Not Saussure

March 3, 2007

Conspiracy corner

Filed under: 9/11, BBC — notsaussure @ 9:23 pm

Earlier in the week, the Flying Rodent, in an article with one of his better headlines ever, drew my attention to a carnival of the conspiraloons going on at the BBC Editors’ Blog after the Beeb’s Conspiracy Files programme about 9/11.

It’s now spilled over to a second blog post there.

Given the two possibilities that either a BBC correspondent, doing a piece live to camera in New York during the mayhem of 9/11, garbled the story that the fire department said the collapse of one of the buildings was thought to be imminent and, in consequence, reported that it had, in fact, collapsed about half-an-hour before it actually did collapse; or that the whole thing was a massive conspiracy which some bozo promptly went and fouled up by giving the BBC reporter the wrong script to read, on the balance of probabilities it’s pretty obviously a conspiracy, isn’t it?

I mean, the alternative — that the press and broadcast media sometimes get things wrong by garbling stories — is just too horrifying and too absurd to contemplate.

As one of the comments to the second piece, giving the BBC’s account of how they reckon they and all the other news services were picking things up from each other, with a sort of Chinese Whispers effect, says

Nice try Richard, but this doesn’t add up…..So now your ”news” are based on other news channels, without daring to verify the validity of the said news….very professionnal, sir. This is a pathetic dammage control lie, and you shpuld be ashamed of yourself. I wonder how can you sleep at night, I really do…..

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September 14, 2006

Grand stuff

Filed under: 9/11, Blogroll, Books, Uncategorized, usa, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 2:31 pm

Alexander Cockburn reviews Grand Illusion:The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11, by Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins:

You trip over one fundamental idiocy of the 9/11 conspiracy nuts — — the ones who say Bush and Cheney masterminded the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — in the first paragraph of the opening page of the book by one of their high priests, David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor. “In many respects,” Griffin writes, “the strongest evidence provided by critics of the official account involves the events of 9/11 itself… In light of standard procedures for dealing with hijacked airplanes… not one of these planes should have reached its target, let alone all three of them.”

The operative word here is “should”. One characteristic of the nuts is that they have a devout, albeit preposterous belief in American efficiency, thus many of them start with the racist premise that “Arabs in caves” weren’t capable of the mission. They believe that military systems work the way Pentagon press flacks and aerospace salesmen say they should work […]What Barrett and Collins brilliantly show are the actual corrupt conspiracies on Giuliani’s watch: the favoritism to Motorola which saddled the firemen with radios that didn’t work; the ability of the Port Authority to skimp on fire protection, the mayor’s catastrophic failure in the years before 9/11/2001 to organize an effective unified emergency command that would have meant that cops and firemen could have communicated; that many firemen wouldn’t have unnecessarily entered the Towers; that people in the Towers wouldn’t have been told by 911 emergency operators to stay in place; and that firemen could have heard the helicopter warnings and the final Mayday messages that prompted most of the NYPD men to flee the Towers.

That’s the real political world, in which Giuliani and others have never been held accountable. The nuts disdain the real world because, like much of the left and liberal sectors, they have promoted Bush, Cheney and the Neo-Cons to an elevated status as the Arch Demons of American history, instead of being just one more team running the American empire, a team of more than usual stupidity and incompetence (characteristics I personally favor in imperial leaders.)

Via Rachel

NB:  Not Saussure welcomes comments and is happy to discuss them, but he ain’t going to give house room to conspiracy theorists who type in green ink.   Life’s too short.

September 11, 2006

Boing Boing: Photo of president stepping on 9-11 US flag

Filed under: 9/11, Blogroll, Bloody Yanks, Photography, usa — notsaussure @ 10:31 pm

Boing Boing: Photo of president stepping on 9-11 US flag
Monday, September 11, 2006
Boing Boing’s comment:
“To paraphrase George Orwell: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a shoe stamping on a symbol of freedom – forever.” (Photo from Reuters) Link”

War on Terror photoshoot

Filed under: 9/11, Photography, usa, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 10:22 pm

Hmm. Italian Vogue (flash slideshow) have marked the anniversary of 9/11 by publishing what Boing Boing call both ‘mainstream TSA porn’and ‘State of Emergency,” a most disturbing fashion pictorial shot by Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia, September 2006. Models: Hilary Rhoda & Iselin Steiro’

Not sure I’d call it ‘porn’; it certainly seems inspired by the late Helmut Newton, though.

The images have been scanned to a livejournal page; one of the comments there, from ‘guineverefaye‘, is the somewhat cynical

‘lmao THAT’S realistic. Cops these days are more likely to escort any attractive white woman out of the building and gently open the politce car door for her. The models did a good job though.’

Lacrimae rerum

Filed under: 9/11, Blogroll, Books — notsaussure @ 9:28 pm

Rachel from north London: Lacrimae rerum

Rachel writes, with her usual eloquence, sensitivity and honesty, of the emotions the anniversary of 9/11 evoke in her as a survivor of the Kings Cross bomb last year.

