Critics of these conspiracy theories say they are a form of conspiracism common throughout history after a traumatic event in which conspiracy theories emerge as a mythic form of explanation. A related criticism addresses the form of research on which the theories are based. Thomas W. Eagar, an engineering professor at MIT, suggested they “use the ‘reverse scientific method’. They determine what happened, throw out all the data that doesn’t fit their conclusion, and then hail their findings as the only possible conclusion.” Eagar’s criticisms also exemplify a common stance that the theories are best ignored. “I’ve told people that if the argument gets too mainstream, I’ll engage in the debate.” According to him, this happened when Steve Jones, a physics professor at Brigham Young University, took up the issue.
Michael Shermer, writing in Scientific American, said: “The mistaken belief that a handful of unexplained anomalies can undermine a well-established theory lies at the heart of all conspiratorial thinking. All the evidence for a 9/11 conspiracy falls under the rubric of this fallacy. Such notions are easily refuted by noting that scientific theories are not built on single facts alone but on a convergence of evidence assembled from multiple lines of inquiry.”
Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, and The Skeptic’s Dictionary have published articles that rebut various 9/11 conspiracy theories. Popular Mechanics has published a book entitled Debunking 9/11 Myths that expands upon the research first presented in the article. In the foreword for the book Senator John McCain wrote that blaming the U.S. government for the events “mars the memories of all those lost on that day” and “exploits the public’s anger and sadness. It shakes Americans’ faith in their government at a time when that faith is already near an all-time low. It trafficks in ugly, unfounded accusations of extraordinary evil against fellow Americans.” Der Spiegel dismissed 9/11 conspiracy theories as a “panoply of the absurd”, stating “as diverse as these theories and their adherents may be, they share a basic thought pattern: great tragedies must have great reasons.”
Journalist Matt Taibbi, in his book The Great Derangement, discusses 9/11 conspiracy theories as symptomatic of what he calls the “derangement” of American society; a disconnection from reality due to widespread “disgust with our political system”. Drawing a parallel with the Charismatic Movement, he argues that both “chose to battle bugbears that were completely idiotic, fanciful, and imaginary,” instead of taking control of their own lives. While critical, Taibbi explains that 9/11 conspiracy theories are different from “Clinton-era black-helicopter paranoia”, and constitute more than “a small, scattered group of nutcases […] they really were, just as they claim to be, almost everyone you meet.”
Columnist Matt Mankelow, writing for the online edition of the British Socialist Worker, concludes that 9/11 Truthers, while “desperately trying to legitimately question a version of events”, end up playing into the hands of the neoconservatives they are trying to take down by creating a diversion. Mankelow noted that this has irritated many people who are politically left-wing.
David Aaronovitch, a columnist for The Times, in his book entitled Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History that was published in May 2009, claimed that the theories strain credulity. Aaronovitch also charged that 9/11 conspiracy theorists have exaggerated the expertise of those supporting their theories, and noted that 9/11 conspiracy theorists including David Ray Griffin cross cite each other. He also claims the popularity of 9/11 conspiracy theories has hurt the War on Terror. According to Aaronovitch, because a significant portion of educated Pakistanis believe that George W. Bush brought the towers down, dealing with the Taliban is difficult “because they actually don’t believe the fundamental premise on which the war against terror was waged”.
Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein co-authored a 2009 paper which used members of the 9/11 Truth movement and others as an examples of people who suffer from “crippled epistemologies”, to public trust and the political system. He wrote that “[t]hey do not merely undermine democratic debate […] In extreme cases, they create or fuel violence. If government can dispel such theories, it should do so.”
In June 2011 the Royal Institute of British Architects was criticized for hosting a lecture by Richard Gage, president of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Rick Bell, the director of the American Institute of Architects New York chapter, who was a witness to the 9/11 attacks, said that “no amount of money” would persuade him to allow the group to talk at his headquarters and said that Gage lacks credibility among the professional community. Eugine Kohn, former spokesperson for the American Institute of Architects, said Gage’s theories were “ridiculous”, “[t]here were no explosives planted”, and “[t]he buildings were definitely brought down by the planes”. The decision to host the event was also criticized by the former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the founding president of the American Institute of Architects’ United Kingdom chapter. Gage has been warned by the AIA against giving a false impression that he has a relationship with them. A July article in the organization’s magazine criticized Gage for continuing to intimate that he has an association with them and claimed there were no architects at an Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth screening held in an American Institute of Architects boardroom, The Royal Institute of British Architects released a statement saying the perception that the group endorses events held in its buildings is “regrettable”, and said they would review policy on “private hire” of its buildings. Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan offer scathing criticism of many of the above theories in The Eleventh Day, their 2011 investigation of the attacks.
U.S. representative Peter T. King, chairmen of the House Homeland Security Committee, said 9/11 conspiracy theorists “trivialize” the “most tragic event to affect the United States” and that “[p]eople making these claims are disgraceful, and they should be ashamed of themselves”.
