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You Can’t Handle the Truthiness: A Night Out with the 9/11 Truth Community

Special Report

Robert Blaskiewicz

September 1, 2011

It’s the day of the Rapture, May 21st, 2011, but I’m on my way to the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, for other reasons. My cab driver tells me about how he passes his late nights on the road by listening to George Noory on Coast to Coast AM. “I don’t know about most of the theories out there about the World Trade Center,” he assures me, “but I do have to wonder about that Building 7.”

World Trade Center 7 occupies a special place in the folklore of the Truth movement. While for most of the American populace the building’s collapse is no more than a footnote to the tragedy of September 11th, an event which incurred no additional loss of human life, to a large segment of the Truth community it is exactly that marginal stature that arouses intense interest and stokes fears of a deliberate media silence.

Skeptical Inquirer 9/11 Conspiracy Theories cover

In fact, I’m on my way to interview a man who perhaps as much as any other person has drawn public attention to what he sees as inconsistencies in the “official” story of September 11th and who has made a mission of keeping World Trade Center 7 (WTC 7), which collapsed late in the day of the attacks, in the public eye. He is architect Richard Gage, founder of the group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 truth. He is in Atlanta at the behest of the local chapter of his organization and We Are Change Atlanta.

I am attending the “Engineering Change: A Blueprint for 9/11 Truth” event at the invitation of Camron Wiltshire, a local organizer and 9/11 activist who has put together a number of local 9/11-themed events over the last year. This one is being held at the First Iconium Baptist Church. When I enter the main congregation hall, men are leaning over the railing of the choir loft trying to nudge the lighting so that it converges at the lectern in front of the altar. An electric keyboard and an acoustic guitar, which I eye with a sense of foreboding, have been set up off to the side of the lectern.

When I meet Richard, he is enthusiastic and genial and eager to start the interview as soon as the setup for the upcoming presentations is complete. He has worked me into his schedule between the setup and a press conference. We take a seat in one of the pews. Camron has asked to film the interview, and he has sent over someone with an iPhone to record. (He later tells me that this is so that I would not take anything out of context in my article.)

Richard’s conversion to Trutherism is a sort of “Road to Damascus” story. About five years ago, he heard retired theologian and prolific Truther David Ray Griffin on his car radio. Griffin was giving a talk nearby in Oakland on the next night. According to Richard, Griffin was discussing “the explosive testimony heard and experienced by ... one hundred [first responders who] talked about sounds of explosions, hearing them being blasted around in the building before and at the onset of the destruction of the two Twin Towers.” It was the first time that he had heard any alternative theory regarding the collapses, and he seized on idea with enthusiasm. He began his own research and became convinced by what he found: that the investigation into 9/11 had been incomplete.

Richard says Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth grew out of his initial efforts to persuade his fellow workers at an architectural firm. “They kind of thought I was nuts, so I put this presentation together, this PowerPoint, and I showed them what I had learned a couple of months later. They all agreed with me. Every one of the fifteen architects that I worked for who came to the presentation agreed with me: ‘My god, you’re right! These buildings were destroyed with controlled demolition!’ Fourteen out of fifteen signed the petition. So we have the first fourteen architects and engineers for 9/11 truth—now we have 1,500. So almost everybody who looks at this information, architects and engineers and others, by a show of hands ends up agreeing with us about this evidence that they had not seen in the mainstream media.”

Richard’s group hopes to serve as a conduit for information about evidence that the media does not discuss. “Our goal, our mission,” he tells me, “is to awaken, enlighten, inform the American people, other architects and engineers about the destruction of these buildings.… We’re simply trying to inform the American people about this evidence, which is pretty indisputable, and get a new investigation.”

I ask what an unimpeachable investigation would look like. “We would want it to examine all of the evidence,” he says, “which the 9/11 commission and the NIST report did not do—the evidence we’ll be looking at today,” he says. “It would offer immunity to bring witnesses forward. It would be taken with subpoena power so that witnesses could be forced to testify, and testimony taken under oath. And using the scientific method relative to the evidence that we highlight in our DVD [9/11 Blueprint for Truth].”

I ask him about his best evidence for a controlled demolition.

He cites the apparent implosion of WTC 7 in six and a half seconds and at free-fall acceleration. While the engineers who studied the collapse and derived recommendations for enhanced building safety from their conclusions would dispute the accuracy of this statement as Richard presents it, it’s a crucial element of the modern Truth movement’s narrative. “Suddenly on the afternoon of September 11,” Richard tells me, “this building drops symmetrically, smoothly straight down into its own footprint, in the exact manner of a classic controlled demolition.… We are told that this is destruction by normal office fires, and if you look at the fires in that building in they were … small and scattered. I mean if the building is going to collapse due to fire, which has never happened to a skyscraper at all in the history of skyscrapers, it’s going to fall slowly, gradually, and over into the path of least resistance.”

And there is molten iron, he says. “These iron spheres were created during the event; they are in all of the World Trade Center dust.” In the same dust he claims there is chemical evidence of thermite/thermate in the dust as well. “We also find … nanothermite composite explosives, or pyrotechnics, found in all of the World Trade Center dust samples,” he says, referring to a paper by Niels Harrit’s team. “This is incredible evidence. There should not be high tech nanothermite composite explosives found in the World Trade Center dust, these small red-gray chips composed of nanoparticles of aluminum powder and iron oxide perfectly mixed.”

I ask about the larger Truth movement, and if there are any theories by other self-identified Truthers that he rejects out of hand?