She concludes her piece by quoting a line from Virgil, which used to be very well known and is, like all the best poetry, pretty well impossible to translate,

sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt (Aeneid, 1. 462)

(literally, there are tears of things — that is, people weep for things — and things subject to death touch the mind).

In its context, though, it’s surprisingly optimistic; Aeneas and his comrades, fleeing Troy after its fall at the end of the Trojan War, have been shipwrecked in Libya, where they come upon Queen Dido and her people building the new city of Carthage (later, of course, to become Rome’s great enemy). Aeneas has already been given a bit of a heads up by his mother, the goddess Venus, who’s suggested he and his shipwrecked friends seek help from Dido; anyway, approaching the new city with some trepidation about what sort of welcome they’ll receive from the locals, they come across a newly built temple with a fresco depicting — what else? — the Trojan Wars.

Aeneas points this out to his comrades, trying to raise their spirits. ‘Look,’ he’s saying, ‘even here, they’ve heard of us and the fall of Troy and are moved by it. Because even here, in the middle of nowhere, sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt, we can be sure of a welcome.

The line seems to me to refer to the sort of compassion and practical sympathy for others which Rachel so exemplifies in her writings and which is a cause for hope.

Footnote: students of Latin literature will, of course, be aware that Aeneas shamefully exploits Dido’s sympathy and behaves in a thoroughly ungentlemanly manner because of his sense of his own, and his comrades’, imperial destiny and divine mission. I could make a political point out this, but not today.

September 10, 2006

Chatham House (inc. Martin Amis-watch)

Filed under: 9/11, Al-Qaeda, Chatham House, hubris, Martin Amis, press, Uncategorized, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 1:55 pm

Reading Martin Amis, in today’s Observer, on

The age of horrorism (part one) I was struck by the following

Until recently it was being said that what we are confronted with, here, is ‘a civil war’ within Islam. That’s what all this was supposed to be: not a clash of civilisations or anything like that, but a civil war within Islam. Well, the civil war appears to be over. And Islamism won it. The loser, moderate Islam, is always deceptively well-represented on the level of the op-ed page and the public debate; elsewhere, it is supine and inaudible. We are not hearing from moderate Islam. Whereas Islamism, as a mover and shaper of world events, is pretty well all there is.

Hmm. I thought; not quite what Chatham House had to say in their report a couple of days ago. There, I read that

The question remains whether al-Qaeda can ever regain the sympathy it seems to have generated in the Muslim street in the days following 9/11 and somehow build on that to create a more solid longterm popular appeal. It does not seem capable of doing so, not so much because of extensive security measures against it, but primarily owing to three important factors. (pp 4-5)

These, apparently, are unhappiness at the bloody effects of Al-Qaeda’s interventions in Iraq and elsewhere in Arab domestic problems; the

heightened radicalization of the middle ground in the Muslim world. A growing number have embraced Islamist politics but will not sanction al-Qaeda’s tactics and will pursue democratic avenues when they are made available. This radicalization may itself be a worrying development for the West but it is also weakening al-Qaeda, whose legitimacy and ambition rest on approval from the Muslim masses – and these are essentially saying opposition can occur within an alternative framework that may be Islamist and uncompromising but should be non-violent;

and the fact that

traditional religious establishment (long seen as the enemy by al-Qaeda) has, by repeatedly arguing the theological case for its long-held beliefs, substantially shifted opinion against the resort to violence on religious grounds. This has been particularly evident in Egypt, Saudi and Yemen and has created a backlash which has in turn helped emphasize the polarization within Muslim communities over who has the right to interpret Islam.

This, as the report argues, may well be an uncomfortable development for the West in many ways, but, at least it seems to me, to suggest a bald statement like

The most extreme Islamists want to kill everyone on earth except the most extreme Islamists; but every jihadi sees the need for eliminating all non-Muslims, either by conversion or by execution. And we now know what happens when Islamism gets its hands on an army (Algeria) or on something resembling a nation state (Sudan).

needs to be better supported, as the comments on my undergraduate essays used to say when I’d made a particularly stupid assertion.

A stupid assertion, indeed, like ‘we now know what happens when Islamism gets its hands on an army (Algeria). Well, erm, actually, Martin, we don’t. Because it didn’t quite happen that way.

What did happen, however, is that the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) won the first round of the Algerian democratic elections in 1991 and that this caused the army to step in and cancel the elections to stop FIS governing the country. This led to a continuing low-grade civil war, which both sides prosecuted pretty horribly.  Two minutes with Wikipedia would have clarified the matter for Mr Amis.

Loud cries, I think, of ‘Don’t these people have editors?’ (© Tim Worstall).
I’m sure he could have chosen other, more apposite, examples, but that he apparently just pulled one out of the air that, as it happens, was the opposite of what he wanted, doesn’t give me much faith in either his attention to detail or his grasp of the situation.   I think, on the available evidence, I’ll stick with Chatham House for the time being.

