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COMIC RELIEF

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National Geographic Does 9/11: Another Icon Debased in Service of the Big Lie

by Jim Hoffman
Version 0.9; August 27, 2009
(Please refer to original article at this link for updated versions)
911research.wtc7.net

By now it's quite predictable: every year as the anniversary of the attack approaches, some of the most established mainstream media brands are pressed into service to sell the official story of 9/11.

The 2009 iteration of this spectacle is notable for the contrast between the designated brand and the obligatory message. That brand, best known for its high-brow photojournalistic National Geographic Magazine, has existed since 1889, complete with a non-profit Society dedicated to education in geography, archaeology, history, world cultures, and natural science. One can't help but wonder how National Geographic's many benefactors would feel if they understood how the brand was being used to prop up the "War on Terror" with its Popular-Mechanics-style attack piece to be aired on August 31, 2009.

A web feature on the website of the National Geographic Channel provides a preview of the show and a window into the methods and goals of the show's producers. Those methods are so heavy-handed that the critical reader can't help but see that those goals are something very different from educating. As an exercise, the reader might want to read the one-page feature first, and then compare notes with my analysis of it below.

National Geographic Then and Now

The 2009 documentary isn't the first time the National Geographic brand has been used to rubber-stamp the official account of the attack. On September 17, 2001 an article in National Geographic News attempted to explain the "collapses" with such memetic devices mouthed by "experts" as "the raging inferno" (likened to a fraction of the Hiroshima A-bomb) turning the steel to "Play-doh" and precipitating a "domino collapse" in which "the buildings' majesty was their own undoing".

As unscientific as these purported explanations are, with their transparent appeals to authority and metaphor, one might excuse them as the attempt of a journalist to make sense of the horrific events at a time when rational analysis was eclipsed by shock.

Clearly, something very different is at work in the 2009 effort, a fact that is apparent even in its lurid graphical production reminiscent of the BBC's Conspiracy FIles.

A web page [cached] promoting National Geographic Channel's 2009 "documentary" implying that the official account is "science" and all challenges to it are "conspiracy"

The September 2001 article [cached] in National Geographic News endorsing the official story that the "inferno" brought down the Twin Towers

Deconstructing "9/11: SCIENCE AND CONSPIRACY"

Below is the text of the page tabbed "Science" in the 2009 National Geographic Channel feature promoting its "documentary" 9/11: SCIENCE AND CONSPIRACY. Added comments follow each of its points.

Although I show that every point in the page appears crafted to mislead the reader about a particular issue, the greater misdirection lies in how the article frames the broad subject of the official account of 9/11 and challenges to it.

First, the article gives no sense of the scope of those challenges, such as is readily surmised by an enumeration of outstanding anomalies in the official account. In other words, the article implies by omission that it has disposed of the only problems with the official account.

Second, the article selects exactly two prominent assertions countering the official story:

  • That the WTC collapse explanation is flawed and the Twin Towers must have been destroyed by controlled demolitions (failing to note the destruction of the third skyscraper WTC7).
  • That the Pentagon was damaged by something other than the crash of Flight 77.

The placement of these two assertions on par with each other illustrates a key technique of disinformation in which a well supported theory is paired with a poorly supported one in order to discredit the former. 9-11 Research has made the case since 2003 that the Twin Towers and Building 7 were subjected to controlled demolitions and since 2004 that the vigorously promoted theories that a jetliner couldn't have hit the Pentagon were likely designed to discredit the truth movement.

Third, the article uses labels to flog its target in an obvious appeal to prejudice. The "Conspiracy" label prefaces each target claim, regardless of whether the claim implies a conspiracy or how any implied conspiracy compares to the officially theorized conspiracy. Conversely, the "Science" label prefaces each paragraph allegedly debunking the "conspiracy" claim.

Of course, "Scientists" only support the official story, and only "truthers" question that story. How comforting that the world is so simple!

Apart from insulting the reader with such patronizing language, the article also uses language more subtly, presupposing the official conclusion with repeated use of "collapse" while avoiding imagery of the Towers' destruction that better fits the word "explosion".

CONSPIRACY VS. SCIENCE

Conspiracy theories are put to the test. How well do they stand up against the visual simulations of professional engineers? See how science supports official stories and debunks the conspiracies below.

THE COLLAPSE OF THE BUILDINGS

Official Story: The collapse was caused by fire initially fed by the jet fuel from the planes.
Science: Using original construction blueprints, photographs, and construction data, Purdue University, along with the American Society of Civil Engineers, created a model structure of the north World Trade Center tower and a scaled 767 jetliner. To model the fuel load, Purdue launched aluminum cans filled with liquid to represent an airline wing colliding with a steel column. The final simulation showed the internal destruction of supporting columns, the disintegration of the jetliner, the atomizing of the fuel, and the resulting fires that softened the steel framework of the building and brought it down.

Contrary to what the article implies, the Purdue simulation was designed only to create a realistic visualization of the 767 colliding with the Tower, not to assess structural damage or model how it supposedly led to the total destruction of the building 102 minutes later.

It's curious that the article uses this rather than NIST's much more detailed simulation, which makes specific claims about which columns were destroyed, to support their assertion that the buildings were "poised for collapse".

