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July 13, 2008
BBC Conspiracy Files Program on WTC Building 7: a review
Last Sunday evening I tuned in to BBC2’s new Conspiracy Files program, “The Third Tower”. This promised to solve the “final mystery” of 9/11: World Trade Center Building 7 collapsing symmetrically, at freefall pace, into its own footprint at 5.20 pm in the exact manner of a controlled demolition. Having flipped straight over from the Wimbledon men’s final, a bewildering display of physical ability, I found that the BBC program’s intellectual dishonesty, another kind of sport, was yet another assault on the senses.
The program was comparatively more generous in airing the concerns of the 9/11 Truth Movement than the previous BBC Conspiracy Files piece on 9/11 had been (which, amongst other things, conflated 9/11 “conspiracy theorism” unsubtly with anti-Semitism), giving time to representatives from Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth as well as physics professor Steven Jones, formerly of Brigham Young University. But like its predecessor, Sunday night’s program exhibited such extreme levels of bias, misrepresentation, omission and factual inaccuracy that a tape copy ought to be shipped to every school in the country for dissection in AS level Critical Thinking classes.
If it wasn’t already obvious from BBC’s first Conspiracy Files program about 9/11, then the Conspiracy Files website, blog posts from the producer Mike Rudin and BBC news stories confirmed the bias this new program would have against so-called “conspiracy theorists”, i.e. anyone who doesn’t agree that Building 7 is the “final mystery” of 9/11 and who thinks that this mystery has not been resolved by the government or the Popular Mechanics team who wrote 9/11 Lies (and were the principals voice of authority in both the BBC and History Channel hit pieces on 9/11 “conspiracy theories”).
One Conspiracy Files webpage presents us with a ridiculous, pseudo-scientific conspiracy test devised by psychologist Dr Patrick Leman “to see how conspiratorial you are.”
There was a particular incident between the first 9/11 program and “The Third Tower” that seems to have contributed to a worsening of relations between the BBC and “conspiracy theorists”. The discovery early last year of BBC World footage in which their reporter announces the collapse of Building 7 over 20 minutes before it occurs (she is even standing in front of the New York skyline with the building in view behind her) caused a defensive and muddleheaded response from the head of news, Richard Porter. Porter took to heart the minority of accusations that BBC were “part of a conspiracy” and didn’t grasp the importance of the question of what source claimed WTC7 had already collapsed. This persecution complex arising from a lack of appreciation for the relevance and gravity of the issue seems to have further galvanised the BBC into a defensive position away from “conspiracy theorists”, making it difficult to rely on them to approach legitimate questions in a balanced way.
“We’re not part of a conspiracy. Nobody told us what to say or do on September 11th. We didn’t get told in advance that buildings were going to fall down. We didn’t receive press releases or scripts in advance of events happening.”
At the time of these revelations Porter dismissed the idea that the BBC received press releases in advance of events happening as a wild theory. But in the program on Sunday he produces an email confirming that the news service Reuters had indeed issued a press release. The new BBC program thankfully emphasises that no steel-framed building had ever collapsed due to fire and damage, let alone asymmetrical and sporadic fire and damage, but the BBC’s bias and wariness against “conspiracy theorists”, who they now see as their persecutors, caused them to simplify the issue into “these nutters accuse us of being handed scripts from the government!” In reality the premonitory Reuters report starkly demonstrates the effect of a concerted top-down generation of chatter that WTC7 would definitely be coming down. Of course, the collapse of the twin towers that morning – supposedly the first ever steel-framed buildings to have fully collapsed with no controlled demolition involved – made the imminent collapse of a third skyscraper psychologically more plausible.
What makes the BBC biased and unreliable is that rather than expressing their support of the official version of events after a rigorous, honest exploration and criticism of the relevant evidence, their method is demonstrably favourable to official theories by means of careful selection, omission and misrepresentation of facts, footage and personalities.
1. The film Loose Change: Final Cut is introduced as a big-screen blockbuster. The narrator notes slyly, “conspiracies have become big business”. Anyone in the 9/11 Truth Movement will be painfully aware of how false this assessment is. I have been to one of the 10 or so screenings that there were in the UK, in a Notting Hill Picture House cinema. There were less than 10 people in attendance. The film screening shown in the program is an independently organised event, as Loose Change has not enjoyed a major distribution deal. At one stage it looked like it might be backed by billionaire, Mark Cuban, but this would have involved handing over editorial rights. The film-makers’ refusal to do this surely shows that they place the integrity of their message over money. On the 5th anniversary of 9/11 they handed out several thousand free t-shirts and free DVDs at their vigil and protest at the WTC site. They do not own mansions but live together in a trailer in rural upstate New York.
