In 2005, I was one of many people who watched various videos and read websites that claimed 9/11 was a US government plot. For a little while, I was convinced. But at some point, I decided not to take the word of faceless internet film makers and forum contributors over that of my own observations.
So, I did the research myself, culminating in an email exchange I had with a woman whose husband was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. She shared with me scans of the newspaper clippings of her being interviewed, and explained the heart-wrenchingly short phone call he made from the in-flight phone (not a cell phone, which would not have worked). It wasn’t a missile that hit the Pentagon, it was a plane with this woman’s husband on board.
I timed the falling of the WTC towers using news footage, then calculated the speed of an object in freefall from such a height. The towers did not crumble as quickly as the online videos claimed, and it was clear they had not been rigged with explosives.
I also did research into the collapse of Tower 7, which had been so badly damaged by fire and debris from the other towers that its structural integrity was compromised. The fire burned out of control due to a lack of water to put it out and the simple fact that firemen were too busy helping possible survivors elsewhere to stop a blaze in a building that had been evacuated.
Then there’s the fact that nothing Bush ever did worked out as planned.
In the end, I had to become skeptical of the skeptics. It became clear to me that people wanted to believe Bush, Cheney, the Republicans in general, and/or Jew Bankers in Switzerland had perpetrated this crime. There was an underlying narrative held dear by the skeptics, and they were willing to ignore the truth in order to paint a picture they found pleasing.
In the end, they are not skeptics at all, merely people trying to push their own beliefs.
At some point, we must learn the difference between skepticism and scapegoating. There seems to be a post-modernist tendency in America to discount the first thing we are told as “the lies of the establishment,” and to then blindly accept the next proposed explanation.
These days, experts are just “pontificating intellectuals;” big words for people who claim to be simpletons, but particularly alarming to think that those who rant and rave online after having watched a 15 minute Fox News story think they know more about an issue than people who study that particular issue in great detail, day after day, for years on end.
This is the age of the outsider, and I’m not totally sold on the whole idea. I would never go to a doctor who considers himself a “medical outsider.” I wouldn’t have my taxes done by someone who claims to “completely redefine math.” In fact, the only occupation for which I would hire someone who lacks professional experience would be a prostitute.
In the end, people believe what they want to believe, but I encourage everyone to be as skeptical of skepticism as they are of anything else.
Acknowledging global warming doesn’t make you a liberal, it means that you trust scientists over politicians. Opposing the wars doesn’t make you unpatriotic, it means you care about our soldiers and the people of the Middle East (and the billions we spend not improving our own country). Criticizing what Obama has (or more accurately, has not) done doesn’t make you racist, it makes you part of the political process. Calling to end the drug war doesn’t make you a stoner, it makes you a humanitarian. Believing in evolution doesn’t mean you’re an ape, it means you paid attention in biology.
Skepticism is a necessary part of democracy, science, progress, and every other positive human endeavor. We must always question. But above all, be skeptical of skepticism, especially from the mouths of those who want you to be afraid and to take drastic or violent action.
If you’re going to be skeptical, start with questioning what you believe before moving on to the ideas of others. There is nothing more satisfying than realizing you were wrong, but knowing you will be correct in the future.