Why I’m Not A 9/11 Truther: The Incompetence Argument

When I first started learning about Ron Paul and economics and the wonderful world of the anti-establishment, I also stumbled onto those interesting ideas about 9/11. I hoped these ideas would have died down by now, but I’ve seen them creeping up again recently in multiple places. It appears that the Internet will keep these theories alive forever, so I thought it worthwhile to offer my explanation of why I’m not a 9/11 Truther, and why it has very little to do with analyzing the “facts.”

“Truthers” are people who think the official narrative about 9/11 contains contradictions and/or physical impossibilities, and who have constructed an alternative narrative, which they believe to be more accurate, in which the federal government actively participated in destroying the World Trade Center and damaging the Pentagon. (There is a larger, less radical set of people who believe the government did not cause the attacks but may have known about them and let them happen; I am concerned only with the truthers here.) For example, truthers may claim that the exploded fuel from the planes couldn’t have been hot enough to melt the steel of the two towers, so there must have been additional explosives that were rigged up to bring the building down. Or truthers may claim that it would have been physically impossible to maneuver a plane into the angle that allegedly hit the Pentagon, and that the impact is much better explained by a missile. And so on.

I am not qualified to determine whether or not the alternative narratives make more or less sense than the official one – but I’m not sure the truthers are qualified, either. Collisions of giant planes and giant buildings are extremely rare, and each event involves thousands of factors that are impossible to completely analyze and consider, from velocity to angle to number of floors below and above to amount of fuel to time of day to weather to kinds of materials inside the building and so forth. It is mostly irrelevant to bring up comparisons to isolated historical incidents of planes that ran into other things and affected them differently, because there may have been thousands of different inputs that affected that different output. If you’re skeptical of the official narrative, shouldn’t you be just as skeptical of some guy on the Internet who thinks he calculated beyond a shadow of a doubt what could or could not have happened on 9/11? Have you done the calculation? How do you know the guy on the Internet had enough information to account for all possible factors, or that he didn’t just make a mistake? (Conspiracy theorists have a bad habit of disbelieving any evidence that discounts their ideas while latching on to any reported evidence that encourages it, even if it’s just as unverifiable as the official media they so strongly distrust.)

Since I’m not smart enough to analyze which narrative makes more sense, I look at what each narrative requires me to believe. The official narrative requires me to believe that the government was incompetent. The alternative narrative requires me to believe that Bush and his leaders were evil geniuses who concocted a plan like this: “Ok, we know that a bunch of Muslim foreigners are planning to hijack some planes and run them into buildings. Now we know that this can’t destroy the buildings. We also know that the American people won’t support our evil goal of wars in the Middle East if the buildings are damaged, but they will if the buildings fall down. So we need to secretly rig up explosives to destroy the buildings after the planes run into them. Oh, and let’s also damage the Pentagon, even though we already decided that damage alone wasn’t evil enough for the World Trade Center. But unlike the World Trade Center, which is a busy building completely open to the public, it would be too hard to rig explosives inside the Pentagon, a highly secure government building entirely within our control. So instead, we’ll shoot it from the outside with a missile!” Maybe truthers see that kind of narrative as making more sense. I see it as an extremely complicated plan that doesn’t make any sense and would be incredibly difficult to pull off. (I’m sure truthers will argue that I’ve misrepresented their narrative here. There are many variations, but they are all sufficiently complicated, non-sensical, and difficult.)

The alternative narratives of 9/11 don’t make any more sense than the official one, but they require a government that is far more competent than I have ever seen. I tend to view the federal government as a bloated bureaucracy that is constantly messing things up. Yes, it’s also corrupt, but in the sense that its members use it for their own personal gain, undermining the government’s goals, which is the exact opposite of working together toward a secret, corrupt government goal. I just don’t believe the federal government is competent enough to pull off something of the magnitude required if the official explanations are wrong. This is the government that completely botched the response to Hurricane Katrina, the government that arrests and executes the wrong people, the government that loans money to bankrupt businesses. Botching things is what massive, highly-centralized, low-accountability organizations are good at. I find it pretty easy to believe that the hodgepodge of intelligence-gathering operations within the government didn’t communicate well enough to piece together facts which were obvious in hindsight.  I find it much harder to believe that our government was so diabolically efficient that they were able to sneak explosives into two popular buildings so that when some foreigners hijacked planes and flew them into the buildings, they could set off the explosions and make them collapse instead of just burning a lot.

