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A Bestiary of the 9/11 Truth Movement: Notes from the Front Line

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salvorhardin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-18-11 03:01 PM
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A Bestiary of the 9/11 Truth Movement: Notes from the Front Line
A heavily excerpted excerpt from a long article, just to give readers a general overview of Bartlett and Miller's observations about the social groups making up the 9-11 Truth movement.

Two social scientists describe their experience confronting the 9/11 Truth movement in the United Kingdom after they published a paper linking conspiracy theories with extremist ideology. They argue that the 9/11 Truth movement is composed of three groups and that each accepts the conspiracy meme for different reasons.

...

The first can be called the hardcore group. ... The hardcore groups involvement in 9/11 Truth is monochrome and Manichean: its a good/bad, black/white struggle against an oppressive influence whose existence hardcore members believe they are on the cusp of proving.

The second layer could be called the critically turned group. ...more than anything, the critically turneds membership in 9/11 Truth arises from anger at the political order they will soon inherit. It is too closed. There is too much power in the hands of too few. Their sense of justice and idealism is rudely confronted by a world of state espionage, links between big business and government, and lies over weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

...

Finally there is a much larger, more diffuse group, which we term the illiterati. They are people for whom membership in 9/11 Truth is as much a social and recreational pursuit as an exercise in critical inquiry.

Full article: http://www.csicop.org/si/show/a_bestiary_of_the_9_11_tr...


Some of these observations have been made here, repeatedly, although I think the skeptics that take part in this forum (myself included) have a bad habit of lumping everybody together. Yet, I don't think there's any reason to think these groups are mutually exclusive. Nor do I think they're somehow endemic to 9-11 Truth.
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MrMickeysMom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-18-11 03:32 PM
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1. What about intellectually curious people who happen to believe...
... that a lot of imbalance resided within branches (CIA, NSA, OSA, military "industrial complex" in general) and that the United States is not unique in being above the law through these agencies to kill either one president, or a few thousand people to start a war?

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zappaman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-18-11 05:07 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. maybe what those intellectually curious people need to do is...
prove those agencies killed a president and/or a few thousand people.
So far, they have not come even remotely close on either count.
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Name removed Donating Member (0 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-18-11 07:39 PM
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3. Deleted message
Message removed by moderator. Click here to review the message board rules.
 
OnTheOtherHand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-18-11 07:46 PM
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4. a quick reaction just to what you've quoted
I try not to do things this way!

I think there are people whose politics aren't all that different from mine -- so, who may have been predisposed to believe that 9/11 was an inside job, but not decisively so -- who, for reasons I don't entirely understand, bought into some odd scientific claims and can't find their way out. Just based on those descriptions, I'm reluctant to place them into any of those groups.
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salvorhardin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-18-11 10:09 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. I think the authors could have done without the, umm, overly descriptive names
Edited on Fri Nov-18-11 10:34 PM by salvorhardin
However, I think it's useful to look at why and how people engage with any particular fringe culture, and I think the three groups they identify are fairly common among all marginalized communities. Heck, I think if you took a critical eye to TAM or CSICON, you'd find pretty much the same divisions -- people who have a Manichean worldview, people who have been swayed (rightly or wrongly) by reason, and those participating mostly for social identity or recreation.

Mind you, I regard skepticism as a marginalized community and fringe culture too.
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OnTheOtherHand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-20-11 07:51 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. "bestiary" was an odd choice, too
But now that I've looked at the piece, I bet the authors feel that they got mauled in response to their earlier report, so that may have influenced their choice.

The Greek letter theta, taking the place of the o in the Demos logo, became the eye of the Illuminati. As authors, we were roundly accused of being part of the conspiracy itself: at best unknowing, naive, and myopic writers; at worst disinformation specialists or government agents openly supporting state terrorism.


Yeah, some people say crazy stuff.

I agree with your argument more than I agree with what I take to be theirs. I'm not convinced that all their "hardcore" members are Manichean; I think some are better described in your words for the second group: "swayed (rightly or wrongly) by reason." Meanwhile, their "critically turned" group has a postmodern sensibility that doesn't seem quite to fit with any of your three categories. I don't disagree with them that that sensibility exists within the 9/11 truth movement; it might even best be construed as part of the hardcore. I think in 9/11 truth as in anti-vax as in climate change denial as in anti-evolutionism as in..., there is a tacit alliance between people who seriously think that they are doing good science and people whose main criterion of "good science" is whether it fits into their political analysis -- not because they intend to get the wrong answers, but because that is actually how they think about science. Probably people in both groups are disproportionately Manichean in some sense, although not entirely so.

