Abusing logic and language to attack S9/11T
James H. Fetzer, Ph.D.
[NOTE: The subject essays are at http://www.911reseasrch.wtc7.net/essays.
My response to the first was submitted three times but never posted.
Please note that www.911research.com and www.911resesarch.wtc7.net
should not be mistaken for www.911review.org.]
A software engineer by background, Jim Hoffman has made many contributions to 9/11 research, including a critique of Popular Mechanics' defense of the "official" government account and an analysis of the NIST "Final Report". I liked them so much that they are included on the home page of the web site of Scholars for 9/11 Truth (www.911Scholars.org), where they are accessible to this day. He co-authored a booklet, Waking Up from Our Nightmare (2004), which deals with the collapse of the towers and has been well-received. Other students of 9/11, including David Ray Griffin and Steve Jones, both of whom I admire, often cite him. My past impression of him has therefore been quite favorable. Certainly, I have had no reason to bear him malice.
1. The First Attack
When Jim Hoffman launched his first attack upon me and Scholars for 9/11 Truth (Hoffman 2006a), which is archived on his web site, 911research.wtc7.net, I was at least mildly surprised, but took it seriously enough to respond (Fetzer 2006), even though it was feeble. He suggests, for example, that I only claim that the fires did not reach temperatures sufficient to melt the steel, when I point out that they did not even reach temperatures sufficient to weaken it; that I exaggerated the time of fall of the buildings by claiming it was 10 seconds, which is the figure that is also offered by The 9/11 Commission Report (2004); and he denigrates the video, "Loose Change".
Hoffman also assails the idea that the Pentagon was not hit by a Boeing 757, which he claims flew low enough to enter at the ground floor. He defends his position with measurements that purport to support it. If he were right about the impact, then he would be wrong about the lawn, which would have been massively plowed up by the engines and even the fuselage. If he is wrong about the lawn (because it is perfectly unblemished, as smooth and green as a putting surface), then he is wrong about the trajectory. And if the plane came down at an angle instead, we would expect to find a massive crater of the kind air crashes create. But there is no crater. Hence, no 757!
He even attacks the air traffic controllers who had observed the plane approach the Pentagon and reported that "its speed, maneuverability, the way that it turned" had led them to infer it was a military plane. According to Hoffman, the maneuvers they observed were "well within the performance capabilities of a 757, however atypical it was of the normal operation of a jetliner"! It seemed to me he was stretching his alleged competence in presuming to impose his judgment over that of experienced air traffic controllers. He even overlooked that, in their original report, they added, "You don't fly a 757 in that manner. It's unsafe." His argument was rather strained.
So I wrote a response to his criticism and another he had also archived on his web site by Michael B. Green (Green 2006), which I thought was even worse. I assumed that, in the spirit of fair play, he would archive my response along with the attacks, especially since I had demonstrated that they were clearly indefensible. Indeed, to not publish my reply, as he had done with the response from Morgan Reynolds to a criticism of his work, I thought, would not only be ethically objectionable but also be logically offensive in advancing some of the evidence for his contentions but not all. So, when he did not put it up, I sent it to him again. And then again. Three times!
After sending it to him three times, it was apparent that my response was not being posted not because it had not been received but that it had to be intentional. This bothered me, because a basic condition of scientific reasoning is the requirement of total evidence, which states that, in seeking the truth, reasoning must be based upon all the available relevant evidence. Since what I had sent him made a difference to the arguments he was advancing, it was clearly relevant; and since I had sent it to him no less than three times, it was clearly available. Which meant that Hoffman was deliberately violating a basic requirement of scientific reasoning and committing the fallacy known as special pleading by only citing the evidence favorable to your side.
During the many years I had been involved in research on the death of JFK, which yielded four conferences (chaired or co-chaired), three books, and many articles, I discovered that the abuse of logic and language is common with efforts to discredit serious studies that advance our understanding. That this should be the case is not surprising when you consider that "serious studies that advance our understanding" satisfy the conditions appropriate to scientific inquiries. When the science is sound, the only access routes available for tarnishing it require violating the standards of science through the abuse of language and logic. Given the science is sound, how else can it be discounted other than by ignoring it or through the commission of fallacies?
2. The Second Attack
It was not until reading his second attack (Hoffman 2006b) that it dawned on me that each of the criticisms he had advanced in his first attack functioned as tacit defenses of the government's "official account" of the events of 9/11. Don't take my word for it. Read his attack (Hoffman 2006a) and my response (Fetzer 2006) and think about what this series of criticisms of the points I was making represents in relation to the issues before us. If you want to be even more stunned by the evidence of bias that pervades his criticism of my work, go back to the original that he is attacking (Fetzer2005) and, if you find it carefully reasoned, then ask yourself what's going on here.
