The Misadventures of Kevin Ryan
In what has to be one of the more bizarre twists of fate in relation to the 9/11 truth movement, Kevin Ryan, whom I have admired in the past, has attacked me for criticizing an article by Robert Parry in “9/11 Truth is No ‘Parlor Game’.” Ryan had already expressed his displeasure that I had responded to Parry’s trivialization of the truth movement in a thread on the bloggerbrigade and was apparently taken aback when some of those on the thread responded negatively to his assault on me. When I was invited to reply and exposed certain shortcomings in his false and defamatory attacks, he left the thread saying that he was going to “write it up”. His latest blog is the outcome.
Alas, this blog illustrates the worst tendencies in the 9/11 truth movement. Kevin criticizes me for trivialities, including a couple of typos. He attacks my JFK research, which he does not know, and assails me for trespassing into terrain that is “off limits” to the members of his clique. He pretends to understand a subtle debate between two professional philosophers over the meaning of the word “information”, which drives him to absurd claims over a dispute where he hasn’t a clue. To guard against public criticism, he has “closed” the comments on his blog before any could be posted. He shows that dogmas are not restricted to religious groups but can be embraced by 9/11 societies.
As it happens, I am the founder of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, a former Marine Corps officer, a magna cum laude graduate of Princeton and a Ph.D. in the history and the philosophy of science. I have done a lot of research on the assassination of JFK as well as on 9/11, where I edited the first book from Scholars, THE 9/11 CONSPIRACY (2007), organized and moderated its first conference, “The Science and Politics of 9/11: What’s Controversial, What’s Not”, and produced its first DVD. These events have proven to be expensive, however, where I lost about $10,000 on the Madison meeting, which was blackballed by Ryan, even though I had invited both him and Steve Jones to be speakers.
I have participated in hundreds of interviews about 9/11 on radio and television, including a 3.5 hour appearance on television in Athens in December 2006, which was broadcast worldwide by satellite, speaking in New York in 2006 and in 2007, traveling to Buenos Aires for 9/11 presentations in 2008 and 2009, and organizing a London symposium on “Debunking the ‘War on Terror’” just this past summer. But, none of that matters to Kevin Ryan, who insinuates that I have an agenda to spread false information about 9/11, which is apparently based, at least in part, on his misunderstanding of a philosophical disagreement. This means that, when he attacks me, the truth simply doesn’t count.
Since Parry was condemning the 9/11 truth movement, while I was defending it, that Ryan should attack me for doing so is most peculiar. Acknowledging that mine is the only response to Parry that has been published he says I “did not contribute to any of the research he claims as ‘our research’, and apparently cannot even spell Parry’s name or the name of the company that I worked for in his continued efforts to spread false information. The article also makes wild assertions that are not supported by evidence, such as–“…every claim the government has made about 9/11 is false.” I took a look to figure out what he was talking about and found that they were either trivial or false.
The name “Parry” appears nine or ten times in the article, and in one instance, I had it as “Perry”. I had also referred to Kevin Ryan’s former place of employment, as “Underwriters Laboratory”, where, strictly speaking, it is “Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.” I was curious about his allegation that I had made a “wild assertion” in saying that, “… every claim the government as has made about 9/11 is false”. When I took a closer look, I discovered that he replaced the word “virtually” with “…”, which is not the act of an honest critic. Indeed, since my rebuttal is devoted to elaborating major falsehoods advanced by the government, based upon research by the members of Scholars for 9/11 Truth and previous research, as I observe in “Why doubt 9/11?”, what’s wrong with calling it “our research”?
My JFK Research
Kevin was not satisfied to trash me for trivialities but also claims that, when I founded Scholars in 2005, I was “known for some dubious contributions to the JFK assassination research community”. What he has in mind is beyond me. To the best of my knowledge, Kevin Ryan knows nothing about the death of JFK, where I organized a research group consisting of the best-qualified individuals to ever study the case in late 1992. We have discovered that the autopsy X-rays were altered, that another brain was substituted for JFK’s and that a home movie known as “the Zapruder film” was extensively edited. I have published these findings in three edited books, which Vincent Bugliosi, who defends the lone gunman theory, has described as “the only three exclusively scientific books” on the JFK assassination. Our work has been encompassing and of exceptional scientific significance.
