Had an interesting experience with online news and information site Stuff this morning. I normally check in first thing to do the daily trivia quiz, then have a poke around to see if anything interesting is making news today (then go to a slightly less sensationalist source for more information if required. Truth be told, I mostly read Stuff for the comments threads).
While not breaking, this story concerning the release of previously unseen images of the Twin Towers collapse (link) caught my eye. Like many others, I have an interest in what went on that day (my memories of it, while I'm not going to retell them here, are still clear), and the aftermath, the full extent of which will not be apparent for many years to come (the world is still dealing with the legacy of the Second World War, and that ended more than six decades ago).
Unfortunately (and I'll get my bias right out in the open here), the events have attracted a coterie of at times bizarre conspiracy theories (like reality isn't complicated enough). I'll admit I was open to and intrigued by the idea of a conspiracy once, but seeing the insult to my intelligence that was Loose Change convinced me otherwise (I was genuinely offended by it, since besides the numerous demonstrable errors of fact, it and its proponents sought to convince me that poorly researched allegations, based on out of context quotes, assumptions and presumptions were unarguable truths, and that I would be an ovine fool and a tool not to believe in them). I get frustrated by the '9/11 Truther' movement, since as far as I can tell, almost all of their basic founding arguments concerning the attacks are deeply deeply logically flawed. They initially look plausible (and this is the frustration point, since the veneer of plausibility entices otherwise smart and reasonable people to accept them), but only take the tiniest amount of first principles investigation to demolish, a lot like the 'We didn't land on the moon' conspiracy, which also seems to have gained far more popular currency than it is worth. To me anyway, the fact that these theories have gotten to the point where they become part of popular culture and need serious debunking is a source of despair, since it represents a triumph and celebration of ignorance (and at heart, they arise from ignorance in the literal rather than insulting sense) over hard earned knowledge and achievement. I'm not saying there aren't any conspiracies, or that motives for them don't exist, but as far as 9/11 (and the moon landings) go, and like I have stated here, there and everywhere in the past, the 'evidence' just fails to convince me on any level once I start assessing it seriously. Of course, in the best scientific tradition, show me a convincing and irrefutable smoking gun and I will alter my position to match.
Like a lot of Stuff stories, this one was open to comments from readers, and by the time I got to reading it, 32 people had already left their opinion. As you'd expect, a fair amount of truthers and conspiracists were among them, as well as a refreshingly healthy amount of counter points. Seeing some oft quoted 'facts' (that weren't) in amongst the comments, I got set to add my voice and try some reasonable and polite counterargument (I don't troll. Trolling and ad hominem BS is for amateurs and children). Probably in vain, but what the hey, it would be a fun engagement anyway.
Except I couldn't. The 'Post Comments' box had mysteriously disappeared. Scrolling up to the top of the story I looked for the usual 'Comments on this story have been closed' note left by the moderators when threads need shutting down. No note, and while the seeds of a robust discussion were definitely present, no real flaming had taken place yet, and nothing worse than the arguments and accusations that rage daily across the Stuff comment threads.
Thinking it might be a bug, I left it for a while, and checked back a couple of hours later. Now not only was the 'Post comments' window gone, so were all the comments, like the story had never been opened up for comments in the first place (nevertheless, the story remained in the 'Most Commented' sidebar for the rest of the day).
Not all Stuff stories are comment enabled, and closing comments threads on the site isn't unusual, but this is the first time I have seen an active thread completely removed from existence on the site. I wonder what editorial line got crossed, and how many other readers noticed?
The thought has crossed my mind some might see it as part of a continuing conspiracy.....:)