In his second attack, Hoffman suggests that, while Steve Jones, the co-chair of S9/11T, has done excellent work, the society has yet to acknowledge that "the promotion of nonsensical claims is part of a deliberate strategy to undermine the Truth Movement" and that the site links to many websites "featuring work that is, at best, thoroughly unscientific". Notice how this casts the author himself as the arbiter of which claims are and which are not "nonsensical" and therefore in a position to identify who is and who is not out to undermine "the Truth Movement". He also presumes to be able to arbitrate which websites do and which do not feature work that is "unscientific".
That is quite a burden for a computer programmer to assume. Having earned my Ph.D. in the history and the philosophy of science and having spent 35 years teaching logic, critical thinking, and scientific reasoning, I would presume that I would be competent to render such determinations. In blatant cases, of course, such as conclusions based upon tea-leaf reading, crystal-ball gazing, or mental telepathy, no doubt he could, too. But I seriously doubt that he understands the nature of science and the distinctions that make a difference to be able to answer whether computer science is science, for example, and if so in what sense. He would be unable to explain the distinctions that matter between causal systems and abstract entities, pure mathematics and applied mathematics and such, topics on which I have authored papers and published books.
So he poses as possessing expertise that, so far as I can see, he does not possess, but he does it in a subtle fashion most readers are likely to overlook. He then becomes serious by saying he will examine S9/11T by focusing on its web site and its founder, yours truly! He observes it is "a small web site", which was the case in mid-February 2006, when he was authoring this paper. The society was founded in mid-December 2005, so I am not quite sure what he expected merely two months later, but he offers no explanation. Instead, he focuses on the section entitled, "Peer-Reviewed Papers", which includes three articles, one by Steve Jones, one by David Ray Griffin, and one by me (the same one, of course, that was the subject of his earlier attack).
He suggests that the term "peer-reviewed" as used in scholarly publications "might not apply to all three". He acknowledges that Jones has responded to reviews from several civil engineers. He praises Griffin's paper but questions whether it has been "critiqued by engineers or scientists despite its logical construction and meticulous sourcing". Predictably, he assaults mine, remarking, "If Fetzer's paper has received serious peer review, it doesn't reflect that. It advances a series of arguments that have been conclusively debunked. The paper is the subject of reviews by Michael Green and myself." In taking for granted that he is right and I am wrong across the board, of course, he commits the fallacy known as begging the question. He pretends to have expertise he does not possess and regards his own views as beyond dispute.
If anyone cares to review the bidding and can explain why he is right and I wrong in relation to these issues, I would like to know it. So far as I have been able to discern, the criticisms he and Green have advanced against my paper have no merit. Indeed, I have no doubt that my competence with respect to peer-review procedures vastly exceeds his own. He may cast himself as an expert on the subject, but having edited one journal, Synthese, for 10 years, having founded and edited another journal, Minds and Machines, for 11, and having founded and edited a professional library that today includes more than 30 volumes, Studies in Cognitive Systems, as well as having served as a member of multiple journal editorial boards, I would be astonished if he possessed comparable credentials, where mine are verifiable at http://www.d.umn.edu/~jfetzer/.
3. Authorities and Pseudo-Authorities
He may not have served on any editorial board at all, but posing as an authority does not require that you actually be one! To the best of my knowledge, he made no effort to ascertain the review process to which these papers were subjected. Steve's paper was reviewed by four Ph.D.s, including two in physics, which is appropriate because the paper is a study in physics. David's received criticism from multiple sources in a wide range of fields. Mine was reviewed and revised several times and, indeed, was formally accepted for three different volumes: David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott, eds., 9/11 and the American Empire; Paul Zarembka, ed., The Hidden History of 9/11; and The 9/11 Conspiracy, which I am editing. Discount including it in my own book, of course, but it would appear to have the same virtues of "logical construction and meticulous sourcing" that characterize Griffin's. I even revised the paper four times!
Having dispatched our "Peer Reviews Papers" articles, Hoffman turns his attention to the "Audio/Video" section. Here he complains that we have included links to sites that feature "In Plane Site", "The Webfairy", "Hunt the Boeing!", a Flash lecture of mine on 9/11, "Loose Change", 2nd edition, "9/11 Eyewitness", and "Jack White's Photo Studies of 9/11". He would have you believe that these are unworthy links for www.911Scholars.org. Personally, however, I believe all of these links are interesting and valuable for different reasons. An extremely important stage in scientific inquiry is to consider the full range of possible explanations for the puzzling phenomena you want to explain. If you do not consider the full range, then the process of excluding alternatives on the basis of incompatible evidence may not yield the true explanation!
