Tag: Richard Gage

The scale of the conspiracy

PeterC, over in the comments of my review of Max Hill’s “To the Ends of the Earth” suggested that contemporary archaeologists in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu (New Zealand) dance to the tune of their political (and funding) masters, which is why there is no academic support for the theses of Max Hill, Martin Doutreé and the like. That got me to thinking: if we were to treat that claim about the existence of a conspiracy seriously, how big would the conspiracy in question actually be?

Think of it this way: Pacific archaeology is not an entirely New Zealand-based concern. Whilst New Zealand archaeologists do an awful lot of our local archaeology, they are just part of the wider archaeological community interested in the history and pre-history of the Pacific. Quite a lot of Pacific archaeology is performed by Americans, the French and Germans, in part because each of these nations have a history of colonial activity in the Pacific.

So, if there is a conspiracy to hide the real history of the Pacific and to deny the existence of some other people living in or passing through the Polynesian archipelago, it must be a pretty big one that encompasses the research output of not just the New Zealand university and research community but extends to the university and research communities of Europe and the Americas ((Truth be told, quite a lot of New Zealand archaeology is undertaken by people who not only did their undergraduate and post-graduate studies overseas but are, shock horror, foreign nationals (and not necessarily the kind the GSCB is allowed to spy on).)). What possible rationale is there for such a large-scale, encompassing conspiracy?

You might concede that maybe someone, in a position of political power, decided one day that we should rewrite Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu’s history in order to appease some group of Māori (even though I think this is very unlikely it is still a possibility) but why would that decision be in anyway binding on the research outputs of archaeologists and historians elsewhere, especially since these reports are perfect congruent with the archaeological research that is produced elsewhere in Polynesia? Why do American archaeologists write site reports and make inferences which look eerily similar to the site reports of French and New Zealand archaeologists? Surely, if there is a conspiracy, we should see a divergence of views between these sets of researchers?

Now, maybe the large-scale claim of conspiracy is justified: I did say that these nations have a history of colonialism, so maybe they are part of a “post-colonial guilt party” conspiracy, or the indigenous peoples of this place (generally speaking) have some kind of hold over the governments of these nations, but that just seems unlikely. The attitudes of France, America and New Zealand with respect to the indigenous peoples of the Pacific really couldn’t be that different (look at the poor state of native rights in Haiwaii) and so it just doesn’t follow that American archaeologists doing Pacific archaeology funded by American universities and NGOs would be hiding evidence of some non-Polynesian, pre-cursor people in the way that Doutree and company seem to allege.

You might also, if we’re going to treat this thesis with more respect than it deserves, argue that the decision was made by, say, the American establishment and we’re just following the dictates of a world superpower. Once again, you have to give a reason as to why, say, America would want to pervert history and produce archaeological disinformation, especially given, as previously noted, just how badly off the Hawaiians are (and let’s not forget the plight of the Native Americans).

Both of these rationales also fall foul of a basic truth about research communities; governments set the funding levels and they certainly mangle research outputs by overfunding some types of degrees and underfunding others. but they don’t control who researches what and they certainly don’t set up the terms of such enquiries, let alone decide what conclusions are allowed to be drawn. Certainly, many of Ansell’s fellow travellers complain about the kind of research that goes on in the academic sector and how good it is that sensible Ministers in our present Government ignore such policy advice and use common sense instead. It seems that the kind of people who are likely to come up with a conspiracy about there being an agenda to hide the existence of a pre-Māori people want to have it both ways when it comes to condemning the research outputs of our universities.

The other problem with this claim about large-scale conspiracy in the world of archaeology is that, surely, you would expect someone to buck the system and release evidence of both the hidden history and the conspiracy itself. This is a common argument against the 9/11 Truth Movement (and, increasingly, being employed to show that the claims of a “CIA/Swedish honeytrap” against Julian Assange seems very unlikely): the lack of countering evidence to the well-accepted or official theory seems to suggest that the theory is plausible. Now, any holder of a conspiracy theory which claims that well-accepted or official theory is based on disinformation, etc. will point towards people like Richard Gage (with respect to the 9/11 Truth Movement) and Martin Doutré (with respect to the Celtic New Zealand thesis) and say “But, looksy, there is evidence to the contrary and these brave researchers are willing to put up with shoddy ad hominem attacks and ridicule to get the truth out there!”