September 8, 2006

Al-Qaeda — the good news and the bad news

Filed under: 9/11, Al-Qaeda, Chatham House, UK, usa, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 9:54 pm

Chatham House, one of the world’s leading bodies for the analysis of International Affairs, has just published a paper on Al-Qaeda Five Years On (pdf).
The good news is that

the US-led globally coordinated security measures have seriously undermined Al-Qaeda’s communication, finance and recruitment networks

while the bad news is that

Al-Qaeda’s image as a global player has been unintentionally enhanced by the US and its allies

The report’s bullet point summary reads:

• Five years on, the challenge to al-Qaeda is coming from within as traditional Islam attacks the use of terror as un-Islamic and popular support wanes as terrorist attacks target Muslims.

• Nonetheless, there has been an increased radicalization of the Muslim street but this seems to be finding expression in Islamist groups who are keen to use democratic channels.

• Al-Qaeda’s main success has been to highlight the link between the West’s policies in the Middle East and terrorism.

• Despite its religious rhetoric, al-Qaeda’s strength lies in its political message which resonates with many but whose tactics have attracted only the fringe.

• The West faces a terrorist challenge that comes from within its borders and which impinges on community relations and civil liberties.

Jon Swift: Conservatives Should Hate Disney’s Path to 911, Too

Filed under: 9/11, Blogroll, Politics, usa, Wingnuts — notsaussure @ 6:04 pm

The reasonable American conservative has not actually seen The Path to 9/11, of course, but he finds it most disturbing, despite being

relieved to find out that instead of making an animated version of the events of September 11, Disney was actually making a live-action film in the tradition of such live-action Disney classics as Son of Flubber and The Shaggy Dog.

For example,

Apparently the director didn’t bother filming the scene where President Bush learns of the attacks while reading My Pet Goat to schoolchildren. How could they leave out one of the Bush’s greatest moments as President, the seven minutes when he sat there motionless and plotted out his entire strategy for the War on Terror in his head? Perhaps it wouldn’t have been very dramatic to film the President just sitting there for seven minutes but the filmmakers could have telescoped time a bit, as they claim to do in other scenes, and showed him sitting there for, say, four minutes. And I have not heard any mention of a scene showing Saddam Hussein planning the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Leaving out an important scene like that seems to me to be a big dramatic oversight, basically confusing the viewer by making the invasion of Iraq appear to be completely pointless.

September 4, 2006

Fundamentalists Demand 9/11 Documentary Censorship

Filed under: 9/11, Bloody Yanks, Community, press, usa, Wingnuts — notsaussure @ 12:16 am

NEW YORK – Broadcasters say the hesitancy of some CBS affiliates to air a powerful Sept. 11 documentary next week proves there’s been a chilling effect on the First Amendment since federal regulators boosted penalties for television obscenities after Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed at a Super Bowl halftime show.

“This is example No. 1,” said Martin Franks, executive vice president of CBS Corp., of the decision by two dozen CBS affiliates to replace or delay “9/11″ — which has already aired twice without controversy — over concerns about some of the language used by the firefighters in it.”We don’t think it’s appropriate to sanitize the reality of the hell of Sept. 11th,” Franks said. “It shows the incredible stress that these heroes were under. To sanitize it in some way robs it of the horror they faced.” […]

The announcement came as the Tupelo, Miss.-based American FamilyAssociation readied its 3 million members to flood the FCC and CBS withcomplaints after the documentary airs.

“This isn’t an issue of censorship. It’s an issue of responsibility to the public,” said Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the group, which describes itself as a 29-year-old organization that promotes the biblical ethic of decency.

Some CBS affiliates worry over 9/11 show – Yahoo! News

Blimey! (if that isn’t too strong a term… I do hope my language hasn’t shocked anyone too much). I mean, it’s hardly as if anyone’s going to be surprised that firemen swear a bit in extreme circumstances or that the firemen are likely to use language anyone’s not heard before. And if any of the AFA’s members are worried about the effect on their (‘Won’t someone please think of the…’} children, I’d have thought a documentary about 9/11 would contain a deal more to shock them than bad language.

Still, this is clearly the way the Christian Community, or at least parts of it, in America, must think; this Randy Sharp character is, after all, a ‘community leader‘ and clearly must therefore be taken very seriously as such. Just ask Ruth Kelly.


The Sydney Morning Herald, under the headline Now The Bloody Yanks Are Offended, complaining about, earlier this year reported them complaining about

Australian tourism’s “where the bloody hell are you?” TV advertisement.

The controversial commercial has made its US debut in front of 20 million American TV viewers and one influential group was not amused.

The American Family Association (AFA), which has more than two million members and leads campaigns against abortion and gay rights, was upset with the bikini-clad model Lara Bingle’s use of “bloody” and “hell” in the ad’s tagline […]

“I just feel pretty sure the typical American family who is watching TV with their children and they’re exposed to this ad are going to be upset,” AFA director of special projects, Randy Sharp, said.

“I don’t want my children to hear that phrase.

“It’s a shocking phrase because we’re not familiar with it.

“I guess they use it all the time in Australia, but it’s a foreign language here so I think it’ll have a negative impact rather than positive.”

However, Tourism Australia was not worried by the prospect of an AFA campaign, a spokesman said.

The ad’s North American target market was well-educated,high-earning, widely travelled people from Canada and the US west coast, the Tourism Australia spokesman said.

“And I think we have the right campaign to do the job,” he said.

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