Of course, Hoffman probably does not understand this. He is no more of an expert on scientific reasoning than he is an expert on the process of peer review. That happens to be my domain of specialization as a philosopher of science. I have published many books--dozens, really--on the philosophy of science and the theoretical foundations of computer science, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and evolution and mentality. These include, for example, Scientific Knowledge (1981), Philosophy of Science (1993), Artificial Intelligence: Its Scope and Limits (1990), Philosophy and Cognitive Science (1991; 2nd edition, 1996; Portuguese edition, 1996); Computers and Cognition (2002); and The Evolution of Intelligence: Are Humans the Only Animals with Minds? (2005).
My purpose is not extolling my virtues as an established academician with more than 100 articles and reviews to his name but to suggest that you have someone here who is posing as an expert relative to scholarship and peer-review procedures where he is a pseudo-authority and I am not. Not only have I published more than 27 books, but David Ray Griffin has published more than 30! So which of us is better positioned for the purpose of conducting scholarly proceedings: the man who pretends to evaluate our work or we who are its subjects? There are many kinds of fakes and phoneys in this world, some of whom we are dealing with in our daily lives when attempting to come to grips with the realities of 9/11. It would be extremely naive to assume that the 9/11 community is not infested with its own, not all of whom are therefore agents of disinformation, of course, which entails the deliberate dissemination of information that is false with the intention to mislead in order to advance an agenda; but some are.
There are many other indications that Hoffman's assault on me and on S9/11T is not on the up and up. One is his use of visuals. He publishes our logo and attributes it to Eric Hufschmidt, who used to assist me with my posting articles to the site. This is a nice example of sloppy research, because the logo was created by Carl Weiss and not Eric, who is no longer a member of the society. He also attacks our "Resources" page for a photograph that appears there of the second floor at the Pentagon. Alleging that this is an example of "selective presentation of evidence", he ignores the fact that we have four photos from the Pentagon on that page, which are simply presented for viewers to reference. No argument is made there and, in my own work, I have never used a photo of the second floor windows in contending that no Boeing 757 hit the building. THAT is the selective use of evidence!
Even more deceitfully, he offers a truncated version of the public issues web site I have maintained for years and, by selective emphasis of the top of the home page to the exclusion of the rest, creates the artificial impression that "the most prominent links on (my) web site are to stories holding that the moon landings were faked"! I ask anyone to visit www.assassinationscience.com and see for themselves whether these links are "the most prominent" on the home page! Moreover, as though more proof were necessary, the articles that appear there are (a) studies of moon landing photographs and (b) questions raised by Pravda. There are serious questions that raise serious doubts about whether we went to the moon. The logical fallacy that is at work here is known as popular sentiments. Since most persons take for granted that we actually went to the moon, they are meant to be aghast that I might doubt it!
4. Disputing the Meaning of "Pull"
The fact of the matter is that Hoffman has no more idea than you or I as to whether we went to the moon! He is simply "pulling your chain", as the expression has it. If he had bothered to actually read through Jack's studies, for example, he would have encountered the only sentences I have authored about the question of moon landings:
Jack White's studies of anomalies in the Appollo space program raise the disturbing question, if man went to the Moon, then why was it necessary to fake so many photos? This parallels his earlier work on JFK, which raised a similar question about alleged assassin Lee Oswald, namely, if he really shot JFK, then why was it necessary to fake evidence to frame a guilty man?My opinion is that Jack's studies, the Pravda article, and several documentaries on the moon landings, including "Conspiracy Theory: Did Man Go to the Moon?" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon", raise so many disturbing questions that the only rational attitude is agnosticism. Given this evidence, none of us can claim to know.
Hoffman takes other cheap shots, including trashing some of my earliest radio talk show interviews. Anyone who wants to labor through his commentary is welcome, but nearly six months later, I have done more than 70, a non-random sample of which is available on www.911Scholars.org. More significant, in my opinion, have been his attempts to defend Larry Silverstein from the import of his remark about "pulling" WTC-7. This first occurred in an on-line discussion forum, where I raised a question asking how it could be the case that a term ("pull") that referred to controlled demolition could "distract from the evidence it was a controlled demolition" on 2 December 2005, as he had suggested. He responded to me with the following remarks, which are nice samples of double-talk:
>> I want to know what in the world you think
the word meant in this context?
OK, I'll bite. What are some of those different things? Because I cannot see any basis for interpreting it any other way in this context than as directing or authorizing a controlled demolition. So please give me one or two alternative meanings. Enlighten me.
