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Loose Change: My Two Cents

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nothing says “classy” like clever wordplay in the title for your 9/11-related post!

Recently, clean-coloned Culturatti James17930 pointed us all in the direction of Loose Change: 2nd Edition. Most of us had likely heard of it, perhaps some had already seen it. I hadn’t, though it had been on my radar, as the Big 9/11 Conspiracy Movie of the day, the one apparently “shaking things up.” I too, was skeptical — so few of history’s nutty conspiracies have proven true that you’d be a nut not to be — but I’m open-minded, and it seemed to have had some serious impact on James, whom I can confirm has a sensible head on his shoulders. So I finally gave it a watch (though I didn’t read his post beforehand, fearing Spoilers).

It’s very persuasive; lots and lots and lots of information is tossed around, lots of suggestive quotes and curious inconsistencies revealed. It’s more than enough to convince anyone that parties in the American government conspired to simulate an epic terrorist attack to instill an environment of fear in order to gain money, power, and carte blanche for the next 4-8 years. Assuming, that is, that you take the Loose Change people at their words.

I didn’t just grant them my trust by default, though I didn’t outright discard what was being said either. I mentally graded every tidbit fed to me on a scale from “No way this could be a lie” to “This could easily be bullshit.” Most things seemed to fall somewhere in the middle, demanding further investigation. I came out suspecting there was an even balance of fact and falsity.

It turns out I was too generous. Sorry James, but after doing some follow-up looking ’round on the Internet, I found that even their most startling and convincing “facts” have been thoroughly disproved.

The above is a segment from the May 9th, 2005 episode of Showtime’s “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” dealing not with Loose Change, but with 9/11 conspiracies in general; it’s not so much a rebuttal to any specific theories (except for one — the “fire couldn’t have taken down those buildings” question). It’s mostly just a passionate rant against the types of folks who promote these theories (and the samples of these folks they use are amazing kooks). It’s not really meant to be substantive proof of anything, more just an entertaining way to encourage a person to do their own damn research.

To find the substantive proof, there are detailed, cross-referenced websites that respond to each individual point made in Loose Change — some sites even take it minute-by-minute. Links to the ones that impressed me most I’ve placed at the bottom; there’s a lot to cover, so I certainly won’t give too many of their refutations here. Go to their websites for that. But James gave something of a Top 7 “Things that make you go hmm…” in Loose Change. Let’s see what the folks on the ‘net have to say about them…

James’ notables are in blue, and the Internet’s responses are bulleted and in red (with their sources linked, if available).

The firefighter in New York telling everyone to move back because the second tower was about to come down — how would she know ahead of time?

Actually, I’ll handle this one myself: By looking at it? Because someone in the FDNY who knows structural engineering looked at it, then got on the horn and told her? The building wasn’t in very good shape at that point, after all…

The photographer in Pennsylvania who says that there’s no way a plane could’ve crashed there given the size of the hole in the ground and the decided lack of debris.

From Sifting Through Loose Change, at 911Research (a site which actually does proffer that there was a conspiracy involved in 9/11, but still tears apart a lot of Loose Change):

  • Flight 93 crashed dose-down[sic — it should read “nose-down”] into the soft landfill of a reclaimed strip mine. (See this analysis of the crash location.) It’s therefore not surprising that the 757 would bury itself in a crater. Photographs of the crater show that it was more than 100 feet long and 30 feet wide, not “20 feet long and 10 feet wide,” as the cherry-picked account states. Apart from all of the physical evidence of the crash, numerous eyewitnesses saw the jetliner in its final moments.

The repeated insistence by countless New Yorkers that they heard explosions just before the Twin Towers collapsed.

  • A jet liner with 10,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into each of the towers at 500 mph. It would be suspicious if they didn’t hear subsequent explosions. Source

The fact that jet fuel cannot burn hot enough to melt 12-ton jet engines.

Here’s the quote from the movie:

Titanium has a melting point of 1688 degrees Celsius. Jet fuel, also known as kerosene, is a hydrocarbon, which can retain a constant temperature of 1120 degrees Celsius after 40 minutes, but only if the fuel is maintained. The fuel would have burned off immediately upon impact. Therefore, it is scientifically impossible that 12 tons of steel and titanium was vaporized by kerosene.

