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[The primary content of this piece was first published among the comments to an article by Robyn Urback,

Research grant to fund conspiracy theories? University of Lethbridge student awarded $7,714 to investigate
war on terror 'truth', Maclean's (26 November 2010),]

[Index: 9/11, higher education, media criticism, Afghanistan]

[Date: November-December 2010]

Defending Critical Research into 9/11

Michael Keefer

The short texts reproduced here were occasioned by a minor outbreak of

McCarthyist journalism in the autumn of 2010. It was initiated by Jonathan Kay of the
National Post, who had recently published Among the Truthers, an attempt to explain, in
the inept vocabulary of pop psychology, the phenomenon of scepticism about the
official narrative about the events of September 11, 2001 and the global war on terror
which that narrative legitimized.
On November 25, 2010, Kay devoted his column to what might seem a bizarrely
petty subject: the fact that the University of Lethbridge had awarded a quite modest
graduate fellowship to Joshua Blakeney, a student who planned, under the supervision
of Professor Anthony Hall, to write an MA thesis that would evaluate the content,
quality and veracity of the body of literature that both supports and criticizes the
government version of history used to justify the invasions and domestic
transformations that make up the GWOT [Global War On Terrorism].1
My own assessment of such a research proposal would be that, barring rigorous
selectiveness as to how much of the field it attempted to cover, the subject risked being
much too large for an MA thesis.
Kay thought it deficient in other respectsfirst, because he knew that both
1 Joshua Blakeney, MA research proposal quoted by Jonathan Kay, University of Lethbridge pays
student $7,714 to pursue 9/11 conspiracy theories, National Post (25 November 2010),

Professor Hall and Joshua Blakeney had expressed vocal doubts about the veracity of
that government version of history, and secondly because Blakeney's research
proposal indicated that his and Professor Hall's interest in debates and controversies
concerning the originating events of the GWOT had been stimulated by the
scholarship of a number of academics including professors David Ray Griffin, John
McMurtry, Michel Chossudovsky, Graeme MacQueen, Michael Keefer, Peter Dale
Scott, Stephen Jones, Niels Harrit, and Nafeez Ahmed. These names, Kay remarked,
effectively constitute a who's-who of the most influential Canadian,
American and British 9/11 Truth conspiracy theorists. [....]
In other words, the University of Lethbridgeand, through the
province of Alberta's funding arrangements, the taxpayers of
Albertaare paying a British graduate student $7,714 to pursue his
conspiracy theory that the 9/11 attacks were staged by Washington.
Does anyone else see a problem with that?2
I would have liked to post a comment on the National Post website, indicating
that I saw two problems with Jonathan Kay's own columnthe first being a transparent
McCarthyism, and another more serious one being a matter of intellectual dishonesty.
That might seem a severe judgment, but Kay interviewed me at length in 2009
for his Truthers book. Knowing him to have had a scientific education, I gave him
detailed guidance during that interview and in follow-up correspondence as to the
scientific studies and the physical, chemical, and materials-science evidence that
underlies my own rejection of the government narrative of the three World Trade
Center skyscraper collapses on 9/11. One would not guess from Kay's book, or from
anything else he's written on the subject, that such information as this existed.
It would be absurd to demand that others automatically assent to my own
interpretations of such matters. But I do observe that Jonathan Kay knows very well that
scepticism about the government narrative of 9/11 is supported by a substantial body of
unchallenged peer-reviewed scientific evidence, some of it published by Stephen Jones
and Niels Harrit. He should also know, if he has read any of the books on 9/11 by David
Ray Griffin, Michel Chossudovsky, Peter Dale Scott, and Nafeez Ahmed, as well as
essays by John McMurtry, Graeme MacQueen, and others, that a large amount of other
evidence points in the same direction. For him to give no hint of this, while smearing as
2 Kay, University of Lethbridge pays student $7,714.