“Oh, yeah,” he says earnestly. “There’s a whole bunch of people talking about crazy things that aren’t backed up by the scientific evidence or the scientific method that we try to apply scrupulously to the evidence that we’ve gathered. There are other theories that we don’t buy. You bet.”

“Such as?”

“Oh there’s somebody out there who’s talking about directed energy weapons; there’s somebody out there talking about mini nukes. We don’t have evidence that stands up to scrutiny for either of those theories.”

“Since you’ve been a Truth advocate, what have you gotten wrong?”

“I have made a number of mistakes that have been corrected by people who are very astute, some of which are opponents of ours promoting the official story. So we have been self-correcting all along, and at this point we’re very tightly tuned to and presenting only that which we know to be true.”

“Now, the essence of science is that you put forward a thesis that is falsifiable potentially….”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“You could potentially prove something wrong, that this [thesis] is tentative until something else comes along, then I’ll have to substitute my assertion with this new one that better fits the evidence. What would it take to dissuade you of controlled demolition?”

“Someone would have to explain how a forty-seven story skyscraper with 40,000 tons of structural steel designed with a safety factor of five can lose all of its columnar support simultaneously across all eighty columns and fall at freefall losing 400 structural steel connections per second over the six and a half seconds it took to fall. Someone has to explain that. No one has. Someone would have to explain the production of several tons of molten iron. No one has. Someone would have to explain the production of small iron microspheres throughout the debris pile. Someone would have to explain the existence and documentation of in a peer reviewed paper of these nano-termite composite pyrotechnics or explosives. Someone would have to explain the near free-fall destruction of each of the Twin Towers in just a dozen seconds.”

I ask him if he would be open to the idea that the collapse of WTC 7 actually took longer than the six and a half seconds on which he is basing his hypothesis.

“We are told in the fourteen seconds prior to the overall collapse there was an internal collapse, and we don’t buy that, because if there was an internal cave-in of this building we would have seen massive deformation on the perimeter structure prior to its overall collapse which occurs in six and a half seconds.”

I point out that we did see a penthouse collapse long before the exterior collapse, which suggests that the building was collapsing internally and substantially weakened long before the exterior collapsed.

“Any … collapse, even underneath the east penthouse,” he insists, “would have caused massive deformation on the perimeter structure at that time. We didn’t see any of that.”

AE for 9/11 Truth announced that 1,500 building professionals (architects and engineers in all fields of engineering) have signed their petition for a new investigation. I point out that if these were all American engineers, they would represent collectively 9/100ths of 1 percent of the 1.6 million engineers in the country. How do you reach the other 99.91 percent of engineers?

“When we get them to sit in front of presentation like this, or a half hour presentation which we do in their offices, 90 percent of them end up agreeing with us about the evidence. So it’s simply a matter of getting them into the presentation (which takes some doing because many people don’t want to deal with this subject—there is a psychological resistance to hearing about any other alternative theory). So once we get them into a presentation most all of them end up agreeing with us.” He says he is in an architect’s or engineer’s office giving his presentation every other week in the Bay area, and they have thousands of people bringing the DVD to architecture and structural engineering firms and to the media, so this is working its way into the profession.

“We don’t have peer-reviewed journals in the architecture world that I’m aware of. We do of course have the peer-reviewed paper, the nano-thermite paper stands on its own. There are a number of papers put up on the Journal of 9/11 Studies …, which is a set of peer-reviewed papers, dozens and dozens of them.”

I ask him about the profile of him in Jonathan Kay’s Among the Truthers, which was published in the United States earlier in the week, and Richard displays object annoyance at the mention of Kay’s name. “So you have Jonathan Kay psychologically analyzing these Truthers,” he says, “but not taking a serious look at the evidence which they present. The evidence we’ve been talking about in this interview today was not presented or dealt with by him. That wasn’t his role, but that’s no excuse to call us names, like in my case, I’m having a middle-aged crisis and I’ve got nothing better to do with my time. So, yeah, it’s like he has to come up with some derogatory set of comments rather than say, ‘What are these 1,500 architects and engineers saying?’ He’s simply calling us conspiracy theorists, as if that’s going to hold any water.”

He pauses.

“We don’t have a conspiracy theory; we only have evidence that we are presenting to the American people.”

When we finish our interview, Richard prepares to host the press conference. The attending press is, as far as I can tell, entirely made up of members of the alternative media, who seem sympathetic to the speakers.

One of the characteristics of a self-sustaining conspiracy theory is an alternative set of facts that are exclusive to the conspiracist narrative. These claims of facts are repeated endlessly, and any explanation that does not accept these assertions as true is rejected out of hand. When I work my way up to a group of people talking at the front of the church, I find that I am talking to two of them, Bob Tuskin from BobTuskin.com and theintelhub.com, and Ed Sanders, from Gators 9/11 Truth out of Gainesville, Florida.1

I ask them about what brought them so far from home? “Well, we wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Bob says. “People drive to all sorts of things—for example, for concerts, for sporting events, you know, for Disney World, whatever it may be—and we understand that people may want to [use] their free time and spend time with friends and family and recreation and whatnot, but something like this in our opinion should warrant our attention more so because right now, ten years later, almost, from 9/11/2001 we still have not received the legitimate, mainstream investigation to the largest crime in our lifetimes. In addition to that, there [are] very few people amongst us who are willing to stand up for this sort of truth because of a constant blackout by the mainstream media and a constant skewing of the facts. We are here because we know what the facts are. We know that Building Seven fell at free fall speed. We know that there is a consensus of architects and engineers as well as other likeminded individuals who are willing to hear out all of the evidence and not just look at the skewed perspective from the Zionist-controlled mainstream media.”