But, once again, this seems to present a problem of scale: Doutré and Gage are not just dismissed by part of the academy but, rather, all of it worldwide. Doutré and Hill’s respective theses are not just considered silly and vapid in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu but elsewhere as well, so we’re back to the “Everyone (else) is in on the conspiracy” angle which, as I’ve shown, is already problematic.

But it gets worse. Doutré and Hill’s radical pre-histories of Polynesia is based upon not just archaeological claims but also claims based in comparative linguistics, oral histories, ethnography, epigraphy and (to name a few). In each of these fields, his arguments have been picked on by someone with appropriate expertise who are largely in agreement with the rest of their peers. If there is a conspiracy in existence, it’s not just a conspiracy in the worldwide archaeological community but, rather, a conspiracy of every academic everywhere ((I would love to see the agenda for the meetings that set up such a conspiracy. I’ve been in academic staff meetings. They are not pretty. No one seems to be able to agree with anyone.)).

Once again, this is a potentially huge conspiracy that people like PeterC are envisioning, and given the different research funding models worldwide, the organisation and control of this conspiracy is likely not to be governmental (unless you believe there exists a New World Order/One World Government who have, as one of their aims, the promotion of both false history and indigenous rights) but, rather, academic.

Now, admittedly, people like John Ansell and Martin Doutré will agree with this and say “Well, we’ve been saying the academic world has been taken over my Marxists for ages now!” but a) it’s not clear that Ansell and Doutreé know what Marxism, as a mode of academic pursuit, looks like and b) it’s not clear that Marxism is the most popular mode of academic pursuit at the moment any way ((That being said, no matter what I say next, Ansell and Doutré will likely claim we’re all “closet Marxists” who are either unaware we are Marxists or are afraid to admit to being Marxists because we might suffer the old bit of biffo by the common person on the street.)).

More importantly, though, who is directing us academics to pursue research in a Marxist way?

Ansell, PeterC, Doutré and company will say “That’s where the funding comes from” but is it? Sure, New Zealand’s university sector is funded by central government, so maybe there are Marxists in the Ministry of Education, but what about America? There are lots of American researchers who work in Pacific archaeology, linguistics, history and other related disciplines and their university sector is definitely not funded by the Federal Government (there is very little publicly funded research in the USA) so if the conspiracy is based around funding, it’s a conspiracy where either the international (particularly American) academic sector has undue sway over individual government funding bodies like we find in New Zealand or small countries like our own somehow have sway over the international research funding community.

Both theories seem unlikely, I must confess.

There is, of course, another option. Perhaps, just perhaps, the radical theories of the Richard Gages and Martin Doutré’s of this world are considered lacking in academic merit because, well, such theories are lacking in the kinds of credentials a largely independent academic sector expect to find. No need to posit a conspiracy; outlier research like that found in the 9/11 Truth Movement or the Celtic New Zealand crowd might just be examples of pseudo-research.

However, I don’t think that conclusion, however likely it appears to be, will be accepted by people like PeterC.

The Dentith Files – Richard Gage III

Between 2008 and 2010, Matthew Dentith first joined 95bFM’s Simon Pound, then José Barbosa, on Sunday mornings to talk about conspiracy theories. Listen, as they say, again!

Well, the podcast of “The Dentith Files” segment on Richard Gage can be listened to below:

Given that we had a mere twenty minutes (and we went over) this is not as fulsome a discussion on Gage as I’d like, but it covers what José and I felt were the interesting issues we could meaningfully get into given the ,imitation of our time slot.

Also, apparently some calls came in; I had to dash off to catch a ferry.