But even if I reject the alternative narratives, how do I explain parts of the official narrative that allegedly don’t make sense? Well, sometimes the media is just incompetent at reporting things. For example, since I’m pretty familiar with computers and technology, I frequently see articles about Google that are woefully misinterpreted or lacking important context. But just because the media botched the explanation about how Google did what they did, that doesn’t mean that Google didn’t actually do it. And just because the media may have inconsistent explanations of how certain things unfolded involving 9/11, it doesn’t automatically follow that these things couldn’t have happened at all. Furthermore, it’s perfectly consistent to believe that if many people in the government are incompetent, then many people in the media are incompetent, too.

This helps explain some of the truther claims of suspicious pre-9/11 activity, like convenient people conveniently buying insurance or trading stocks a couple days before or whatever. Well, some of that information could simply be wrong or lacking context. Some of it could just be coincidence. And some of it could even be people that knew or at least suspected something was going to happen. That can all be true without requiring that the leaders of our government knew exactly what was going to happen and decided that what was going to happen wasn’t bad enough to justify their evil goals so they had to make it even worse.

With 9/11, I have no idea whether or not the alternative facts are more accurate than the official ones. And I don’t think the purported reasonings behind the alternative facts make any more sense than the official ones. But there is one big reason I can’t believe the truthers. The alternative narratives are missing a crucial piece of evidence that has nothing to do with Osama bin Laden or the physics of airplanes, and it’s the most important evidence of all: evidence that the government is anywhere near competent enough to accomplish the acts that their narrative requires. I find that to be the most unbelievable “fact” of all.

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7 Responses to Why I’m Not A 9/11 Truther: The Incompetence Argument

  1. It took me awhile to get to this, but I enjoyed reading it. Especially your description of the alternative narrative in the fourth paragraph. I literally laughed out loud. Plus, it’s a salient point. The Bush administration leaked like a sieve while in office, and there have been lots of “tell-all” books published by former Bush allies, yet somehow this is the one secret they’ve managed to keep all this time.

  2. Chris Eikel says:

    Good points Josh, I like how you logically approach it. Still, don’t let the crazies scare you from the themes that underlie their reasoning… there are questionable circumstances worth consideration.
    Likewise, I think we completely underestimate the capability of our government. JEH & JFK shadily changed the path of a disorganized government to such an extent and in so competent a manner that most of their actions only came to light after their deaths. While 9/11 narratives are batshit crazy, I still wouldn’t put anything past the desires of the small few that pull the strings, simply based on history. Alterior motives belay historical roots and I doubt they’ve suddenly disappeared. Then again, I’ve probably watched too many episodes of X-Files haha!

    • Joshua Hedlund says:

      Thanks for the comment, Chris. There are definitely lots of secrets the government keeps, and that’s just based on secrets we know about, so there could be a lot of secrets we know nothing about. Overall, though, I just don’t think Bush’s administration was competent enough to pull off something the scale of 9/11 and keep it all secret.

  3. TC says:

    This whole “the government is too incompetent” to have planned 9/11 argument is incredibly flawed. Our governments are actually highly competent on the whole. Does incompetence explain how the top 5 people in the government went MIA, couldn’t be found , or claimed they were not told about what was happening until well into the event? That Bush, the president and commander-in-chief, thought the best thing to do after being told America was being attacked was to just sit there for 8 minutes and do nothing? And the Secret Service didn’t do their jobs and take him to the designated area thereby putting Bush and everyone at the school at risk? This is unbelievable to me. I am a teacher and if there is a “lock down” at my school and I don’t follow procedures I will get the sack. Especially if my actions cause a child harm. Bush put himself up to be the protector of the American people. Hah! What a joke. After all the “incompetence” covered up by outright lies (we never thought the terrorists would think to fly a plane into a building…BULLSHIT!) no-one, not one person, copped even a smack on the wrist. Please don’t be so naive.

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