9/11 Conspiracy Idea Slipped into Academic Course Material (France)


Senior Member.
Some turmoil recently arose in France when a study manual for "Sciences Po" (political sciences) was found to contain a 9/11 conspiracy reference.

The issue was first published on "Conspiracy Watch" (French)

An article in "Le Monde" (paid access) was translated to English by the following site (not very well, likely automatic):

The highlighted word is a bogus translation. The original says "sans doute" here which means "without doubt" - contradicting the oddly placed question mark at the end of the insert.

It's not really clear yet if the author had included this passage in his manuscript or if it was slipped in at a later stage.


New Member
Some context. « Sciences Po » here refers to an institution in Paris, the Institut d’Études politiques. It is an enormously prestigious university level school which has historically trained the French political and government elites. The current French President and two of his predecessors attended it, and it’s regarded as a virtually compulsory finishing school for an elite career. Think some combination of Oxford /Harvard and a famous business school.
The book is essentially a revision summary for those taking courses (the « preparatory classes« ) to get into Sciences Po and other similar institutions, which have a higher status than Universities, as well as undergraduates revising for exams. The actual extract can be interpreted in different ways: writing about such subjects is more nuanced and ironic than would be acceptable in anglo-saxon countries. I take it to be a misjudged piece of irony, riffing off the fact that, according to the Le Monde story, a significant percentage of people of university age believe in such theories. The author now appears to be regretting what he wrote, but at the same time the reaction has arguably been excessive.

Mick West

Staff member
The highlighted word is a bogus translation. The original says "sans doute" here which means "without doubt" - contradicting the oddly placed question mark at the end of the insert.

I don't speak French, but it seems an ironic take (and Google's translation to "probably") is quite plausible. Here's some context on "sans doute":


Senior Member.

edit add: the Publisher selling the book has a disclaimer on the sales page also
Last edited:


Senior Member.
I don't speak French, but it seems an ironic take (and Google's translation to "probably") is quite plausible. Here's some context on "sans doute":

In defense of the author.. even though the chances the French use the phrase the same way, seems strange to me..

In my world, New York area oldish generation, if my uncle was spouting conspiracy theories at me I would likely respond "without a doubt", which is used as sarcasm when you want an ambiguous phrase so your uncle doesnt get totally offended. But the question mark is weird. I guess though in text you don't have the accompanying facial expression.. still i wouldnt think to use a question mark.

hmmm i am seeing online the reverse question mark " ⸮ " is suggested use of sarcasm. shame it hasnt caught on, we need a sarcasm mark.


New Member
It helps if you say it out loud, or in your head. In spoken French it would have an ironic sense, perhaps the weary sophisticated academic looking at the students and saying the equivalent of "as some of you, of course, will certainly believe....." But in an age of the micro-scrutiny of academic texts, it was unwise of the author to write like that.


New Member
I would say this probably is an example of Poe's Law and an object lesson in sarcasm being not readily discerned in text.

Mick West

Staff member
But in an age of the micro-scrutiny of academic texts, it was unwise of the author to write like that.
It's generally not helpful in any context. I strongly discourage jokes here because they inevitably get taken seriously. Even in person, it can be a problem. I make a joke on Joe Rogan about being in the Illuminati, and people think I'm admitting it.
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