Anyway, that really is probably the last thing I’ll writing/saying about Gage and his particular version of the ‘Inside Job’ hypothesis for a while; I’m off on Monday for fives days at a conference and when I get back it’ll be time to start work on the final chapter proper of the thesis. December and January will be long months.

I’d just like to advise poiential commenters on this and the other 9/11 posts that:

a) I won’t have much internet access over the next week, so don’t expect prompt or long replies, and

b) the comments policy here is that I have to approve the first comment you make in any given post, so don’t think I’m censoring you or unable to respond to your comments (or anything similar) if it takes a while for your comment to appear publicly.

Richard Gage II: Gouge Harder!

Well, I went and did it, I spent another three hours in the company of Richard Gage and his cohort of Truthers. In the process I learnt something new about myself.

1) I’m a glutton for punishment.

2) Apparently I’m one of the country’s top debunkers ((Or, at least, that is what Will Ryan, the organiser, believes.)).

It’s hard to know where to start with Gage’s version of the ‘Inside Job’ thesis of 9/11. He certainly seems sincere in his belief, even when he was asking for money towards the end. It might just be my impoverished student state, but when a man complains that he’s only on half the income he had as a ‘prestigious’ architect that doesn’t really cry poverty to me.

Anyway, some thoughts, culled from both presentations.

1. The Truthers claim they are not a fringe group, but with only 960 architects and engineers in their group and 4,000 non-professional members, they certainly seem fringe-sized.

2. Gage’s 90% conversion rate seems to be fair. At the Wellington event there were 340 in the Soundings Lecture Theatre. 27 of us were supporters of the Official Story at the beginning, 97 were unsure and the remaining 216 were Truthers. By the end there were 3 of us Official Story supporters left and 67 unsure (including Hugh Young, of the New Zealand Skeptics, I might add). That meant that 270 people were Truthers by the end. Auckland was pretty similar; of the 125 people, 12 were supporters of the Official Story at the beginning; 2 were left at the end.

3. You could play ‘M(ain)S(tream)M(edia) Bingo’ based upon the number of times he says ‘Mainstream Media’ in a derogatory fashion.

4. Apparently, even given the MSM, the media attention here is much better than anything they’ve had in the States for years.

5. He really emphasises his love of the Scientific Method. Pity he gets it a bit backwards. He says we have to collect data before we decide on an hypothesis to test, but that gets it backwards. If you collect data you are already collecting data with respect to some hypothesis; he assumes the truth of his Controlled Demolition Thesis, essentially before he hypothesises it.

6. I would really like to see some work on the reliability of the eye-witness testimony he keeps referring to with regards to claims of heard explosions and the like. Psychologists will tell you that you have to take most of this stuff with a grain of salt; memories are being changed within minutes of the event happening and pre-conceptions get filtered in immediately; we expect explosive sounds to go with big events like collapses so people ‘read in’ that sound. Now, this doesn’t mean the testimony is actually unreliable, but it certainly is not beyond reasonable doubt.

7. Given a choice between someone being incompetent or someone being a liar, Gage goes with the liar thesis every time, it seems.

8. I don’t think he understands that the kind of analogies he uses don’t give him entailment (A is B) but rather, at best, strong suggestion (A is probably B). He argues by analogy a lot and always overstates the strength of the logical inference. Indeed, he’d have a half-decent thesis if he simply said ‘All I’m doing is arguing that controlled demolition might the case’ rather than insisting that it is.

9. Also, the low probability of an event seems to mean that the event cannot have occurred that way, which is also a problem for him. Low probability events happen all the time; they just aren’t as common as mid to high probability events.

10. Related: He really needs to stop asserting as fact controversial premises (such as the claim the jets of material preceding the collapsing floors are ‘squibs’ when, really, they could well be pressure exhausts ((His understanding of the way some windows pop when others do not is really remarkable primitive.)). Controversial premises and overstated inferences a bad argument make.