And the response, from Sifting Through Loose Change:

And they go on to point out a couple of factual errors:

  • 1) Jet fuel won’t burn at 1120 Celsius unless it’s burned in pre-heated or pressurized air; 2) The jet fuel did not burn off “immediately” but burned for several minutes.

The fact that the Twin Towers were the first steel and concrete buildings ever to collapse due to fire.

Here’s Sifting Through Loose Change‘s comment:

  • No, it would be the umteen-thousandth time in history. It would be the first time in history that steel-framed high-rise buildings totally collapsed with fire blamed as the primary cause. This is one of several examples of Loose Change ruining a good point with a sloppy overstatement.

Which doesn’t completely disregard Loose Change’s theory. Now here’s my rebuttal: Planes rammed into them! Big planes! There was the jet engine fire, but there was also the impact, structural damage, additional weight. And don’t forget what the guy in the Penn & Teller video said about the fire. Remember: Just because something hasn’t happened before, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. This was a unique set of circumstances.

The fact that World Trade Center 7 collapsed later that day for seemingly no reason.

This one from Screw Loose Change:

  • The building was hit by falling debris from one of the towers, was missing much of one corner, had a huge hole in the middle and was on fire for hours. The building had started leaning and making creaking noises so fire department officials ordered the evacuation of the area over an hour earlier. Source and Source

The fact that the hole in the Pentagon was only 15 feet in diameter, and there were windows directly on either side of it which were unbroken.

From Screw Loose Change again:

  • The hole was approximately 90 feet wide. The 16 foot measurement was only achieved by looking at pictures where the rest of the hole was obscured by smoke and foam from the firefighters. Source

And from Sifting Through Loose Change:

  • In fact, the engines would have easily cleared the 96-foot-wide impact punctures on the first floor. As for the ends of the wings and the vertical stabilizer, there was extensive damage to the limestone facade far to either side of the primary impact puncture, and scored limestone on the fourth-floor facade — easily consistent with the impacts of such light components of the airframe. Again Loose Change displays a photograph in which smoke obscures most of the first-floor punctures. To say there was no damage from where the engines would have hit is a blatant falsehood contradicted by even that photograph.

And as for why, accepting that the wings did break off from the body, the windows around the hole were intact despite the impact occurring right next to them (from Sifting Through Loose Change):

And believe me, their lists go on, too. Even those various suspicious little transactions that occurred shortly before September 11th, 2001 are challenged as being either incomplete information or outright lies. And more than a few of Loose Change’s big, damning quotes are cut up or taken out of context. But I don’t need to go on and on, there are plenty of websites who’ve already done it for me. As you can see below, I’m not the only one who enjoys wordplay even in the darkest hour:

And there’s a lot more where they came from (the Internet).

So do they disprove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the accusations made by Loose Change? Well, it’s just a matter of whose facts you choose to believe. Without being able to go out and verify these things ourselves, that’s all we’ve got. The points made above can certainly be challenged (but what point can’t be?) — if it’s a government conspiracy, then the government can just change the paper trail, can’t they? Or buy witnesses. Control the media. Fix the evidence. Read some of the talkbacks on the Screw Loose Change pages for plenty of rebuttals to the rebuttals.

So, maybe it is all these websites who are giving out the false information in an effort to shut Loose Change up. Or maybe they’re right, and Loose Change is mostly/entirely a load of crock.

I have to go with the latter.

Because there are just too many ways for such an elaborate conspiracy to go wrong, complicity required from too many conspirators and witnesses, and if the “truth” were to get out, and those government elements supposedly involved were found out, the consequences would be too immense.

And because there have been past examples of similarly wild conspiracies for every other major disaster in history that were clearly the ideas of fools.

And because Loose Change, even before I did the follow-up, still obviously used too many vague, sneaky, Michael Moore-ian tactics in its delivery of information (but even more than I had realized, I discovered when I did look into it).