Ed shares a similar perspective. “It’s clear the 9/11 commission report was very incomplete and misleading bordering, and someone would make the accusation, on scientific fraud, so it’s time we bring the new investigation to the mainstream and I hope people like you are able to help us in doing so.”

I ask what a new investigation would look like.

Ed answers this question, “I think the best place to start would be with the family members. I think that they are the people who have been most affected by the tragedy. It’s obviously affecting the world as it is still ten years later with this trauma-based mind control.” Ed doesn’t think that the families themselves should do the investigations. Competent teams should be carrying out the investigation, and I would hope in a country like the United States that we’ll have people with the capacity and ability to do a proper criminal investigation, just like we watch on CSI Miami and so many other criminal programs on television. It’s just beyond me that we didn’t care to look at a shred of evidence with a critical eye. We just called the whole event on a boogy-man, Osama bin Laden, [who] is now supposedly dead, and for the most part didn’t care to actually look into what happened on that day.”

“Have you read 9/11 Commission reports and NIST reports and everything?” I ask, and Ed reports he listened to about 75 to 80 percent of the Commission Report audio book.

Ed points out that the Commission didn’t go into how the towers collapsed and he is worried that WTC 7 was not mentioned.2

“[A] criminal investigation,” Ed insists, “looks nothing like what the 9/11 Commission was. I’m telling you, it read like a fiction novel. If you read it and didn’t know what it was, it reads like a fiction novel. It does not read like a criminal investigation, a police investigation of the events.”

Bob chimes in. “With any crime scene investigation,” Bob explains, “you start off with the crime scene. You start off with what took place. You take a look at the empirical evidence. You take a look at the data. We didn’t do that with 9/11, unfortunately. We didn’t take a look at the what before we figured out the how and the who. We have to start with the what. You’re a journalist,” he alleges, “you know there’s…” he searches for a word, “an order to things. And we didn’t start with the use of the scientific method nor did we look at what happened.”

Soon the press conference begins. The three main speakers (Richard Gage and fellow activists Manny Badillo and Luke Rudkowski) each in turn give synopses of their upcoming talks. It is at this point that we learn that Cynthia McKinney, the former member of Congress, will not be joining us, as she is en route to North Africa to investigate the conflict in Libya. The organizers thank a number of people who are involved with the conference, including First Iconium and its representatives who are attending and Amnesty International. They don’t explain in what capacity Amnesty is there, and if you did not follow up, you might easily leave with the impression that Amnesty International supports the Truth movement.

Perhaps the most effective speaker is Manny Badillo. He is outreach director of New York City Coalition for Accountability Now (NYCCan.org), which he describes as the “only family member, first responder, and survivor organization that wants the comprehensive and factual investigation that we all deserve.” Badillo’s uncle was killed in the attacks. Badillo is frustrated that his group’s petition to have a question placed on the New York ballot that asks, according to Badillo, “would you support a comprehensive and factual investigation into the event of September 11th—yes or no?” was shot down by the New York Supreme Court. He says that the court’s decision was “based on technicalities.”

In fact, in October of 2009, New York Supreme Court Justice Edward Lehner confirmed the findings of the city’s referee who had reviewed and rejected the NYCCAN petition. The referee found that the petition to create an investigative commission with subpoena power was inconsistent with the existing law with respect to financing the commission, staffing it, its jurisdiction, and compliance with New York transparency laws, the constitutional right to indictment by grand jury, and with respect to the petition’s desire to confer prosecutorial immunities upon committee members. The petition was so deeply flawed that its severability clause could not salvage any part of it. It was so badly composed that the City didn’t even pursue the original findings that NYCCAN had failed to secure enough legitimate signatures to be placed on the ballot.

“Over and over again,” Badillo says, “I see these specials they have on [TV about] 9/11 and it’s harrowing and it’s awful, because they never touch upon the facts of the case. It’s all so emotionally driven.” Of course, in almost the next breath, he denounces the City’s plans to build a memorial: “From what I understand, the vast majority of this museum-slash-memorial is going to be a museum, and how dare they further disrespect the family members? How dare that we still have to go through this?”

So much for condemning emotional appeals, I think.

Following the press conference, I lurk around the periphery of the church snapping photographs as Eva James sings her composition, “Sharing the Truth,” to her own guitar accompaniment. She dedicates it to Richard Gage. It’s a folk song in the “disaster” genre, with the refrain:

You see cascading projections of steel into dust.

It looked like demolition, but it’s never discussed.

So turn out the TV, and shut out the light

‘Cause it’s all just illusions, in front of my eyes.

Well, I’m not scared of dyin’

We’re all bound for heaven,

I’m just sharing the truth,

About nine-eleven.3

When I reach the other side of the church, I spot a pair of Alex Jones shirts and decide to interview their owners. I introduce myself to Linda Evans and her friend, Melanie. I ask Evans, who is sitting beside me, how she came to the 9/11 Truth movement: “Ever since I got into Ron Paul four years ago, I…it’s opened up a whole new world of information to me.” I have seen a lot of Ron Paul buttons and shirts at the event, so I ask her what the association is between Ron Paul and the 9/11 issue is. She replies instantly: “The truth.” When I follow up with a question about Ron Paul’s stance on 9/11 and whether he supports a new investigation, she says, “I’m not sure.” She pauses. “Yeah, I’m sure he would.”

