Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pathetic Fail #5: Jack Holmes and Esquire

Jack Holmes,
Accessory after the Fact
[source: Daily Beast]
Number 5 : Jack Holmes and Esquire, for "Disproving 9 of the Biggest 9/11 Conspiracy Theories"

We continue our review of pathetic propaganda disasters with a piece from Jack Holmes and Esquire. It begins with one of the niftiest bits of verbal gymnastics I have seen in a long time. Get a load of this:
An extraordinary event requires an extraordinary explanation. But for some, the idea that 19 men could commandeer four commercial airliners in a coordinated attack and use them as 400-ton missiles to destroy such massive buildings still doesn't make sense.
There's magic in them there words, and it's powerful magic, too.

You don't believe me? Read it again, without the magic:
An extraordinary event requires an extraordinary explanation. For some, the idea that 19 men could commandeer four commercial airliners in a coordinated attack and use them as 400-ton missiles to destroy such massive buildings doesn't make sense.
Now read it again, the original text this time, with emphasis on the magical words:
An extraordinary event requires an extraordinary explanation. But for some, the idea that 19 men could commandeer four commercial airliners in a coordinated attack and use them as 400-ton missiles to destroy such massive buildings still doesn't make sense.
I can't disagree with Jack Holmes when he says, "An extraordinary event requires an extraordinary explanation." This is clearly true. Who could disagree?

And I can't argue against the statement that "for some, the idea that 19 men could commandeer four commercial airliners [...] and use them [...] to destroy [...] massive buildings doesn't make sense." This is clearly true as well.

So we have two statements that nobody could deny, strung together and twisted with the words "but" and "still" to create the implication that the official explanation should make sense to everybody because it's extraordinary, as was the attack. And that makes no sense on the face of it.

The attack was extraordinary in many ways. It was certainly extraordinary in scale and ferocity. It was also an extraordinarily brazen attack, and one that would be, under normal conditions, extraordinarily unlikely to succeed.

The official explanation is extraordinary in many ways as well. It arrived with extraordinarily promptness; we "knew" Osama bin Laden was behind the attack before it was even over, and we "knew" the twin towers had "collapsed" due to "damage from aircraft impact and the resulting fires" almost as quickly. It was also extraordinarily flexible; we got three very different stories about why the Air Force didn't stop those "400-ton missiles" which were on course to "destroy massive buildings." But above all, the official explanation is extraordinarily implausible, in more ways than Jack Holmes cares to admit.

But many readers won't take the time to think this through, and there's the magic. If you don't think too much about the magical opening passage, it all looks true, but if you pay attention to the magic words, you can see that Jack Holmes is kicking off his attempt to "disprove" the "conspiracy theories" by sneakily implying that the official explanation should satisfy everyone because the attack and the explanation were both extraordinary -- i.e. because the attack was extraordinarily unlikely and the explanation is extraordinarily implausible.

This is as twisted as anyone could hope for, because in the world of sane people, an extraordinary event requires an extraordinarily credible explanation.

Unexpected: The top of the South Tower turns
to dust as explosives pulverize the steel and
concrete below the damaged zone. This was
called a "collapse." [source: Esquire]
If a scientist sees something unexpected in an experiment, and a colleague offers a loopy explanation, the scientist doesn't say, "Well that must be it, then. It's a weird explanation, but it was a weird event, so you must be right!" On the contrary: The stranger the event, the more plausible, the more thorough, and the better supported the explanation must be, otherwise nobody will believe it. But we're not supposed to think this way about 9/11, according to Jack Holmes.

The rest of his "appetizer" is not quite so magical, so I want to focus on the "main course," so to speak. Jack Holmes has written a catchy and provocative headline, and it made me wonder: How will he "disprove 9 of the biggest 9/11 conspiracy theories"?