And because I find it harder to believe that a democratically-elected government would murder thousands of its own citizens for money and power than I do to believe a group of religious zealots would murder thousands of its godless sodomite enemies for access to paradise and Allah’s good grace.

And because of Occam’s Razor: Compared to the religious zealot hijackers’ conspiracy, Loose Change’s conspiracy is absurdly complex.

Here, in probably its most convenient, digestible form, is a final rebuke of Loose Change 2nd Edition — Screw Loose Change: Not Freakin’ Again Edition. It’s the same movie, Loose Change 2nd Edition, but with a skeptic’s subtitle commentary. Receive your counterpoint in real time! (Warning: it’s an hour and a half longer than Loose Change, because they keep pausing to give us more details on their rebuttal).

If you don’t want to spend three hours watching grainy Google Video (and why would you?), you can download a nice DivX version here. But if you have watched Loose Change: 2nd Edition, whether you believed it or not, I urge you to take the time and watch this one as well.


15 Comments leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Wednesday, February 21, 2007 7:40 am

    Finally — someone else watched it.

    It basically comes down to which group of ‘internet experts’ you choose to believe. And, as you say, both sides make good points. I agree (and state in my post) that Loose Change definitely has some problems with it. But, regardless of what Loose Change says, there are a few specific things that to me can’t be explained by the ‘official version’ of events:

    1. Even if United 93 crashed nose down, where were the engines? Wouldn’t there still have been giant chunks of engine debris at the site? There just seemed to be too little debris for a plane that big.

    2. What were those unidentified planes flying over Washington? (there’s video of them, so we know that’s not a fabrication).

    3. WTC 7. There were other buildings in the WTC complex which were closer to the Twin Towers and got hit with more debris than WTC 7 — why didn’t they collapse?

    4. The official story is that the plane that hit the Pentagon was vapourized; but, again, jet fuel could not burn hot enough to do that.

    Many of the sources you cite above are merely other blogs — hardly incontravertible evidence. But that’s the main thing — 9/11 was never investigated properly to begin with. I don’t know if anyone has as much information as they should. There was such a willingness on the part of the general populace (myself included)to accept whatever the authorities said without looking deeper at all.

    Finally though, you point of scepticism about a government’s willingness to kill its own people in this type of plot — that’s why Loose Change brought up Operation Northwoods. Somebody in the U.S. government — the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, no less — considered doing just that 40 years ago, so it’s not impossible that the same thing has happened today.

  2. Wednesday, February 21, 2007 8:34 am

    I believe all of those points are well addressed in the commentaried Screw Loose Change video. I’ll summarize its points on your points:

    1. At 2:00:12 they direct us to this news article, which contains this paragraph:

    “He said that the biggest piece of the aircraft which was found was a piece of the outer portion of the fuselage, which measures about 6 feet by 7 feet and included four windows. The heaviest piece found was a part of an engine fan weighing about 1,000 pounds, Crowley said.”

    The video also shows several pictures of what seems like a fair bit of debris.

    2. First, I’d just say that planes being in the air is about as far from proof of anything as you can get, but they address this as well. At 0:55:50 they quote the 9/11 Commission report about a National Guard cargo plane that had just taken off in Minnesota to tail a suspicious plane, which they followed until it crashed into the Pentagon.

    As for the other plane, flying in restricted airspace over the White House, at about 00:57:20 they state that the oft-sited rule about planes in restricted airspace being immediately intercepted didn’t come into place until after 9/11. Before September 28th 2001, pilots in restricted airspace were first warned by Air Traffic Control, then fined or suspended if they didn’t move. (Their source) I guess that doesn’t tell us just what the plane was, but just like the religious folk with God, you have to prove that it’s something, it’s not our job to prove it’s nothing.

    3. There is ample, ample, AMPLE analysis of WTC 7 early on in Screw Loose Change. It runs from 00:17:55 to to 00:24:15. There are lots of photos of WTC 7 pre-collapse with huge holes in it, analysis of how a controlled demolition is done, refutement of the owner’s motivation, plenty more.

    4. First, a pair of links. An article on written by their resident pilot, and a page he sites, filled with pictures of wreckage from inside the Pentagon. It can be hard to tell what’s what in that mess, but things like the landing gear seem pretty clear.

