September eleventh, 2001 is a day that will be remembered and commemorated by most Americans for the rest of their lives. Terror gripped the country as members of the terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial flights. The passengers of all four flights perished in the subsequent crashes: two into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and the final flight crash landing outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Despite the factually based evidence that supports al-Qaeda’s role in these attacks, there are still individuals that claim that these attacks were a “false flag” operation executed by the U.S. government and its allies (particularly Israel) in order to justify an invasion of Afghanistan and to restrict civil liberties of residents of the United States. The belief that the American government carried out the September eleventh attacks for personal gain has been adopted and molded by several entities, but this module will focus on three conspiracy theorists named Alex Jones, Thierry Meyssan and Louis Farrakhan.

Before these conspiracy theorists are discussed any further, the objective of this module needs to be made extremely clear. This module does not support any of these men’s claims; rather, this module seeks to identify the common fallacies employed by these conspiracy theorists. Out of these three individuals, Alex Jones is the leading voice on all things conspiracy. Alex Jones is an American conspiracy theorist that first garnered fame for blaming the U.S. government for the bombings of Oklahoma City in 1995[1]. He is a firm believer that the world is run by what he calls “The New World Order”, a group of super elite families (the Clinton family, the Bush family, etc.) that secretly run the governments of the world for monetary gain. This sound bite[2] exemplifies how evil Jones considers this secret society to be. Seeing that he is convinced this secret society has its hand in every major government, Alex Jones firmly believes that the September eleventh attacks were a false flag operation carried out by the Bush administration. A false flag operation is when one side of a conflict intentionally attacks their own side disguised as the enemy in order to justify further aggression. In Alex Jones’ eyes, the Bush administration waved the false flag of Al Qaeda during these attacks to prompt an invasion of Afghanistan. Though Jones is keen at pointing out curious coincidences surrounding the date of the attacks[3], he fails to provide factual links to motive. The closest he gets to actually identifying why the attacks were a false flag operation is in the form of the Clinton family’s connection with the Saudi Arabian government[4]. This connection proposed is using the false cause fallacy where a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other[5]. Outside of providing factual evidence, Jones loses all credibility by claiming to be knowledgeable in fields he has no experience or education in. This is best exemplified by the products he sells on his website InfoWars. Figure 1 depicts a supplement named Brain Force, a pill described to shield one’s brain from the harmful toxins distributed via our food and water by the government. It is no debate that Alex Jones is entertaining from a comical perspective, but the marketing of vague products such as these with no scientific background points to economic gain as the motivation rather than sincerity.

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Figure 1:This is the first product offered at the InfoWars store. This supplement is described to combat the toxins distributed in our food and water. The only scientific authority given is “our chemists”. Retrieved from http://www.infowarsstore.com/brain-force.html

The next proponent of this conspiracy is the French intellectual Thierry Meyssan. Meyssan’s connection to this theory comes in the form of his two books 9/11: The Big Lie and Pentagate. His current work is disseminated through Voltaire Network, a news outlet founded by Meyssan that analyzes the implications of international relations[6]. When analyzing Meyssan’s work on the September eleventh attacks his evidence is largely supported by “eyewitness accounts”[7], but these eyewitnesses accuse Meyssan of taking their words out of context[8]. Contrary to Meyssan’s insistence that a missile struck the outer wall of the Pentagon, these two eyewitnesses cited in his book are clearly refuting his claims. This is a clear indication that Meyssan’s work on the September eleventh attacks have no factual base, and like Alex Jones he is motivated by monetary gain.

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Figure 2: Journalists Mike Walter and Joel Sucherman recall their eyewitness accounts of the plane crash at the Pentagon. Both explained that Meyssan twisted their words in order to support the content of his book. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4-Rl8qDw_8

 

 

 

 

The last supporter of the theory that the September eleventh attacks were a false flag operation carried out by the American government is Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI). Born Louis Eugene Walcott, Farrakhan was a musician before joining the NOI in 1955[9]. Farrakhan’s involvement with this conspiracy theory differs from Jones and Meyssan in that he explicitly blames “…many Israelis and Zionist Jews in key roles in the 9/11 attacks.”[10]. Farrakhan’s words strike an alarming anti-Semitic tone as he boils down the blame of the September eleventh attacks to a hatred of a religion. He comes to the defense of Osama Bin Laden, yet detracts from this specific point by asking “But if it was not Muslims, then who?” Farrakhan is committing the composition/division fallacy that occurs when one assumes that one part of something applies to its whole or vice versa[11]. Farrakhan shifts from defending al-Qaeda to defending the religion of Islam even though not all Muslims are members of al-Qaeda, and he commits the same fallacy when he suggests that all Zionists are Jews. As he speaks on behalf of the NOI, Farrakhan is well aware of the audience he is preaching to in the video. He has a duty as the leader of the NOI to keep the organization afloat, and he does this by inciting fear in his audience. Citing Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion, “…the more frightened a person is by a communication, the more likely he or she is to take positive preventive action.” (Pratkanis and Aronson, 163). He preaches that all Muslims are being used as a scapegoat for these attacks, and his “desired preventive action” is to strengthen the NOI through donation and increased membership.