Jack Holmes says he will do it through the use of evidence:
Below are nine of the most prominent theories, as well as the evidence explaining why they simply don't add up.
"Aha!" I thought. "Now we're getting somewhere. Most defenders of the official story run away from evidence as fast as they can. They want to talk about other things. But this is better. Or at least, this promises to be better."

And what's the evidence? What evidence does Jack Holmes have? The answer is ... a rehash of Popular Mechanics!

Jack Holmes not only copies the format used by Popular Mechanics in its infamous "Debunking 9/11" fiasco, he also quotes freely from it.

The format: (1) Reduce all the implausible aspects of the official story to a short list of bullet points. (2) Then, for each point: Reduce all the relevant evidence and all its implications to a single sentence, a crazy one if possible; then "debunk" it with a "telling quote" from an "expert source."

It's a combination of logical fallacies, primarily Special Pleading, Straw Man, and Appeal to Authority. And it's all predicated on the notion that "denied" means the same as "debunked." In other words, if Jack Holmes can find one "expert" who says X is false, then X is false and that's the end of the discussion. The one statement settles the matter and closes the case forever, no matter how much or how little sense it makes, no matter how much or how little evidence supports it.

For example:

The theory: The two holes in the Pentagon after the attack—75 and 12 feet wide—were too small to have been carved by a 125-foot-wide jet. Some theories have concluded the attack was actually carried out with a satellite-guided missile.

The debunk: "A crashing jet doesn't punch a cartoon-like outline of itself into a reinforced concrete building," says Popular Mechanics, citing Mete Sozen, a structural engineering expert at Purdue University. One wing hit the ground, while the other was torn off by the force of impact. "What was left of the plane flowed into the structure in a state closer to liquid than a solid mass." The 12-foot hole was punched through by the plane's landing gear.
There are multiple obvious problems with this attempted refutation.

If "one wing hit the ground," why are there no scars on the lawn? Why is there no broken-off wing? What happened to the fuel in the wing? If "one wing hit the ground," even if that wing magically bounced through the hole and into the Pentagon, even if all the fuel that was in the wing burned in a great fireball that nobody saw or reported, we should still see a large patch of black where the grass used to be green. This is what's always left behind when there's been a fire. So what happened to it this time?

And if the other wing "was torn off by the force of impact," where did it go? Mete Sozen isn't saying, and we can probably take that as a hint that he doesn't know.

As for the rest of the plane, are we supposed to believe it "almost" melted, rather than crumpling and breaking up, as all the other planes that have ever crashed have done?

And even if the force of the impact caused the plane to "almost" melt, how did all that "almost" molten metal get through the hole?

It's all very mysterious; nothing like this has ever happened before or since; the explanation is literally incredible, and Mete Sozen has a long track record of telling obvious lies about 9/11.

He explained the "collapse" of the twin towers by talking about fire heating the steel until "the steel goes away." He demonstrated the plane crashing into the Pentagon using a computer simulation which shows the plane's engines disappearing on impact.

How was this computer simulation built? One can only imagine: "What happened to the engines?" "Nobody knows. We can't find any sign of engine damage in the building." "Well, can't we make up something the Truthers might believe?" "Probably not." "Well, then, just get rid of the engines! Make them go away!"

Maybe the words are not quite verbatim, but this is clearly the level of integrity that we're dealing with here. Mete Sozen is one of the most infamous accessories after the fact, reviled by anyone who has studied the issue. Why should we believe him this time? Especially when his "explanation" makes no sense.

This is a representative sample of Jack Holmes' work, both the style of presentation and the "depth" of research. It's a lame enough fail to make my short list all on its own, but there are eight more lame fails with it. 

Here's another example, possibly even a better one:

The theory: In the days leading up to September 11, a large volume of American and United Airlines stock was traded—and in many cases shorted, or bet against—by people who had prior knowledge of the attacks.