conspiracy theorists the scientists and scholars who have helped to assemble and to
analyze this evidence, is dishonest.
I am not writing out of any animus over my own treatment in Jonathan Kay's
book. Aside from his suppression of serious evidence with which I know him to have
been acquainted, my only objection to the three pages he devoted to me in the first
chapter of Among the Truthers would be that he gave readers an inflated impression of
my academic reputation as a scholar of Renaissance literature and early modern
I would have liked to raise a parallel objection to being included among a list of
influential 9/11 sceptics in Kay's November 25th article: I am indeed a 9/11 sceptic,
but the characterization influential is in my estimation untrue. (In this case, to be fair,
the error was Joshua Blakeney's: Kay merely quoted and commented on his list.)
However, I was unable to post a response to Kay's article on the National Post website.
Since no comments of any kind appear under the article in question, I suppose that the
comments function must have been deliberately disabled.
Kay's stirring of the pot was quickly taken up in Maclean's magazine by Robyn
Urback, who on the next day, November 26, 2010, published a short article whose title
ends with a question mark: Research grant to fund conspiracy theories? 3 Perhaps she
hoped the grant would be withdrawn.
Urback's trajectory in this piece is interesting. To her mind, the lunacy of using
tax dollars to fund conspiracy theories was readily apparent. But unexpectedly, she
deviated into what looked like a defense of academic freedom, writing that the
expectation of graduate research is that it challenges the status quo and seeks to break
through conventional belief. Though feeling little faith that Blakeney's MA thesis
could amount to more than 9/11 jabber, she proposed that academic freedom would
be compromised if taxpayers could suddenly decide which theses were worth their
dollar. But then another swerve took her to her real goal:
Indeed, I think the outrage is warranted [...], but if anything, this
situation just reinforces the need to establish a fully private postsecondary education system.4
3 Robyn Urback, Research grant to fund conspiracy theories? University of Lethbridge student
awarded $7,714 [to] investigate war on terror 'truth', Maclean's (26 November 2010),
4 Ibid.

I took this as a starting point in commenting on Robyn Urback's article.

1. Comment on Robyn Urback Research grant to fund conspiracy

theories? University of Lethbridge student awarded $7,714 to investigate
war on terror 'truth', Maclean's (26 November 2010), posted on 27
November at 4:52 p.m.
Let's ask ourselves a simple question. Why do Canadians think it important to
pay for publicly funded universitiesincluding paying the salaries of real scholars who
do actual research as well as teaching, and including the provision of research grants to
support graduate students who will go on to become university researchers and teachers
One reason, I would suggest, is that Canadians still see some value in being able
to distinguish between critically sifted historical actualities and the miasmal deceptions
of propaganda. We still see some value in being assisted to an understanding of the
forces at work in contemporary history by people who (as Shakespeare's Hamlet put it)
can show the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.
Professor Anthony Hall of Lethbridge University is a scholar of high distinction
whose two books, The American Empire and the Fourth World (2004) and Earth Into
Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism (2010), both published by
McGill-Queen's University Press, are major contributions to an understanding of North
American history.
The sneering attacks by Jonathan Kay and now also by Robyn Urback on the
quite modest research funding that the University of Lethbridge is offering to Professor
Hall's graduate student Joshua Blakeney are easily identifiable as McCarthyist gutter
journalism. But it may not be immediately obvious how much is at stake in this
apparently quite minor controversy.
A significant number of young Canadians, serving in good faith and
courageously in a war whose only justification is the official narrative of the events of
9/11, have been killed and maimed in Afghanistan. (Let us add that a much larger
number of Afghans have been killed, maimed, or tortured as a result of our presence in
their country.)
But that official narrative about 9/11that official conspiracy theoryis, from

top to bottom, untrue. The key evidence adduced by the 9/11 Commission Report was all
based upon torture, and the pseudo-scientific explanations of the destruction of the Twin
Towers and World Trade Center 7 that were offered by the US government's National
Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have been refuted by independent
scientific studies that show the buildings were brought down by explosive demolition.
I am a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada. In early October of this
year, I stood on the College's parade square with several hundred other ex-cadets,
including more than fifty from the class in which I graduated forty years ago, and
watched as two currently serving officer cadets were presented with awards given to
them by the bereaved familiesparents, widows, and small childrenof two RMC
graduates recently killed in Afghanistan. I grieved then for the loss of those young lives,
and I grieve now.
I do not want to see any more young Canadians killed or maimed in a war that is
grounded in a pack of lies about the events of 9/11.
How then would I describe the behaviour of those, whether journalists or fellow
citizens, who seek to obstruct, through mockery or through threats of de-funding, the
honest research of scholars in Canadian universities into what happened on 9/11, and
into the ways in which the events of that day have been so thoroughly obfuscated?
I have one word to describe that mockery, and those threats. They are

2. An addendum, posted on 27 November 2010 at 6:18 p.m.

How interesting: the British newspaper The Independent has named Professor
Hall's Earth Into Property as one of the best books of 2010. (See The best books for
Christmas: Our pick of 2010, The Independent [26 November 2010].)

