9/11 Conspiracy Theories People Actually Think Are True

Published September 8, 2016
Updated February 10, 2017
Published September 8, 2016
Updated February 10, 2017

Millions of people have spent the last 15 years spinning theories about what may have happened on September 11, 2001, but are any of the 9/11 conspiracy theories even rooted in truth?

911 Conspiracies Wtc Lights

Wikimedia Commons

It was the stuff of history. Fifteen years ago, a team of 19 terrorists hijacked four civilian airplanes and crashed them into crowded office buildings.

In a little over an hour on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Americans — and most everyone else in the world — went on an emotional roller coaster as we discovered that we were suddenly at war, wondered whether there were more attacks planned, and called out from work to watch the whole thing unfold live on CNN.

The fact that the attacks were indeed televised and shot from multiple angles — to say nothing of their being witnessed firsthand by literally millions of people — just makes it all the more depressing that many millions of other people still don’t believe that what they saw really happened the way it seemed to.

According to a 2010 poll by the Angus Reid Public Opinion group, a full 15 percent of Americans believe that the Twin Towers were brought down by demolition charges, rather than by the two quite large aircraft we all watched hit them in real time.

This isn’t an isolated belief held by a few on the fringes; a lot of people feel this way. Here are four of the 9/11 conspiracy theories that some of those people believe represent the truth about what happened on that horrible day:

9/11 Conspiracy Theories: The Attack Was A Cover For A Robbery

911 Conspiracies Gold Bullion

Bullion Vault/Flickr

One of the relatively conservative 9/11 conspiracy theories floating around the internet is based on the premise that the commodities exchange inside the World Trade Center stored $950 million in vaults underneath the building. After the wreckage was cleared, only $230 million was recovered.

Conspiracy theorists therefore contend — on no evidence at all, mind you — that the attacks were staged as a cover for unidentified thieves to crack those safes, take exactly $720 million, leave the rest, and disappear without a trace.

The alternative possibilities — that the gold might have been destroyed in the collapse and fire, or that it was never there in the first place — don’t seem to have occurred to anybody holding this belief. Another thing that seems not to have occurred to robbery theorists is that there’s no obvious reason for thieves to stage an additional two hijackings and crash the planes into A) the Pentagon, and B) an empty field in Pennsylvania.

This theory, like many 9/11 conspiracy theories, is a case of inductive reasoning at its worst. Unlike deductive reasoning, which works down from a big theory to make small predictions, inductive reasoning works upward from small observations to craft large explanations from very little evidence. Unfortunately, like a hammer used to open a wine bottle, it’s not always the appropriate tool for the job.

In this case, theorists start with a small observation — that there was allegedly a lot of money inside the World Trade Center — assume that people would do anything to steal it, and then fabricate a conspiracy to bring down the towers so that persons unknown could later sneak in and rummage through still-burning rubble.

The fact that these thieves killed thousands of people to get their money just shows how ruthless they are, theorists believe. Any fact that seems to argue against the robbery hypothesis thus gets inductively twisted around until it supports the hypothesis instead. The total lack of evidence for any of this only proves how correct it must be.

Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.