The debunk: Bloomberg Trade Book data did show much higher than normal put option volume (people betting against the stock of American and United) in the weeks and days leading up to the attacks, Snopes reports, including a volume 100 times above average on the Thursday before. However, the 9/11 Commission found no evidence those trades were the result of prior knowledge. For example, "a single U.S.-based institutional investor with no conceivable ties to al Qaeda purchased 95 percent" of the put options on United's parent company on September 6, according to the report, while "much of the seemingly suspicious trading in American [stock] on September 10 was traced to a specific U.S.-based options trading newsletter, faxed to its subscribers on Sunday, September 9."

As that's a government report, the conspiracists will likely remain unconvinced.
Quoting the 9/11 Commission to prove the official story is like quoting the Bible to prove that Jesus was born of a virgin. It's convincing for those who already believe it, but it doesn't do anything for the skeptics except confirm their opinion. Surely any other source, any other evidence, would be more convincing. And Jack Holmes knows this. That's why he says, "that's a government report, [so] the conspiracists will likely remain unconvinced." So why does he offer nothing else? Because he's got nothing else to offer. That's why!

Again there are multiple problems with the attempted refutation. It may well be true that "95 percent of the put options on United's parent company" were purchased by "a single U.S.-based institutional investor with no conceivable ties to al Qaeda." But is this a legitimate reason not to investigate the investor? Or is it a hint that al Qaeda may not have been behind the attacks at all? What conceivable ties does this U.S.-based institutional investor have, exactly? How could he have known? What was the object of the trade? Was he gambling millions of dollars on a hunch? We'll never know because the 9/11 Commission wasn't the slightest bit curious about anybody who wasn't obviously and intimately connected with al Qaeda.

And it may be true that "much of the seemingly suspicious trading in American [stock] on September 10 was traced to a specific U.S.-based options trading newsletter, faxed to its subscribers on Sunday, September 9." But in what way does this imply that whoever sent the newsletter on September 9 had no idea what was going to happen on September 11? Here, the Commission doesn't even offer the lame excuse of "no conceivable connection," which suggests the question: Did the author of this newsletter have some conceivable connection with al Qaeda?

Maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe the suspicion of inside knowledge is ruled out by the fact that the newsletter was faxed, because terrorists don't know how to use fax machines.

It's all so very lame, especially when we know that serious investigators always "follow the money." But in this case it appears they ran away from the money, even by their own account.

In sum, even if it's true, this "explanation" is a pathetic fail because it does nothing to prove or even support the official story, nor does it state or even imply -- let alone prove -- that the investors who bought the suspicious put options had no prior knowledge of the attack.

What it does prove -- whether it be true or false -- is that the so-called "investigation" was set up to run backwards: First they decided who did it, then they decided which evidence to consider, based on whether or not it agreed with their predetermined conclusions. This is probably why defenders of the official story accuse "conspiracy theorists" of "cherry-picking evidence." They always accuse us of the very things they themselves are doing.

But there's good reason to believe that the core of this "debunk" is false, because we've had a number of reliable reports indicating that the bulk of the suspicious insider trading was carried out by a German bank closely affiliated with a certain "former" high-ranking CIA officer, which makes ties to al Qaeda slightly less than "inconceivable," does it not?

al Qaeda, you may recall, was allied with the CIA before and after 9/11, but not during, at least according to defenders of the official story.

Again, this "debunk" is sufficiently pathetic to put Jack Holmes on my short list, even if he had not qualified already.

But let's look at one more example. This one shows the same technique, but with a slightly different twist:

The theory: Conspiracists seized on news reports in the immediate aftermath of the attacks—particularly one from the BBC—that reported various hijacker suspects identified by authorities were actually still alive and well. This indicates that the attacks had been carried out by actors with other means.

The debunk: The people who were found to still be alive in those reports were different people with similar or identical names to the hijackers, as other BBC reports showed. "The confusion over names and identities we reported back in 2001 may have arisen because these were common Arabic and Islamic names," a subsequent report suggests, adding that both the 9/11 Commission and the FBI are confident they correctly identified the 19 hijackers.
The main problem here concerns the disappearing layers of detail.

