April 23, 2013
You’re a reporter for a TV news outlet.
You’ve become aware of a disturbing trend. Thousands of private citizens are now analyzing video and photographs of crime scenes and posting their findings.
They’re hounds, and they can’t be stopped. They’re looking at news footage, casual video, photos, and what they’re coming up with challenges the official story lines your network pushes.
Some of their analysis is ridiculous, but some of it isn’t.
For example, video footage of the first bomb in Boston doesn’t appear to show any shrapnel damage to the fencing near the explosion, or to the blue canopy just above the street. You, the reporter, wonder about that.
The now-famous 78-year-old runner who fell down in the street, just after the first explosion? Security personnel wearing yellow jackets were standing closer to the bomb, but they didn’t wobble or duck or waver. You, the reporter, wonder about that, too.
You, the reporter, see a photo of a storefront which was presumably right next to the first bomb. The windows are blown out. But all the glass is lying in the street, which would indicate the force of the explosion was coming from inside the store. How is that possible, you ask yourself.
Then there are the quickly circulating photos of the man in the wheelchair. He’s missing large parts of both legs. People are pushing the chair. His legs are bleeding. But other posted photos? Do they show he already was wearing prosthetics? Is it true he should already be dead from the massive blood loss? You, the reporter, are disturbed by this.
You also look at several photos of the pressure-cooker bomb. In the twisted metal remains, you see discoloration, but no signs the nails or ball bearings in the bomb penetrated the pressure cooker or pitted it or ended up embedded in it.
You look at photos of men standing near the Marathon finish line, the men in identical uniforms, who have variously been described as Navy Seals, Coast Guard, and Craft International security personnel.
What were they doing there? Running a drill? Watching suspects or patsies or bomb-planters? What was going on?
You look at a photo of the younger Tsarnaev brother leaving the scene after the bombs went off. He’s still…wearing his backpack? And another photo, the one of the ripped-apart backpack on the ground. Is that a white square on it? Because one of the Seal-Craft-Coast Guard guys had a white square on his intact backpack…and is that him, leaving the scene of the bombing without that backpack? Hmmm…
You, the reporter, now face several quandaries.
First, if you decide to look into all this, you’ll have to do actual work. Investigation. That isn’t part of your job description. You basically talk to official sources, obtain their statements, repeat them, and sound like you know what you’re talking about. Investigation? What’s that?
Second, if you undertake a serious inquiry, you’re going to have to verify that all these photos and all this video footage are pristine and haven’t been altered or cropped in order to mislead.
You’ll have to find experts to help you. More work. You’re already feeling exhausted, just thinking about it.
On the other hand, your network has shown faked and cropped photos and edited footage in the past, to slant stories. So maybe you can get by with less work.
However, there is a rule in your business. Reporters aren’t allowed to follow their noses. They aren’t allowed to do investigations on their own. They most definitely aren’t permitted to do technical analysis of evidence, like crime-scene photos or video. No, all technical interpretation has to come from government agencies.
If you go off the reservation, you’ll take heavy hits from your bosses.
But all this is meaningless. It’s just mental masturbation, because, finally, you know there is no possible way your producer will allow you to present evidence that the official Boston scenario has gaping holes in it.
Your own network has the explicit job of promoting that scenario.
You’d be torpedoing your own people. Professional suicide. Just walking into your producer’s office and pointing to issues raised by private-citizen analysis of video? It would put you on a watch list.
Your producer would think, “This guy’s gone soft in the head. He wants to pursue a story on his own. He must be some kind of grandstanding goof. He doesn’t have a firm grip on things. He doesn’t know what his job really is. And he wants to raise doubts about the Boston bombing? Wow…”
To the degree that you have any shred of conscience left, you’re in a bind. Maybe it’s the moment to offload that last bit of idealism and go completely corporate. It’s not as if you’ve been challenging your bosses; you’ve just been asking yourself questions privately. So what’s the problem? Just stop asking the questions.
Maybe you’re depressed. Maybe you should go in and see a shrink and get a script for Zoloft. Something to take the edge off. Of course, then you’d have to cut back on your drinking. Screw that. Just up the booze. Have a few more every night after work. Make the coffee stronger in the morning.
Wait. An idea is forming.
Sit there. Let it formulate.
Yes. Yes! Here it is. Some of these video hounds are saying no one at all was hurt or killed in Boston; the whole bombing thing was a hoax. Well, tell that to the doctors at the hospitals who were doing amputations.
Okay. Okay. Now you’re on to something. You can feel it. There’s an obvious way to destroy all this wildcat video evidence in one fell swoop and, at the same time, endear yourself to your bosses.
They’ll be grateful. You can rack up some brownie points. They’ll think of you as a company man. A tough defender of the realm, their realm.
Anyway, you’ve got a deadline to meet. You have to put something together. It may as well be this:
Take the most radical opinions these video hounds are promoting, package them all into one article, and imply that every hound is a complete freak. All their video analysis must be wrong, because they’re all crazy. It’s the old rejection by generality. And by ad hominem. By straw man. Didn’t you learn something about those logical fallacies in college? Time to put them to use.
Do the conspiracy-theorist thing. Say these weirdos have far too much time on their hands. And what else? They’re dangerous. Sure. Refer back to that FBI dude who’s in charge of the Boston investigation, DesLauriers, who said people should focus on helping the investigation by looking at certain photos and no others.
