August 7, 2006

"The 9/11 conspiracy movement exploits the public's anger and sadness."

"It traffics in ugly, unfounded accusations of extraordinary evil against fellow Americans."

So writes Senator John McCain in the foreword to "Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts." This is the well-known analysis published in Popular Mechanics in March 2005, plus an afterword dated June 2006. It is good to have this clearly presented and updated material in book form. It will be available on August 15th, but you can order it at the first link now. (I received an advance copy.)

UPDATE: The whole text of the book is updated and expanded, not just the afterword.

30 comments:

Simon said...

It would seem that it is the least that U-Wisc could do is to provide a copy of this book to each student it has foisted Kevin Barrett upon.

the Rising Jurist said...

I was able to get a copy at the Barnes and Noble on Madison's east side over the weekend, should anyone have pressing need for their own copy post haste.

Incidentally, it's a good book. It not only provides a rebuttal to popular theories, but serves as a reference for the theories themselves. I was not previously aware of some of the more ridiculous theories (the planes were remote controlled; Flight 93 was populated with passengers from the other three flights, which were grounded, etc.) so it's a nice primer.

The Drill SGT said...

Ann,

Was the advance copy a general blog buzz copy or was there a barrett connection? e.g. your radio appearance on Barrett v UW

Simon said...

A serious suggestion that will sound fascetious - perhaps a newspaper or magazine should invite Barrett to write a review of the book, pointing out what he sees as its mistakes.

Ann Althouse said...

I get a lot of advance copies. I don't mention everything I receive. I don't know exactly how they figure out who to send books too, but it usually has some connection to the blog.

brylin said...

Someone should make sure that Provost and Engineering Professor Farrell gets a copy. Perhaps he should be asked to write a review of it as well.

Dave said...

I thought Barrett's class was an elective? It's hardly "foisted" upon students any more than Kierkegaard and Schopenauer were foisted upon me when I chose to take philosphy classes in college.

Necessary disclaimer: this comment should in no way be construed as supporting either Barrett or the academy's implicit endorsement of him.

Simon said...

Ann Althouse said...
"I get a lot of advance copies. I don't mention everything I receive. I don't know exactly how they figure out who to send books too, but it usually has some connection to the blog."

Presumably, readers could mail books they think you'd be interested in to "Prof. Ann Alhouse, The University of Wisconsin Law School, 975 Bascom Mall, Madison, WI 53706"? ;)

Ann Althouse said...

Simon, they do all the time. I get many more books than I ever mention here.

knoxgirl said...

I thought Barrett's class was an elective? It's hardly "foisted" upon students ...

It depends on the school and the situation... for example, there were art history courses that filled up so quickly at my school (UT Knoxville) that there were literally students whose graduation was delayed. When you had the chance to get in to certain courses, you did, regardless who was teaching it that semester.

This might not be the case at UW, certainly, but it is conceivable that there are students who need to satisfy a certain requirement and need to take that course to do it.

Simon said...

Dave said...
"I thought Barrett's class was an elective? It's hardly "foisted" upon students any more than Kierkegaard and Schopenauer were foisted upon me when I chose to take philosphy classes in college."

Suppose I order a bowl of tomato soup, and my waiter punches me in the head. If I say "argh! What the hell, man?!" and jump out of my seat, is it relevant that I chose tomato soup? Of course not. What I got wasn't just undesirable, it wasn't what I ordered.

Likewise, you may be right that the Introduction to Islam class is an elective, and so every student there chose to take the class "Introduction to Islam." But that misplaces the emphasis: they chose to take the class Introduction to Islam." They did not, however, choose to take a class in "9/11 conspiracy theories" or "paranoid psychosis," and when they chose the elective class, they no doubt had in mind that they would be taught on the subject of an introduction to Islam, and by an appropriate lecturer. It is the non-germane syllabus and the wholly inappropriate lecturer which is being foisted upon them, and they are being deprived of the reasonable expectations under which they would have signed up for the class.