The young men who created Loose Change can be criticised on many accounts, both in terms of the content of working edits of their film and their untrained media approach (e.g. the clip of Dylan Avery swearing in Sunday night’s program). But implying that they are motivated by money is a clearly biased and unfounded swipe. Meanwhile, the program doesn’t go into the details of arguments concerning the massive amounts of money made as a direct result of 9/11. To take one example, the program mentions that Larry Silverstein insured the twin towers 2 months before the attacks (they probably should have spelt out that this is when he acquired them, and that this was the first time they had been handed over from public Port Authority property to private property) but doesn’t show how much profit he made from the insurance payouts. Silverstein Properties, who had already leased, developed and insured WTC Building 7 in 1980 (BBC cites this as a reason not to suspect Silverstein), in partnership with Westfield America, acquired a 99 year lease for WTC One, Two, Four and Five World Trade Center seven weeks before 9/11. The price was $3.2 billion – Silverstein put up $14 million of his own money. Silverstein was awarded nearly $5 billion in insurance payouts for the destruction of the World Trade Center, having fallen short of acquiring the $7.2 billion he was pursuing. He had insisted that the two plane crashes represented two separate “occurrences”, as worded in the insurance plan, and therefore constituted grounds for claiming double the insurance payouts already offered. He escaped death on September 11th 2001 because he had a doctor’s appointment.
2. Whilst on the topic of Silverstein, the second misrepresentation to note is the tight edit of Silverstein’s “pull it” statement, taken from the PBS documentary “America Rebuilds”, aired in 2002. Many people have taken Silverstein’s comment as a forced/muddled explanation that Building 7 was brought down deliberately, but it is difficult to know exactly what the statement means, as in the original documentary we don’t hear what question is posed to Silverstein. [media]http://myspacetv.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=5383965[/media]
“I remember getting a call from the Fire Department commander telling me that they were not sure they were going to be able to contain the fire. I said, you know, we’ve had such terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it. So they made that decision to pull and then we watched the building collapse.”
The BBC edited this clip so that it cuts just before “and then we watching the building collapse”. As an agnostic (among many) on the meaning and relevance of Silverstein’s comment, I ask how we can possibly come to a fair and well-considered conclusion on the issue when the BBC kills the debate by narrowing the context of “pull it”, deliberately cutting out “and then we watched the building collapse”. They also don’t make the point that “pull” is often used in demolition language – particularly in reference to the cruder method of literally pulling buildings down with external machinery rather than installing explosives – an impression that Silverstein may have wanted to give in a preliminary cover story. On top of this, when the BBC conclude that Silverstein was referring to a decision to “pull” the firemen out of the building (this is what a Silverstein representative explained in a press release a while after the PBS program), they ignore the fact that fires were not fought at all in Building 7 that afternoon, as noted by FEMA’s Building Performance Study: “Preliminary indications were that, due to lack of water, no manual firefighting actions were taken by FDNY.” Then they show no recognition of the fact that their own interview with the Fire Chief, Daniel Nigro, indicates that Silverstein’s “pull it” conversation was fabricated. “We don’t need to ask permission from the owner, no. When we’re in charge of the building, we’re in charge and that decision would be the fire chief and his alone.” Why no follow-up interview with Silverstein? He has recently refused to make a comment when prompted by activists, so why won’t the BBC use their investigative muscle?
3. The BBC repeatedly infer that a large portion of the 9/11 Truth Movement believe the New York Fire Department were complicit in a conspiracy to demolish WTC7. This is nonsense. As with the BBC and their premonitory report of WTC7’s collapse 20 minutes in advance, the firemen were compartmentalised and fed alarming as well as fuzzy information from the top-down. After the events of the morning, anxiety about a third skyscraper collapse was massaged into certainty by the information that trickled down. In the cases where firemen express knowledge that Building 7 was going to “blow up”, as I will show in the “omission” section, this does not represent complicity. The notion was presumably that WTC7 was being brought down deliberately in a makeshift demolition, not one that had been pre-arranged (this is perhaps what Silverstein originally attempted to infer with the “pull it” story). As an anchor on CBS affiliate news station WUSA 9 commented after the collapse “We don’t even know whether this was something that was engineered for safety reasons or it just happened as a consequence of the two collisions this morning.”
