Thursday, July 6, 2006

7/7 bombings: the art of making a crafty argument sound authoritative

by Kenyon Gibson

Since 9/11 there has been much debate about the government version of the story. Since some of the points do not make any sense, and since a number of witnesses, engineers and scientists are questioning the story as a fraud, there is a growing movement of researchers who would like to see an investigation based on the facts, and not an ‘official’ cover version.

The press for some reason accepted the official version from the start, although to be fair, there was a tidal wave of reports emanating from the Pentagon, the White House, the CIA and other sources, thus flooding the papers with the story as told by the powers that be. As time went on, it became obvious that there was more to the story, and websites around the world gave information that the mainstream press did not.

When the discrepancy between the facts and the official story became a wide chasm, there were questions as to how the major press could ignore the facts.

Rather than just ignoring the evidence which has been coming to light, some papers have printed diatribes against anyone questioning the official story.

At times these are blatant put-downs, such as Marina Hyde’s piece in the Guardian which slagged off Charlie Sheen, the American actor, for taking the government to task. When I called Ms. Hyde and asked her what she thought of William Rodriguez, the heroic caretaker of the North Tower who won a Congressional Medal of Honour, she admitted she had no clue.

An earlier conversation with her colleague, Polly Toynbee, also included a question about Rodriguez; Toynbee had similarly never heard of him, and only conjectured that he, a caretaker, would not know what an explosion sounded like. She did at least reply to an e-mail, telling me that the most obvious explanation is sometimes the way it is. Her article had demanded that conspiracy theorists, including those who questioned Shakespeare’s authorship, be given a “firm rebuttal.”

Neither woman seemed to know much about the subject, but both were willing to put down people who had reasons to believe that the US government was lying. In each case, I was not the only person to respond to them, Hyde in fact wrote a follow-up article a week later in which she quoted former MI5 agent David Shayler. In it, the respondents were painted by her brush as somewhat idiotic; there was no mention of the conversation she had had with me, nor any mention of Rodriguez, who she could have learned about easily on a google search.

These two examples are typical of those who bash research with opinion. Most likely, neither convinced the public that all conspiracy theorists wore tin-hats and needed rebuttal.

In the Guardian, yet another writer threw his hat into the ring with a discussion of conspiracy theory, this one focused on 7/7 research. Written, paradoxically, by Mark Honigsbaum, who initially reported that witnesses to the London tube blasts had told him about covers on the floor flying up, and reported this in terms of bombs going off from under the carriages, it attempts to change his stance and discredit these first impressions. It also paints researchers in a bad light, but, contrary to the Toynbee and Hyde pieces, it is subtle in tone.

In fact, I would use it as a template to show how to cleverly smear a campaign. Several examples of his writing strike me as especially crafty, though not altogether original in the field of disinformation.

The first is one that is used much by his brethren in the trade, and that is to raise some totally ridiculous point and then present it to the public as one of the main arguments used by researchers. The “Elvis is alive and working for the CIA” type of line, perhaps followed by “ the Queen turns into a lizard and sells drugs on the streets” type of line sets the tone for the reader; ah-ha, the conspiracy theorists are a real bunch of idiots, good job our roving journalist got there and found them out. While Honigsbaum does not quite use such outlandish claims, he does start off with one that does sound a bit outlandish, that being a question about how gloves and a mask were so quickly acquired; for many, this is the first time we have ever heard that this was in question, and as Honigsbaum does not give his source, we have no idea where he got that one. This sleight of hand is quick and easy, it does fool some amount of the public. Since it performs another trick, that of making one feel superior, putting the reader on a platform along with the writer, raised high above the heads of some far-out fantasists, it has its audience. The real evidence is ignored, and some made up nonsense or flawed argument put forward to be used as a matador uses the cape, letting the reader charge some illusion and miss the body of evidence.

Another way to play the bull for a fool is to throw some genuinely erroneous work in with the target of one’s argument, even when the erroneous work is that of someone not quite related to the real subject.

Honigsbaum leaps on the alleged mistakes in the book 'The One Percent Doctrine', by Ron Suskind of the 'New York Times'. As the FBI has already taken Suskind to task over what may be some very sloppy writing, Honigsbaum may well be correct to point out the errors, but in the context of an article about a movement that challenges the official government story, Suskind’s writing is off the mark. In fact, it is already part of our body of research to note the fact that his work may be yet another piece of hype rushed into print without fact checking by a reporter at a large national paper that refuses to recognise much of the evidence. Throwing his name into the piece is tantamount to scoring an own goal, but for those who do not know what game is being played here, they might well mistake the attack on Suskind as a real point against the movement to have a real investigation into 7/7 as an inside job.