    The video at 00:39:25 also shows us some of these pictures, and claims that no one but the Loose Change people are saying Flight 77 was “incinerated by jet fuel.” They call that another Strawman Argument. The photos they show seem to suggest they’re right.

    And then there’s the generator — go to 00:39:40 for that.

    5. Operation Northwoods — Nothing about this is evidence. All it tells us is that the idea already existed out there, of faking an attack as a pretext for war. And that the government had thought of it. But so had the writers of The X-Files/Lone Gunmen (and wouldn’t you know it, this 9/11 conspiracy website has a whole page dedicated to that Lone Gunmen episode, with dialogue excerpts and YouTubes and everything — is that proof?), as had countless other writers working in paranoia fiction. So had every conspiracy theorist from Pearl Harbour onward. We don’t need the existence of past, rejected operations to show that the government could have come up with the idea. Northwoods is declassified, that’s how we know about it — I’d wager there are still-classified ideas and contingency plans that involve the government detinating a nuke on their own soil. And even if there aren’t, there’s the movie Fail Safe, which, at least in the version I saw, ends with them doing exactly that. So if a nuke were to go off in Pasadena tomorrow, that would be just as much proof of it being government conspiracy as Operation Northwoods is that 9/11 was.

    It’s not impossible, but it’s about as unlikely as the Earth being 6000 years old and all of humanity being decended from a couple off bellybuttonless nudists (just pushing your buttons, there). I need something more than “not impossible” to persuade me that something’s true. Evidence that points us to “it’s not impossible” is evidence that should probably be discarded as useless.

    Seriously, watch the response video, every single point made in Loose Change is refuted, and most of their sources, if those that I’ve visited are any example, aren’t just blogs. Oh, and check out those bowling videos linked to on Suck The Day. That’s some kickass shit there.

  3. James17930 permalink
    Wednesday, February 21, 2007 10:24 am

    I’m not arguing just because it’s not impossible it’s true. I’m just saying it’s not impossible.

  4. Wednesday, February 21, 2007 10:58 am

    But you’re creating (or rather, buying into) a false dichotomy. Being “not impossible” doesn’t earn something the right to be considered alongside explanations suggested by better evidence and better reasoning.

  5. James17930 permalink
    Wednesday, February 21, 2007 11:23 am

    I don’t think it is necessarily ‘better’ evidence. You’re cherry-picking your evidence to support your conclusions, just like you accuse the makers of Loose Change in doing.

    I really don’t buy that the towers and WTC 7 could have collapsed from those fires. Nothing I’ve seen or read yet has dissuaded me from that. So for now I just have to wait and see what else (if anything) comes out.

  6. Wednesday, February 21, 2007 12:34 pm

    Watch the response video. While there’re certainly arguments made there that could be based on false information, there are more than enough issues the Loose Change people use as evidence where they clearly, blatantly ignored evidence, chopped up a quote, quoted utterly worthless sources, or just outright lied, to render anything they say worthy of serious doubt.

    You don’t buy that fire could bring the towers down? I don’t claim to know what fire can or can’t do to a building, but I do know that all the evidence the Loose Change people have given for it is easily dismantled. The big one — that fire’s never done that before — compares the WTC to buildings that have completely different frameworks, and also ignores the weakening effect the impact of the planes had. And the major argument that the steel framework couldn’t have been melted by burning jet fuel alone isn’t valid, because the steel needn’t have been melted — weakened would apparently be enough to do it. But yeah, I don’t really know any of this myself, because I’m not an expert.

    So who’s a non-expert like myself to believe? The majority of actual, sited experts, or some college kids who originally set out to make a fictional movie about some people discovering that 9/11 was a conspiracy who then changed it into a documentary about 9/11 being a conspiracy?

    And if that’s the issue — fire couldn’t do that — why did you go into it skeptical and come out convinced? Because this movie, even if it were absolutely true at its core, should not be enough to convince anyone of anything, provided they look into the claims it makes. It’s too loaded with easily-shown errors to be given that much weight.