As an indication that others do not share Kevin Ryan’s dismal assessment of our work, MURDER IN DEALEY PLAZA (2000), which has chapters from nine contributors, was reviewed by George Costello for THE FEDERAL LAWYER, a professional journal for attorneys who work for the federal government, who practice before federal agencies, or who appear in federal courts. His take, which you can read for yourself, is decidedly at odds with Kevin’s dismissal as “dubious contributions”. He concludes,
It is time for people of integrity who were involved in the official investigations -- especially the professionals -- to take a good-faith look at the new evidence and confront the likelihood that their conclusions were based on falsified data. Murder in Dealey Plaza may not be the last word on the medical evidence, but it should be the starting point for a fresh look -- not only at the medical evidence, but also at the assassination and its implications.
Costello would later write to me that he had even received an award of recognition for his review. But what I do not understand is why Kevin Ryan would hazard opinions about research on a topic that, if anything, may be even more complex and convoluted than research on 9/11. That does not strike me as a responsible approach for someone who wants to be taken seriously, especially when I have been pioneering the application of scientific reasoning to controversial political events like these.
My 9/11 Research
Some of my most recent JFK articles are “US Government Official: JFK Cover-Up, Film Fabrication”, “Forrest Gump on the grassy knoll”, and “Who’s telling the truth: Clint Hill or the Zapruder film?” As in the case of my JFK research, which has focused on its most challenging aspects, especially with respect to separating authentic from inauthentic evidence, my research on 9/11 has focused on the most challenging aspects of that case, too. Thus, I have studied what happened at the Pentagon, the causal mechanisms by which the Twin Towers were destroyed, and the possible use of video fakery in New York. My research has included “What Didn’t Happen at the Pentagon”, “An Analysis of the WTC on 9/11”, and “New Proof of Video Fakery on 9/11”. It is common knowledge Kevin Ryan’s society, Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice, shuns those who, like me, study the Pentagon and video fakery.
Even though Pilots for 9/11 Truth has concluded that the FDR data it obtained from the NTSB shows that a plane flew toward the Pentagon on a different trajectory and too high to have hit any of the lampposts and, rather than crashing into the building, swerved over it—for which there is a great deal of evidence—Kevin Ryan and his friends are intolerant of anyone who suggests that no plane hit the Pentagon. Indeed, there is also no evidence that a plane crashed in a field in Shanksville. Even though Elias Davidsson has shown the government has never proven the hijackers were aboard any of those planes and David Ray Griffin has established that all of the alleged phone calls were faked, Kevin’s society refuses to even consider questions they raise for the prospect of “phantom flights”.
The Scholars Breakup
Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice not only proscribes the study of video fakery (or “no planes”) but it also insists that thermite in one or another of its forms is the crucial ingredient for explaining the demolition of the Twin Towers. I am sure that Kevin took a dim view of my agreement with Parry on the point that thermite does not seem promising as an explanation of the demolition of the Twin Towers for the reason that it is an incendiary, not an explosive. For thermite to be explosive, it has to be combined with explosives, where the same could be said of toothpaste. That has long been my opinion, which is no secret within the 9/11 research community. I have given critiques of his theory during 9/11 conferences as well as elsewhere, such as “The Manipulation of the 9/11 Community”.
It was my growing conviction that thermite was most unlikely to be able to provide an explanation for the destruction of the Twin Towers that was behind the separation of Scholars at the end of 2006 and the creation of Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice, which entailed corrupt activities by those trying to wrest the control of Scholars from me, including the misrepresentation of my views, which continues to this day, but also by conducting a phony poll of the members while feigning to be the “membership administrator” and freezing our original web site at st911.org, even though I had been responsible for posting every item that ever appeared there, which forced me to create a new web site at 911scholars.org, where the history of these events has been archived on Scholars home page.
