Friday, June 20, 2008

News, Truth, and Why America is at Fault

A disclaimer at the start: this is a 'soapbox' post. A rant, if you like. It's more opinionated than most posts in this blog.

The United States of America has its shortcomings. My Irish ancestors weren't treated all that well (at first), I'm not at all happy about the way America acquired Hawaii, and can't approve of what was done to the Confederacy after the War Between the States.

On the other hand, I don't think that America plotted to flood Iowa this year.1 A century of imprudent landscaping probably had something to do with the problem Iowans are having, but that's a little like blaming the Bangladeshi for living in a river delta. In both cases, 20-20 hindsight shows that better decisions could have been made: but Americans are no more clairvoyant than anyone else.

What's This Got to do With the War on Terror?

I get the impression that it's popular in some circles to believe that the War on Terror is some kind of a plot. It seems that Big Oil, racist America, and a few more of the usual suspects got together and plotted to blow up the World Trade Center, frame Afghanistan, and invade Iraq.

Oil is generally used as the lubricant to make the pieces slide into place.

I think it's possible that the American government planted bombs in New York City's World Trade Center, made it look like a bunch of people from the Middle East hijacked two airliners, and then used mind control rays from secret satellites to make the pilots fly into the Twin Towers.

Possible, but not probable.

A (much) less probable, but still (barely) possible scenario is this:

A Galactic Empire infiltrated the Parisian fashion industry sixty years ago, in order to warp society through psychological warfare conducted through weird clothing. In that case, the goal is obvious: soften up Europe and America for an invasion by a Chinese-Little Green Men Axis. The people who thought they saw airliners fly into the Twin Towers were victims of this generations-old plot. The World Trade Center was actually destroyed by the Mothership's tractor beams.

I certainly don't think that either of those tall tales is true. On the other hand, decades of reading science fiction has limbered up my willing suspension of disbelief, so I can wrap (or warp) my mind around some fairly outlandish ideas.

The trouble is, quite a few people seem to have difficulty sorting out what makes a really good story, and what they'd like to be true, from what's real.

'Everybody Knows' America is to Blame, Right?

Probably not, but it does seem that people who believe that America blew up the Twin Towers and that Big Oil is controlling American policy, are treated better than those who, say, believe that all Muslims are terrorists, and that Big Movies2 are controlling the minds of America's youth.

I do not believe that there is a deliberate attempt to selectively cover up events, or provide slanted coverage.

I do believe that news editors have assumptions and deeply-held beliefs about what the world should be like: and that influences what they think is 'newsworthy,' and what's not.

Case in point: "Critics Demand Resignation of U.N. Official Who Wants Probe of 9/11 'Inside Job' Theories"
FOXNews (June 19, 2008)

I ran into this headline on one American news service yesterday. I looked again this morning, and still found nothing more on this side of the Atlantic. I could have missed something, of course, but it's certainly not a major story in the traditional news outlets.

That's odd, because this one-time Princeton professor, Richard Falk, thinks that the Jews are today's Nazis, and that bombs inside the World Trade Center might have brought down New York City's Twin Towers.

He's also a United Nations official, involved with human rights in the Palestinian territories: The special rapporteur on human rights, investigating alleged Israeli violations of human rights law for the U.N.'s Human Rights Council.

Is this news? Maybe not, but let's change some of the terms, and see how you feel about this hypothetical situation: 'Chief investigator for civil rights violations in Los Angeles believes Martin Luther King assassination was an inside job.' I wouldn't want someone with obvious bias in a job like that. And, I'd be more than a little surprised if the Los Angeles Times didn't report on the matter.

I think it's likely that Professor Falk's views are non-news because many editors 'know' that the United Nations is our last, best hope for peace: a variation on the equally goofy 'America can do no wrong' attitude that was on its way out in my childhood.