The first BBC piece linked by Jack Holmes, which was published in September of 2001, reports on four of the hijackers who survived their martyrdom, beginning with Waleed Al Shehri. It explains that he saw his name and his photograph on the news, along with the name of the flight school he had attended, so he was sure he was the man the FBI had named as a suicide hijacker.

The second BBC piece refers to yet another BBC piece, published in October of 2006, which acknowledges some confusion but certainly does not refute -- or even refer to -- the 2001 story.

In other words, the 2006 piece does not state or even imply that Waleed Al Shehri was the one who was confused. It doesn't even mention Waleed Al Shehri at all. So it's difficult to see how the 2006 story could be used to support the claim made here by Jack Holmes, or by the BBC editors, for that matter.

Crucially, we're still left with the mystery of how "different people with similar or identical names" could have posed for identical photographs and attended the same flight school.

But once again, it's a case where the refutation doesn't have to be thorough, plausible, or credible in any way. A "denial" is as good as a "debunking" as far as Jack Holmes is concerned. And why?

The BBC article that supposedly settles the question also says:
There is no direct evidence in the public domain linking Osama Bin Laden to the 11 September attacks. At best the evidence is circumstantial. [...]

The evidence is not being judged in a court of law. It only needs to persuade governments around the world to back the US-led war on terrorism and to a lesser extent to carry public opinion.
As Dr. David Ray Griffin says, "The evidence wasn't good enough to go to court, but it was good enough to go to war!"

And it looks as if the BBC itself was (and still is) trying "to persuade governments around the world to back the US-led war on terrorism and to a lesser extent to carry public opinion," which is totally more important than petty insignificant details like getting a credible account of what happened, and who did it, and why -- or seeing that the perpetrators are brought to justice. But as far as Jack Holmes can see, the FBI's word is gold, even if it took them five years to not find any direct evidence implicating the mastermind who was fingered on the very morning of the attack.

And the BBC's word is gold too, and so is the unnamed subsequent report. Nobody can say, "Wait a minute! What about the photograph? What about the flight school? You're positing one of the craziest coincidences ever, without even a shred of evidence." That would be too journalistic, apparently. Too confrontational. Insufficiently dedicated to persuading governments around the world, and to a lesser extent carrying public opinion.

Jack Holmes gives us six more bullet points, but there's no point grinding through them all. This is America, right? Three strikes and you're out!

Sorry, Jack! You lose! If this is the best you can do, maybe you ought to find something else to write about -- at least until you learn to do your own research.

Sorry, Esquire! You lose, too! Maybe this drivel is good enough for guys who are mostly thinking about how much their next suit is gonna cost, but for real people who are really connected to the real world ... no! sorry! That's a big sad fail!

I said at the top that Jack Holmes' magical implication "makes no sense on the face of it." But then again, maybe it does make sense, if you consider that it's coming from a bright young man who knows where his next meal is coming from, if not his next suit. Don't bite the hand that feeds you, Jackie Boy! Don't rock the boat! We need more young men like yourself, clever and clueless and eager to peddle transparent lies in support of our indefensible fiction!

It's an extraordinarily pathetic fail, if you ask me. It's almost as if Jack Holmes were a closet Truther, putting out the weakest nonsense he could find, trying to lead his readers to the obvious logical leap -- since this is the best evidence that can be marshaled in defense of the official story, the story must be 100% phony -- without running the risk of saying so in plain English. 

But in the final analysis, there's no evidence to support this line of thinking, and therefore no good reason to believe it. I think we have to assume that Jack Holmes meant what he said and said what he meant. In other words, I don't think he's a cowardly Truther. I think he's a pathetic Liar.

As I've been saying:
The facts must be suppressed, and the people who are trying to gather and disseminate those facts must be suppressed, and that is the one and only thing that matters to these people. And why? Why would you hide the crime unless you were trying to protect the criminals?