    I’m just gonna give one example before I go to bed, one that really sums up the level of dishonesty used to illustrate their point:

    At about 00:17:00 of the original Loose Change video, in discussing the plane that hit the Pentagon, they quote Danielle O’Brien (on Sept 14th, 2001), an Air Traffic Controller at Dulles Airport about what they were thinking in the tower as they saw the plane move on their screens. The quote they use is:

    “The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought … all of us experienced air-traffic controllers, that it was a military plane.” (Emphasis theirs)

    There’s solid proof for you: a 747 simply could not pull of the moves they were tracking.

    Now here’s the full quote:

    “The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air-traffic controllers, that it was a military plane. You don’t fly a 757 in that manner. It’s unsafe.”

    The quote becomes useless to anyone trying to establish that it was a military plane — a 757 could fly in that manner, it just wouldn’t be safe. And safety, we have to assume, was not the number one thing on the hijackers’ minds at the time.

    And the source: the quote comes originally from an ABC News article. It’s funny, but in searching for that ABC article on the Internet I came across about a dozen conspiracy sites using the quote as well, and only one of them had it in full.

    It’s not proof or disproof of anything, except that Loose Change is not worthy of trust, and everything they say should be seriously, seriously investigated before it’s accepted as true.

  7. James17930 permalink
    Wednesday, February 21, 2007 1:56 pm

    I’m aware of the flaws and misquotes in Loose Change. But when they present the fact that the Twin Towers and WTC are the only steel and concrete structures to have EVER collapsed becuase of fire, that’s not a misquote, or obfuscation, or fabrication. It’s simple fact. And it’s highly unlikely that it’s just coincidence.

    To me, if there was structural weakening of the building upon the impact of the plane, something would’ve broken right away (I have no proof of that obviously — just my feeling). But it didn’t. It held. Christ, the buildings didn’t even twitch when they were hit. Engineers who designed them said they were built to withstand something like that — over-engineered, actually.

    And, again, I’m not an expert either, but I don’t think they would have collapsed in the many they did had it been due to the fire. I think the top part would have dropped and then tipped off the rest of the building. It’s just very convinient that both towers — not to mention WTC 7 — collapsed straight down in the way they did.

    Anyway, that’s about all I can muster for now. Yes, I will watch the refutation video when I have three hours free.

  8. Sarah P permalink
    Thursday, February 22, 2007 10:46 am

    You think Bush is smart enough for all you’ve claimed?

  9. James17930 permalink
    Thursday, February 22, 2007 11:11 am

    Wouldn’t have been Bush.

  10. Saturday, February 24, 2007 2:26 pm

    It was me, actually, I planned the whole conspiracy. Prove that I didn’t. You can’t obviously. Come on, James17930, let’s go play video games and walk along the beach and forget about these losers.

  11. James17930 permalink
    Saturday, February 24, 2007 3:55 pm

    Video games on the beach — PSP then?

  12. James17930 permalink
    Saturday, March 3, 2007 5:15 pm

    This just came out ;)

  13. Monday, September 6, 2010 1:00 am

    I feel a bit embarrassed now over how seriously I took Loose Change at the time. While I do still think there are ‘issues’ with the whole 9/11 event (as in, I’m still not 100% completely decided one way or the other because there’s still a lot that doesn’t add up), I realize now just how much Loose Change got wrong. But at least the filmmakers were brave enough to ask the questions.

    But that’s why I deleted the original post. Maybe that’s cowardly, but, well . . . I did it anyway.

    • Monday, September 6, 2010 4:14 pm

      Well, I was gonna say that’s cool, nothing wrong with being skeptical about the official story, and good on you for allowing your mind to change and opinions to shift, and all that, but then I got to the last part … I guess that’s your call, since it’s your work. But yeah, that don’t sit right with me.

      • Monday, September 6, 2010 10:02 pm

        Why, exactly?

        I realized I had made a lot of incorrect assertions in that post, and some of it was stuff that I was now embarrassed to put my name to.

        But you think maybe some strikeouts or corrections would have been better?

        (Besides, a lot of my old argument still remains in this post).

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