Two weeks ago, I met Ron Wieck in a diner, where he lent me a DVD containing two episodes of his “Hardfire” show, containing two parts of a debate between Mark Roberts and two members of the Loose Change crew, Dylan Avery and Jason Bermas. Today, I have finally finished watching and reviewing the two shows.
- Program 1 (mostly about the alleged hijackers and Flight 93)
- Program 2 (mostly about the WTC destruction)
- Mark’s mechanical arguments, and some other thoughts
In the first show, Ron begins by asking Dylan and Jason whether they think the Bush administration deliberately ignored warnings of an impending Al Qaeda attack. They say yes. Ron then asks whether they believe that Al Qaeda is a real organization which poses an actual threat. Jason says yes, Al Qaeda exists and “radical Muslims” exist, but could not have pulled off the 9/11 attacks all by themselves. Ron contrasts their view with that of people who deny the existence of foreign enemies.
Ron then asks Mark about the latter people. Mark says that Dylan and Jason themselves have voiced the latter opinion (that “all terrorist acts are really committed by the United States”) in the past. Mark accuses Dylan and Jason of being “a bit disingenuous.”
Mark and Ron both use the terms “conspiracists” and “conspiracy movement.” Dylan and Jason do not object to those terms, as I would have. (See Chip Berlet and “Conspiracism”.) Then again, unlike me, they seem to be adherents of the ideology of Alex Jones, who really is a full-blown “conspiracist” (by Chip Berlet’s definition).
Mark then goes on to talk about the section of Loose Change, Second Edition, about Flight 93. Ron chimes in with some counterevidence. Flight 93 has never been a high research priority for me, so I won’t go into detail. I’ll just say that the hypothesis presented in LC2E about Flight 93 has never seemed, to me, to be very likely.
Ron asks Dylan and Jason whether they still maintain the views about Flight 93 that were expressed in LC2E.
Jason says he first wants to address the issue of the role of Al Qaeda terrorists. He believes that they are real, but also believes that they’ve been used as “patsies.” He cites, as an example, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (previously discussed by me in the section on Credible allegations of U.S. government complicity in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in my post My main reasons for being suspicious about 9/11). Mark says that not all the tapes are available, and that what’s on the publicly available tapes isn’t all that terribly incriminating of the FBI. Jason responds by referring to the New York Times coverage.
Next, Dylan admits that Loose Change contains errors, saying that the Loose Change crew made the film “as a bunch of kids.” He recommends “9/11: Press for Truth” and “9/11 Mysteries,” especially the former, as more accurate and more representative of the 9/11 Truth movement. Dylan then talks about the 9/11 Families movement and how it pushed for an investigation and how the 9/11 Commission failed to answer many of the families’ questions.
Ron responds by talking about how the 9/11 Families movement also pushed for the NIST investigation, and for more funding for same. Ron reports that Mike Newman, of NIST, says that the feedback from the families regarding the NIST report has been overwhelmingly positive.
The topic then changes to Flight 93 for a while. No comment.
Then the issue of the “passenger manifests” comes up. Ron says that the passenger manifests have been made available to reporters from major newspapers like the Boston Globe but not to anyone else. Ron then says that there has been some confusion between “passenger manifests” and published “victim lists,” which did not include the alleged hijackers because the latter were not considered “victims.”
Next is a discussion about the confusion over the names and identities of the hijackers, e.g. the reports that some alleged hijackers were still alive. This is another low-priority research area for me, on which I’ve already seen claims and counterclaims but not pursued the matter further. It doesn’t seem to me like a particularly promising line of inquiry.
Jason then discusses an account by actor James Woods of an experience he had had on a plane during the summer before 9/11. There were four Muslim men in matching windbreaker outfits, with no luggage, always looking at the cockpit. Woods spoke to two stewardesses, both of whom were “spooked” enough to fill out FAA reports after the flight. Two of the weird-acting passengers were subsequently said to be among the 9/11 hijackers. Jason thinks it’s strange that they were allowed to get through airport security again after that incident.