4. The BBC’s interview with Barry Jennings, the man who became trapped in WTC7 that morning and experienced explosions, and the way they use it, chafes against his original account given in an earlier interview conducted by the makers of Loose Change. Jennings requested that this interview be excluded from Final Cut after he was allegedly threatened with losing his job, only a couple of years away from retirement (he is presumably employed by the federal government, given that he was working at the Office for Emergency Management in WTC7 before 9/11,). Because Jennings has now given an interview to BBC, the full original Loose Change interview has been released on the internet:
In this interview Jennings states clearly that the explosions he experienced in WTC7 occurred before either of the twin towers had collapsed. Yet the BBC frames Jennings’ testimony of explosions with footage of the South and North towers collapsing. A triumphant rhetorical question is then raised by the narrator: “early evidence of explosives or just debris from a falling skyscraper?” This is a totally unacceptable misrepresentation.
Later in the program, Jennings backs away from his original testimony that he was stepping over people in the WTC7 lobby (the firefighter accompanying him warning “don’t look down), as well as backing away from his originally incredulous response to the official explanation for WTC7’s collapse. The original Loose Change interview really speaks for itself. A condensed version is here, for the impatient.
Before the program aired I knew it was guaranteed that certain issues, footage, and potential interviewees would not be included.
One piece of footage I absolutely knew wouldn’t be aired is this:
In the CNN clip we see firefighters retreating from Building 7, with one saying “It’s blowin’ boy.” ... “Keep your eye on that building, it’ll be coming down soon.” ... “The building is about to blow up, move it back.” ... “Here we are walking back. There’s a building, about to blow up…”
I was partially wrong to predict that this wouldn’t crop up at all. In the opening montage of the program, the following segment is included: “Keep your eye on that building, it’ll be coming down soon”. This is almost worse because it shows that the BBC team found this clip and watched it – and decided not to include the stuff about WTC7 being expected to “blow up”.
Another is this – an interview with one of the first responders on 9/11, Kevin McPadden, taken from a new documentary “The Elephant in the Room” by Dean Puckett:
McPadden describes hearing a demolition countdown over the radio of a Red Cross representative as well as experiencing ground-shaking explosions at the onset of WTC7’s collapse. The BBC could have arranged an interview with him.
Or how about interviewing Craig Bartmer, another first responder:
Or Indira Singh, a volunteer EMT:
The BBC instead select a single fireman, Lieutenant Frank Papalia, who complains that people who talk about WTC7’s demolition were not there that day and “have no respect for all the friends I lost…it’s like a slap in their face”. By careful selection and omission of key testimony and comment, the BBC monopolise the realm of first-hand experience to suit their bias and in the process stigmatise the 9/11 Truth Movement as an enemy of those affected most immediately by the attacks. Like the first Conspiracy Files program on 9/11, there is no mention of the fact that the movement is largely driven by victims’ families. 70% of their questions were never addressed by the 9/11 Commission. Bill Doyle, the head of the largest group of victims’ families in the USA, has stated that over half of the people he represents, as well as himself, believe 9/11 was an inside job. 9/11 Truth groups under the banner of We Are Change regularly campaign and fundraise for the plight of first responders and firemen who are now dying from respiratory diseases and cancers, having breathed the aerosolised concrete, glass, asbestos etc. at the WTC site. The same government that knowingly lied about the air being safe to breathe at the time so that Wall Street could reopen is now refusing to pay for treatment for these people.
Aside from their biased selection of one person who was there on 9/11 who supports the official version of events, out of so many others, the BBC also demonstrate biased selection in their choice of demolition expert to interview: Mark Loizeaux of Controlled Demolition Incorporated. They acknowledge that one demolition expert Danny Jowenko, was presented with footage of WTC7’s collapse and concluded that it was controlled demolition (they could have mentioned that he was also shown blueprints of the building) but they do not do a follow-up interview. Instead they say that “other demolition experts don’t agree”. Notice the plural. But only Mark Loizeaux is interviewed, somebody who is not likely to give an unbiased account, considering the fact that he is financially supported by government contracts (including the one to clean up the WTC site after 9/11).
