What is the point of this post are you saying that cognitive dissonance is real and this is your example of it.

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I saw this video a few years ago and had the exact same reaction you did.

Don't be a fool, though.

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I'm glad to see that this thread has *mostly* avoided being dragged down into arguments over the finer points of the conspiracy theory itself (Loose Change's version of it, anyway, which is not the strongest and far from the most conservative). No one who prides themselves on rationality deserves to be mocked by their peers when they want to discuss surprisingly compelling information or arguments. I like the metaphor of Uncanny Valley, and I find myself in a position very similar to the one Hal Finney describes with respect to many claims that are definitely outlandish by mainstream standards. But I'm also highly sensitive to the ability of human beings to construct their own standards of rationality based on pre-existing beliefs, confirmation bias, motivated reasoning and the like. The perspective of someone like MZ, to me, borders on disqualification from the discussion of evidence for or against a 9/11 conspiracy. To be decided of the truth in advance of examining the evidence is unhelpful, disrespectful, intellectually dishonest, and sometimes dangerous. You don't "lose 90% of your respect" for someone simply because they express surprise at the unforeseen persuasiveness of an argument they had not previously encountered--especially not when this reaction of surprise is brought up in the context of examining bias and rationality!

As I said, I often find myself at home in Uncanny Valley, and as a result have made it a habit to continuously update and reexamine my own responses to various conspiracy theories, especially when "new pieces of the puzzle" are introduced. I don't buy the Popular Mechanics version of 9/11, but the collapse of the towers is just one part of the larger conspiracy narrative. Here's a link to a new film called "Fabled Enemies" which focuses on the shady, suggestive relationships between foreign governments, the hijackers, and the CIA and FBI; the undeniable forewarning of our administration as to the imminence of just such an event; and the whitewash of an investigation that was the 9/11 Commission Report:


For those truly interested in examining their own credibility filters...I'd be interested to hear what yours does with this information. The only references to building collapses concern WTC 7, which is by far the weirdest case of the three.

Unfortunately, widespread agreement as to what counts as "rationally tenable" is no more likely than it is desirable, at least insofar as such agreement would lead to the ideological bullying of still-open minds and the categorical dismissal of compelling information. I'd rather be right and a nutjob than rational and wrong.

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If you had suggested to ordinary Germans in the early 40s of the last century that the government staged the 'attack' on the Gleiwitz radio station in order to lauch an aggressive war against Poland, how many would have believed you? Yet we now know this 'conspiracy theory' about 'canned goods' to be nothing more than the cold truth.

There are many differences between the III and IV Reichs, but perhaps the greatest is that in the case of the former, the regime collapsed and the entire documentary record was captured by its enemies and extensively publicized in subsequent show trials; whereas the latter, while arguably somewhat diminished, remains after all the world's preminent nuclear weapons state, and therefore unlikely to suffer the same fate.

To put is succinctly, in the case of Nazi Germany, we know; whereas in the case of Neo-Con America, we can only surmise.

Fortes fortuna adiuvat

United Shock & Awe is the most powerful state in world history, and we should expect the competition for even narrow slices of that power to be ferocious. To get in on the game, it is not enough to be well-connected or rich; one must also be audacious. Certainly any political faction with the ambition to use that state as the vehicle to establish a permanent military hegemony over the entire world will not be shy about taking chances.

Valley of the Uncannies

As for the public, I think Hitler hit the nail on the head with his observation that the big lie works precisely because the scale of it overwhelms small minds. Say what you will about the man, he saw clearly into the human heart.

My own take on the situation is that the combination of corruption above and stupidity below together form the social basis of the state as an instrument of power to compete with other states to maximumize 'our' share of the world's wealth.

But then I'm so lost in cynicism that I don't even believe the US is really waging a war on an emotion.

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Come on, guys, didn't you watch that South Park episode? Everyone knows that the 9/11 conspiracy theorists are really government agents that are trying to convince people that the government actually is powerful enough to pull off a grand conspiracy! ;)

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Certainly The Project for the New American Century benefited from 9/11. They required such an event to enact their radical agenda. If they were somehow in on it, it seems much more likely that they allowed the events to happen through inaction, rather than actively committing the acts of terror.


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@robin:My guess is that standard stories about events like 9-11 are quite wrong about one time in a hundred or thousand,

Added 16Oct: Sigh. I must admit that digging a bit more again finds surprisingly persuasive material, moving my estimate up to about 2%, back up into uncanny valley land.

Robin, you pulled those numbers out of thin air. They are not helping you, on the contrary the first provided an anchor that is influencing all your posterior reasoning.

Regarding the outside view, I don't deny it's usefulness but it doesn't work the way you are doing it. The right way to do it is seeing the big pattern, not attributing random numbers to events. It all starts with how you see the government and politics. You can consider this as being your prior. The evidence that comes afterwards will always be interpreted according to the priors. Eliezer has an interesting post about inductive bias that comes to mind.

