BOSTON CENTER: Hi. Boston Center T.M.U. [Traffic Management Unit], we have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.
POWELL [Jeremy Powell, technical sergeant]: Is this real-world or exercise?
BOSTON CENTER: No, this is not an exercise, not a test.
Powell’s question is heard nearly verbatim over and over on the tapes as troops funnel onto the ops floor and are briefed about the hijacking. Powell, like almost everyone in the room, first assumes the phone call is from the simulations team on hand to send “inputs”—simulated scenarios—into play for the day’s training exercise.” (Vanity Fair, 9/11 Live: The NORAD tapes, 17 October 2006)
A crucial aspect of the complex situation on 9/11 was the unprecedented number of war-games and exercises being conducted on that day, some of the scenarios involving hijacked planes flying into buildings. Radar ‘inserts’ confused and paralysed the response of air traffic controllers and air defence capabilities. A number of the traces visible on the radar screens – as many as eleven at one time – were fictitious: they were simulacra.
That was the drama, and for a long time it held me: the exercise suddenly going live, ATCs yelling Is this real?, the horror of a real event crawling out from under a simulation.
I now know that there was an extra fold in this story. It took me years to see it. The artist and blogger Miles Mathis, always a refreshing read, cautions us to beware the dialectic. The official story, quite obviously, is a lie; but at the same moment, an anti-story is propagated, which contradicts the first but is also a lie. The talk-radio host Alex Jones, who by this time must be widely recognised for what he is — controlled opposition, a surrogate for the murdered cult broadcaster William Cooper — launched his career by propagating this anti-story. And it’s true, explosively so, in most respects; but it still exists to conceal the essential reality, it still protects someone, or something. There is a third story beneath it, surrounded by traps and layered dissimulations. In the case of 9/11, that third story is – well, ask Baudrillard. Or McLuhan. They give us, if not the truth, the language to express the truth.
The procession of simulacra.
I too watched those images on television and failed at first to question them. I was marching in the sucker brigades for a while. It was only six months later that I stumbled on something that tripped my stride and put me out of step.
Then for a period of years I was just trying to think independently; others were doing the tortuous research that official bodies such as NIST and the 9/11 Commission were only pretending to do. It became clear to me fairly early on that the alleged collapses of World Trade Center buildings 1, 2 and 7 were too symmetrical and too fast — approaching and achieving free fall speed — to be explained by anything but demolition by pre-placed explosives charges. Regardless even of the pools of molten metal under the ruins, and the intense heat persisting for more than a month, the iron-rich micro-spheres found in the dust by the City of New York investigation proved in themselves that steel had not just melted but been vaporised under temperatures at least a thousand degrees higher than could be created by ignited jet fuel. So the official story was a lie. Those buildings were blown up. Once you know that, the rest of the second story, the anti-story, follows logically — and evidentially, as the details have steadily fallen into place. And it’s earth-shaking, paradigm-shattering enough as it is.
But what’s the third story?
There were still things in the ‘conspiracy theory’ that didn’t fully make sense. Who exactly flew those planes so unerringly into their targets? Experienced pilots, at least one of them with military background, under threat from box-cutter blades? Or barely trained terrorists with almost no chance of pulling off these manoeuvres with pinpoint accuracy? Neither alternative is convincing. Had the planes been switched for remote-controlled drones, as in the original Northwoods plan? Or had the planes’ computers been remotely hijacked by flight termination systems?
As an eyewitness described it, rather too glibly: “…and then another plane came out of nowhere and just reamed into the second building, exploding out the other side…”
And in video captures which surfaced over the next weeks and months, we saw those planes hit the buildings. Only they didn’t seem hit; instead we saw them melt through those steel and glass facades, like ghosts walking through walls — like shoppers strolling through automatic doors into a mall.
Just like the building collapses, the plane impacts defied fundamental physics. Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that for any action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Punch a wall, you hurt your hand. What we saw: a plane in collision with a building, or building in collision with a plane, the same thing in terms of physics. We see the impact on the building, the planes cutting cartoon-style outlines of themselves in the facade, right down to the wing-tips. However, no impact can be detected upon the planes – no crumpling of nose or fuselage; nothing breaking off or falling outside the building; the tail maintaining its velocity as the plane strikes and enters the building. If this isn’t enough, the ultimate smoking gun is that no wing vortices appeared in the flame and smoke erupting from the buildings. There’s no way around it. The planes are not real.
A citizen journalist with background in digital animation, Simon Shack, conducted a forensic examination of the only direct evidence available to the public — that is, the televised footage — and drew conclusions specifically about that evidence. His documentary, September Clues, proves that the images of aircraft striking buildings, whether purportedly captured by the network cameras or by amateurs with cellphones, are composites. By comparing the distribution of live images on the day, Schack concludes that they were disseminated to the five major networks from a central feed, while local stations were taken off air and all cell-phone networks were down; imagery-control was imposed on the South Manhattan theatre.
This doesn’t mean the bombs and explosions were not real, or that people didn’t die in the buildings. But the planes were two-dimensional animations, simulacra, not real planes. In reality, a Boeing traveling at this speed at sea-level would be far exceeding its capabilities and would in all likelihood break up in mid-air. Based on the broadcast footage, the velocity of the second plane has been calculated at around 580 mph, an impossible speed for this plane at sea-level air density. This is, however, the ground velocity of the AGM-158 JASSM cruise missile, in outline not unlike a Boeing, with wings and a vertical tail, but much smaller of course. Early eyewitnesses reported seeing a small plane or a missile, or nothing at all – it was only a small minority who reported seeing a large or commercial plane. The best explanation is that cruise missiles were fired into the buildings, ‘airliners’ were digitally superimposed, and planted ‘eye-witnesses’ deployed to anchor the narrative around large commercial jets. Theories about holographic cloaking can be discarded at this point, and in fact be seen as attempts protect the third story.
What we saw on our screens is simply not possible in the physical world. Once this is understood it is easy to decode the basic methodology: the towers rigged with explosives, air-to-surface cruise missiles fired into the buildings, planted ‘eyewitnesses’ ready for interview, a central feed supplying images to the TV networks, and ‘the wire’ (Reuters and the Reuters-owned Associated Press) providing the narrative.
The Northwoods blueprint had finally came to fruition forty years on; the pseudo-gang strategy had found its direst enemy-image to date in the form of Osama Bin Laden and ‘Al Qaeda’. Drills and war-games were cover for a real event, and that event masked by simulation. And that is the third story, the one that must at all costs be protected: that the media system can be used in concert to present a simulation as reality. The answer, then, to the repeated question on the operations floor – Is this real world or exercise? – is neither; both. What crawled out from under the simulation – the terrorist atrocity – was neither real nor unreal, but hyperreal.