The hosts of “The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe” (the “SGU”) have spoken repeatedly about the “absurdity of 9/11 conspiracy theories”. In addition to critiquing the theories using the same or similar arguments as the above, the “SGU” hosts say that, like most conspiracy theories, this one collapses under its own weight and contradicts itself. In order for the 9/11 conspiracy theories to be correct, the U.S. government would not only have to orchestrate the claimed false flag operation regarding the airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center, but they would also have to orchestrate a superfluous controlled demolition and cover their tracks so flawlessly that it becomes indistinguishable to physicists from the “official story,” yet the plan would have to be flawed enough so that “losers in their mothers’ basement” will discover the conspiracy.
Former Canadian Liberal Party leader Stéphane Dion forced a candidate from Winnipeg, Lesley Hughes, to terminate her campaign after earlier writings from Hughes surfaced in which Hughes wrote that U.S., German, Russian and Israeli intelligence officials knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance. Earlier, Peter Kent, Deputy Editor of Global Television Network News and Conservative Party candidate in the 2008 Canadian election, had called for Hughes’s resignation saying that the 9/11 Truth movement is “one of Canada’s most notorious hatemongering fringe movements” composed of “conspiracy theorists who are notorious for holding anti-Semitic views.” On June 16, 2009, Hughes sued Kent, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the B’nai B’rith of Canada and four senior members of the two organizations alleging the antisemitic allegations were untrue and defamatory and ruined her career. Later another Conservative Party candidate called for the leader of the New Democratic Party to fire a candidate for her pro 9/11 truth views. Zijad Delic head of Canada’s largest Muslim advocacy organization, the Canadian Islamic Congress is trying to remove 9/11 conspiracy theorists from the board of the organization, in an effort to what he describes as purifying within and totally canadianize the organization.
In 2008, calls for the resignation of Richard Falk, the special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories for the United Nations, were partially based on his support investigating the validity of 9/11 conspiracy theories. In 2011, Falk praised a book by David Ray Griffin. Falk was condemned for his remarks by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and United States ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
In February 2009, Aymeric Chauprade, a professor of geopolitics at CID military college in Paris, was fired by French Defence Minister Hervé Morin for writing a book entitled Chronicle of the Clash of Civilizations that espoused 9/11 conspiracy theories.
In September 2009, Van Jones, an adviser to US President Barack Obama, resigned after his signature on a 2004 petition calling for an investigation into whether government officials deliberately allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur and other controversial statements came to light drawing criticism. Van Jones said he was a victim of a smear campaign, adding that he does not currently, nor ever has agreed with that theory.
The 9/11 truth movement became an issue in the 2010 Texas Gubernatorial Republican primary when candidate Debra Medina replied when asked by Glenn Beck about US government involvement in the 9/11 attacks: “I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard, there are some very good arguments, and I think the American people have not seen all of the evidence there, so I have not taken a position on that.” After being criticized for the remarks by opposing candidates, Medina said that she has never been a 9/11 truth movement member and believes the twin towers were attacked by Muslim terrorists.
On September 23, 2010, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a speech to the United Nations said that “[t]he majority of the American people, as well as other nations and politicians, believe […] some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining U.S. economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime”. The remarks prompted the United States delegation as well as others to walk out. U.S. President Barack Obama criticized Ahmadinejad’s remarks before the United Nations General Assembly on the following day, saying that “[f]or him to make a statement like that was inexcusable” and called the remarks “offensive” and “hateful”. Previously Ahmadinejad had described the 9/11 attacks as a “suspect event” and suggested that the Bush Administration was involved in 9/11.
The Iranian president repeated his claims in 2011 with another appearance at the UN and was thereafter criticized in an article appearing in al-Qaeda’s magazine, Inspire. The article claimed that Ahmadinejad was jealous of al-Qaeda because the stateless and under-fire Islamic terrorist organization did on 9/11 what Iran could not do.
In 2012, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has called for a scientific conference to look into the events of 9/11 and speculated that the attacks were an inside job. According to an international poll that same year, huge majorities in Muslim countries prefer to believe baseless conspiracy theories rather than listen to the mainstream facts of what happened on September 11, 2001, in New York City and Washington. Although al-Qaeda occasionally brags about its “achievement,” 75 percent of Egyptian citizens, for example, still deny that Arabs carried out the attacks, as a Pew study reported in July 2011.
Army specialist April Gallop filed suit claiming that Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and other Bush administration officials orchestrated the 9/11 attacks and that the Pentagon was hit by an attack ordered by Cheney. The suit was dismissed in 2010 by Judge Denny Chin, who said the claim was “the product of cynical delusion and fantasy”. Her lawyers filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals which in April 2010 issued a show cause order why the lawyers and Gallop should not be sanctioned for filing a frivolous lawsuit. Her lawyers asked that the judges on the Court of Appeals recuse themselves because their emotions made them prejudge the case and abuse their power. On October 14, 2011, the judges sanctioned her lawyers $15,000 each for both the frivolous lawsuits and the accusations of prejudice. Gallop was not fined because of her unfamiliarity with the law.