Ron responds by talking about “incompetence.” To support this, he brings up an experience of his own, on an airplane about 10 months before 9/11, with a noisy, obnoxious passenter who refused to put away his cell phone. At the time, Ron didn’t suspect that this guy was anything worse than a “rowdy jerk.” Later, after 9/11, Ron concluded, for some unspecified reason, that the “rowdy jerk” might have been a terrorist. He called the FBI, but the FBI never got back to him. I’m not sure what this is supposed to prove, because Ron doesn’t explain how or why he came to regard the “rowdy jerk’s” actions as suspicious rather than just annoying.
Then, Mark says he thinks the hijackers were more competent than Dylan and Jason give them credit for.
After that is a discussion about various evidence concerning the alleged hijackers, on which I won’t comment, because this is another area I haven’t yet dug into beyond reading claims and counterclaims. Personally, I don’t have strong doubts about these particular parts of the official story, except that perhaps some relatively minor details might have been gotten wrong.
The issues I personally am more concerned about are:
1) The behavior of high officials
2) The specificity of warnings/foreknowledge
3) The reasons for the air defense failures
4) What happened to the WTC buildings, especially WTC 7
In Program 2, Ron starts off by bringing up a variant of the “too many people” argument. Supposedly, the idea of government complicity in the 9/11 attacks would require vast numbers of people to have been coerced into saying things they know are not true.
Jason does not try to refute the premise that vast numbers of people would have needed to be in the know. Instead, he just says he doesn’t think it’s that hard to coerce people in government positions.
He then talks about an AP report from a few days after 9/11 saying that “the shadow government” had been “activated.” He says this report can be found on the AP Archive site, but I wasn’t able to find it there with a search on the term “shadow government.” If someone can refer me to a news article about this, I would very much appreciate it.
The discussion then moves on to the NIST report. Dylan says he doesn’t think all those NIST scientists were “in on it.” He then says that the NIST report analyzes everything that happens up to the “initiation of collapse” but does not explain the collapse itself.
Mark, of course, argues that the NIST report contains a very brief discussion of the global collapse, which is considered to be inevitable after the initiation of collapse.
While discussing the NIST report, Dylan refers to melting of steel, something the NIST report never alleged. Mark, of course, jumps on that error.
Jason then makes some all-too-common erroneous arguments for a low estimate of the severity of the fires in the Twin Towers, e.g. the photo of a woman standing in the impact hole of WTC 1 and the fire fighter who said that there were “just two isolated pockets of fire” on WTC 2’s 78th floor (which was at the very bottom of the impact zone, hence a floor where there was relatively little fire compared to higher floors).
To show that the fires in WTC 2 were cooling down by some time before the collapse, and not just on the 78th floor, a better argument would have been to show this photo or some similar video footage. Note the relatively small amount of smoke that appears to be coming from the impact zone of WTC 2, compared to the much larger amount of smoke that appears to be coming from the collapse zone of WTC 1. Note also the absence of any emergent flames from any floor of either tower at this time, at least on the north and east sides. (I should try to find similar photos of the south and west sides, if they exist.)
Anyhow, Mark refutes Jason’s arguments for a low estimate of fire severity. Mark also mentions the molten stuff pouring from the northeast corner just before collapse.
Ron brings up the NIST collapse hypothesis and the inward bowing of the perimeter columns, visible in photos just before collapse.
Jason says it would not have surprised him if the top part of WTC 2, which leaned over quite a bit at the beginning of the collapse, had simply fallen to the ground, without crushing the entire rest of the building.
Jason then addresses the molten metal. Either Mark or Ron (hard to tell which, since the voice is off-camera and partly drowned out by Jason) says it’s aluminum. Jason thinks it’s not aluminum, on grounds that he thinks molten aluminum would solidify on contact with steel. This objection doesn’t really make sense, given that the melting point of steel is much higher than that of aluminum. He doesn’t bring up the low-emissivity argument.
Mark then claims to have held some of the disputed material in his hand (long after it solidified, of course), and that it was indeed aluminum. When asked how he got hold of that stuff, he says people had collected it. He then admits he can’t be absolutely sure it was the same stuff that had fallen from the northeast corner of WTC 2.