Evans was disappointed that Cynthia McKinney was not there, but now she was really interested in Manny Badillo, even though she had never heard of him until today. I ask her if she has a theory about what happened on 9/11. She says that she does not think that it is a theory, but the truth. “I think it was [the] Israeli Mossad with a faction of our CIA and Dick Cheney in the bunker telling the Air Force to stand down. That’s what I think it is.”

I ask about her evidence for the Israeli-Mossad connection.

She considers her response for a second: “Well, there’s a lot of complications with that whole thing. I don’t even know where to start, there’s so much, and you don’t want to sound like an anti-Semite, but there is a faction of the Israelis, the Zionists, that run our country.”

“So you would say that our country is run by Zionists?”

“Yeah. Well, that and corporations.”

As I’m asking a follow-up question, the program begins and we sit back to listen.

After Gage begins, he asks a question that he asks at many of his events. How many of you believe the official story? Of the 180-ish people there, I am the only one in the entire place who raises my hand. Evans looks at me, clearly surprised. “And I was talking to you?” she asks, almost jokingly.4

Gage gives his talk and accompanying PowerPoint presentation, and goes deeper into many of the points we covered in our interview. The PowerPoint is quite epic, on the order of some seven hundred slides (the DVD version of the talk, Blueprint for Truth, which I picked up many months ago at a previous event, only has a six-hundred-slide version). The accompanying talk is quite polished and well delivered, and the crowd reacts well. Of the twenty-three who were on the fence about the official story of the events of 9/11, only three remain.

During a break, I head downstairs to the cafeteria, where the organizers have set up a number of tables to sell 9/11-themed shirts, DVDs, and stickers. There I see the representative of Amnesty International I had wondered about. Amnesty International has no opinion, their representative says, on the issue of 9/11. They are gathering signatures to stay an execution in Georgia, and they will take the signatures of anyone, Truthers included.

Next to the Amnesty International table is the most intriguing table, one piled high with shirts that read, “FORT SUMPTER WAS AN INSIDE JOB.” I am almost tempted to buy a t-shirt as it is clearly worth its weight in irony, but it is clear that the guy selling the shirts, Joseph Brown, does not mean it ironically. “I was at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, back in February, and we were having a good time, college students, up there, and a friend of mine was shouting this after a few beers, and I thought it was hilarious and brilliant and I had the idea for a shirt, and it’s actually kind of true, in that Lincoln maneuvered the South into firing the first shot to justify the war. Originally the reason was to save the Union, and that [meant] keeping, by force, the Southern states in the union. And so the whole thing at Fort Sumter kind of increased public opinion in the North.” Referring to a quote by Lincoln on the back of the shirt, he argues that Lincoln’s principle desire was to save the union, not free slaves.

Of course, I have to ask the big question: “Do you think that the South should have been allowed to secede?”

“Well, the U.S. was created in an act of secession. It was called the Declaration of Independence. I think that secession is a good thing.”

Back up in the assembly hall, we listen to local artist Purple Crown perform his song, “Born into War.” The song is replete with references to 9/11, vaccines and food additives.

Next we listen to a talk Luke Rudkowski of WeAreChange.org. Rudkowski is described in the conference program as practicing “bold activist journalism,” and he occasionally appears on Russia Today and Alex Jones. If he’s a journalist, he seems to not break stories or land interviews. Instead, he makes his way into private events posing as a journalist and confronts people he identifies as members of the New World Order. Then he records them looking befuddled. For instance, in a video clip that he is previewing for the first time at this conference, Rudkowski confronts Henry Kissinger at some social event. Rudkowski badgers Kissinger with words of forgiveness for all his horrific crimes. Kissinger just turns his back on the kid. When Kissinger leaves, Rudkowski hops into a cab and follows Kissinger to what I take to be his residence in order to badger him some more. It is hard to see what substantive political point has been made, and Rudkowski strikes me as a sort of journalistic Crocodile Hunter, a sort of television clown jumping unsuspecting public figures and thoroughly annoying them. I feel deeply embarrassed for him.

After the talks, a large group about thirty attendees repaired to a restaurant and dance club around the corner to continue the monologue. I sit next to Daniel Bland, a veteran of the Iraq War.5

He and his father are sitting at the same table as the presenters Luke Rudkowski and Manny Badillo, though the noise in the restaurant is deafening and I am not able to hear what is being said at the other end of the table. By this point it is clear that people recognize me as the only one who does not share their views, and we talk about that. At some point I say that the burden of proof is on the Truthers to show that they have the evidence to support their extraordinary claim, but Badillo interjects.

“Wait a second, why isn’t the burden of proof on the government?” Badillo asks.

“Yeah,” Bland agrees, “I thought [in] this country it was you’re innocent until proven guilty.”

“You’ve condemned the [government’s] engineers, haven’t you, that [they’re] in on it?”

“We’ve said that we need a new investigation,” Bland repeats. “You’re defending the people [who are responsible for] the official story, which anybody with any common sense knows cannot be true. It violates the basic, elementary laws of physics and gravity.”

“I condemn them,” Badillo puts in, “for not showing us how they came to that conclusion.”

I reply, “You know, you say, ‘The government has lied before,’ and that may be true. But the person who is saying, ‘The government is lying now,’ it’s their burden to show me that.”

“How do you induce free fall in buildings?” Badillo asks me.

“Even over and over in the talk, [Gage] said it’s not entirely free fall.”

Badillo waves his hand dismissively, scowls and then looks away.

We order beers.

“Let’s talk about the insurance fraud of 9/11 for a second,” Bland says. “The buildings were privatized six weeks before 9/11.”

