haven't actually said whether you yourself actually believe this stuff. Do you?
Generally this theory is said to imply that the planes were remote controlled , correct? I've always wondered how this theory fits in with all of the dead passengers. Could you explain that please?* *I apologize for any perceived troll-feeding, I've always wanted to understand this.
The truthers diverge widely on this. Some think there really were muslim hijackers, some think the planes were swapped with drones and the passengers were shot in the head or something, some think the passengers and crew were knocked out or killed with gas while the planes were in the air, and then they were flown by autopilot into their targets. You'd be hard pressed to find two truthers who agree about what really happened on 9/11, just as you'd be hard pressed to find two singularitarians who agree about the singularity. As the saying goes, the fringe likes to fray. All the theories are quite contorted, but it's important to bear in mind that the official story is also contorted, and full of holes to boot. It's just that we're familiar with it. For instance, those cell phone calls from 30000 feet? []

I didn't watch your video, but most of the "impossible" calls were from flipping GTE Airphones, not cell phones.

The calls that were actually made by cellular phones (near the end) would certainly have been possible.

(I was an RF engineer for a mobile phone company until I changed jobs this year)

I hesitate to post this, because... debating 9/11 conspiracy people on Less Wrong?!

At least we don't have any "fundies" yet. ;)
As the video explains, it later came to light that flight 77 did not HAVE airphones.
I'm done after this, but nothing I've read ever claimed that flight had used them. And as I've said, the mobile phone calls would have been certainly possible. You accept that airplanes can have radio contact with the ground as part of normal operation, but have trouble with the idea that the radios in mobile phones could work? (Yes they are lower power, but they're just radios.)
I suggest you read this []
That's not difficult at all. The remote control of the planes was designed to be used in the event of a hijack. That means once activated there is no possibility for anyone on the plane, not even the pilot to do anything about it. Probably the passengers weren't even aware of what was happening because I suppose the pilots didn't tell them "Ahem, I just want you to know that we are no longer in control of this plane. Keep your calm." The blackboxes could reveal what happened but, conveniently they didn't survive, at least that's the official story. Regarding the passengers what is hard to explain is why the alleged terrorists don't appear on the passenger lists and all the passengers on the list really died so there is no possibility of someone having flown under false identity. Edit: Maybe I should make this clear. There were some companies who have a built in anti-hijack system that allows the plane to be overtaken and controlled from the outside. Those are not special planes. More info at: []

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