I prefer your version not only because it somehow seems truer to my perceptions of the 9/11 truth movement, but because it seems more generalizable without animus. You know more about the skeptic movement than I do, so I will defer to you there. Just as there are climate change denialists who embrace excruciatingly superficial technical and political critiques of the scientific consensus, there are environmentalists who accept the consensus not because they understand the science, but because it affirms their assumptions about how the world is -- and some of them are anti-vax based on essentially the same assumptions. We're all somewhat at the mercy of our assumptions. We're not all exactly alike, but "they" aren't utterly different, either.
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salvorhardin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-20-11 11:31 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. I agree
Like I said in my OP, I don't think the groups are necessarily exclusive and people can move from one to the other too. In particular, it's a very thin line between those who initially were swayed by reason and then develop a hardcore Manichean perspective where it's more about Good V. Evil than truth. And some people fall out entirely -- I've seen a couple of them over on the JREF message board.

You're right about the postmodernists too, and, perhaps though rare, they're more numerous than the hardcore.

Funny you should mention the climate change denialists because that's actually been something of a problem in organized skepticism. I can also point toward other instances of some prominent skeptics going against the grain of scientific consensus on issues such as the dangers of DDT or secondhand smoke. Sometimes it's cognitive dissonance arising from political biases, other times it's a naive understanding of science stuck in the 1940s with Popper ("if it's not double blinded placebo controlled it's not science"), and, more often than not, feral critical thinking gone astray. So every now and then you end up with a prominent skeptic approvingly citing Steven Milloy (JunkScience.com) or endorsing the Oregon Petition Project.
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OnTheOtherHand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-20-11 07:02 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. among other things, it's easy to confuse skepticism with contrarianism
Some people's self-definition is long on willingness to challenge conventional wisdom -- to the extent that they aren't equally willing to challenge the challenges to conventional wisdom. Going against the grain of scientific consensus should be a useful impulse, but not if it becomes an end in itself.

Thanks for the interesting link and discussion.
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SidDithers Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-18-11 09:50 PM
Response to Original message
5. Marking for later reading...
Looks interesting, and I love CSICOP.

Sid
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noise Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-21-11 12:59 AM
Response to Original message
10. IMO some 9/11 debunking
is simply put a vehicle for authoritarian expression. I can sense the thrill some people get from marginalizing dissenting views.

What view of 9/11 is acceptable to Bartlett and Miller? Blowback? Bureaucratic inefficiency? Too many civil liberties? Poor FBI computers?
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salvorhardin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-21-11 07:48 AM
Response to Reply #10
11. You'll get no argument on that from me
I think a prime example of what you describe would be Daniel Pipes, whose own book on conspiracy theories was pretty bad IMHO.
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OnTheOtherHand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-21-11 08:07 AM
Response to Reply #10
12. as Bartlett and Miller point out, their original paper wasn't about 9/11 Truth
If that counts as "marginalizing dissenting views," then I guess the attack they describe against their report makes perfect sense. Otherwise, I can see why they would have a WTF? reaction.

Since the paper wasn't about 9/11 Truth, I don't think we have much basis for speculating what view of 9/11 is acceptable to them. However, from the CSICOP article, I think we can infer some characteristics. Very loosely: if scientific arguments are made, they should be good scientific arguments; if political arguments are made, they should be realistic and relevant; the stated facts should be factual. (Feel free to refine those.) I think we all should be willing to hold ourselves to such standards.

And, yes, there is content-challenged bullying on all sides.
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mrarundale Donating Member (281 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-23-11 12:45 AM
Response to Original message
13. ""Skeptics" of what, exactly?
"Some of these observations have been made here, repeatedly, although I think the skeptics that take part in this forum (myself included) have a bad habit of lumping everybody together"

"take part in"? or "take over"?
It's very sad to see this forum now compared to 5 or so years ago.
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greyl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-23-11 12:52 AM
Response to Reply #13
14. Skeptics of the 9/11 Truth Movement.
In the sense of being skeptical of all claims made by the 9/11 Truth Movement, unlike people in the 9/11 Truth Movement who are skeptical of every other faction of the movement except the one they identify with.


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