The Final Word on the ‘Phantom’ Pentagon Plane: By the National Review’s James Robbins, who saw Flight 77 crash into the Pentagon:
The Pentagon is about a mile and half distant in the center of the tableau. I was looking directly at it when the aircraft struck. The sight of the 757 diving in at an unrecoverable angle is frozen in my memory, but at the time, I did not immediately comprehend what I was witnessing. As such, Robbins is not very pleased with the nut-sandwich conspiracy theories popular in France, and yet contains his anger well enough to say something smart about why it’s important to confront even the craziest bullshit at its source:
So, of course, I take it personally when a half-wit like Meyssan comes along saying it did not happen. And he is so evidently at war with reality that one is tempted not to waste time with him. His ideas are obviously foolish, easily disproved, an affront to any reasoning person. It would be easy to ignore him. But that would be a mistake. This is another front in what President Bush called "the war to save civilization itself." The history of the 20th century should show that no idea is so absurd that it cannot take destructive hold and play havoc with societies, even to the point of sanctioning mass murder. Allowing the extremists to go unchallenged only encourages them. People like Lenin, Hitler, Pol Pot and other millennial criminals were just like Meyssan at one point in their careers. If they had been opposed more vigorously sooner, perhaps they never would have attained power. When such ideas are allowed to stand, they take root among the impressionable or those predisposed to think the worst. And especially now that communications technology has made it possible to give global reach to the bizarre and archive it forever, it is essential for men and women of reason resolutely to counter the delusions of the fringe element. Bookmark and save this column. I fear we may need to remind ourselves, and others, later.
Alterman Update: Over on Romenesko’s letters page, Eric Alterman continues to dig his own cesspool. First, this “apology” to Cathy Young:
I was there. I saw it. That is my entire rebuttal.
The fact that I turned out to be correct about Cathy Young's views on the Middle East was lucky, but it did not justify my mistaken inclusion of her on the list in the first place. I cannot now reproduce the reasons that inspired me to do it, and so I will simply apologize. (Ironically, however, because of the column, she now stays on the list.) So, all you have to do to justify being on Alterman’s insulting and omniscient list of “columnists and commentators who can be counted upon to support Israel reflexively and without qualification,” is to write a single column, one that starts off like this:
A few days ago, Eric Alterman, a columnist for The Nation, published an article on MSNBC.com decrying what he regards as the unthinkingly pro-Israeli bent of much of the American punditocracy. Yep! If that’s not a case of supporting Israel “reflexively and without qualification,” I don’t know what is! (Italics were mine.)
To my shock, I found that his list of “commentators who can be counted upon to support Israel reflexively and without qualification” has my name on it - which is rather baffling, since I have never written about the Mideast. (My e-mail to Alterman was unanswered.) Ironically, the main reason I haven't touched this issue is that my sentiments about it are too ambivalent.
While I am Jewish and have close relatives in Israel, I have always believed that this should not determine my judgment of whose cause is right. As the chilling images unfold on our television screens, I find myself moved and appalled by the human suffering on both sides.
In Alterman’s first of two snippy, embarrassing and non-apologetic responses to Young’s column (click here for my take on them), he says:
I never received any email from her. Which prompted another response from Young yesterday, that started off like this:
Since Eric Alterman denies receiving my e-mail, I am forwarding a copy of it to you. I sent it to firstname.lastname@example.org, since no other option was available to e-mail Mr. Alterman either at MSNBC.com or at The Nation online. Since five days elapsed between my sending this e-mail and my filing of the column, this time should have been sufficient for MSNBC.com to forward the e-mail to Mr. Alterman (in my experience, e-mail sent to the "official" letters address at online publications are usually forwarded on the same or next day) and for him to respond. If the e-mail was not forwarded, Mr. Alterman should take up this issue with MSNBC.com. To which, our list-making critic of webloggers who don’t have editors replies:
Look, what I can tell you? I got nothing. You're a journalist. I'm not that hard to find. (I'm in the book, for instance and I have an intern at The Nation.) It's odd you couldn't find my email through Romenesko. Andrea Peyser and RiShawn Biddle won't leave alone. Uh, Andrea Peyser and RiShawn Biddle won’t leave alone what, exactly? I guess we’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s thrilling follow-up. And what the hell does bragging about having an intern have to do with anything? Remember, Alterman's a media critic. What was it the guy said about another writer’s online output arousing “a certain gruesome car-wreck fascination”?
4/10/2002 12:46:16 PM
The Kurd Chronicler vs. the Gas Denier: I have finally gotten around to reading Jeffrey Goldberg’s mammoth piece in the New Yorker from last month that documents the effects of Saddam Hussein’s poison gas on the Kurds. As someone who knows little of that region, I have been very impressed, moved and sickened by Goldberg’s detailed eyewitness accounts and recorded testimony from dozens of victims who describe a special kind of hell. While reading each paragraph, I’ve been wondering: “How is Jude Wanniski going to respond?” Wanniski, who some of you might know best from his link on Drudge, is a supply-side foreign policy type who has long vociferously denied that Saddam Hussein has ever gassed his own people.
