Thursday, February 1, 2007

9/11 Speakers in Ann Arbor Draw Mixed Coverage

Scholars for 9/11 Truth Kevin Ryan, Kevin Barrett and Robert Bowman visited Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Sunday. Their presentation drew mixed coverage from the (very) local media (and nothing else).

They were joined by a handful of wingnuts wearing tinfoil hats who apparently didn't disrupt the presentation, but did disrupt some of the coverage.

Thus readers of the Michigan Daily read mostly about a small group called Young Americans for Freedom, who came to protest against the Scholars.

To make your reading task easier I've set all mention of the protesters in italics, descriptions of the presentation itself and reactions to it in bold, and other text in a normal font, so you can see at a glance how balanced these two stories are.

We'll start with the tin-foil-hatted wingnuts.

Conspiracy theorists stir controversy at Union: Right-wing student group lampoons group
By Paul Blumer | Daily Staff Reporter | 1/29/07

Three men came to the Michigan Union last night and argued that the government's investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was flawed and that the administration may have been involved in them.

Among those who spoke was Robert Bowman, a member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, a group that travels the country arguing that the government either allowed the attacks to happen or even perpetrated them itself.

Bowman described what he called inconsistencies in initial investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks. He said the construction engineer of the World Trade Center buildings considered the impact of plane crashes while designing the building. The building's engineer said the "building structure would remain intact" in the event of a direct plane crash, Bowman said.

"There are no experts in tall building fire collapse, because it doesn't happen," Bowman said. He described reports by several observers that before the collapse of the buildings, they heard a series of pops, or what sounded like secondary explosions.

Many eyewitness reports included descriptions of puffs of smoke reminiscent of professional building demolition, Bowman said.

But Popular Mechanics magazine, in a March 2005 cover story that refuted much of the evidence cited by conspiracy theorists, quoted a structural engineer who said the puffs of smoke came from the collapse of each floor as pressure built up from above.

Claims like Bowman's are "absurd," said Ryan Fantuzzi, vice president of the University's chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom, a far-right group that protested the event.

About a dozen YAF members stood wearing tin foil hats in the hallway around the entrance to the Union Ballroom last night.

Audience members entering the ballroom for the speech could not help but notice the outlandish-looking protesters. In addition to the hats, one carried a sign saying "Jedi ascertain the Sith did it." Others chanted "Bush Causes Cancer" and "Bush Killed Kenny."

The purpose of the sarcastic protest, according to members, was simply to poke fun at claims they thought were absurd.
It's interesting to see the word "absurd" here. Or is it?
YAF members described all sorts of government conspiracies through which the government controls the people.

Protesters jokingly said the foil hats would protect them from harmful mind control rays sent by cell phone towers.

Fantuzzi said the protest might remind audience members of what YAF members felt were more realistic explanations of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Where do wingnuts get the idea that the official conspiracy theory is not a conspiracy theory at all, let alone the idea that it's realistic?

No, no, don't tell me. Just let me blow off steam. You can blow off a bit of steam with me if you like.
"Humor is a useful tool," he said.
That's for sure!

Hey lookee here! Common ground between the nearly frozen blogger and a tin-foil-hatted wingnut conspiracy theorist!! What is this world coming to?
Audience members filed past the protesters, accepting cards at the door on which to write questions for Bowman. Few seemed deterred by the protest, and most passed by chuckling at the protesters' costumes.

Many members of the audience seemed to agree with the speeches. They nodded and whispered after several of Bowman's points.

Kevin Barrett, an associate lecturer at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Kevin Ryan, a former scientist for Underwriters Laboratories, also spoke.

Although the members of YAF and the speakers disagreed, the two groups didn't come to a confrontation.

The event and protest come just before YAF is scheduled to host a controversial event of its own.

The group plans to have what they bill as three former terrorists speak at Rackham Auditorium Tuesday night about the roots of terrorism and what prompted them to stop committing acts of terror.
As journalism, I have to say, that was really awful.

But it gets better better. The Ann Arbor News managed to ignore the distraction.

Alternate 9/11 theory draws crowd: Panel speakers suggest U.S. government was behind attacks
by Lisa Allmendinger | News Special Writer | Monday, January 29, 2007

Their theory is that explosives planted throughout the World Trade Center - not the burning fuel from the jetliners that crashed into the buildings - brought the Twin Towers down on Sept. 11, 2001.

That proposition was intriguing enough that about 300 people showed up Sunday, some out of simple curiosity, at the Michigan Union in Ann Arbor to hear three speakers explain why they believe the U.S. government - not fanatical Muslim terrorists - was behind the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The crowd dwindled considerably during the three-hour panel discussion, "The War on Truth: 9/11 and Our Civil Rights," sponsored by Scholars for 9/11, a national group that says the government's version of the events surrounding the terrorist attacks is "a pack of lies."

The three speakers urged the audience to examine all the evidence and ask for an independent investigation of the events surrounding Sept. 11, 2001.

Before the discussion, about 10 University of Michigan student protesters, carrying signs and wearing tinfoil hats, milled about outside the Michigan ballroom, saying they represented a group called Young Americans for Freedom.

"We're here to make a point," said Ryan Fantuzzi, vice president of the group. "To show just how absurd these claims are."
There's that word again.
But others wanted to hear what the speakers had to say.

"I'm here to get a little more information," said Johnny Rennella of Ann Arbor before the discussion began. "I have a couple of friends who were recently deployed to Iraq, so it's hitting closer to home for me."

Inside the ballroom, the three speakers asked people to help them "spread the truth." Scholars for 9/11, and other groups like it, believes the attacks were staged by the government as an excuse to implement various policies, including attacking oil-rich countries. The foundation for their argument is the videos and other evidence that they say show the collapse of the Twin Towers was more like a controlled demolition.

It's not scientifically possible that two planes crashing into the buildings and the ensuing fire could cause these "unprecedented building failures," said Kevin Ryan, a former site manager for Environmental Health Laboratories, a division of Underwriters Laboratories Inc. He said he was fired from his job after questioning the World Trade Center draft report in October 2004.

Dr. Robert Bowman, president of the Institute for Space and Security Studies and an unsuccessful Democratic Congressional candidate from Florida, received rousing support from the crowd when he called for "a truly independent investigation of 9/11 without White House interference ... with no pre-determined conclusions."

The third speaker was Dr. Kevin Barrett, an associate lecturer in Islamic and Arabic Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Matthew Fingerle and Shane Michael drove to Ann Arbor from Ft. Wayne, Ind., to hear the speakers.

"We know what happened, we've heard them speak before, but we wanted to see them in person," Michael said. "We know this will be hard for people to accept."

For more information about this organization, go to
What more can I say? Three cheers for Lisa Allmendinger, and a slap across the head for Paul Blumer!