Update — August 25th: Following an uproar over news that his HBO documentary series gave an uncritical platform to 9/11 conspiracy theorists, Lee has released a statement suggesting he is going to re-edit that episode. “I’m Back In The Editing Room And Looking At The Eighth And Final Chapter Of NYC EPICENTERS 9/11➔2021½,” Lee wrote (via Deadline). “I Respectfully Ask You To Hold Your Judgement Until You See The FINAL CUT. I Thank You.”
Do the Right Thing director Spike Lee is doing us wrong. His new HBO documentary series NYC Epicenters: 9/11-2021½ provides a platform to the notorious conspiracy theorists Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, and when Lee was pressed on why by the New York Times, the filmmaker suggested he thought the attacks on the World Trade Center towers might have been an inside joint.
“I mean, I got questions,” Lee said. “And I hope that maybe the legacy of this documentary is that Congress holds a hearing, a congressional hearing about 9/11.”
As he somewhat erroneously explained, “The amount of heat that it takes to make steel melt, that temperature’s not reached. And then the juxtaposition of the way Building 7 fell to the ground — when you put it next to other building collapses that were demolitions, it’s like you’re looking at the same thing.”
These concerns have been repeatedly debunked. It is true that steel melts at between 2,300 and 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit, and that jet fuel burns at around 1200-1500 degrees Fahrenheit. But — and this should be obvious to anyone who has seen a blacksmith at work — steel loses its structural integrity long before it turns into a puddle. In fact, at around 1100 degrees Fahrenheit, steel is deprived of about 50% of its strength.
Once you take into consideration the curtains, rugs, and furniture ignited by the jet fuel, the total temperature likely reached another 200-400 degrees hotter — more than enough to turn those rigid beams into bendy straws. As the structure buckled, the exterior support columns were pulled inwards, causing the floor to collapse downwards. This created a pancaking effect, leading to a total progressive collapse. For more on how easily steel can be bent at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, check out a video demonstration.
Having not gotten that far in his own research, Lee framed the inclusion of conspiracy theories as merely supplying information. “People going to make up their own mind,” he said. “My approach is put the information in the movie and let people decide for themselves. I respect the intelligence of the audience.”
As interviewer Reggie Ugwu pointed out to Lee, “You don’t say ‘make up your own mind’ about whether or not the vaccine is poison, or ‘make up your own mind’ about whether Joe Biden was legitimately elected.”
Lee replied, “People are going to think what they think, regardless. I’m not dancing around your question,” he said, before proceeding to cha-cha like Rita Moreno in West Side Story. “People are going to think what they think. People have called me a racist for Do the Right Thing. People said in Mo’ Better Blues I was antisemitic. She’s Gotta Have It, that was misogynist. People are going to just think what they think. And you know what? I’m still here, going on four decades of filmmaking.” That’s all true, even if it’s hardly an answer to the question
New York Epicenters: 9/11-2021½ is a four-part series, and the first episode debuted on HBO on Sunday, August 22nd. Up next for the acclaimed filmmaker is All Rise, a musical about the origins of Viagra.