Then reader Eric Mauro sent in this link, from just today, where Wanniski accuses President Bush of believing Goldberg’s insidious lies:
Because it does not appear his staff is going to provide him with this kind of alternative view from an authoritative source, the President will continue to believe the Jeffrey Goldberg New Yorker account that he mentioned in a press conference three weeks ago. It should make a difference that Goldberg served in the Israeli army and is a citizen of Israel. But even if he were an Irish Catholic from Boston, it would be hard to buy into his man-in-the-street reporting of present-day Kurds, who remember gassings back in 1988. […] There is still no answer to the question …: "Where are the bodies?" If there were 100,000 Kurds killed by poison gas in an open field, in a few days, the bodies should have turned up over 13 years. What is more likely is that when Iraq won the war, the surprised Israeli supporters in the United States decided Saddam was no longer the ally, but the victorious power in the region, a man who would be a threat to its survival. Wow. Here’s another one, from an April 2 column that commends and reprints that Eric Alterman list of “reflexive” Israel-sympathizers:
Missing from the knee-jerk list is Jeffrey Goldberg of the New Yorker, who has dual citizenship with Israel and has served in the Israeli army. His recent tract against Iraq was pure propaganda. Editor David Remnick does belong on the "good list" of critical supporters of Israel, but he let the Goldberg piece slip past him. I can’t tell you who’s right in this case, though so far I have found Goldberg’s side of the story to be several times more believable. Perhaps because other, non-dual citizens, like the kids at Human Rights Watch, have come to similar conclusions:
Iraq’s 1988 Anfal campaign of extermination against the Kurdish people living within its borders resulted in the death of at least 50,000 and as many as 100,000 people, many of them women and children. This book, co-published with Yale University Press, investigates the Anfal campaign and concludes that this campaign constituted genocide against the Kurds. The book is the result of research by a team of Human Rights Watch investigators who analyzed eighteen tons of captured Iraqi government documents (10 of these documents are reproduced in the appendix) and carried out field interviews with more than 350 witnesses, most of them survivors of the Anfal campaign. It confirms that the campaign was characterized by gross violations of human rights, including mass summary executions and disappearances of many tens of thousands of noncombatants; the widespread use of chemical weapons, among them mustard gas and nerve agents that killed thousands; the arbitrary jailing and warehousing of tens of thousands of women, children, and elderly people for months, in conditions of extreme deprivation and without judicial order; the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of villagers to barren resettlement camps after the demolition of their homes; and the wholesale destruction of some two thousand villages along with their schools, mosques, farms, and power stations. The book is a searing indictment of the Iraqi government’s carefully planned and executed program to destroy a people, harrowing in its detailed and objective recounting of crimes against innocents. I can tell you, from experience, that Wanniski has a peculiar relationship with the truth, when it comes to studies having to do with Iraq. Here’s some of his reply to my Iraqi-babies story from a while back:
The exact number of dead children is unimportant when set against Madeleine Albright's stupid remark about it being worth the deaths of 500,000 children to contain Saddam. Once that went into global circulation, it is a waste of time for reporters to fuss about the exact number. The reporting on Iraq by our press corps has been scandalous and as a result of its incompetence, 9-11 was the price we have paid. So far. Catch that? The exact number is “unimportant,” in fact, less important than a routinely misquoted non-denial by the former ambassador to the United Nations, who was asked to respond to a preposterous number that nearly tripled the conclusions of two dubious Iraqi studies. In Goldberg’s case, he didn’t meet Wanniski’s apparently strict threshold of evidence. In my case, who cares about evidence? Also, note that 9-11 “was the price we have paid” for, uh, “the reporting on Iraq by our press corps.” That’s either an enviable display of omniscience, or one hell of a dumb thing to say.
Go read Wanniski’s whole criticism of my article; he brings up other points that deserve a hearing. And I don’t for one second condone Albright’s heartless statement. But on the surface, it seems to me that the man’s obsession with U.S. policy toward Iraq may be overriding his empirical training. To say the least.
4/10/2002 12:03:43 AM
Not Getting Enough of Me These Days? Then go over to the Tres Producers site, as they take a leisurely and highly complimentary stroll through my, uh, career. The results are nicer than I deserve. Thanks, Eric Olsen!
