If I Only Had a Plane
Strawman, going straight to the devil
Strawman, going straight to hell - Lou Reed
It hasn't been a month since Salon's Farhad Manjoo declared case closed on 2004 election fraud. (The abbreviated argument, via Sadly, No: "There may have been widespread election fraud in 2004, but what really gets me steamed is the zany conspiracy theory that it might have affected the election.”) But he's already back to slay another conspiracy dragon with "The 9/11 deniers." And yes, that's the implication: to dispute the finding of the Kean commission is to make yourself a fellow traveller with Holocaust revisionists. (Though truthfully, we need to be careful about what company we keep.)
Is Gerald Posner glancing anxiously over his shoulder? The 28 year old Manjoo seems to be making a run for his title of Alpha Debunker. His prejudicial deference to authority, his selection and deselection of evidence, his strawmen and his sarcastic disdain for contrary thought should grease his way to great success. And conventional wisdom's eager-to-please houseboy has already come a long way since his 2000 graduation, "with apparently no advanced degrees in social science or political science."
Predictably enough, Manjoo's representative text of 9/11 conspiracy is the flypaper Loose Change, which he calls "something like a film version of a highly contested Wikipedia page." (Suggesting a certain shallowness of thought Manjoo's wiki fixation runs deep, as demonstrated by his cut and paste blog, What I Learned on Wikipedia Today.) Manjoo's critique of Dylan Avery's work is almost wholly borrowed from Jim Hoffman's "Sifting Through Loose Change", and though he credits Hoffman, he also studiously ignores Hoffman's far more credible case for conspiracy.
Following Salon's RFK Jr hit piece, Bob Fitrakis wrote that "Manjoo is much like the Tobacco Institute or the people they used to send around to show us film strips about 'Readi Kilowatt' back during the Cold War. They are individuals who have developed a cottage industry as debunkers and denialists. And in a society famed for Know Nothings an anti-intellectualism, of course an opportunist like Manjoo would come forward."
True. And much the same could be said of Dylan Avery. The 9/11 movement remains a creature of the general culture that rewards style and flash over substance and reflection. The dumbed down is raised up, and a scattershot of distortions and faulty assumptions is too often mistaken for argument. (Avery even shares Manjoo's wikipedia fixation, citing it with authority in Loose Change.)
Debunkers and disinformation artists aren't always found in the alphabet soups of intelligence agencies. Often, they're just working for themselves, trying to establish their names in whatever fields they've staked out by launching them into the prevailing winds. And frequently, Looking Out for Number One means you've got the Company's back whether you know it or not. Manjoo and Avery deserve each other. Now, how about the rest of us?