5. Corroborating Evidence
Patterns matter. There appears to me to be a pattern of attempting to "explain away" some of the most damning evidence that confronts the official account of 9/11, especially evidence that is relatively easy for the public to understand. For there to be no Boeing 757 at the Pentagon creates an enormous hole in the official account, one that every American could easily understand. That Larry Silverstein said, "Perhaps the best thing to do is to pull it!", creates another enormous hole in the official account, one that every American could easily understand. It seems to me that Hoffman's role is like that of the little Dutch boy who put his fingers into the holes in the dike to keep it from breaking! In his attack upon me, he observed that "the 9/11 Truth Movement has been plagued by both misinformation and deliberate disinformation that has been injected into the debate in order to discredit challenges to the official account". He directed that against me, but it appears to fit him to a "t"!
If you aren't completely convinced by the abuses of language and logic that I have documented here, perhaps a few more examples will convince you. An article about a "Citizens' Grand Jury" convened in Los Angeles on 23 October 2004 and 27 August 2005 under the sponsorship of Katheleen Ferrick Rosenblatt and Lynn Penta, co-founders of 911TruthLA.us, has appeared in Global Outlook (Spring/Summer 2006). Hoffman is mentioned as one of the witnesses. What is not said is that, when he appeared before the Citizens' Grand Jury, he changed the testimony he had planned to provide against the hypothesis that a Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon and instead supported it! He did not advise the sponsors he was going to do that. In my opinion, he thereby betrayed the 911 Truth Movement as blatantly as it could ever be betrayed. He must exercise considerable charm, however, because when I made this point to Kathleen during a conversation in April, she dismissed the idea and said he had simply made a mistake.
Another example may be more difficult to dismiss as a "mistake". I received an email on 1 May 2006 expressing dismay over what its author perceived as Hoffman's attempts "to smear and discredit many 9/11 researchers, including the Scholars for 9/11 Truth." What I found most fascinating was his report about Hoffman's conduct in relation to a presentation by David Ray Grifffin that recently took place in Oakland:
Mistakes happen. The happened in JFK and they happened in 9/11. It turns out that JFK was killed from the impact of high-velocity bullets. The Mannlicher-Carcano that was planted to frame Oswald, however, is not a high-velocity weapon and cannot have fired them! The government simply ignores this inconvenient fact and does its best to distract us. Likewise, no Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon! And Larry Silverstein blew it by admitting that WTC-7 was a controlled demolition! Since the government can't simply ignore them, it does its best to discount the evidence or to distract us from absorbing its importance. After all, once you understand that no Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon or that WTC-7 was a controlled demolition, you are going to have very little inclination to accept anything else the government has told us about 9/11.
Their mention of the "Fake Cell Phone Calls Theory" is fascinating. A. K. Dewdney, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Western Ontario University, has conducted a series of experiments with cell phones of various makes, traveling by air on various carriers, and he has found that, at elevations above 2,000 feet and speeds in excess of 230 mph, cell phone connections become fewer and farther between. His research, archived on the same "Resources" page with the Pentagon photos and substantiated by multiple other studies, suggests that Mark Bingham's call to his mother, during which he identified himself by saying, "Mom, this is Mark Bingham!", among others, was faked. It was already apparent that there was something wrong here, but Dewdney and the others have acquired empirical evidence that the cell phone calls were fabricated. So Hoffman's pretense of a commitment to scientific inquiry appears to be pure hypocrisy.
In his book, History will Not Absolve Us (1996), Martin Schotz, a psychiatrist who has studied JFK, observed that the objective of disinformation is not to convince us of "the official account" but to create enough uncertainty that "everything is believable and nothing is knowable". That appears to me to be the role of Jim Hoffman relative to 9/11. I have acquired a great deal of experience since I first began the study of the Kennedy assassination in 1992 (Fetzer 2004). Given what I know of him based upon my own experience, he fits the pattern. Scholars for 9/11 Truth has the policy that, if either of the co-chairs concludes that a member's participation undermines the objectives of the society, they may be suspended. Were he a member, I would remove him. Each of you must decide for yourselves, but let there be no doubt about this point. One of us is a fake. We cannot both be genuine. Review the evidence and decide.
McKnight Professor Emeritus
Fetzer, J. H. (2004), "Disinformation: The Use of False Information", Minds and Machines 14 (2004), pp. 231-240.
Fetzer, J. H. (2006), "The Company You are Keeping: Comments on Hoffman and Green" (9 February 2006), archived at www.911Scholars.org.
Green, M. B. (2006), "The Company We Keep" (version 1.1, 8 February 2006), archived at 911research.wtc7.net.
Hoffman, J. (2006a), "A Critical Review of 'Thinking about "Conspiracy Theories": 9/11 and JFK" (version 1.0, 6 February 2006), archived at 911research.wtc7.net.
Hoffman, J. (2006b), "Scholars for 9/11 Truth:
Muddling the Evidence" (version 1.1, 19 February 2006), archived at 911research.wtc7.net.
(c) 2006 James H. Fetzer