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)

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


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 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.

web page

promoting National Geographic Channel‘s
2009 “documentary” implying that the official account is “science”
and all challenges to it are “conspiracy”

September 2001 article
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”
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
  • 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 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.


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
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

Structural failure in four minutes flat?
The fact that

no steel-framed high-rise building has ever collapsed from fire

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.