Another major omission is represented by the lack of mention of the harassment and death threats received by 9/11 Truth advocates, in view of the fact that the BBC focuses on harassment suffered by Mark Loizeaux of CDI and Jane Standley of the BBC. If they are going to include the issue of harassment in the program, which is a serious matter whomever it affects, shouldn’t they have mentioned that the wife of the architect they interviewed, Richard Gage, has left him because of the frequency and severity of death threats they suffer as a result of his vocalisation of the evidence for controlled demolition of WTC1, 2 and 7? Or that Luke Rudowski, a young activist who appears briefly near the end, received particularly gruesome death threats over the phone after he protested outside the new Building 7, where Silverstein’s security tried to set Rudowski up as a terrorist?
Inaccuracy and incompetence
1. Even with the help of misrepresentation and omission to steer their government-sympathising narrative through the factual fog of “conspiracy theories”, BBC’s “The Third Tower” stumbles all over the place. At one point they cover Steven Jones’ analysis of dust samples, some of which were preserved on the day of 9/11, one within 20 minutes of the twin towers’ collapsing, letting him explain that this showed the presence of iron micro-spheres, proving that molten iron was produced and indicating the use of thermite, an incendiary used by the military and of which explosive sol-gels can be manufactured. Next they introduce NASA thermal images taken 5 days after 9/11, showing extremely hot temperatures under each WTC1, WTC2 and WTC7 site, the latter being 727°C, along with reports of molten metal in the rubble. The narrator then offers “another explanation for the iron spheres. They could have come from cutting torches used after 9/11 to clear the site.” Only a minute before this the narrator told us that many of Jones’ dust samples was taken on the day of 9/11 when obviously no cutting torches were being used. The rescuing line “or any building work before (9/11)” is farcical. What building work? When? Enough to produce such a large quantity of molten iron that droplets were infused in the WTC dust? The narrator doesn’t even bother to follow up the next line about the presence of aluminium in Jones’ analyses (matching the signature of a thermite reaction) with any counter-explanation and the film cuts to Mark Loizeaux once more, who dismisses the idea of using thermite in the demolition of buildings.
2. I could provide more examples of how the program fails to formulate reasonable arguments against the evidence for controlled demolition, particularly when it comes to the free-fall speed of WTC7’s collapse into the path of greatest resistance (requiring the simultaneous failure of all support columns, supposedly from scattered fires and asymmetrical damage). But I will finish with an amusing – if less significant – example of how the producers of this program didn’t have their best thinking caps on. In their dramatisation of Barry Jennings’ experiences in WTC7 that morning, they accompany Jennings’ testimony that he received a call from one of his higher-ups, asking him where he was, with images of the actor playing Jennings answering the landline in the office. Duh. Are these BBC people really fit for the job?
Will the “Third Tower” unintentionally help the Truth Movement?
Although the BBC program must be condemned rather than praised in view of the bias and intellectual/editorial dishonesty I have shown only some of, the fact that this program was made at all should be seen as a victory for the 9/11 Truth Movement. For an entire hour on national television Building 7 has been discussed. The glazed eyes that tend to meet the statement “three towers collapsed on 9/11” may become a thing of the past. The program did some positive things, emphasising the unprecedented nature of the WTC collapses, showing a side-by-side comparison between WTC7 and an acknowledged demolition, and mentioning that all the steel was shipped immediately overseas before it could be analysed (though it didn’t mention that this is a federal crime). Many viewers will recognise how dodgy it all is and will see through the spin. My hope is that lots of engineers and physicists tuned in and will follow it up with some of their own research.
January 12, 2008
Telegraph promotes new book condemning "conspiracy theories
An article printed today in The Telegraph written by Damian Thompson, who has a book coming out on conspiracy theories, is probably well intentioned but tremendously unhelpful. It dumbs down the message of 9/11 Truth into "George Bush planned the September 11th attacks" and implicitly connects the quite sensibile and evidenced idea that governments were involved in this terrorist atrocity to the philosophies of creationism and holocaust denial.
A better article which debunks common misconceptions and generalisations about "conspiracy theories":