Kevin claims, for example, that, less than one year after founding the society, “just before the 5th anniversary of the attacks” when media attention was at its peak, “Fetzer began speaking publicly about space beams destroying the WTC and other such nonsense”. He also faults me for a radio interview with Judy Wood, Ph.D., which occurred on 11 November 2006 when I was about to speak in Tucson. With her degrees in structural engineering, applied physics, and materials engineering science, I regard Judy as among the best qualified students of 9/11 in the world today. A former professor of mechanical engineering, she introduced her theory that directed energy weapons may have been employed on 9/11 during during our conversation on the radio. I found her conjecture fascinating because it opens an unconventional approach toward understanding the events of 9/11.
Since 11 November is two months after 11 September, I have no idea where Kevin comes up with this stuff, but factual accuracy does not appear to be an important desideratum for him. I do not know to this day whether Wood is right, but her web site (at http://drjudywood.com) sets a high standard in accumulating evidence about the data that an adequate theory would have to explain, including the conversion of the Twin Towers into millions of cubic yards of very fine dust, the peculiar kinds of damage that were sustained by WTC-3, WTC-4, WTC-5, and WTC-6, and the oddity of the “toasted cars”. While I have advocated the study of DEWs—along with nukes, lasers, masers, and plasmoids—I have not endorsed them because we still do not know how it was done. And I should add that Kevin and his colleagues are certainly not in the position to know that Judy Wood is wrong.
What set him off in composing this blog appears evident from what occurred on a discussion thread between January 26th and 28th 2011. Kevin began by expressing dismay over my article criticizing Robert Parry by remarking, “Oh God, not Fetzer again.” He was immediately countered by Ben Collet, who replied, “Kevin Ryan’s reputation as a scientifically-minded 9/11 activist has, unfortunately, taken a big hit with this snide comment about one of the most important voices in the 9/11 truth movement.” Not to be outdone, Kevin responded with a partial transcript of my interview from 11 November 2006 in which I expressed fascination with Judy’s theory. He was again countered by Ben:
Ryan's citation of this four year old interview demonstrates only that Dr. Fetzer starts with the appropriate attitude of the truth-seeker who is employing the scientific method. That is he exhibits curiosity and openness to a new idea. Nowhere does he say Judy Wood is correct, he simply evinces an honest curiosity to hear her views. This is the true scientific approach. Unfortunately others who do not have Dr. Fetzer's familiarity with the scientific method think it is enough to denounce unpopular views as heretical without even listening to them. Dr Fetzer has a PhD in the philosophy of the scientific method.
Kevin responded by offering an exaggerated version of my position, which makes it easier to attack, and ridiculed him for supporting me: "Ben"s support for Fetzer's claim that space beams destroying the WTC is "the most fascinating development in the history of the study of 9/11" is interesting.
"Oh Really?? Oh ho ho ho ho! Oh Ben. Oh my oh my oh my oh my. This is huge ... this is huge Ben.
He added, “See attached for an article on the value of false information, written by Fetzer and presented in a conference one month before 9/11/01. Fetzer doesn't have any peer-review scientific articles on the attacks of 9/11. But he does know the value of false information.”
Ben replied, Kevin Ryan misrepresents Dr. Fetzer's position. Fetzer never has said he supports "space beams", only that he supports the study of space beams and other theories of how it was done. This is the appropriate attitude to take until we figure out the actual method used. . . . In writing, "9/11 Truth is No Parlor Game", Dr. Fetzer is defending the 9/11 movement against an attack from a widely admired investigative journalist, Robert Parry. It is unfortunate that Ryan feels compelled to belittle and misrepresent the person who has so ably defended the truth against Parry's lies.
While I am sure he was not pleased with Ben Collet’s comments, I imagine that another response from mlkjeldsen was even less warmly received, since it cut to the core of his attack upon my article:
I do not mean to attack you, because I consider your actions to be heroic and your tenacity inspiring. But I have two questions.
Number one, after going back and reading Jim’s piece a second time, I found nothing to be untrue or disinformative. I found it to be a quality refutation of a piece of garbage written by a scoundrel. Did you find any flaws?
Number two, our phony president, while addressing the phony congress and the rest of the phony government actually made a joke about the sexual assault that the TSA carries out against us everyday. There are blimps surveilling us. The country is divided into ten FEMA regions. The economy is being collapsed on purpose. The noose is being tightened around our collective neck. How does, let’s be honest, attacking Jim Fetzer help us to reach the critical mass of informed citizens that we need to hold off this tyranny? This is a war of government against freedom, plain and simple. He, like you and I, is reaching people with this message—is he not?