“Post hoc fallacy,” I say. “Just because something happened after something else doesn’t mean that it is related.”

“You can’t cut me off. You got to hear me out, and then you respond.”

“Okay.”

“So, they were privatized, taken from public hands to private hands just six weeks before the attacks, and Larry Silverstein who owned Building 7 since the inception, but they gave him control of the towers in a ninety-nine-year lease just six weeks before. He put down $15 million of his own money. The first thing he does, he goes and doubles the insurance coverage that the Port Authority had ever carried on it. Have you ever bought a new house and then just doubled insurance?”

“I’ve done it on car insurance,” his dad says, “because my father advised me to get $100,000 instead of $50,000, which was the legal minimum.”

“Yeah, but that’s liability,” Bland says. “I’m talking about property insurance. Would you insure a property for double what it’s worth?” (Of course, this is a different claim from simply, “Silverstein doubled the amount of insurance the Port Authority took out,” but I don’t catch that at the time.) “Not only did Larry Silverstein double the insurance coverage… then he … quadruples it by suing the insurance companies by saying it was two, not one attack …. So they quadrupled it and what they do is they privatize the gain of that insurance payout to the criminals and then socialize the losses through the increased insurance premiums worldwide.” He turns to me. “It’s too easy to understand. How are you not seeing this? How can you be a professor at Georgia Tech without the common sense and rational skills to use some logic and reason? This is basic common sense.”

“I need evidence of intent.”

“Intent? … Follow the money. Who benefitted from the event?”

“That’s not how you go about doing history,” I object.

“That’s how court cases are proven,” he insists. “Motive. Opportunity.”

Our beers arrive.

Bland has a sip of his drink. “It was an inside job. I almost lost my life over these lies. What’s messed up is that I just got a job where I’m actually kind of, and I don’t know how I feel about it, I’m kind of helping the SEC with their agenda for One World Government by selling stuff to public companies to help them uniform their reporting. That’s all it is, to get everybody in the world on standardizations.”

An older gentleman comes over and asks me if I was the guy who was still not convinced at the end of Gage’s talk. I say yes, but I knew that would be the case when I decided I would attend.

“He works for SKEPTICAL INQUIRER,” Bland offers. “He writes for them and they’re known for, like, supporting the government’s stories. They act like they’re a conspiracy journal, but they always support the government.”

I have no idea if he’s read an issue. “You could convince me,” I say, “but nobody seems to take me seriously when I say it.” I outline what it would take to reconsider my opinion: convince the experts, the editors and reviewers of a single journal out of a short list of engineering journals to which my university subscribes.

“I have a lot of respect for Camron [the event organizer],” Bland says, and then he turns to his dad to explain: “Camron’s been emailing him very politely. I don’t have the patience that Camron has. I’d be a little more—I have issues with people for being so stupid. I have a low tolerance for ignorance.”

I laugh, but he has creeped me out. Camron had asked to share my emails to him with his friends, and though he had asked for it, I had not given Camron permission to share them. He clearly did it anyway, and he never told me that he had.

So we talk about squibs—little puffs of debris bursting out from the Twin Towers several floors beneath the pancaking collapse, which are shown over and over in slow motion in endless 9/11 Truther videos. These were of course due to the compression of the air in the towers as the collapse progressed. “They were focused, and all the way down,” Bland says. “Focused energy blowing out. How can you not get this? How in the world are you a college professor? I think that’s what’s wrong with America, having teachers that can’t process basic logical reasoning. They just have no common sense.”

Since we were talking about academics, I asked them why more engineering professors didn’t step forward to challenge the mainstream narrative. After all, I argued, the ones with tenure are safe to say what pretty much what they like.

“Like what happened to Steven Jones? Steven Jones had tenure.” (Jones was a physicist at BYU who was placed on paid leave when, in 2006, he took up the cause of 9/11 Truth. Before the university had a chance to review his research on Truth, Jones retired with the title of Emeritus Professor, in his words, “so that I can spend more time speaking and conducting research of my own choosing.” In fact, according to Jones, “The University’s been great. I feel like they’ve been fair with me in this settlement we’ve reached in this retirement. I feel pretty chipper.”)6

“[Jones] retired,” I said, “and this kind of proves my point. He was involved in one of the biggest scientific scandals of the 1980s, the ‘cold fusion’ debacle.”

“What does that have to do with 9/11?” Bland challenges me.

“Because it was such a scandal and he kept his job. It’s hard to get rid of somebody who has tenure.”

We talk about some other conspiracy theories for a while.

“So, do you think there is an Illuminati?” I ask Bland.

“Well, there’s secret societies. The New World Order is not a conspiracy theory. Do you ever listen to world leaders? Because that’s their term, not mine.”

“It was used after the Soviet Union collapsed and there was a new world order.”

“It was used back in the late 1800s, late 1900s, and it went away for a long time. And then Bush kind of brought it back in—do you know the more recent reference to Bush?”

“Bush the Elder, right.”

“Do you know anything more recent than [when Bush used the phrase] in the 1990s?” he asks me, shouting over the sound of a techno version of the X-Files theme. “Well, then [George] H.W. [Bush] used it exactly eleven years before 9/11. September 11, 1990.” He raises his eyebrows, and I understand a point has been made.

“Okay, but you’ve just lapsed into numerology.”

“Yeah,” he says flatly.

“OK,” I say, going with it.

“I mean there’s a sun cycle that equals eleven years. These people, the Illuminati were, you know, sun worshipers. The Vatican’s laid out in a sun dial, right? There’s an obelisk…”

“I don’t know. Is it?”