4/9/2002 06:12:24 PM
Numbers for ‘B.S.’ Detectors: There is now a smattering of talk of an alleged lack of transparency by webloggers about their traffic numbers, which is being met by a wave of, well, disclosure. Here’s mine:
I use Webalizer and HitBox, but I had an error in my HitBox coding until just Sunday, so the numbers there have been unreliable. Webalizer reports that, for the month of April, I have received a daily average of 1,293 unique visitors (or “sites,” as they are called), who make 2,681 total visits, downloading 3,557 pages and 7,950 files, and racking up 11,666 total hits. Weekend days average 1,083 uniques and 1,533 visits; weekdays are at 2,312 uniques and 3,066 visits. When HitBox works for a while I’ll compare numbers; for yesterday, the only day comparable, HitBox had me at 1,347 uniques and 2,860 page views, compared to Webalizer’s 1,673 and 3,074. Exciting stuff, eh?
Coming soon: A full accounting of the coins dropped in the Amazon and PayPal tip-jars, and a preliminary report from my Amazon Associate Program experiment. First, though, I’m going to finish doing my taxes, and start doing some actual work.
4/9/2002 09:16:06 AM
The Columnist/Commentator Who Can Be Counted Upon to Act Like a Jackass Reflexively and Without Qualification: That’s how I’d describe Eric Alterman, one of that charming breed of humans that fashions itself a “media critic,” if I was as careless, omniscient and petty as he. If you enjoy watching an unpleasant little man swim in his own bile, start first with Alterman’s creepy list of “columnists and commentators who can be counted upon to support Israel reflexively and without qualification,” then move on to the understandable and measured response by Cathy Young, who Alterman inaccurately placed on his hit-list (she almost never writes about Israel), and then for the kicker go to the letters page on Jim Romenesko’s Media News, and look at how Mr. Bloggers-Need-Editors explains his cock-up in two appalling letters:
I included her based on my overall impression of her columns, which may have been mistaken at the time. I do make mistakes. But based on my reading of her response to her inclusion, I'm not sure this is one of them. […]. Either I was correct about Young in the first place or I've turned out to be prophetic. Either way, I'm not feeling too terrible about it. This, ladies and gentleman, is a media critic. It gets worse, when he responds to a perfectly reasonable letter by a Paul Horwitz criticizing his first dishonest non-apology:
He may have a point, however hysterically he overstates it. One of the problems with everything happening in Internet time is that we don't always take the time to consider absolutely everything we should before responding. I felt pretty strongly that I had read a Cathy Young column or two that would have justified her inclusion on the list when I wrote it, or obviously I would not have included her. After reading her column this morning, I decided that even if that was a mistake, and I am allowing for that possibility, her inclusion would be justified on the basis of this column alone. Does this mean I owe her an apology? Perhaps. As a result of a much more civilized email I received, I'm still considering it. Does that mean I think that being "an opinion-writer, and not a beat reporter,... insulat[es me] from the obligation to do at least enough reporting to have a basis for a factual assertion that serves as the ground for an opinion at the time that [I] asserts that alleged fact?" This is too stupid to merit a response. Obviously I did a great deal of research for this column or I wouldn't have been able to the approximately eighty or so writers and editors I did. Thanks for the lecture, though. Italics mine. What a dick.
4/9/2002 01:07:15 AM
‘We're all terribly romantic vampires who lure in the unsuspecting with our colorful tales and haunting music. And wine, delicious wine’: Tony Pierce responds to A Beam’s challenge for more purely personal information.
4/8/2002 02:17:41 PM
The Hi-Ho Theme Song, Translated: By Ed Mazza’s wife, over on Emmanuelle’s site. If you haven’t yet gorged yourself on this Dadaist corporate animated cartoon from Japan, click here and get busy.
4/8/2002 02:01:09 PM
The Velvet Underground of Blogging: And this is just a list of people who actively told Glenn Reynolds they were inspired by his example. I’m sure there’s plenty more. Bookmark this link for whenever someone tries to tell you how insignificant this all is. UPDATE: Here’s the list, with links.
4/8/2002 01:00:26 PM
Postrel Goes Much Tougher on the FT Columnist: And she’s right, as usual. Also, make sure to scroll down and read her “victimhood politics” post about whiny right-wingers and people who won’t acknowledge progress.
4/7/2002 11:30:18 PM
Amazon Experiment: I've decided to put an Amazon ad of sorts deep down on the left-hand side of this page, with links to a handful of books and one CD I heartily recommend and endorse. If you click on any of those and make a purchase, I'll earn a cut of 5-15%. I may be tinkering around with that and similar schemata in the coming weeks. I'll also try to make the graphics on this page lighter....
4/7/2002 09:19:52 PM
The FT Discovers Blogs: Columnist Louise Kehoe asks:
Could it be that grassroots publishers will flourish as commercial investments in new media recede? Might a multitude of independent voices reclaim the web from the giants of the media industry? It’s a solid column, and includes a reference to the LA Examiner, which is a treat.
4/7/2002 07:07:42 PM
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