Kevin’s response was almost guttural:
He has been reaching people with space beams and holograms and false information for many years. Please don't promote it. It is the problem.
To which he would subsequently add:
The most influential article relating to this topic that he wrote is the paper on the value of false information, which Fetzer presented at a conference in August 2001. Why would an expert on false information, who has made no serious contributions to the truth movement, be seen as worthy of our attention let alone be welcomed as a champion of truth?
Thank you, Ben and Mike, for reminding me of the power that false information still has in the 9/11 truth movement. I will turn my attention to this problem again, and write it up.
As I have already explained, I have not been endorsing “space beams” or “holograms” but promoting their study. The hologram hypothesis to explain the video fakery in the footage of Flight 175 hitting the South Tower—where the plane is traveling at an impossible speed, entering the building in clear violation of Newton’s laws, and passes through its own length into the building in the same number of frames it takes to pass through its own length in air—is one of at least three possibilities, where the other two are the use of computer-generated images or the use of video compositing. Unless you have studied the issues involved here, it may sound a bit far-out. But how are we going to understand “the pivotal event of the 21st century” if we are not allowed to study the evidence and explore alternative explanations? Kevin’s attitude is not only unscientific but is virtually illiterate.
The hardest part of scientific inquiry—which involves stages of PUZZLEMENT, SPECULATION, ADAPTATION (of hypotheses to evidence) and EXPLANATION—is figuring out all of the possible alternative explanations. Premature closure at this stage (by excluding hypotheses that seem too unusual, unconventional, or politically incorrect) can consign an investigation to failure by excluding the true hypothesis for consideration on inappropriate grounds. That, in my opinion, has been the case with Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice with regard to the possible use of directed energy weapons or the possible use of sophisticated technology to create images of a plane that isn’t really there—as the absence of strobe lights above and below the fuselage and on its wingtips implies. But the most bewildering aspect of Kevin’s assault concerns his attacks upon me for (what he claims to be) the use of false information, which is a massive confusion.
The differences between me and Professor Floridi concern whether or not truth is a condition for something (reports, photos, evidence) to qualify as “information”. In other words, we are engaged in a classic philosophical debate over how a word should best be understood in order to clarify and illuminate its use within various contexts in which it might occur. He maintains that, for something to qualify as “information”, it has to be true, which I deny. I argue that, for every assertion, there is a denial, where we can be presented with those assertions from alternative sources. As I see it, we are being presented with information and have to figure out which is true and which is not. According to Floridi, however, we would not even know if one other the other of these assertions were “information” unless we knew that it was true.
As it happens, I have published two papers, one on this question and another on the nature of misinformation and of disinformation. I argue that misinformation is information that is false, where disinformation occurs from the deliberate dissemination of false information with the intention to deceive or mislead an audience. Think how awkward it is to even talk about “false information” if you have presupposed that, to qualify as information, it has to be true. This is another reason for rejecting Floridi’s approach. It creates very awkward—even incoherent—uses of language in talking about false information, if that means talking about the falsity of what we have already implied is true merely by calling it “information”. So I think Floridi’s approach has no merit and have offered my reasons for holding that position in these articles:
"Information: Does it Have to be True?", Minds and Machines 14/2 (May 2004), pp. 223-229.
"Disinformation: The Use of False Information", Minds and Machines 14/2 (May 2004), pp. 231-240.
Imagine my astonishment when I read in Kevin’s blog that, “In this paper, Fetzer argues that false information (including disinformation) is just as meaningful as true information, implying that false information has just as much value as true information.” He further maintains that, according to Fetzer and his colleagues, “spreading and using false information (more precisely, misinformation, if the source is unaware of its falsity, or disinformation, if the source is aware and uses/spreads it on purpose, precisely because it is false) is perfectly fine and acceptable”! I must say that in my entire adult life I have never read such drivel, which has no basis in my work other than drawing a distinction between information, misinformation and disinformation. We are dealing with a man who has a diminished capacity for drawing conceptual distinctions.