“You don’t know? You’ve never really seen Vatican square?”

“I’ve been there. I just didn’t know it was a sun dial.”

At this point we had been sitting there for forty minutes. I hand out my business card to the people at the table. Bland looks at it incredulously. “You got a PhD and you still can’t get this stuff? What did you get your PhD in?”

“I’m an English teacher. What did you get your PhD in?” We laugh.

“I don’t have one, but I’m smart enough to figure this one. I think you got brainwashed with all that education, obviously. You lack the ability to have common sense, logic and reason.”

“You’re smart,” Bland’s father reassures me. “I can tell you are. But there’s something wrong with you.”

“He’s writing for a skeptic magazine that always defends the government.” Bland turns to me. “You say you’re a conspiracy magazine but you try to support … the establishment story. You do. I’ve looked into you and that’s how the organization works. You are a puppy lap dog for the establishment story. That is the history and the record of what you associate yourself with, Bob.”

“So, what are my motives?” I’m dying to hear them.

“I think you’re being paid by the enemy. Your job is to be the lapdog of the official story.”

“I’m not getting paid for the story.”

“Why are you doin’ it?”

“This is what I do.”

Eddie Murphy’s 1985 “Party All the Time” comes over the speakers, and we decide to head downstairs to the dance club portion of the establishment, where more conference attendees have gone. I see Gage in a corner booth in the restaurant as we search for the steps. He waves me over and asks if there’s anything else I’d like to talk to him about. I don’t want to interrupt his conversation by yelling across his table, so we agree to talk to one another downstairs in a little bit.

Downstairs in the dance club, DJ Red is spinning tunes. Bland and I take turns buying each other beers.

Linda Evans approaches me. “So, you are coming around a little bit?” she asks.

“No, not at all.”

“Well, when you go to a FEMA camp, think about me” she laughs.

Bland disagrees with her about my fate: “No, he’s not…He writes for a magazine that has a history of supporting the establishment version. It’s called SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, giving the perception that they’re skeptical but they always support the establishment story in their writing.” Clearly I am witnessing the birth of a meme about SKEPTICAL INQUIRER.

“Most all of the magazines and publications are all owned by the Zionists,” Evans says.

(When I asked SKEPTICAL INQUIRER editor Barry Karr if the magazine is owned by Zionists, he replied, “No, but in the interest of full disclosure, we do have subscribers in Israel.”)

“You know what, I have a theory,” Evans continues, “and I read it in a couple of places, so maybe it put the buzz in my head—the Palestinians are actually the true relatives of Jesus.”

“I think so too,” Bland agrees. “The Khazars in [the country of] Georgia are not Jewish, but they took on the Jewish identity, and it’s well documented…”

Evans cuts him off. “It was Rothschild … that started all that.”

By this time, it is pretty well-known that there is a card-carrying skeptic in the house, and people are lining up to have a crack at converting me. “What brought you to the conference?” I ask a guy who introduces himself to me at the bar as Mike.

“Skepticism!” he declares.

“Skepticism of…?”

“You name it. For one, Building 7. Now, my hometown is Atlantic City. When I got out of high school that’s when the referendum allowing casinos just passed. I saw a bunch of old hotels demolished. The majority of these old hotels were brought down [with demolition charges]. The first time that I saw Building 7 collapse…” He waves his hand and shakes his head.

Mike is skeptical of 9/11 in general. “It was kind of gradual for me. When I first heard about it, I kind of thought, ‘Yeah, okay, al-Qaeda, and the hijackers, those sons-of-bitches.’ But as I started thinking about it more and more … You know, if you watch CSI or Law and Order—any crime show—the police go in there, cordon off the area, so that the photographers, the criminologists, you know, whatever, they can all go in there and do their little measurements and document the crime scene. When I learned that so much material from the 9/11 from the Twin Towers and Building 7 was just hauled off and, you know, immediately melted down, I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, I would think that any rational person would say, wait [and examine the steel].’”

Mike then elaborates on why he believes that the collapse of the towers is precluded by skyscraper building conventions, that the lighter material is found at the top. He repeats an analogy that was made at the conference of a Volkswagon Beetle being dropped on and crushing a tractor-trailer (a hideous analogy). I explain that the top fifteen floors only needed to punch through a single floor—and that the buildings were designed to handle static loads, not dynamic ones, and then the combined mass of those now sixteen collapsing floors had to punch through one floor, and that as the mass of the collapsing material increased with each floor failure, the load gathered momentum and decreased the time that each subsequent floor could offer resistance, thereby making a total, progressive, accelerating collapse inevitable.

“I don’t necessarily agree with that, because I still believe that you have lighter structures at the top and thinker stronger structures at the bottom. What you just said, I … I think it could hold some weight, perhaps, for the first … for the two Twin Towers. I’ll give you that…”

“Yay!” Over the course of the night, very little victories have become increasingly important to me.

“But for Building 7, that variable was not there, because you did not have that much trauma to Building 7. You just have a few relatively minor fires. Many tall structures have caught fire, and they did not ‘just collapse.’ And not only that they did not collapse, but they did not collapse onto themselves.”

I start explaining about how those other fires were fought, how the fire in WTC 7 was largely unchecked because the water mains had been destroyed, and that the building had a peculiar design as it was built above and around a preexisting electrical substation, but Daniel Bland comes over:

“You want a debate?”

“No, I just want to interview people.”

“We’ll turn off the music, and I’ll debate you.”

“No, thanks.”

