25 August 2008


Last week, the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology released a 77-page report on the collapse of the World Trade Center Building 7, which you can read here. As you might imagine the report is pretty boring, but some of the language used is pretty interesting. There is a pretty subjective "reconstruction" of the events that lead to the collapse on 9/11, and some different explanations for why certain scenarios are more likely that others, blah blah blah. But what's interesting is to compare they're language with the language used by the New York Daily News story that covers the report. The NIST report, which took three years to write, explains its purpose as an attempt to understand the safety problems that caused the building to collapse, without acknowledging the importance of an official report to quell any conspiracy theories about 9/11. The Daily News makes the implicit assumption that the reports only purpose is to debunk any theories, as we can tell from the headline, "Fire - not explosives - brought 7 WTC down."

9/11 conspiracy theorists believe that the official explanation that fires caused structural damage that ultimately led to the collapse of all three WTC buildings is physically impossible. In all of the 9/11 videos and media, you will hear pseudo-scientific explanations of why this is so, using evidence like "no building in history has collapsed because of fire damage" and videos of controlled demolitions which closely resemble the building 7 collapse. This is part of the narrative strategy of conspiracy theories, using "evidence" that may have no basis in reality, but reporting as though it is absolute truth. It works because conspiracy theorists are by definition not mainstream and not expected to work within guidelines that a institution like the NIST must. The discrepancy creates an interesting dialog, where the officials generally don't bother to acknowledge the conspiracy theories, while conspiracies don't really attack the official story or actual evidence in a credible way. The only link between the two are media sources like the New York Daily News that are able to create a more interesting story by juxtaposing the two.

As of right now there are 43 comments on the Daily News story, which create kind of a hilarious dialog between people who believe the conspiracy and others who vehemently oppose it. It's hard for me to imagine the people behind these comments, but I suppose they could really be anyone. You would assume a lot of college students and maybe some precocious high schoolers, but for all I know my parents are secretly posting comments written in all caps on news stories in the spare time.

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