151-Proof Troof; My Afternoon With the Deniers
Update: See also Stephen's terrific and much better written summary of the event.
Okay, just got back from the Chandler 9-11 Accountability Confab. So that I don't get accused of burying the lede, Eric D. Williams was there! So much for him being disassociated with the event. In fact, one of the conference organizers (a very nice guy named Lloyd) told me that Eric has a table in the Vendors' room to sell his tracts. Presumably The Puzzle of Auschwitz has been left behind in favor of The Puzzle of 9-11.
(Click pix to enlarge)
Fortunately, I went with Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times, because otherwise we would never have gotten into the press conference, which was filled with "Truthers". As it worked out, Stephen was the only "real" media at the event; unless you consider the Idaho Observer real media.
The panel taking the questions were (reading from left to right): Meria Heller, Jim Marrs, Steven Jones, Janette McKinlay (9-11 artist), Sander Hicks, Kent Knudson (local knucklehead) and Uncle Fetzer. Stephen didn't waste any time asking them how they could talk about "Accountability" without being accountable for having a Holocaust Denier. A groan rose from the crowd. Amazingly, Janette McKinlay said, "Well, Eric's right here! Let's ask him! Do you think that horrible things happened to a lot of people in World War II?" When Eric dutifully acknowledged this meaningless assertion, she appeared to consider the matter settled.
Fortunately Stephen was not to be deterred with this. He asked about the credibility of sources; did people think that Eric Hufschmid is a credible source. Fetzer got on his high horse and declared that while Hufschmid's Holocaust musings were indeed unfortunate, when it came to 9-11, Hufschmid was an "exemplar in excellence in research."
Bob McIlvaine (9-11 father) introduced himself prior to asking a question, and got a round of applause, leading Stephen to ask if this was a press conference or a pep rally. I winced at this, but obviously Stephen didn't know the circumstances. Jon Gold gave some heated comments.
At this point the crowd drew restless. "Throw him out!" By this point I had separated myself from Stephen physically (not from fear, but to make sure one of us could at least remain as an observer). A man who identified himself as hotel security arrived and started escorting Steve out the door. Fortunately, cooler heads (including Phil Berg, who was the moderator) prevailed and after a minute or two he was allowed to remain.
There was a lot of "what can 'we' do" to hold the government accountable for 9-11, which was a pretty good clue that these were not media people asking questions. Berg finally asked how many real working media were in attendance, and about 3 people raised their hands, including the guy from the Idaho Observer.
I got a chance to ask one question, so I tried to make it a zinger without appearing to be a Debunker. Was the 9-11 Truth Movement being infiltrated by the government and/or cults? I pointed out the Haupt/Jamieson dustup video that I'd seen at 9-11 Blogger. Fetzer took the bait, talking about how of course that the FBI was trying to infiltrate them, but that Haupt was not a agent, he was just a nut. Ah, an opening! So I quickly asked why, if he felt that Haupt is a nut, did Fetzer link to 9-11 Researchers at the top of the (new) Scholars for 9-11 Truth site.
Fetzer just about turned purple. Was I accusing him of guilt by association? No, I said, but the link is very prominent at the top of his page and I asked aren't there some things, like the Star Wars Beam Weapon from Space that are dead ends? Well, I threw in the "from space" bit intentionally because I knew that would set him off on how Judy Wood had never said it was from space, to which I retorted that she was the one who called it a Star Wars Beam Weapon, of course people were going to assume it was from space.
Fetzer did a spiel on how areas of research couldn't be closed off without study that this was how science advanced, and (getting back onto the guilt by association thing) that just because one was a kook on one thing you couldn't assume they were a kook on another, and he pointed out that Sir Isaac Newton belonged to some weird cult--I can't remember what it was--and that did that mean his theory of gravity didn't hold. And I did the nodding head thing to assure Fetzer that I was being swayed by his argument and sat down. Fortunately Jones wouldn't let the slander against Sir Isaac Newton go uncorrected; he had personally seen the great scholar's bible or something during a trip to England and was absolutely sure that he was a Christian, not a member of this weird cult that Fetzer was claiming. And as for the Star Wars beam weapon, Greg from the DC group was submitting a paper to JONES on the possibility. So I brown-nosed the teacher by piping up that "It's an energy issue, right?" and he said, well actually it's power, but he gave me a nod of approval. So I felt I had pretty much pulled of a pretty good imitation of a Jones groupie, not a debunker.
Stephen did get to ask the panel members whether they felt Flight 77 had hit the Pentagon. No big surprises. Jones averred that the subject needed more study while mostly thinking it was AA77; only Sander Hicks said he had no doubt it was Chic Burlingame's plane. Fetzer and the rest were firm in the "no-plane at the Pentagon" camp.
After the conference a guy came up to me and asked if I was Patrick Curtiss. I said no, looking at his badge. It said 'Lloyd" and I remembered that a guy by that name had mentioned me on Air America. He asked again, was I Patrick Curtiss from Screw Loose Change?
Well, no, I was not Patrick Curtiss, but I was from Screw Loose Change. So we talked for about ten minutes, and he absolutely thanked me for exposing Eric, saying that the movement had to absolutely dissassociate itself from characters like him, that he absolutely felt they needed solid criticism from people like me. I mentioned how stunned I was when they pointed him out in the crowd, and he just about floored me when he mentioned that Eric still had a booth in the Exhibit Hall. I mean, the only thing dumber is if he turns out to be selling the Puzzle of Auschwitz along with his 9-11 Denier books.
And then a very nice and somewhat scary lady from the LA Truthers engaged us for awhile with the six hijackers are alive, there's no fire in this one picture at the Pentagon and the clocks stopped at 9:31 not 9:37... ad infinitum. And we'd point out the BBC story was early, that if the Loosers wanted to make a mint on their next movie they should go over to the Middle East and find one, that yes, there are many pictures showing the fires at the Pentagon, that there's nobody who says there was a bomb that went off at 9:31. It was all very entertaining, but as I pointed out, why, when I had the answers for 37 straight bits of BS did she think that the 38th was either going to stump me or convince me that 9-11 was an inside job. I think the Truthers are like the IRA; they think the Debunkers have to be right 100% of the time; they only have to be right once. As if there isn't a little thing called credibility that is used up after 37 tries.
Sander Hicks came over after hearing us debating and he was also very pleasant. I should have given him a complete profile, but when I asked him if he thought Mohammed Atta was on Flight 11 he said yes, he was the lead hijacker. He did go into the ISI connection and had some interesting things to say, but I didn't really get why he thought the US had supposedly had the head of the ISI fired if they were behind the operation; surely they should have thanked him for helping out?
He offered me a copy of his book, The Big Wedding, and even autographed it: To Pat: Screw Loose Facts. Then he was out and we were back with Lynn from LA who had a dozen other bits that she wanted to try out on us. At one point she felt compelled to tell us some really bizarre story about how the stone on one of her rings was squeezed out from the hand of a statue of a saint or maybe it was from her hand, and that she had witnessed ten miracles in her life. Stephen got that on tape, I think; I'll ask him to transcribe it because it was the only time all day I didn't have a rejoinder.
She got into the cellphone calls, and she tried all the gambits--Barbara Olsen, Mom, this is Mark Bingham, cellphones don't work at altitude. Finally I turned to Stephen and pointed out that she could go on like this all night and we packed it in.
I took some digital movies as well and will see about getting that up. I got some of Fetzer's ire on tape.