I ask Mike what would convince him that he was wrong, and he tosses back a vicious catch-22: that because he is not an expert, he can not say what piece of evidence would convince him of the NIST conclusions.

Speaking of Catch-22, nearby, Linda Evans is in a conversation with Joe Heller, a local printer. “I have an issue with that,” Heller says, pointing at Evans’s Alex Jones Infowars t-shirt that says, “9/11 was an inside job,” which apparently set off their conversation. “To me, Alex Jones is the Rush Limbaugh of our movement because this is a dangerous statement, because he uses it so often in front of people who don’t have clue about what the facts are.” I nod in agreement, but probably for different reasons. “I’ve been involved with 9/11 Truth since about 2004 or 2003, and I believe that 9/11 was an inside job because I’ve done the research, and that’s where it points. But if you’re out in the public and you’re trying to promote the cause of truth, when you are saying 9/11 was an inside job, you’re saying, ‘We know who did this.’ That’s what you are saying.”

“Not necessarily,” says Evans.

“No, but that’s what people hear when you don’t know the facts…. What I mean is that when an outsider hears that 9/11 was an inside job, they turn you off because you’re a kook.”

A guy who identifies himself as “Mark from doulovejesus.org” (as of my writing, the ISP says the account has been suspended), introduces himself to the group. “A couple of months ago,” he says, “I guess it was back in February during the Bartow County GOP meeting, I handed out copies of a document that simply said that the government has an obligation to produce the body of evidence—that bin Laden was responsible for 9/11 and that we were going to be given proof. I’m calling their bluff. … The biggest problem with this document was a bottom paragraph, where sub silento [sic] is the lawful premise that a clear disclosure that does not have a rebuttal tacitly amounts to an agreement. [In fact, the legal concept of sub silentio is more complicated than that.] If you do not disclose that body of evidence within lawful delivery, by default you are admitting that you have no body of evidence, that the war on terror is being propagated against the American people and feigned enemy foreign by the enemy domestic.”

“Okay,” I say.

“This document,” he continues, “was lawfully delivered on the sixth of April and it’s been a month and a half since then. Now a day or after the document was lawfully delivered to [Congressman] Phil Gangrey’s office, one of his aides called me—we spent like fifteen minutes on the phone—and he kept saying, ‘You have the burden of proof blah blah blah blah blah.’ No. You, the federal government, have a moral and lawful obligation to answer the question the Taliban set before you: ‘Where is the proof that bin Laden did it?’”

We talk for a bit, and I turn the discussion to the recently announced death of Osama bin Laden. “Let me pretend that I’m ‘the Man,’” I say. “We have multiple lines of evidence that bin Laden was killed. Take the Saudis, they didn’t want the body….”

“They were the puppets of the Zionists,” Mark interrupts.

“The Saudis are?”

“Well,” he explains, “a number of mid-east governments. There’s only a handful of countries left that do not have a private central bank controlled by the Rothschilds. Iran and Libya are on the very short list of countries left. Iraq and Afghanistan….”

“But Libya doesn’t have an economy,” I object.

“Well, I tell ya it’s only one part of the puzzle. The fact that these people have defied the plutocracy and said that ‘We don’t want you issuing our currency and thus controlling our political system.’ So the thing I try to explain to people is that we don’t know all the details, but we do know that the official story is a lie.”

“So, like the fact that al-Qaeda condemned the killing [of bin Laden]? That’s independent confirmation, right?”

“Oh?” he says like he’s talking to a third grader, “al CIAida?”

“You’re making quite an assumption there.”

“Really?” he cocks his head.

Joe Heller jumps in. “Isn’t it true that bin Laden was financed by the CIA in the 1980s?”

“And our political alliances have shifted since the ‘80s. I mean, are we loyal to them? Would we stick with them if our interests didn’t coincide [with theirs]?”

“I would say that people who’ve worked for the CIA still work for the CIA,” Heller says.

Mark speaks back up, “Remember the line from 1984: ‘We were always at war with Eastasia.’ They lie to us with impunity and they get evasive if you sign this tax form and you are off by 53 cents, well,” his voice grows louder and angrier, “you’re going to Club Fed! But they lie to us and it’s like, ‘What’s your point? It’s business as usual!”

“I don’t know how to answer that,” I admit.

“The answer is…”

I laugh. “You don’t give me my answer, though!”

“Let me summarize morality,” he proposes. “We all need to be accountable to each other,” he says, “knowing—knowing—that we will be held accountable to the Creator himself.”

I’m working my way around the circle of people who have gathered to talk about their theories, but people jump in.

Byron Stiles, who is with We Are Change [he is thanked in the conference program], says, for a change, “I partially agree with you, that [9/11] was an outside job,” but then he completes the thought: “but I don’t believe it was who they say it was.”

“So who was it?”

“Israel.”

“What evidence do you have that it was Israel?”

Linda Evans interrupts, “Because, like I told you, it was the Israeli Mossad and our CIA.”

“Correct,” Stiles agrees.

“Cheney’s in the bunker, standing down the Air Force.”

“And Bush is reading a book about goats!” chimes in Melanie, Evans’s friend, who has joined her at the bar.

“I believe the Israeli Mossad was involved.”

“Why the Mossad?”

“Because Israelis were actually arrested that day with bombs in vans.”

“Where?”

“Outside the George Washington Bridge in a plot to actually blow that bridge up, I assume. They were arrested on terrorism charges with bombs in their vans. I don’t know if you’ve heard this before.” I say that I had heard the story. “Michael Chertoff, he’s the head of the Department of Homeland Security, is a dual citizen of Israel. He’s also an intense Zionist.”

