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SKEPTOID BLOG:

Comic 'The Big Lie' Delivers Just That

by Ryan Haupt

September 13, 2011

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Donate Quick note before you dive in: I'm a big time comic nerd, so when possible I'll use comics to inform about skepticism, which is what I attempted in the following post. This was originally posted on my personal blog, The Paleocave.

When I first heard there was a comic coming out about the "truth" behind the World Trade Center attacks on September 11th, 2001, I was upset. I thought How could Image Comics publish such nonsense? Such disinformation? But the more I thought about it the more I was reminded that my philosophy on such matters is that free speech means people can espouse nonsense, and the answer to that shouldn't be censorship, but more speech. So I decided to read the book, give it a fair shake, and see where we wound up.

The book centers around a physicist who uses all her spare subatomic particles (seriously) to travel back in time 10 years and attempt to warn her husband inside one of the twin towers that an attack is imminent. She also brings an iPad just to confuse and amaze the people of 2001. Like most Cassandra narratives (the character is also named Sandra), her pleas fall upon deaf ears, principally because her husband can't recognize what his wife would look like aged ten years.

The majority of the comic is a dialogue between a hysterical woman and egotistical know-it-all men. As an aside, I did not expect to be offended by the misogyny in this comic when there's so much else to disapprove of, but there you have it. She tries to tell them what's going to happen and they diffuse her fears by explaining how the government would never let something like this happen. We're far too smart and powerful. Unless...

Unless it was the government's plan the whole time! The group realizes that the recently elected neo-conservatives would be just dastardly enough to pull something like this off for their own goals, based upon the conservative political propaganda technique known as the Noble Lie. The Big Lie was what Hitler accused the Jews of, so if you were hoping for a Hitler comparison, its subtle but it's there.



But here's where the husband gets his time to shine. He explains that even if the government were responsible for the attacks, the towers are too structurally sound to be brought down by mere planes. He's some sort of engineer, and to his trained eye the pixellated and shaky videos on his future-wife's iPad look just like controlled demolitions. At this our physicist begins to talk about all the people in 2011 who also don't believe the party line, but by then the men have had enough of this babbling woman so they have security haul her away while they sit around patting themselves on the back for seeing through the prank.

You can guess what happens next.

I'm not sure why, but I expected more. All this comic does is trot out the same tired conspiracy theories that have been refuted time and time again. And listen, if you were already having doubts about what happened that day, or this comic actually made you think, go read the 9/11 Commission Report for yourself. This comic really provides nothing. Even the use of Uncle Sam just feels completely ham-fisted and pointless. There's no sound science and no new information. I expected to be foaming at the mouth with righteous anger but instead I found myself bored, thinking Are we still dealing with this argument?

Government involvement is one thing, and we may never know exactly what went on before, during and after that day behind closed doors. But the problem with a Grand Conspiracy is that is requires an organization (in this case the federal government) that is so well-organized it could pull something like the attacks on September 11th off and make it look exactly like a terrorist attack, while at the same time being so incompetent that a bunch of people were able to figure out their plan by watching videos on YouTube. Conspiracy theories cherry-pick evidence to support their explanation and any evidence to the contrary is simply "part of the conspiracy." If there is no evidence either way, that's because it's been covered up, thereby continuing to support the claim that the conspiracy actually exists. It's a self-fulfilling belief system that literally cannot be disproved to anyone who's already decided that they have all the answers.

And as for the science of demolitions, the math isn't hard. Jet fuel does not burn hot enough to melt steel. But to bring down a building that heavy you don't need to melt steel, just heat it up enough that it's weakened and let gravity do the rest. Thermite explosives need not apply.

Don't take my word for it. The internet has a lot of very misinformed things to say on this subject, but there are good resources I've tried to link to in this post that can help explain what really happened that day. There was even a comic adaptation of the commission report that is much more complete, realistic and yes, dry, than The Big Lie.

I'm sure the creative team thinks they're following a noble calling, but all this is doing is adding noise to the rabble of people who need to see even more evil in the world than we saw that day. And that upsets me. A lot of people died that day, and as a fan of heroes (both in comics and in real life) I think that justice isn't served by pinning the crime on the wrong guy, which is just what this comic does.

So there's my free speech counter argument to the Big Lie. Buy the comic if you wish, but I'd encourage you to reconsider and donate the $3 to the FDNY instead.

by Ryan Haupt

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