November 19, 2002

THERE'S CONSPIRACY SITES, AND THEN

THERE'S CONSPIRACY SITES, AND THEN THERE'S CONSPIRACY SITES

(see previous entry) Staying on the Antonia file one post longer, young Mr. Penny has a copy up of a letter from blogger Bill Herbert to the Star's new media columnist.

Can you cite a specific valid argument you found on any of these sites? I guarantee you that I could cut it to pieces quite easily.

I'll say that while citing whatreallyhappened.com, and her generally uninformed article, left me unimpressed last Sunday, I don't really have as huge a problem that I can see with the other two sites Zerbisias tipped the cap to. You've got to be able to tell the loony paranoid conspiracy sites, from the thought-provoking, well-I'm-glad-there's-a-place-for-this-on-the-Internet sites. There are at least three levels of historical conspiracist. For instance, using JFK as an example, you have:
Level 1: Edward Jay Epstein, Cyril Wecht (thought-provoking objections to the accepted truth; probably nothing to it in the end, but still a valuable form of fringe dissent);
Level 2: Sylvia Meagher, Harold Weisberg, Mark Lane (hopelessly biased, but still can be a valuable primer on the nuttiness if you needed one, because there's still some rationality underlying the paranoia)
Level 3: Jim Garrison, Oliver Stone, Groden, Marrs, Livingstone, etc. (batshit loony)

This is just my opinion, but whatreallyhappened.com is the only Level 3 site among the sites Zerbisias named. Cooperativeresearch.org is definitely Level 2: it fancies itself on summarizing all the questions others have raised, but doesn't discriminate between those (ie the Israeli spying art students) that are empty, and those that still have some weight. (The trouble with paranoid rationalists like Weisberg or Cooperative Research is just the volume of evidence they collect, because they don't discriminate at all, seems to posit the existence of an impossibly vast conspiracy, just to pull all that off. Occam's Razor is never a familiar implement for these folks.) But for the moment I'd rate globalhowler.com, despite the silly name, as a Level 1 site. People should read it. There are a lot of questions it raises (such as the airline stock profiteering, or why John Ashcroft was warned to stop using commercial air) that, due to any official U.S. inquiry, have never been explained, at least to my satisfaction. It's certainly worth a look, and if Zerbisias had shown any ability to discriminate between the sane conspiracy theorists and the insane ones, I'd have a lot more respect for her.

As for Bill Herbert, I don't think he's read globalhowler.com. Because there are some questions there that I don't think he could "cut to pieces quite easily." Don't overpromise, now, Bill... it is possible to believe the Bush government's course now is just, and still wonder why some people seem to haveknown more about the threat to the WTC ahead of time than they're letting on now. The two beliefs are not mutually exclusive.

NB: Ulric Shannon had a great piece on divisions within the JFK conspiracy community.

Posted by BruceR at 10:51 PM

AW, COME ON Star media/internet

AW, COME ON

Star media/internet columnist Antonia Zerbisias claims to have received 20,000 emails just about her last Sunday Star column in one day!

The column is making the rounds on the Internet and 99.99 per cent of readers are e-mailing me with positive feedback. Nice. But I'm more concerned with two readers who e-mailed me to express their disappointment...

You can do the math. Zerbisias can't, apparently.

The Star's choice of an innumerate to cover new media says a lot about the mainstream paper's deep disrespect for the information alternative, bloggers included. Her answer to Dale Goldhawk's needling that she had her estates mixed up is equally lame.

Posted by BruceR at 02:14 PM

VOICES OF SANITY Sorry to

VOICES OF SANITY

Sorry to say it, but the real voices of sanity on the terrorism issue are coming less and less from the "warblogs" lately. The most important pieces on the web this week have been Christopher Hitchens' latest in Slate, and Fareed Zakaria's in Newsweek. The silence from the web-enabled peanut gallery has thus far, been deafening.

As for the Iraq war, the deadlines and predictions continue to fall one by one (remember when Mark Steyn was saying they'd start the war in August? We were so young then...). I personally don't see it happening this year: maybe next if the cards fall right. Longtime readers will know I've never bought into this rope-a-dope silliness. My belief would be the strategy all along was to keep constant, and slowly increasing pressure on the Iraqi regime, everything short of war, and wait for the drastic miscalculation (which Mr. Hussein has always dependably produced in the past) that swung the world (including especially Turkey, which is key, but stillholding out for Security Council sanction) around to the American side.

At first the point of the pressure was to keep Mr. Hussein's head down while the Bush administration wrestled with the Afghanistan (successfully) and Israeli (unsuccessfully) issues, and it succeeded in that. But there's no equilibrium in these things, it seems: you've got to keep increasing the pressure over time to be credible. Hence the Congress and UNSC votes, and now Hans Blix.

I still don't believe the Bush administration as a whole has given any evidence it is keen for pre-emptive war. A still-reasonable interpretation is that they're doing what Americans have done for 150 years, in the Mexican War, in the Spanish-American War, in their own Civil War, in World Wars 1 and 2 and Vietnam: just steadily ratcheting up the pressure, until the other guy feels cornered enough that he lashes out. And then America counterpunches. The invasion plans don't depend on the tides off Kuwait, or the lunar cycle, or the "dreaded Iraqi summer" or even weapons inspections timelines. No, those plans will change as the seasons change, and when it all unfolds, it won't necessarily unfold quickly, either. The key event in all of them is the Iraqi leader doing something suicidally stupid under pressure (or, failing that, some ambitious young general dethroning him).

Even if it does come to blows, a Kosovo-style long air campaign, combined with support of a local insurgency, is more likely than an immediate invasion. And I don't believe anyone in the U.S. capital is seriously considering a Japan-style occupation/reconstruction either. It'll be the replacement with another, more pliable strongman, and home for the victory parade, like as not. The most likely outcome for Iraq, as best as I can see, is an Egyptian-style pliable autocracy (which is still far better than what they have now, which is why I must in conscience still support all this)... and another generation of Ayman al-Zuwahiris a couple decades from now, possibly. Anyway, we'll see, I guess. But if there are Americans in Iraq on Christmas Day, I'll be having crow instead of goose, for sure.

UPDATE: I'm joined today by John Keegan, also saying the show's off until after New Year's now.

And just to be clear, I do still believe the chance of Mr. Hussein still being leader of Iraq in December '03 is vanishingly small. The question is how one gets from here to there, and I do believe many of my blogging colleagues are assuming all these preliminaries have been tickboxes on a super-secret set invasion timetable that Bush keeps in his desk drawer, that (Keegan and) I really don't see any evidence for.

Posted by BruceR at 12:55 AM