11. He has to touch on the Official Story from time to time to make his, excuse the potential pun, thesis fly, but whenever he presents the Official Story of, say, the destruction of the Twin Towers he presents a simplified version. He talks about the fire but not the damage caused by the impact. It’s easy to make the Official Story sound implausible if you don’t mention all of its salient points.

12. For someone who claims he isn’t a Conspiracy Theorist he certainly advocates them. In his list of things caused by 9/11 he has ‘World Financial Meltdown.’ He also makes caged references to a link to the Oklahoma City Bombing.

13. Gage wants it both ways; he wants to merely argue that he thinks another investigation, based upon new evidence, is warranted, which is an admirably weak conclusion which might be worthy of discussion, but then he asserts it is an ‘Inside Job,’ which means he’s already prejudiced in regard to the outcome, which means he’s not open to an enquiry that might just confirm the Official Story (which, if we really are arguing what happened that day, might still be the case even if some of his points are taken on board).

14. Apparently it would only require 100 people to be in the know to pull off the controlled demolition.

15. He hasn’t actually read the NIST report on 9/11. For someone who keeps telling people ‘Don’t believe what I tell you; research it for yourselves’ this seems a terrific oversight on his part.

16. There is a clever aspect to his argument, in that he argues by analogy that if WTC7 was destroyed by a controlled demolition, then the Twin Towers must have been as well. WTC7 is the little known third high-rise destroyed on the 11th of September; Gage focuses most of his efforts to persuade you that it was a planned destruction rather than mere gravitational collapse. Because so little is said about WTC7, he can argue more directly for a rival candidate explanation of the event and, once he has persuaded his audience, claim that the Twin Towers show the same features.

Now, to do the latter he has to make a particularly interesting claim. In the WTC7 case he argues that the buidlings started to collapse from the base, which he takes to be a sign of controlled demolition, but he can’t do the same with the Twin Towers because they, quite evidently, started to collapse from the point of the airliner impacts. To get around this obvious disimilarity he pulls a move that, really, is very clever and yet is also a quite significant weakness if you think about it. The point of impact is the base for the controlled demolition of the upper half of each building; once that starts ‘they’ then begin to set off the charges in the lower part of the building.

Which raises the question “How did they manage to get the planes to impact exactly where they wanted them to?”

Of course, that question can be answered, but it makes for a spectacularly complex plot on the part of the conspirators, one that almost beggars belief.

17. Penny Bright might be concerned about your water bills but she is a Climate Change Skeptic.

I haven’t even touched on the nano-thermite; I’ll try to collect my thoughts on that topic before the show this coming Sunday.

Richard Gage on ‘Close Up,’ Friday the 27th of November, 2009

Truth in Wellington

Well, I’ve booked my tickets to fly down to Wellington to see Richard Gage relate his particular Conspiracy Theory about 9/11.

I’m both excited and perplexed; I’m funding this trip myself, and as an impoverished PhD student that does mean a slice of money. In that respect I have to wonder ‘Why?’ Why spend money going down to watch a Conspiracy Theorist at work?

Well, the answer to that is the excitement. Several commentators on Conspiracy Theory culture have noted that Conspiracy Theories seem to be mostly oral, or, probably more accurately, Conspiracy Theories seem more plausible when they are presented orally rather than when they are written down. This doesn’t suggest that the arguments are somehow magically better when they are spoken but rather that, in such presentations, with the charged rhetoric and the shout outs of support from the audience, you can see why people might find it all very convincing.

That’s the theory, anyway.

I’ve not had much of a chance to see a Conspiracy Theorist in action and this event should be filled with them. I shall, I must admit, be somewhat incognito; I don’t really think I’ll be able to summon the ultimate counter-argument to Gage and his theories; the environment won’t be conducive and I’m far more interested in the swing voters than the hard-core believers of either stripe. More importantly, I would like to see how the believers react and play; I’m going more as an amateur sociologist or anthropologist than I am as an epistemologist.

So, Wellington. Land of good coffee, great vegan cake and Truth in Architecture. What more does a boy need? ((Even more cake, that’s what.))