• "God invented war so Americans could learn geography" -- Mark Twain.

Friday, May 6, 2005

The Illusion of News

BBC reports "The interrogation of "key" al-Qaeda suspect Abu Faraj al-Libbi is "proceeding well", Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has said. ..... Pakistan ... denies US agents are present at his questioning. "

The Note: It is a well known legal maxim that the introduction of irrelevant material confuses issues, is likely to inflame emotions, and renders a verdict unreliable. If men were pure abstract thinking machines, irrelevant facts would automatically be reduced to zero's in an equation; but men are not -- irrelevance distracts.

However it is equally the case that a failure to introduce relevant facts produces the same result; one could say that de-relevancing detracts. The above BBC article is a simple illustration of the point. At face value, the article states three plain and almost uninteresting facts: (1) a key leader in AlQaeda (2) is being interrogated "well" and (3) the US is uninvolved.

The report is a lie. The United States has made the destruction of Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks the cornerstone of its foreign and domestic policy in pursuit of which it has spent billions of dollars, gone to war and instituted a police state. Taking those facts into consideration, it is absurd to think that the U.S. is not present at the suspect's questioning. By omitting those background facts, BBC distorts the reality reported. What a difference, had BBC reported, just as succinctly, as follows:

"The United States which has made the rooting out of Al Qaeda a primary policy goal in pursuit of which it has engaged in major diplomatic offensives and spent billions of dollars .... denies that US agents are present at the questioning of a key Al Qaeda suspect."
What was omitted is not a question of "interpretation" or "opinion." The fact that US agents are present at the man's question flows with the force of flood torrent from the primary fact of the US's anti-terrorism policies. In any given case, the US may have varying degrees of interests and hence levels of involvement. However, it is simply absurd to think that the US, which has said it would leave no stone unturned to root out Osama Bin Laden network would not be present at a "key" suspect's questioning.

Once U.S. interests and presence are taken into consideration, the meaning of "proceeding well" looses its sunny cast and takes on far darker implications: the man is being tortured. Unlike the presence of agents, the presence of torture does not flow with ineluctible force from the sole fact of U.S. interests and objectives. However, it does flow from that fact coupled with another relevant -- but omitted -- source fact, to wit: the U.S. practice and policy of "rendition".

At all relevant times, the U.S. has secretly and clandestinely spirited away and delivered "suspects" to authorities in other countries where the suspects have been subjected to horrible tortures. The practice of rendition is an unquestionable fact. This fact includes not only the fact that suspects are tortured and but also the fact that U.S. wants to hide the fact of torture and deny its involvement in the torture.

When the fact of rendition is factored into the news equation and added to the fact of other U.S. anti-terrorism policies, it is a virtually certainty that Libbiis not simply being "interviewed" or "de-briefed" but is being "stressed" -- as they put it in -- some artful manner. In ultimate result the article if a double falsehood.

BBC exculpates itself from propagating this lie, on the ground that it is not a lie -- that it is merely reporting what a Pakistani official says and denies. At a strict and purely linguistic level that is true. But it is the nature of frauds that they are, at some level, "true". If they were not, they would not succeed.

The initial fraud here, is that the article is presented as the report of a fact. That is what the BBC says it does and that is the expectation with which people read BBC reports. However, the "fact" reported is not that Libbi's interrogation is "going well". That is actually just hearsay. If one wants to be precise -- in the same strict manner that BBC excuses are precise -- what is reported is that a Pakistani official is of the opinion that the interrogation is going well. The is the meaning of the headline's use of quotes. "Suspect's Interrogation 'going well'' The article reports nothing about the interrogation; it reports only a statement and opinion about an interrogation. Likewise the article reports only a "denial" of US presence.

What kind of "news" is this? It is not in any real sense news about what people call "hard facts". It is news about what government officials say is news. In other words it is news about what government paints the news to be. It is in short news about fantasies.

©WCG, 2005