I think this is what causes so much difference in the opinions about this topic and many others. Where one sees an imploding building another sees a building collapsing due to structurally weakened steel.

The big pattern I see(and others will disagree I'm sure) is:

-America was in need of a new Pearl Harbor as written in 2000.(Project for the New American Century)-In 2001 a terrorist attack.-The originator of these attacks happens to be in countries of geopolitical interest.(Afghanistan)-Shortly after America invades and occupies these countries(Iraq included) according to plans traced before 2001.

There is also the question of how you see the role of the CIA and of terrorism in the political game. There are a lot of books written about this topic.

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Robin, I am skeptical that the intermediate probability per se is what is making you uncomfortable. I suspect it is actually cognitive dissonance.

Also, for the purpose of assigning a probability, one should really make it clear what constitutes a "conspiracy". Here are some scenarios ranked roughly by degree of culpability of US government (or some part of it), with ties broken by bizarreness:

1. The government orchestrated the attack, faking everything including using missiles or unmanned planes2. The government orchestrated the attack, using the actual planes but setting explosives to increase the destruction3. The government knew of the attack, and added explosives to exacerbate the effect using the attack as cover4. The government instigated the attack but left the destruction to their friends in Al Qaeda5. The government knew of the attack, and actively prevented other parts of the government from stopping it6. The government knew of the attack, and did nothing7. The government was willfully blind to the impending attack due to a desire that the US be attacked8. The government was negligent with respect to anti-terrorist preparations due to a desire that the US be attacked9. The government was willfully blind for other reasons10. The government was negligent for other reasons

Personally I would count the dividing line as 1-7 vs. 8+. Obviously one would not need to believe such bizarre claims as #1, suggested by "loose change", in order to believe #7.

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Nick - Majoritarianism has been discussed here several times - if you click on the Disagreement tag on the sidebar you can find examples. The idea is basically that the various biases and prejudices will tend to cancel out. There is also empirical evidence in specific domains where majoritarian mechanisms are demonstrably superior.

As far as the conventional approach, there are an overwhelming number of examples where people whom we have no reason a priori to believe are less logical, rational, and intelligent than ourselves nevertheless hold positions that we disagree with - which should cast doubt on the methodology which we and they use to reach the truth. If it worked, we should reach the same truth.

That methodology is objective, unbiased evaluation of evidence and argument. It doesn't work.

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I check out this video debate between Popular Mechanics and the emotional young men who created this video.

I find it quite ludicrous, because of the confluence of motives and conspiracies. But I think when someone objecting to the standard narrative often claims the other side is lying, highlights they really are not evaluating the evidence in an objective way. Once you truly believe, as these guys do, big groups are lying, well, then everything's questionable.

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BTW, it should be known that NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) performed a detailed study of the collapse of the WTC, and their conclusions agree with the 'standard' story. NIST is basically a bunch of scientists, who perform their research in government funded labs instead of in academia.

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Hal, I don't see how that leads to majoritarianism rather than simply weakened confidence in all positions, since it doesn't indicate a bias in a non-majoritarian direction, and especially since the majority's opinions are based on their own evaluation of arguments and evidence.

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To nitpick an example, the D-Day invasion location was not exactly kept secret. The Germans heard about it. They just did not believe it. Failure to keep secrets was so endemic in World War II that some of the best efforts were disinformation campaigns: making the truth look like lies or flooding channels to ruin the noise:signal ratio.

(Source: How to Tell a Secret by P.J. Huff and J.G. Lewin. For a different take on hiding the truth in plain sight by spreading lies, see the Friends of Privacy in Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge.)

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It should be noted that the number of people who had to be in the loop really isn't that large. Rumsfeld, cheney, a few high level pentagon people, whoever programmed the autopilot of the planes and rigged up some method of knocking out the passengers and crew, and if you believe the towers were brought down by controlled demolition, whoever planted the thermite.

Everybody else was just following orders.

Actually, flight 93 is still a sticky wicket. Either there were actual hijackers on it, or the calls from it were faked, which is possible but would require more people involved.

Anyway, even with all that, it's still only about a dozen people. Hardly "thousands".

I thought of another good link, actually this is the one that turned me.

The Coincidence Theorist's Guide to 9/11http://rigorousintuition.bl...

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"Maybe we should worry about the possibility of large groups keeping secrets, but, if so, it has a lot more consequences than 9/11."

We can look back at historical records from regimes or groups that have had their secrets exposed.

The U.S. government was abundantly criticized for prosecutions of Communist spies such as Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs, but never revealed its decisive secret evidence, intercepted and decrypted Soviet communications, in order to conceal the source of that evidence. At the same time, we know that Nixon systematically abused the FBI for his own political advantage.

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Speaking as a truther, I saw the first edition of loose change and thought it was terrible. I personally point people to this website here: http://www.911truth.org/art...

If you really must have the evidence presented in a video format, barrie zwicker's The Great Conspiracy is pretty decent, though a bit plodding and it has a corny name. http://video.google.com/vid...

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