To say that information, misinformation and disinformation are “equally meaningful” does not mean “that false information has just as much value as true information”! No one in their right mind would make such a claim. The point about meaning is that I define “information” as meaningful data, where the meaningfulness of data is not a function of its truth. If we are told my one source, “It is going to rain”, and by another, “It is not going to rain”, they cannot both be true but they are both meaningful! The problem that we confront in every area of inquiry is to sort out the claims that are both meaningful and true from those that are instead meaningful but false. Truth itself can even be defined as beliefs that provide us appropriate guidance for actions in the world, where, when our beliefs are true, actions based upon them are more likely to be successful than if they are false. Their value is enormously different!
What’s the Deal?
In this blog, Kevin Ryan asserts that, “This paper challenged the work of a professor at Oxford University by the name of [Luciano] Floridi, who like most honest people, contends that, since information is data that changes what we do, only true information that helps us respond to our world accurately and effectively has value.” He then contends that, “When contacted by 9/11 researchers who suspected Fetzer of being a propenent and purveyor of false information, Floridi confirmed that Fetzer was effectively arguing for the use of false information. Floridi responded that the arguments of Fetzer and his colleagues suggest that – “spreading and using false information (more precisely, misinformation, if the source is unaware of its falsity, or disinformation, if the source is aware and uses/spreads it on purpose, precisely because it is false) is perfectly fine and acceptable”. But there is no reason Floridi would make such claims.
That Kevin Ryan did not know his first name, Luciano, suggested to me that this was a false report. In spite of our philosophical disagreement, Luciano and I are friends, so I wrote him to ask if he had made such a claim to 9/11 researchers. He replied that, “I'm afraid I had not recollection of being contacted by any 9/11 researcher, but before writing to you I wanted to check my computer. It also does not have any recollection. So I might be wrong (it happens more often than I like to think), and my computer might be wrong (but it is a beautiful new iMac after all), but it seems more plausible to think that there was no contact at all. I do answer tens of emails a day, so who knows, but I would remember, I think, and there should be a trace in my mail, at least of my reply. But nothing, no biological or artificial memory of any of this.” So it may be that one of us—deliberately or not—really is trading in false information.
Bringing It Home
On the basis of a gross misunderstanding of my position, Kevin contends, “Facts and evidence indicate that the use of false information to derail the 9/11 truth movement is a reality despite the inability of leading 9/11 researchers to admit such a possibility. With unsubstantiated claims of space beams, video fakery and holograms, Fetzer and his colleagues have taken advantage of the fact that many Americans are scientifically illiterate. These evil parlor games give influential professionals like Robert Parry, who are already psychologically challenged and fearful of the topic, additional reasons to ignore all the evidence and spout off about the issues with little or no understanding.” Which is especially ironic, since, in this very blog, Kevin Ryan is spouting off about me and my positions, even philosophical ones, with little or no understanding. And nothing would give me greater pleasure than to discuss these things in a public forum. I therefore extend an invitation—a challenge, if you like—to debate these issues over the radio.
Once again, we see that Kevin wholly ignores the difference between STUDYING A POSITION and ADVOCATING A POSITION. I do not know how the Twin Towers were destroyed, but I do know that Judy Wood has advanced an interesting hypothesis. I don’t know if holograms were used to perpetrate video fakery, but I do know that the weight of the evidence supports it. And I have no doubt at all that no Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon, for which there is abundant and compelling evidence. But don’t ask Kevin Ryan, because he won’t even consider them. How, I have to ask, could I be dedicating my life to sorting out the differences between authentic and inauthentic evidence regarding JFK and 9/11 were I not profoundly committed to discovering the truth? And why would I even care, if I held the absurd views that Kevin attributes to me? As a philosopher, I care about truth. As a former Marine Corps officer, I care about my country. And, as a philosopher of science, I know that scientific investigations are our most reliable means for discovering truth. One of us has lost his way and is betraying the movement, but it isn’t me.
Jim Fetzer, a former Marine Corps officer who earned his Ph.D. in the history and the philosophy of science, is McKnight Professor Emeritus on the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota. He co-edits assassinationresearch.com with John P. Costella and is, most recently, the editor of THE PLACE OF PROBABILITY IN SCIENCE, his 29th book.