Monday, August 13, 2007

Griffin's Voice-Morphing Technology Takes a Big Hit

Ron Wieck, also known as Pomeroo, kept digging at particular points in the 9-11 conspiracy nuts narrative. As I discussed a couple months ago, David Ray Griffin essentially endorsed the voice-morphing claims in his speech in Vancouver a few months ago, although of course he retained a fig leaf of deniability by using the locution that "The 9-11 Truth Movement, by getting empirical, discovered that voice-morphing...."

Indeed, this is such a crackpot claim that even Dylan a few months ago announced that he was dropping it from the Final Cut. Of course, it was the voice-morphing claims that made me see red about Loose Change in the first place; otherwise I would have laughed it off as a kookumentary.

Anyway, Ron contacted the inventor of the voice-morphing technology cited in Loose Change who says:

Purveyors of conspiracy theories have claimed that the events of 9/11 were the result of a massive government plot and cover-up. (See, for example, (www.loosechange911.com.) According to their version of events, there were no hijackers. Instead, the World Trade Center buildings were blown up by explosives planted inside the buildings rather than, or at least in addition to, the effects of the passenger airplanes crashing into them. They claim that the government (or the CIA or someone other than Osama bin Laden and the hijackers) was behind 9/11.

However, a major problem for their allegation, given that they claim there were no hijackers, is that the passengers on United Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania called home with desperate messages to loved ones, in which they said there were hijackers. Accordingly, the conspiracy theory purveyors have needed to claim that someone (namely, me) created the voices of the passengers in those phone calls. That allegation is plainly outrageous and demeaning to the memories of those courageous passengers.

I originally developed the technology of voice morphing, the technology by which it is possible to make someone seem to say something they did not say (see www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/dotmil/arkin020199.htm ) and coined the phrase. Therefore, I know what would have been required to create such bogus calls. Practical considerations preclude making counterfeit telephone calls in this situation. For example, it is necessary to have samples of the voices of the people to be imitated. In situations like this, where the goal is to participate in an unconstrained conversation, the voice sample must be extensive. I cannot imagine how I might have obtained extensive samples of the voices of the passengers on Flight 93, especially not knowing which of them would call home. Additionally, in this situation it would be necessary to know what someone would say to his or her loved ones under such circumstances. What pet names would be used? What references would be made to children and other loved ones? Do believers actually suppose that the government (or I) listens in to everyone’s pillow talk? In a separate essay, I will cover the technical aspects of voice morphing, which will further demonstrate the implausibility of the scenario set forth by the purveyors of conspiracy theories.

Whether such wild-eyed theories are worth being concerned about is problematic. However, in their own words, their conspiracy theory organization “has grown from a cult following to a grassroots organism that can no longer be contained” (op cit). I have received email from a high school social studies teacher who told me that her students actually believe that I did everything the purveyors of conspiracy theories say I did. Why they would so mistrust their government and be so naïve with regard to technical issues are interesting questions, albeit matters well beyond the scope of this essay.


Great job by Ron, as usual. I do apologize to my readers and him for not highlighting this post earlier; I saw it a couple days ago but got distracted by something else. Kudos as well to Dr. Papcun for his work.

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