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Figure 3: Louis Farrakhan cite “experts” who say the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings was a controlled demolition carried out by Israelis. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXqTcw8Q4f)

For all of the lunacy presented by these conspiracy theorists, their claims do raise valid concerns. Prior to Alex Jones’ presentation of his evidence he brought up the idea that questioning one’s government is a form of patriotism, and I agree with him in a sense. It is clear that his logic and motivations are inconsistent, but it is worthwhile to attempt to become informed on the reasoning for government policy. The distinction here is to identify factual news outlets that are not biased by an agenda. In the case of Thierry Meyssan, he cites the American government’s initial response to the attacks. He reasons that the state of emergency enacted by the government was unnecessary and set a tone of panic that directly led to the creation of the Patriot Act[12]. His knowledge of the American government’s actions on this day can most definitely be called into question, but even taking his words as hypothetical can be beneficial. Relating back to Alex Jones’ point, no government should go unquestioned. Both of these men are justified in their shared ideal of gaining the truth from governments, but they fall short by supporting conspiracy theories that have no factual evidence.

Beyond the biases motivating these three individuals to continue the idea that the American government had a hand in the September eleventh attacks, the conspiracy theory itself does not stand on its own. This module will be using a checklist to use when encountering conspiracy theories courtesy of RationalWiki[13]. Beginning with logistics, the most valid question to ask is number nine: If they are organized through known channels or entities, how do they keep non-members who work there from uncovering the conspiracy? In the case of this theory, any subscriber is accepting that George Bush and his staff kept their plot a complete secret to the entire U.S. government and this in itself is impossible. Unless the entirety of the government shared the motivations proposed by this conspiracy theory, someone would have blown the whistle. Moving on to benefits, the best question to raise is the first: Who gains what from the conspiracy and for what price? The Bush administration gains justification to invade Afghanistan in this scenario but at the price of thousands of lives. If the members had this little regard for human life, they never would have sworn to protect the American people in the first place. The last question to combat this theory deals with exposure and raises the question why rival nations have not already exposed this conspiracy. If the American government was exposed to be intentionally killing innocent people, they would instantly lose all credibility as a nation and would subsequently open a power vacuum. If the evidence was there, it would have already been exposed at this point.

When confronted with conspiracy theories such as the one discussed in this module, the first step should be identifying who is presenting the message. InfoWars for example gives off the persona of a news station at first glance, yet it falls apart after minimal research and product assessment. The Internet has made information readily available at the click of a button, but the increased availability does not mean increased credibility. It is natural and constructive to question authority, whatever form it may come in. By becoming as knowledgeable as possible on an issue while also paying attention to the author of the messages received, you will be doing more for those who perished on September 11th, 2001 than any supporter of this conspiracy theory will ever do.

[1] This article by RollingStone details Alex Jones’s roots and rise to fame. Zaitchik, A. “Meet Alex Jones”. RollingStone. 2011, March 2. Retrieved from http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/talk-radios-alex-jones-the-most-paranoid-man-in-america-20110302

[2] Starting at 27 seconds, Alex Jones proclaims the New World Order is run by “devil worshipping pedophiles”. [Morrakiu]. 2010, January 13. Lulzy Moments From Alex Jones. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HO_8wznxdj4&t=28s

[3] Beginning with an accusation of Dick Cheney ordering the planes not to be shot down, Alex Jones provides 10 pieces of evidence that he believes proves the September eleventh attacks were carried out by the Bush administration. [The Alex Jones Channel]. 2012, September 12. Smoking Gun Evidence That 9/11 was an Inside Job. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4za9OSalz4

[4] Alex Jones’ media outlet InfoWars cites 28 unreleased pages of the 9/11 Commission Report

[5] Richardson, J., Smith, A., Meaden, S., Flip Creative. false cause. Retrieved from https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/false-cause

[6] Voltaire Network. About Voltaire Network. Retrieved from http://www.voltairenet.org/article150341.html

[7] This quote was taken from an Amazon book review of Meyssan’s book 9/11: The Big Lie. Amazon. Review of 9/11: The Big Lie. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/9-11-Big-Thierry-Meyssan/dp/1592090265

[8] Footage of eyewitnesses Mike Walter and Joel Sucherman directly refuting Meyssan’s description of their accounts. [ifoundthatvideo]. 2012, February 23. 9-11 Hoaxes – the Meyssan Conspiracy – 2002 Channel 4 Documentary Pt. 1. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4-Rl8qDw_8

[9] Mamiya, L. Biography of Louis Farrakhan. Encyclopedia Brittanica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Louis-Farrakhan

[10] The Final Call – Uncompromised News & Perspectives. Farrakhan on 9-11: What You Need to Know #FalseFlag. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXqTcw8Q4f0

[11] Richardson, J., Smith, A., Meaden, S., Flip Creative. composition/division. Retrieved from https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/composition-division

[12] Meyssan, T. (2014, September 16). Thirteen years after the September 11 attacks, blindness persists. Voltaire Network. Retrieved from https://www.voltairenet.org/article185330.html

[13] RationalWiki. Conspiracy theory checklist. Retrieved from http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Conspiracy_theory

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