| 15.2°C Dublin

9/11 Conspiracy Road Trip (BBC3)

Conspiracies crushed

ANDREW Maxwell used to annoy the hell out of me on RTE's The Panel: the floppy hair, the pipe, the smug, self-satisfied little smirks to the camera.

So it was quite a thing to come across a group of people even more irritating than Maxwell in a programme actually presented by Maxwell.

To be fair to the Irish comedian, though, I ended up liking him a whole lot more by the end of 9/11 Conspiracy Road Trip, which could just as readily have been titled 9/11 Idiots Abroad.

Maxwell put on his serious face as he brought five British conspiracy theorists to America to meet experts and eyewitnesses who, he imagined, would prove beyond all doubt that their paranoid belief that 9/11 was an inside job by the American government was just so much cockamamie cobblers.

Much of this guff -- that the Twin Towers were brought down by a controlled explosion, that the Pentagon was hit by a missile and not a plane, and blah, blah, blah -- had already been comprehensively trashed in last week's The Conspiracy Files.

So the programme was best viewed as a demonstration of how the so-called 9/11 Truthers' bottomless, bone-headed stupidity can foster outrageous levels of arrogance.

Of the five, the most annoyingly vocal, as well as the most vocally annoying, were a pair of hardline doubters called Charlotte, an ex-nanny, and Rodney, who studied biochemistry yet still seems to have trouble trusting the evidence of his eyes.

Charlotte was in New York on 9/11 and recalled thinking: "Something is going on here and I'm going to get to the bottom of it." Such is the deluded, self-regarding mindset of the true conspiracy theorist.

A flight instructor took one of the group, Shazin, who doubted the hijackers could have controlled a passenger jet, up in a light aircraft to show her how easy it was to fly a plane.

Within 10 minutes, she had taken over the controls and was circling comfortably over Manhattan. After an hour, she brought it safely in to land.

While Shazin and two others, Charlie and Emily, began to wobble in their convictions, Rodney and Charlotte doggedly refused to be impressed.

"Do you know much about Boeings?" she snidely asked the instructor.

"As it happens, I do," he said (he'd earlier pointed out that it was easier to steer a passenger jet than a light aircraft). The man's polite silence as Charlotte sneered in his face deserves a Congressional Medal for patience.

A demolition expert pointed out that a controlled explosion would require a skyscraper's steel girders to be individually cut and packed with explosives -- a difficult thing to pull off in a building full of people. "Not really," piped Charlotte in the background.

A technician carried out an experiment proving that thermite, tiny particles of which had been found in the Ground Zero rubble and the main plank in Rodney's controlled explosion theory, couldn't burn through steel girders. Rodney just shook his head.

At the Pentagon, an engineer who'd seen the plane tear into the building spoke emotionally of body parts strewn across the lawns. I could go on and on about the various ways the theories were demolished by a controlled explosion of logic and hard science, but what's the point? The most revolting moment of all came when Charlotte, who, needless to say, believes the phone calls made by the passengers on United 93 were fakes and that the plane itself didn't even exist, affected an air of boredom and disinterest while the mother of one of the victims talked about her final conversation with her son.

By the end, Charlie had done a complete U-turn and accepted the conspiracy theories were nonsense, while Shazin and Emily seemed about to do the same.

Rodney and Charlotte, however, remained more aggressively unmoved than ever, maintaining that they were right and everyone else was wrong.

"Hundreds of thousands of other people also believe it," said Charlotte.

Indeed. And millions believe Elvis never died.

9/11 conspiracy road trip HHIII