The Drill SGT said...

what I found fascinating was the number of wacko's posting against the bok on Amazon

Mike said...

Someone should buy gnocchi a copy.

Mike said...

Barrett should assign it as class reading. He has given Farrell assurances that he will discuss all sides even-handedly. How can he not assign it?

Seven Machos said...

I predict that a few nuts with conspiracy theories will somehow find this post three or four days from now and make comments on it. Don't forget to check back if you like zany insights into fringe thought.

Tibore said...

I don’t want to pile on Dave here, but in all due respect, I do want to point out that it hardly matters that the class is an elective that students can escape. If Flat Earth "theory" were taught as an elective, and taught as if it were straight up truth as well, does it matter that the class were not compulsory? The point is not whether students can avoid the class; the point is that the university puts its weight behind Flat Earthism to the point of offering the class. It may not be open advocacy for the view, but it’s at least partial condonation, regardless of what any university administrator says about it. It’s saying at the very least “This may not be the majority view, we may not believe it ourselves, but there’s enough validity to offer a class teaching it”.

The bottom line is that this is a sad commentary on the University’s aspirations to excellence that they allow this instructor the opportunity to push patently absurd theories. Teaching critical thinking through studying controversial material is one thing, and that’s acceptable as long as there’s no advocacy for the position. If such material is taught within the context of the fact that it’s controversial and that there are multiple viewpoints and that there’s much data to process before coming to independent conclusions – and you expect students to come to independent conclusions - there’s nothing wrong with that. But to teach 9/11 conspiracy as straight up fact? Look, this isn’t merely controversial material. Controversial material is a heavily political and opinionated topic like, say for example, abortion or the Iraq conflict: Whether you’re pro choice or anti abortion, or whether you’re for or against the US actions, there’s no question that they’re both controversial subjects. Controversial material is something with heavy opinions and facts that can add up to either direction, such as the question among paleontologists whether T-Rex was a scavenger or carnivore. Controversial material is a question of fundamental issues, such as the Sturm und Drang between open source and commercial softwares’ suitability in business applications. Controversial material is not the 9/11 conspiracy charges, because such charges must have a basis in fact and truth. That is not the case with Barrett’s beliefs. Period. The fact that he believes them does not lend actual legitimacy or veracity to them. They must pass the acid test of actually reflecting reality, and they do not.

Cripes, I'm starting to rant, I need to stop... look, the point is that a university has an obligation to truth, and teaching material contradictory to reality spurns that obligation.

Mike said...

Going out on a limb there, Seven? :-)

Tibore said...

Dave, I started my last post by referring to you. Keep in mind that I forgot that fact somewhere before midpoint of that essay (sorry folks! I'm thinking about deleting it and starting over, it's too long and rant-y). At any rate, it's not aimed at you, it's a "release" on the subject of Barrett and UW itself. Please don't take any of it as an attack on you personally. It wasn't.

Tibore said...

Here's a question to the professor regarding the book:

There are many websites claiming to "debunk Popular Mechanics" (Google those terms for what I mean). Does this book address those sites at all?

Pogo said...

I bought a copy for my son last week at B&N. He's 12, and some lunkhead in the cabin he was assigned at camp the previous weeks spent the entire time foisting his Barrettesque 9/11 conspiracy theories on his bunkmates. They're 12, mind you, so that lad's lucky he wasn't left out in a canoe somewhere. I mean, really, it encroached on the cool noises they were learning to make from various orifices.

I read through much of it. It's alot like the books debunking the Apollo moon shot conspiracy nuts (you know, the Capricorn One morons). I gather the mental age for most such conspiracies hovers at the pre-teen era, when we are most credulous.

The book reads like a very patient mentor explaining very clearly and very exactly why, given your conspiracy theory, you may be dumber than a bag of hammers, and every time you open your mouth, the world's intelligence declines.

Dave TN said...

From the Amazon page selling the book these interesting statistics are found:

What do customers ultimately buy after viewing items like this?