How did he put it? He said there were irrelevant photos out there, and if people tipped the FBI to them, they’d overload agents and delay the search for the bombers.
That’s it. These private video hounds are dangerous. They’re giving people too much information.
So they have crazy ideas, one. They’re saying nobody was hurt, there were no bombs, two. They’re claiming all the bleeding people at the Marathon were actors brought in from some outfit in Colorado, three. They’re saying these massacre ops are designed to shut down freedom in America, four. They’re dangerous, five.
Roll all that up into a ball and you’re good to go. Whatever they’ve actually got in terms of troubling and disturbing and truthful video and photo evidence will disappear in a sea of ridicule.
Imply there are two basic classes of people: the normals and the crazies. The crazies are threatening the rest of us. They’re multiplying like fruit flies. They’re swarming the Internet. They’re disrespecting the wounded and dead—don’t forget that one. How dare they come out with all this insanity as the families are grieving and in turmoil.
Yeah. There is only one true stream of information, and the public has to know it. It comes from the major networks. There has to be a central story line, because if there isn’t, the whole country will fall into chaos. Don’t actually say that, but realize you’re on the side of the angels here. You’re standing tall against the barbarians at the gates.
Right. You’re giving the audience a choice. Do they want to be nuts, or do they want to be normal. Normal is the wave of the future. Soon, that’s all there will be. The others will be wiped out. They have no cache. They have no right to challenge the order of things.
Isn’t that what Arthur Jensen said in the movie Network? There is one planetary, galactic order of things, and everybody has to live under it.
Expand the piece. Take it all the way back to 9/11, and the loonies who claimed the towers couldn’t have been taken down by the planes. Yeah. They said there were bombs inside the buildings. They said Building 7 didn’t go down from a fire. Idiots.
Why not do history? Makes you sound smarter. JFK. “Oswald didn’t act alone.” That’s where it all started, that’s how the conspiracy germ spread. It was a disease.
That’s a great metaphor. The plague of conspiracy theories. It had a ground zero, in Dallas, on November 22nd, 1963. From there, the virus moved through time. It’s all one epidemic.
Call a few shrinks. Get comments from them. A psychological pandemic. These guys always want face time. Give it to them. Let them speculate on why the plague is accelerating.
Geez. Maybe this could become a three-part series. “We investigate the trend of conspiracy thinking. Why is it happening? Who are these people? Where do they come from? What do they really want?”
Then…oh yeah. We find some guy who was a conspiracy nut but he woke up and realized he was about to go off the cliff, so he stepped back. He was addicted. It was an addiction. He had alienated his whole family and all his friends.
Then he had a revelation. He saw what had happened to him. Get a few juicy quotes. “I needed a way to rebel against society, so I chose this. It was a fad. I joined up. It was a kind of cult. I made new friends. But then I saw that these people weren’t like me. I was ruining my life. I was walking around paranoid all the time…I finally came to my senses…”
Nail down the place and time when he woke up. Maybe take a camera crew there. “This was the spot. I was walking along this stretch of beach one night, all alone, and it hit me. I was isolated. I had no ties left to my community…”
Yeah. Plays very well. Do you want to be in the cold, on the outside, or do you want to be near the hearth, where the tribe is safe?
With a series, a three-part “investigation,” you could establish yourself as the go-to guy whenever a new conspiracy theory pops up. They’d come to you. You, the expert. This could be a very good career move.
And why pretend? That’s what you’re in this for, isn’t it? A career? So stop fooling around with all the freakazoid photo and video evidence. Just go for it.
It’s a war. The independent journalists and bloggers and video loons are trying to steal food out of your kids’ mouths. You can lie down in the road or you can fight back. If you’re going to fight, take off the gloves. Screw that half-way stuff.
Who knows more about conspiracies than anyone else? The CIA, the FBI, the intelligence community. Hell, after a few years of attacking the weirdos and nutballs out there, you might graduate up into a more distinguished and rarefied atmosphere, where real conspiracies are planned and carried out for the sake of national security. The real stuff, the right stuff.
You could become a “our national intelligence correspondent.” Wouldn’t that be something. You’d have access to the big boys and some of their secrets. You’d prove you could be trusted.
You’d never have to look at another foot of video put together by losers who’ll never get within a thousand miles of real news.
You’ll never have to wonder whether you’re doing the right thing. You’ll live in a place that’s far from the madding crowd. You’ll drink single malt instead of rotgut. You’ll sit down with senators and lobbyists and bankers and diplomats.
You’ll turn into a controlled drunk who knows when to start and when to stop. You’ll find inner peace and all that crap, knowing you’re serving the best interests of your country and the people who own it and run it.
You’ll write a movie script about the Agency stopping a terrorist plot in New York. You’ll meet people from Hollywood.
One night, high above the city of angels, a beautiful actress will take you in her arms…
And some day, through your CIA connections, you’ll learn about a brain-bending scandal that’s brewing under the surface of Washington, and they’ll give you the green light to go out there and dig up the information you already have in your back pocket.
You’ll be Bob Woodward and the doors will open for you wherever you go.
You’ll be unstoppable.
You’ll be the man who finds out all the secrets.
Except the real ones.
The author of two explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED and EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails at www.nomorefakenews.com