There has been some attention paid to Professor Falk and his Jews-are-Nazis views in the international press:
  • "UN: human rights situation in occupied Palestinian territory remains grave"
    Ma'an News Agency (June 18, 2008)
    • "Jerusalem - 'The human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remains grave,' the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour informed the members of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week.
    • "Three new reports on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory were discussed at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.
    • "Arbour told the Council that there must be urgent implementation of her earlier recommendations, made in a previous report last March, for ending human rights violations caused by Israeli military attacks and incursions -- including 'the establishment of accountability mechanisms,' and the ending of the closure of Gaza...."
The Ma'an News Agency reveals that Professor Falk has enemies, who seek to discredit the Princeton Professor Emeritus.
  • Paragraphs 32 through the 35 paragraphs of "UN: human rights situation in occupied Palestinian territory remains grave" :
    • "...In an effort to discredit Falk, a Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University (and an American Jew), who has been highly critical of Israel's occupation and who last year made remarks comparing Israeli practices in the Palestinian territories with those of the Nazis in World War II, which he recently explained were intended to 'shock' -- UN Watch asked him about more recently reported remarks he made about the 9/11 attack on the twin World Trade Towers and the Pentagon on 2001.
    • "The specific question, by a representative of UN Watch – and widely circulated by UN Watch to its email list -- asked Falk 'what credibility you expect your reports to have, when leading newspapers such as The Times of London are commenting on your support for the 9/11 conspiracy theories of David Ray Griffin, who argues, and I quote from the Times article of April 15th, "that no plane hit the Pentaton [sic!]" and that "the World Trade Center was brought down by a controlled demolition"?'
    • "An Egyptian move to strike the question from the record in the Human Rights Council was smilingly brushed aside by the Council's chairman.
    • "What Falk apparently in fact did, however, was slightly different than what the UN Watch questioner said he did – Falk wrote a chapter in a book edited by Griffin – without giving any explicit endorsement of Griffin's specific remarks.
    • "Falk has also been a long-time anti-nuclear-weapons activist...."
I could be wrong, but it's possible that Professor Falk and his remarkable views stay under the radar because he's
  1. Pro-Palestinian
  2. Anti-nuclear weapons
  3. An official of the United Nations
Or, maybe an American Jew, who thinks Israeli Jews are today's Nazis, being involved in a United Nations investigation of alleged Israeli atrocities in "occupied Palestine" isn't newsworthy.

Meanwhile, today we learn that " Ahmadinejad says 'enemies' tried to kill him" (International Herald Tribune (June 20, 2008)). The first three paragraphs of the reprinted Reuters story are pretty familiar stuff, but are 'newsworthy.'
  • "TEHRAN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the United States and its allies of plotting to assassinate him during a visit to neighbouring Iraq in March, state radio reported on Friday.
  • " 'Based on reliable intelligence, our enemies had plans to kidnap and kill your servant (Ahmadinejad). But we intentionally made last minute changes in our schedule,' the radio quoted Ahmadinejad telling a meeting of clerics in the Shi'ite holy city of Qom on Thursday.
  • "Although he did not identify the United States by name, he used the usual term 'enemies' to refer to Washington...."
I agree with Reuters: Although this sort of accusation is pretty routine propaganda, the president of Iran publicly accusing 'our enemies' of an assassination attempt is noteworthy. Any attempted assassination is noteworthy, for that matter. Even - or especially - if the context of the remarks identifies America as the would-be assassin.

What bothers me is the impression that accusations against America are viewed somewhat more uncritically than accusations against countries and organizations like Hamas, and the leadership of Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Venezuela.

With the self-defined best and brightest printing all the news they feel like printing, it should be no surprise that a little anti-American bias has developed.

I've harangued about this before:
"Global Patriot Reporting: Anti-American Bias? Could Be"
(March 25, 2008)

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.
1 I do not think that They seeded clouds to make Iowa flood. The conspiracy theories practically writes themselves, though.
  • Nut Case #1:
    Iowa is a "red state," so the Washington Insiders and Big Movies decided to disrupt that state, and other parts of the heartland, so that Iowans couldn't vote in the November election.
  • Nut Case #2:
    Iowa is a "blue state," so the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, in league with Big Oil, flew cloud-seeding tankers from their secret base in Montana, to keep Iowans from the polls in November.
Problem #1 with both conspiracy theories is that Iowa isn't particularly "red" or "blue." If the red state/blue state system is to be applied to Iowa, I'd say that it would be one of the purple states, based on the last decade or so of voting patterns.

Oh, well: either "theory" makes a good story.

2 I don't think anyone's using the term "Big Movies" to describe the presumed plot by Hollywood to subvert the minds and hearts of America's youth. Makes a catchy name, though: doesn't it?

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.