We don’t often write up videos posted by 9–11 Truthers, but you can watch an interesting exchange when this particular Truther confronts well-known linguist and political observer Noam Chomsky during the question session after the latter’s talk at the University of Florida. “You’ve mentioned quite a few contradictions from the media and their presentations on things, and I think the most notorious case of this is with September 11, 2001,” says the Truther after taking the microphone. “You wanted to see a consensus of engineers and specialists that understand the actual structures of these buildings and their possible collapse, and there is such a group. It’s called Architects and Engineers for 9–11 Truth.” As the Truther gets into the “consensus of over 2000 of them,” the moderator interrupts, wondering if he actually has a question. (Surely we’ve all endured these moments in question segment.) But the Truther continues: “This consensus shows that Building 7, the third building that fell on 9/11, fell in freefall speed as the [National Institute of Standard and Technology] report acknowledges. Are you ready to come forward and jump on board with 9/11?” Thus asked to comment on whether the media has covered up the manner in which this particular building collapsed, Chomsky replies with a defense of standard scientific procedures.
“In fact, you’re right that there’s a consensus among a miniscule number of architects and engineers. They are not doing what scientists and engineers do when they think they’ve discovered something. What you do is write articles in scientific journals, give talks at the professional societies, go to the civil engineering department at MIT or Florida or wherever you are, and present your results, then proceed to try to convince the national academies, the professional society of physicists and civil engineers, the departments of the major universities, that you’ve discovered something. There happen to be a lot of people around who spend an hour on the internet and think they know a lot physics, but it doesn’t work like that. There’s a reason there are graduate schools in these departments.” But hasn’t the government intimidated those who know the real story from speaking out against the official line? “Anybody who has any familiarity with political activism knows that this is one of the safest things you can do. It’s almost riskless. People take risks far beyond this constantly — including scientists and engineers.” Chomsky has more to say about the facts we can use, the opinions he disavows, and the forces driving the Iraq War in the remainder of the seven-minute clip. “We will let you be the judge of his response,” say the video’s notes. Indeed.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.