Conspiracy: The fire could not have gotten hot enough to melt the steel.
Science: The Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC) designed explosives to test the effects of burning jet fuel on steel. EMRTC used a bare steel beam because the National Institute of Standards and Technology reports that much of the any fireproofing [sic] material would have been knocked off at the moment of impact. Within two minutes of igniting the fuel, the temperature peaked just above 2,000 Fahrenheit and complete structural failure occurred in less than four minutes.

The fire-melting-steel claim was introduced by apologists for the official story, and has been used repeatedly as a straw man claim to disingenuously attack critics of that story.

The basis of NIST's claim that the jetliner impacts cleansed the steel of its fireproofing is just one of many examples exposing the thoroughly unscientific nature of NIST's "investigation".

Structural failure in four minutes flat? The fact that no steel-framed high-rise building has ever collapsed from fire, whether fire-protected or not, suggests that the methodology of the EMRTC study leaves something to be desired.

Conspiracy: The collapse was caused by controlled demolition.
Science: The film crew recorded the demolition of a college dormitory building to learn all that is involved in the process of prepping and loading. The first step was to expose the columns in order to attach explosives to them. The World Trade Center had 47 inner core columns that would have needed to be prepared. To cut the steel beams the demolition team used a shape charge, which is piece of copper apportioned to a shape-charged weapon. When an explosive is attached and ignited, the device implodes and forms a stream of liquid copper that cuts through the steel. A demolition of this scale would leave clear evidence behind, but no such traces were found at Ground Zero.

Contrary to the assertion that "no such traces were found", the reports of molten metal at Ground Zero are numerous, and are corroborated by extreme temperatures in the rubble persisting for months, and particles of condensed metal aerosols in the dust -- a signature residue of nano-thermitic pyrotechnics.

The article also exploits the common misconception that the controlled demolition of the Twin Towers would have to be engineered like a typical commercial demolition, rather than the covert demolitions they were. This scenario, for example, involves wireless detonation and little access to columns.

Conspiracy: Thermite, which is less traceable, was used in the controlled demolition that brought down the towers.
Science: Some truthers claim dust that some New Yorkers found after the attack shares the components of thermite. Scientists assert that even if this dust did contain thermite, it would be impossible to determine whether the thermite came from a controlled demolition or simply from the melting of the airplanes. EMRTC designed an experiment to see if thermite was a plausible option in the collapse of the towers. The thermite in the test was not even able to melt a column much smaller than those in the World Trade Center.

First, it was Scientists who documented unignited thermitic pyrotechnics in the dust, and reported it in the scientific paper summarized here -- a paper whose conclusions have yet to be challenged with any substantial critique, much less a scientific one.

The pyrotechnics, found in nearly all dust samples studied to date, are not thermite, as the article implies, but a nano-engineered material with thermitic constituents. Such materials are not spontaneously manufactured by melting airplanes or any other such event -- they are the product of high-tech manufacturing likely extant only since the 1990s.

THE ATTACK ON THE PENTAGON

Official Story: Hijackers caused a commercial airplane to crash into the building.
Science: Purdue University created a visual simulation of the crash, which indicated the victims’ bodies would have been pushed forward in relation to one another, just as they were in the actual attack. To further investigate, EMRTC launched a projectile into a simulated structure. They did not include wings in the projectile model because Purdue asserted they were of little consequence as the Pentagon was so heavily reinforced. The experiment created a hole in the structure the approximate size of the projectile - similar to photo evidence from the actual attack.

The poor quality of the Purdue simulation may be one of the factors in fueling the no-crash theory, one that is more persuasively refuted by analysis of a variety of features of the crash site.

Conspiracy: The Pentagon was either bombed or hit by a missile.
Science: EMRTC also planted an explosive in the same model structure and compared the results to photos of the Pentagon after the crash. The explosive test demonstrated a different sort of damage. The structure blew out from the point of the explosion, causing complete destruction of floors and walls. This dispersed debris did not match the photo evidence.

So EMRTC couldn't figure out how the Twin Towers could have been demolished with aluminothermics, but it could devise an experiment to show how explosives could obliterate parts of the Pentagon.

It's interesting that the article cites alleged experiments by EMRTC (The Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center) to support most of its "Science" points.

One prior connection between EMRTC and 9/11 is that explosives expert Van Romero, who gained some notoriety with his initial candid observations that there must have been explosives in the Towers, was Director of the EMRTC from 1995-1997, a period of active research into the kind of nanocomposite explosives found in the WTC dust. Romero appears to have been rewarded handsomely for retracting those observations.

Whatever role EMRTC may have had in the development of advanced energetic materials such as found in the WTC dust, it is clear that there are numerous connections between these weapons technologies and the authors of the official reports certifying the collapse theory -- connections that are all the more interesting when one considers the refusals of the same authors to test for residues of explosives.

The Opposite of Education

I'm confident that the producers of this article and its sequels will carefully shield the reader from the above-mentioned scientific paper Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe, from the Journal of 9/11 Studies, from any meaningful critique of NIST, and from anything else that would dispel the fiction that the official story equates with science.

Why am I confident of this? Apart from the obvious construction of the web feature as propaganda, the show's producer, Robert Erickson, was making excuses for not covering the subject of nano-composite explosives and their development in US government labs in private communications before the show aired. The matter of what the show's producers knew and when they knew it is the focus of Kevin Ryan's essay Finally, an Apology From the National Geographic Channel.

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