Anyhow, Mark then picks up a photo showing the bowing perimeter columns. Jason again says it wouldn’t have been surprised him if the top part had just tipped over and fallen off, but he didn’t believe it could have crushed the rest of the building. Mark replies, in essence, that the weight of the top part was indeed enough to crush the rest of the building building, once it had picked up enough speed by falling several floors.
Dylan then makes the usual overstatement that the law of conservation of momentum and the law of conservation of energy were “shattered.” (See the sections The “Newton’s laws” argument: Incomplete without some details and WTC 1 and 2: Size matters in my post Demolition of WTC: Let’s not overstate the case, please. But see also the comment thread starting here.)
It is possible that even leading structural engineers could be in error on this matter. (See my post Engineers were surprised by the WTC collapses and the discussion following it.) Unfortunately, the extremely expensive experiments that would be needed, in order to resolve this question in a truly scientific manner, aren’t likely to happen.
In my opinion, we have a much stronger case regarding WTC 7, which, unfortunately, wasn’t discussed very much. (See my posts Straight-down collapse of WTC 7 – what do “debunkers” say? and Loose Change Final Cut – section on WTC 7.) Even regarding WTC 7, though, there are some common errors made by many people in the 9/11 Truth movement, plus some issues that require further analysis and examination of the available evidence than I’ve seen, so far, from anyone.
Back to the show. There then ensued an argument about Steven Jones. Jason refers to Jones’s work on the aluminum vs. steel issue, but doesn’t explain it well. (See the pages listed in the section Thermite (or Thermate) – good so far, though not conclusive in my post Demolition of WTC: Let’s not overstate the case, please.)
Mark then says, “What you guys are contending is that the heat couldn’t have gotten hot enough in the buildings to cause the collapse, basically.”
Jason replies that his main contention is, instead, that “The buildings themselves and the planes that hit them have no way to account for the molten metal that was found under all three sites of the World Trade Center.”
Mark objects that that’s a totally different issue. Then, for a little while, Jason and Mark talk at the same time, making it hard to understand either of them. Nothing new is said, from what I could make out.
Then Ron says that no controlled demolition expert has said that WTC 1 and 2 were brought down by CD.
Then, finally, Jason brings up WTC 7, in connection with a Dutch CD expert who does believe that WTC 7, in particular, was brought down by CD.
Ron agrees that a few CD experts have said that WTC 7 was brought down by CD, but says they all say that WTC 1 and 2 were not brought down by CD.
Mark claims that at least one such CD expert was not told that WTC 7 had been on fire for seven hours. I’m not sure which expert he’s referring to. In the Jowenko interview (a transcripte of which can be found in the Loose Change forum, Jowenko was indeed told about the fires. He was also shown blueprints of the building.)
Then Mark talks about his interaction with protesters at Ground Zero on Saturday afternoons. He claims he has asked at least a dozen of them if they know what the NIST report says. He claims that none of them were able to answer his question. Personally, I’m inclined to take any claims he makes about his interactions with 9/11 Truth movement activists with a hefty dose of salt, given my own experience of how he has commented publicly on a private email interaction he had with me. (See Email debates, and more about Mark Roberts.) However, I haven’t talked to the We Are Change kids much myself, so I don’t really know what they do and do not know.
Also, Mark doesn’t specify what degree of knowledge he was inquiring about. Was he asking whether the We Are Change kids have read all ten thousand pages of the NIST report, or did he just quiz them on the general gist of NIST’s collapse initiation hypothesis?
Mark then goes into a discussion of the collapse initiation mechanism, according to NIST’s hypothesis: That the floor-trusses were what got heated up the most and then sagged, pulling the perimeter columns inward.
Jason responds by bringing up the experiment that was done with floor assemblies, heating them up for a longer period of time. He says that the floors in that experiment sagged but did not buckle.
The actual point at issue, which Jason does not address, is the question of whether the model floor trusses sagged enough. Also, no one on the show discussed the fireproofing issue.
Jason then repeats his statement that he would not have been surprised if the top part of WTC 2 had just fallen off.
Then everyone starts talking at the same time for a little bit. I won’t even try to follow this part, except that it has to do with “global collapse.”