“So is [former congressman, Obama Chief of Staff, and current Chicago Mayor] Rahm Emanuel,” Evans injects. “Henry Kissinger! Dual citizen!”

“Michael Chertoff’s mother was a founding member of the Mossad, whose motto is ‘By way of deception we will make war,’ which means they will stage false flag attacks to create a war. Same thing with Rahm Emanuel. His family was also deeply involved in the Mossad. So I believe the Mossad was involved with this.”7

Evans also says that the 2008 Mumbai hotel attacks were also linked to the Mossad.

Daniel Bland Sr. comes over and asks everyone if I have been converted yet. I haven’t.

It’s late, and I take my leave of the conference goers. I run into Gage on my way out. We talk briefly about seismic data gathered during the collapse, and he assures me that nanothermite pyrotechnics would not leave a seismic signature. Nonetheless, it seems to me that a major element of the anecdotal data that Truthers use to support their hypothesis is reports of explosions, which surely would have been detected by seismographs. But Gage is satisfied and I don’t raise that point. I’m exhausted.

***

On the morning of Monday, May 23rd, two days after the Truth event, I am checking my university email, where I find a message from a former student. The 9/11 Truthers are on campus. I think a visit to my place of work might make a nice coda to the story I’m writing, so I hop into a cab and catch up with them inside the Nanomaterials Building. About half dozen of the conference organizers, including Gage, Badillo, and Camron, are in the office of the building administrator, telling him, an accountant, and a student worker about nanothermite. I linger behind to talk to the office workers, who do not wish to be identified, as the party goes outside to see Gage off to the airport. The office staff are upset that people with cameras have come into their office while they are working.

I catch up with the group outside and we talk about 9/11 again. They break out the video recorders, which is par for the course, and we discuss the evidence at some length for maybe twenty minutes.

A few days later, I receive an email from a stranger alerting me to a post that Daniel Bland has placed on another stranger’s Facebook wall. Bland has said that he intends to put the video of our discussion at Georgia Tech on YouTube, which concerned me only because it was taped at my place of work and because they did not say they were filming for release (thought I know I have no expectation of privacy when I’m out and about on campus). In a private email to Bland, I ask him to refrain from posting anything, and remind him that I always made it clear that I was recording for publication. He reposted my email on this person’s wall with his response:

Bob- I told you from day one that I was not as nice and patient as Camron because I came within 15 meters of losing my own life over these evil lies. There are multiple videos of our debate and everyone agreed that we need to put it on YouTube along with text discussing your conspiracy classes at Georgia Tech and your affiliation with Skeptical Inquirer. If you wish to avoid public humiliation, you better start writing the truth about what actually happened on September 11, 2001 ASAP. We’ll give you a little time to think it over. Ignoring the obvious lies of 9/-- is no longer an option as more innocent people around the world are continuing to be murdered on a daily basis over these lies and you have clearly chosen to be a part of the continued cover-up of treason and mass murder. Unfortunately for you, you chose to get involved with the wrong 9/-- Truther!

Bland later apologized for this public attempt to blackmail me, but a few days later, he posted on my website:

Just wait until one of us publishes our video taped debate on the Georgia Tech Campus. That will be one for the History Books. I just hope that when all this is said and done that you don’t spend the rest of your life behind bars for criminal cover-up of pre-meditated mass murder. 

He also threatened to show up at the Georgia Tech Writing and Communication Program to “hand out info to students at Ga Tech exposing him for who he really is,” so I take his apology for all it is worth.

Notes

  1. This interview was in fact filmed by Tuskin, and later released on his YouTube channel. The entire interview may be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOZNkVjnSiQ.
  2. Of course, 9/11 Commission Report was not a technical study, and the limitations of its mandate are mentioned up front in the document itself.
  3. Video of the performance can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfWs3laGSRA.
  4. AE for 9/11 Truth keeps a tally of this poll for many of the events at which Gage presents. It may be found at: http://www2.ae911truth.org/speakings.php#speakpast.
  5. Bland shared his experiences early in the program. A video of his talk can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahODXzmJjxQ.
  6. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/650200587/BYU-professor-in-dispute-over-911-will-retire.html
  7. When I Googled the supposed Mossad motto, the top hit is the white supremacist website Stormfront.org, so it is perhaps no surprise that the reference the motto makes (to Psalms 24:6) in the King James Bible actually reads: “For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war and in multitude of counsellers safety.” I found no independent confirmation of this version of the motto outside of the apparent origin of the spurious version, Victor Ostrovsky’s 1991 supposed tell-all, By Way of Deception. Michael Chertoff was born in New Jersey to a rabbi and a stewardess for El Al. I see no evidence that Chertoff is an Israeli citizen, even if his mother’s Israeli citizenship makes him eligible. I see nothing that suggests his mother was a founding member of the Mossad. The original report that a van full of explosives was retracted eight minutes later by the outfit that first reported it. Rahm Emanuel’s father was a member of the Irgun, a paramilitary group with a record of violence, not the Mossad.

Robert Blaskiewicz

Bob Blaskiewicz is the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry’s “Conspiracy Guy” web columnist, a JREF Swift Blog contributor, a blogger at skepticalhumanities.com, and a regular panelist on the live weekly web show The Virtual Skeptics (Wed 8PM Eastern) and contributes a monthly essay to the Skepticality podcast. He is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he specializes in and teaches about World War II veterans’ writings, extraordinary/paranormal claims and conspiracy theory.