Friday, 31 March 2006

Conspiracy Piffle

It takes only the suspicion that someone somewhere is making a fool of him for the conspiracy theorist to make an utter fool of himself, and this is no different in the case of the suspicions surrounding the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11th September 2001.
One suspicion currently doing the rounds is that the buildings which collapsed at the World Trade Center were in fact demolished by agents of the US government. Adduced in favour of this view are the putative words of former MI5 agent David Shayler, quoted on many conspiracy-theory websites:
I’ve seen the results of terroristic explosions and so on and no terrorist explosion has ever brought down a building. When the IRA put something like a thousands [sic] tonnes of home-made explosives in front of the Baltic Exchange building in Bishopsgate and let off the bomb, all the glass came out, the building shook a bit but there was no question about the building falling down and it doesn’t obey the laws of physics for buildings to fall down in the way the World Trade Center came down. [1]
Now, I do not know whether Mr Shayler really did say these words, or whether they have been attributed to him by some imaginative crackpot, but whoever said them is not well versed in the black art of humbug. For if one is to make a good job at persuading others that one is an authority on a matter—and thus that one’s words adduced in favour of a certain view are to be taken seriously—it helps if one gets at least the basic facts right and that one makes claims that are not ludicrous. This has not happened in this case, however.
The Baltic Exchange building was severely damaged on the 10th April 1992 by a bomb in St Mary Axe, not in Bishopsgate. The Bishopsgate bombing took place over a year later on the 24th April 1993. If the confusing of these two bombings were not enough to cause doubt about the author’s authority on such matters, we have also to contend with the claim that the IRA made a bomb weighing about a thousand tonnes. Did this claim not strike the author as ludicrous? Who would be so credulous as to believe that the IRA possessed a super-lorry that could transport such a weight? (The bomb that exploded in Bishopsgate was in fact made from about a ton of fertiliser.) But then perhaps the author’s understanding of weights and measures is as shaky as his grasp of physics.

[1] E.g., see


Akaky said...

And while I am sure that Mr. Shayler is an expert on counterintelligence and counterterrorism, I would rather trust the report of the engineers who went through all the possibilities and found that fire caused the collapse; the force of the initial impact knocked the fireproof foam off the girders, leaving them exposed to the intense heat caused by burning jet fuel and the tons of paper and other flammable materials already in the buildings. The girders weakened in the intense heat, weakened until they could no longer support the weight of the building above the point of maximum weakness, and then they gave way, the building collapsing down on itself, all of which occurred according to the laws of physics, whether Mr Shayler chooses to believe it or not.

dearieme said...

An altogether more interesting discussion would concern whether the damage might have been less had not the use of asbestos to insulate the steel been forbidden. Presumably the wicked CIA were behind the asbestos ban.

David Vance said...

The thing about conspiracy theorists is that they NEVER let facts get in the way, that's why arguing with them is a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Shaylor was employed by the latterday 'Smileys' of MI5 to protect this nation. The thought of which can only occasion this response:


Anonymous said...

Fact: No highrise before Sept 11th or since Sept 11th has imploded in on it's own footprint because of a fire almost to the top of the building. The fire in Tower7..wasn't much at all...yet the Fire Department was told by the owner of it to let it go...and it also imploded in on it's own footprint. These buildings were designed to withstand hits from airplanes..