3. A response by David Leitch, Ph.D., 27 November 2010 at 9:07 p.m.

One of the first posts in response to Robyn Urback's article had been by David

Leitch, who identified himself as a recent graduate of a Ph.D. program here in

Canada, and professed himself fairly appalled at the fact that government-dispensed
grant money is going to fund such nonsense. [....] What I cannot fathom is that some
granting agency actually gave credence to a verifiably false thesis: that the United States
government somehow orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. Expressing his faith in NIST's
report on the collapse of the Twin Towers, Dr. Leitch marvelled that anyone could
honestly believe that a government incapable of preventing the leaking of hundreds of
thousands of documents relating to its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and including
confidential diplomatic cables, could possibly keep a MASSIVE conspiracy under
wraps for a week, let alone nearly a decade.
Dr. Leitch responded aggressively to my first post:
You're accusing the NIST of pseudo-science? Do you have
advanced degrees in Civil, Structural, Mechanical, and Materials
Engineering? Architecture? Physics? Do you even know what the
NIST is actually tasked with, or how many other agencies and groups
contributed to that report? The NIST is NOT the US government
they are about as apolitical as you can get. Throw in for good measure
the Structural Engineering Institute of the American Society of Civil
Engineers, Society of Fire Protection Engineers, National Fire
Protection Association, American Institute of Steel Construction,
Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc., Council on Tall Buildings and
Urban Habitat, and the Structural Engineers Association of New York.
But I guess all these groups are in on the conspiracy too hey? Just how
many tens of thousands of people are 'in the know' about 'the truth,'
and why have none of these people come forward with any shred of
evidence to support the controlled demolition theory? And where are
these independent scientific studies that refute the NIST report? Are
they published? Certainly the NIST report is not perfect, no scientific
paper ever is, but making the leap to controlled demolition is
ludicrous. Ever heard of Occam's Razor? Everyone in the entire world
saw planes hit those buildings. Why is there a need to invoke an
astronomically complex plan to blow the buildings up? And no,
analyzing YouTube videos does not count as scientific. [....]

4. My response, posted on 30 November 2010 at 8:54 p.m.

A quick seminar for David Leitch, who doesn't like criticism of the US National
Institute of Standards and Technology.
i. As apolitical as you can get?
NIST, an agency of the US Department of Commerce, was under direct Bush
administration control. A NIST whistleblower went public in 2007, claiming that NIST
had been fully hijacked from the scientific into the political realm, and that their work
on 9/11 evidence was done under direct surveillance by the National Security Agency,
senior officials of the Department of Commerce, and President Bush's Office of
Management and Budget. (See David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor Revisited, pp.
ii. Some scientific studies:
(a) Steven Jones at al., Extremely high temperatures during the World Trade Center
destruction, Journal of 9/11 Studies (January 2008);
(b) Kevin Ryan et al., Environmental anomalies at the World Trade Center: evidence
for energetic materials, The Environmentalist (August 2008);
(c) Graeme MacQueen and Tony Szamboti, The Missing Jolt: A Simple Refutation
of the NIST-Bazant Collapse Hypothesis, Journal of 9/11 Studies (January 2009);
(d) Niels Harrit et al., Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11
World Trade Center Catastrophe, The Open Chemical Physics Journal 2 (2009).
iii. Plus two studies of witness evidence, both by Graeme MacQueen:
(a) 118 Witnesses: The Firefighters' Testimony to Explosions in the Twin Towers,
Journal of 9/11 Studies (August 2006);
(b) Waiting for Seven: WTC 7 Collapse Warnings in the FDNY Oral Histories,
Journal of 9/11 Studies (January 2008).

iv. Occam's Razor

Yes, I've heard of it. If David Leitch cares to look up William of Occam's
Reportatio II (Book 3 of his Super quatro libros sententiarum), q. 150, he'll learn that
Occam himself thought the so-called Razorhis injunction against multiplying
entities in causal explanationsdoesn't apply to observations of physical events.
Of course two hijacked aircraft hit the Twin Towers. But NIST's account of the
buildings' destruction has been refuted, and the clear scientific evidence that explosives
were used is massively supported by the testimony of witnesses.
v. Since we've strayed into medieval philosophy....
Let's hear what another English Franciscan, Roger Bacon, said in the opening
section of his Opus Maius about the causes of error.
The four chief obstacles to grasping truth, he says, are submission to incorrect
and unworthy authority; the influence of custom; popular prejudice; and concealment of
our ignorance, accompanied by an ostentatious display of our knowledge.
Ouch. (That last phrase hurts.) Does the shoe pinch you as well, Dr. Leitch?

5. An objection by 'George', posted on 1 December 2010 at 3:42 a.m.

Dear Michael Keefer,
I hope you know your use of scientific evidence is terribly misguided, and that
you are just pretending and are performing a study to see how people react to your
statements... Sure the Journal of 9/11 Studies and The Open Chemical Physics Journal
contained peer-reviewed scienceto the ability of those peers. There's a reason who
those peers are stuck submitting their articles into the open version of a real science
journal, and the Journal of the 9/11 Conspiracy.
...the clear scientific evidence that explosives were used... What is this
scientific evidence exactly? I fear you mean the clear YouTube video analysis...

6. Signing off, on 2 December 2010 at 11:04 p.m.

I'm sorryI forgot to mention that the six studies I mentioned are all available
online: Google will fetch them for you in an instant. Do please read them and form your
own opinion of their significance.