Ronn Neff's comments originated in a letter to me of December 14, and they influenced my own thinking as I homed in on SLU #111.
The real tape scandal
By RONN NEFF
The public school system has done its job: Americans are no longer capable of reasoning or drawing conclusions from their own observations. They are no longer capable of recognizing when a thing is proved and when it is not.
I suspect that Bin Laden probably had something to do with the crimes of 911. But that "the tape" should be taken as definitive proof causes me to just despair. People are simply echoing what they have heard from officials and the officials' mouthpieces. We live among ventriloquists' dummies.
The fact that Bin Laden approved of the outcome and smiled about it is being cited over and over as evidence that he was guilty of it. Forget proof. This doesn't even qualify as evidence.
But take a more serious example the remarks about calculating how many would die, which have been cited in paper after paper as definitive. They are preceded by a period of conversation that the government transcript shows as "inaudible."
Please note: I am not contending that the translation is inaccurate. I am not contending that the voices were dubbed and that the men on the tape are not saying what the soundtrack has them saying. And I am not saying the tape is doctored. I am taking the government at its word the preceding bit of conversation was inaudible.
Doesn't that weaken the claim that Bin Laden's next words are proof of complicity? I suppose that can be cited as evidence, but as proof? How do we know that the inaudible exchange wasn't something like "[inaudible] So Ralph and Stu and Lenny and I were listening to the reports and [end inaudible] we calculated ... etc."? Heck, a friend and I had a similar conversation over breakfast at McDonald's as we began thinking about how many people worked in the building, and we wondered how many deaths could result from the crash. In fact, take the words "enemy" and "optimist" out of the transcript, and I suspect that Americans all over the country could have said the same thing.
Actually, it's the other fellow's words that go hardest on Bin Laden: it's pretty clear that he assumes that Bin Laden was behind the crimes, and Bin Laden (despite his reported protest of 911) never says, "Well, I actually had very little to do with it."
I have to say something about MSNBC's Lester Holt. He began last night [Dec. 13] by telling us that, because of the tape, whether Bin Laden directed the crimes "was no longer an open question."
Oh? Has it been an open question these past three months while people were calling for war and for Bin Laden's murder? What offends me about this is not that a member of the official media believes (or says he believes, or whatever passes for belief among such people) the government propaganda he puts out on a regular basis. No, what outrages me and what should scandalize viewers everywhere is that we viewers are apparently supposed to forget that for three months we have been told by MSNBC and other media that it was not an open question.
A radical Muslim who believes the tape is a fake was quoted in the Washington Post, saying, "Do Americans think the rest of the world is stupid?" Without agreeing about the tape's being a fake, I would reply to him, "Americans think the rest of the world is as stupid as they themselves have become."
Posted December 19, 2001
To Strakon's column on the "smoking gun" tape.
To Neff's comments on Strakon's column.
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