40% buy the item featured on this page:Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts by The Editors of Popular Mechanics $12.98

23% buy Towers of Deception: The Media Cover-up of 9/11 by Barrie Zwicker $15.72

14% buy 9/11 101 : 101 Key Points that Everyone Should Know and Consider that Prove 9/11 was an Inside Job by Eric D. Williams $10.99

12% buy 9/11 Revealed: The Unanswered Questions by Rowland Morgan $9.72

11% buy Conspiracies, Conspiracy Theories, and the Secrets of 9/11 by Mathias Broeckers $14.95

JorgXMcKie said...

Unforunately, my local rag, the Detroit News had today, on about page 4, an AP article claiming (I don't have the paper in front of me, so this is only approximate) that "it's not just conspiracy nuts in this case. College professors like Barrett of U-W, the physicist guy from Utah, and emeritus professor James Fetzger of U Minnesota" . . .

It basically just accepts the conspiracy lunacy as a scientific dispute. I have the misfortune to know Fetzger slightly. Not only does he have no background in engineering or such (he was apolitical philosopher by trade last I knew), the guy is a nutcase. I saw him nearly physically attack a gentle, retired professor some 80 years old because Fetzger was unhappy with a paper that didn't attack Bush's health policies.

Someone should spend a bit more time looking into these wackos.

ray_g said...

Some years ago, I became fascinated by conspiracy theories in general, and looked at many of them. Not that I believe any of them, it was sort of like being fascinated by a freeway accident. Two things quickly became clear: it is pointless to argue with conspiracy theorists, any opposing evidence is somehow "manufactured", and by presenting it you must be one of "them". Also, and always remember this when talking to them, lack of evidence for the existence of the conspiracy just shows how clever the conspirators are. All of this was amusing until I met and spoke with a true believer. I still can't decide whether the experience was scary or sad. All I know is after that conspiracy theories weren't funny any more.

The Drill SGT said...

There's a phrase that Provost Farrell should have tattooed across his forehead or ass, depending on which he most prominently displays from now on. Read it and moan you gutless wonder:

College professors like Barrett of U-W

I expect that will make folks like Ann weep in their chardonnay tonight.

quietnorth said...

Isn't the best thing we can do when we hear conspiracy theorists is to say to ourselves: "In what ways do I relish my beliefs over the truth?" Don't we all want the world to match up in a way that is simple and satisfying? I am NOT saying, "judge not lest ye be judged". I am saying that we should palpate that thing in us that wants the world to be more simple than it is.

vnjagvet said...

Now Barrett is one of the "leading authorities" on 9/11. After all, he is teaching a "university level" course espousing his positions. At a fine university, no less.

I hope Farrell is satisfied giving this crap big time credentials.

That's the big pity to me.

And there's not much that can be done to unring the bell.

Simon said...

"And there's not much that can be done to unring the bell."

Of course there is - he can be fored, for gross abuse of position,and the University can publically recant. That won't unring the bell, but it will at least remove the University's imprimatur from the 9/11 conspiracy theory, and prevent Barrett from using his position to lend credence to his theory (the "if I'm so nuts, why was I hired to teach this theory at UW" defense, per JorgXMcKie's post).

vnjagvet said...

Simon:

What do you think the line on tradespot.net might be for that happening.

Simon said...

Jim,
Since it would require U-Wisc to display some backbone and risk some criticism in liberal quarters, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the chances are as close to zero as any finite number can be. The only thing that is clear is this: whatever U-Wisc now do, they're going to get reamed for it by someone or other. Since that is a given, and all else being equal, unless they are wholly irrational, what they do will be what they would prefer if unhindered by other external factors, and I suspect they will do whatever they believe to be most injurious to President Bush. You know, "doing their bit for freedom" and so on.

Anonymous said...

Be sure to check out the book “Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory” due out in March by Dr. David Ray Griffin.

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9781566566865&itm=2

http://www.amazon.com/Debunking-11-Mechanics-Defenders-Conspiracy/dp/156656686X/sr=1-4/qid=1168895874/ref=sr_1_4/102-3028549-2492937?ie=UTF8&s=books