While it is easy to argue against Suskind, it is even easier to argue against a caricatured opponent, shadow-boxing away with no live person to set you straight on the jaw. Little wonder that many of these journalists will not pick up their phone (Honigsbaum could not be reached yesterday when I called the Guardian) or answer an e-mail. Past attempts to engage him were ignored as well. It is no surprise to find that those who are attacking the movement have not read any of the scholarly books on the subject, and do not mention in their tirades the fact that there is such literature.

To the shadow-boxer and his audience, the image of a dodgy opponent can pass for the real thing, and second-rate journalists use this quite often, saving themselves the time and trouble of really getting the facts and talking to the people who are willing to debate fairly.

Halfway into his dissertation, there is a very good example of another twist of the cape, when it is stated:

"At first glance this appears to be an objective guide to everything that happened on 7/7 and afterwards. But click a little deeper and it soon becomes apparent that the campaign, with its linked people’s inquiry forum and petition calling for the release of “all the evidence” about 7/7, considers the Official Home office account, in which the blame is laid squarely on the four suicide bombers pictured entering Luton station, to be just a “story”.

His attitude comes off as “I’d like to believe this, but watch the flaw.” What flaw? The fact that they disagree with the Home Office, or the analysis of the story, which questions why there is only one image from all the CCTV cameras (which never seem to work on emergencies, such as the Israeli Embassy bombing, the Pentagon, the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting, or 7/7) and why this one shot appears to be doctored? Yes, click a little deeper, please do.

Honigsbaum then brings into this story the testimony of Rachel North, who was a victim of 7/7. If an argument does not stand intellectual scrutiny, then there is the trick of getting ‘jury sympathy’. However, in North’s case, sympathy does not last long. She was hardly injured for one thing, and for another, North is not even her real name. When she does show up, uninvited to 7/7 research discussions, she tries to dismiss major points in the story, such as the Peter Powers’ interview on BBC 5 in which he clearly stated that there were terror drills planned at precisely the locations at which the bombs blew up. Even when we played for her the recording of that interview, she continued to argue, going so far as to claim that Powers was making it up.

This interview was mentioned in Honigsbaum’s feature, but glossed over, alluding to it only as “the claim that on the morning of 7/7 a former Scotland Yard anti-terrorism branch official had been staging a training exercise based on bombs going off simultaneously at precisely the stations that had been targeted.”

Indeed it was claimed, and anyone sensible would like to know why 9/11 and 7/7 have such eerie coincidences. Honigsbaum, however, moves breezily along as if we do not need to know more; it has been covered, let’s forget it.

Part of the effect of doing an article on a story is that in the public mind, there is closure, so anyone not satisfied ought to shut up. A large article with some dramatic pictures is a lot easier to digest than an lengthy examination of evidence, and in such an article the trick of selectively examining a few pieces of inconclusive evidence is easy to pull off. In this particular article there is no mention of many issues, such as; the timing of the event, right on cue for George Bush; the strange appearance of Rudolf Giuliani outside one of the tube stations, mimicking his appearance outside the World Trade Centre on 9/11; Mossad’s warnings on 7/7; and the arrest of Mossad agents on 9/11 with explosives in their vans in New Jersey.

Bruce Lait’s testimony about a bomb underneath the carriage is mentioned but so peripherally as to be dismissive, and a number of lines of questioning are put down by Honigsbaum as bizarre, an opinion the reader is meant to trust without any real discussion.

Honigsbaum even goes so far as to dismiss his own work, the report phoned in at around 11 am on the morning of the attacks, in which he was the first, but not the last, to mention bombs underneath the carriages. He calls his first report flawed, without producing any retraction from the witnesses, and talks about later witnesses who told him otherwise, but gives no names. One is taking his word and his opinion for quite a lot here, especially for someone whose thesis is that his own work is flawed.

Doubtless, this article will explain away every anomaly to some, but some of us have done far more real research than the likes of Honigsbaum.

We prefer to use straight-forward means, and will come to a conclusion based on facts, not on emotion, opinion and retraction.

Kenyon Gibson is the author of 'Hemp for Victory', and 'Common Sense: A Study of the Bushes, the CIA and the Suspicions Regarding 9/11'.

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