Then Mark brings up the Kader Toy Factory, in Singapore, as an example of a global collapse due to fire.
Then Mark addresses the question of why the top of WTC 2 did not continue to tilt even further. He makes two arguments that I’ve also heard from a structural engineer here on this blog. I’ll discuss those arguments later in this post, after I finish reviewing the show.
Back to the show for now. Next, Mark says that none of the engineers who have investigated the matter agree with Jason and Dylan. Jason responds by talking about the pressures on people with government jobs, to go along with an official agenda simply to keep their jobs.
After that is a long discussion about Jason’s and Dylan’s belief that firefighters were “threatened.” Jason mentions that firefighters have refused to talk to them, but they’ve managed to talk to a lot of other survivors, first responders, etc.
After that are the concluding plugs for the guests’ videos and websites, and other concluding statements.
Jason concludes with a quote from Bill Doyle, head of the Coalition of 9/11 Families, denouncing the 9/11 Commission and the continuing coverup.
Now for my promised discussion of Mark’s explanation of why the top part of WTC 2 didn’t just continue tipping over further and further until it fell off to the side, without crushing the rest of the building. Mark makes the following two mechanical arguments, with which I’m already familiar:
1) In order for the top to continue tipping over further, instead of crushing the rest of the building, the rest of the building would need to provide a good fulcrum, which it did not have sufficient strength to do.
2) A building and its parts aren’t designed to lean. Therefore, it can fall apart as soon as it starts leaning.
Elsewhere, I’ve seen claims that these same two arguments explain the near-perfect symmetry of WTC 7’s collapse. But, to me, it seems that they don’t. Here’s why:
1) It seems to me that, in the case of a bottom-up collapse, what’s below it could indeed act as a fulcrum. The building’s foundation is held in place by the bedrock and the surrounding soil.
2) Although it may well be true that a skyscraper (or a top part of a skyscraper) can’t lean very far or for very long without disintegrating, the example of the top part of WTC 2 shows that a collapsing skyscraper can indeed lean for at least a few seconds, and up to a fairly substantial angle (at least 20 degrees).
Admittedly, WTC 7 was taller than the top part of WTC 2, but not so much taller as to make an orders-of-magnitude difference, it would seem to me. Also, I suppose it’s possible that WTC 7 may have been of much shoddier construction than the Twin Towers, such that perhaps even a one-degree tilt could make it fall apart instantly, but this seems to me unlikely. After all, WTC 7, like the Twin Towers, did need to be able to resist lateral wind forces.
In any case, Mark’s mechanical arguments might indeed be valid for WTC 1 and 2. The question of whether they are or aren’t valid depends on many factors, such as whether Bazant’s analysis is valid. These are quantitative questions. I’m not yet fully convinced either way. There are various parts of the relevant analysis that I personally don’t know how to do, such as computing how much energy would be lost by crushing concrete and whether there’s enough energy to pulverize the concrete so finely in the first place.
My suspicion is that a more productive line of analysis, regarding WTC 1 and 2, might be to look at the patterns of fire and to see how well the observed fires match up with NIST’s fire model and, to whatever extent they don’t, to determine whether the discrepancies amount to any evidence of secondary arson. I have not attempted this kind of analysis myself, but I think some qualified person should do it, if we can find such a person who is willing.
Be that as it may, Mark has displayed basic physics literacy, at least on an intuitive level, so I hereby partially retract my previously-stated concern about his possible inability to discuss physical issues directly, as voiced in my posts My decision about Ron Wieck’s show and Debates and such – further reply to some JREF folks. I’m not yet sure whether he has a direct understanding of certain other technical issues, though, such as the issues discussed in the comment thread starting here.
Mark also made the almost inevitable argument from authority too. I would counter that argument on a wider variety of grounds than Jason and Dylan did, some of which grounds I would want to research a bit further before I appear on a TV debate show with him.
I have not yet had time to look at a good sampling of Mark’s JREF posts.
Anyhow, Ron did seem to me, on his show, to be civil enough that I would consider appearing on his show at some point in the future, after considerably more study on my own part.