Sunday, September 11, 2011

How do you decide what to believe?

Many of my students would like to take notes on what I tell them, and memorize it all. I tell them that math isn't like that. The idea is to prove to yourself that things make sense.

Sometimes I talk about how growing up with a lawyer for a dad made arguing (usually amicable) one of our family sports, and how that helped me be good at math, because I question everything. Other times I suggest that it's a good idea to question authority. I tell them not to believe me, because I make mistakes. "How do you know that's true?" I ask.

Today I'm asking that about what happened on 9/11. I don't know what happened. I've watched the videos Nilo de Roock linked to a few days ago. I've followed some links he sent me, and read about the 3rd tower that's seldom mentioned and about Paul Wellstone's death.

On Friday a public health advocate was being interviewed on KPFA (podcast). She talked about how the government said the air nearby was fine just days later, when they couldn't yet know, and how people with cancers from the air pollutants are not getting help. She said she wasn't a 'conspiracy theorist', and that she's not the kind of person to suggest people lose all hope and feel powerless. I worry about the phrase 'conspiracy theorist'. Is anyone who doubts the official story a 'conspiracy theorist'? Why? I'm trying to be logical about this. I don't want to lose hope, but I sure want to try to figure out what's true.

Here's a television news archive, from a more mainstream source. The videos I watched from the first link above talked about how there was no reason for the buildings in the background to look so nondescript. It was a sunny day, and it makes no sense for there to be so little detail in the videos. (The hypothesis is that much of the news footage was faked.) Is that true? You may not see the details from the first videos in the official news archives, but you can make the comparisons they suggest, between 9/11 scenes of the Manhattan skyline and other videos of the same skyline.

Of course, those videos don't answer my dozens of questions. The biggest being, if the media was helping to show us a lie, that would put at least dozens of people (but more likely hundreds) in on some sort of conspiracy. How could that many secrets be kept?

What we do know is that about 3000 people died that day, and the world changed. It's a tragedy however it happened. And it's important to me to try to understand what really happened.


  1. I don't think I know how to believe (in this sense of the word, at least) in general. There are given facts I have, with given validity and reliability values, so to speak. There is always a possibility new facts or interpretations may surface.

    I expect governments to routinely lie to citizens. I think the idea of "country" strongly pushes them in that direction, whatever the system of the government. Multi-party systems help a bit because the other parties are motivated to dig up lies. Dictatorships are worse liars than countries with some degree of freedom of speech other than zero.

    I think in general, it's a good idea to stay the eff away from disaster areas unless you know very well what you are doing. In Chornobyl, they sent some enlisted kids to pick up radioactive debris with bare hands (and throw it who knows where); many died within days. People weren't told anything dangerous happened for several days, and massive numbers got exposed.

    But it's much better now that the internet exists, and it's much harder to monopolize information.

  2. I hardly ever comment on blogs I read, but this is too sad not to. As an educated teacher, I would have hoped you'd have more common sense than to buy into these ridiculous conspiracy theories given all the video evidence from a wide variety of sources, both from the media and individual recordings from that day. Sad. I'm unsubscribing.

  3. If you're still here, Sarah, please point me to the evidence you're referring to. As I stated in my blog, I haven't 'bought into' the 'conspiracy theories', but do feel that I can't really know what's true.

    For me, this is a hard place to be.

  4. I, too, am frustrated that anyone who has any doubt about what we are being told by the media and by our government is immediately labeled a conspiracy theorist. It is good to question.

    When you look at the basic facts, you have to question what really happened. The U.S. is one of the most heavily armed and protected countries in the world, yet three planes were allowed to fly into buildings.

    Fighter jets were seen over New York City by residents on 9-11, yet this was never reported.

    There are protection protocols in place for all major buildings, and the protocol was not followed, even though fighter jets were on site. (The protocol reportedly was to shoot down any plane that came within so many feet of the tower. This nearly happened to a small passenger plane a few months before 9-11.)

    Structurally sound buildings melted to the ground in a way that looks exactly the same as a controlled demolition.

    Security for the Pentagon has to be the highest we have in the U.S., yet a plane was able to run into it??

    Too many things do not make sense. I can't tell you how to decide what to believe. Personally, I consider the events of 9-11 with a lot of skepticism and I have a lot of questions.


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