| March 7, 2002
To: Philip Maldari
From: Norman Solomon
[via fax - 3 pages]
As a follow up to the phone conversation we had a week ago, here are
some comments related to promotion of Michael Ruppert on the air.
Ruppert's web site (www.copvcia.com) highlights his keynote piece, titled "A timeline
Surrounding September 11th -- If CIA and the Government Weren't Involved
in the September 11th Attacks What Were They Doing?" In the third paragraph,
Ruppert states flatly that the timeline he assembled, "listing crucial
events both before and after the September 11 suicide attacks, which have
been blamed on bin Laden, establishes CIA foreknowledge of them." But the
timeline and statements that he presents do not "establish" any such foreknowledge.
Instead, he has hammered together fragments of reports from various sources
and used them as a springboard for a gigantic leap -- to conclusions
that aren't supported by what he cites.
Some of the problem is in how he characterizes news reports. These citations can
be narrowly factual yet presented in a misleading way. Yes, such--and--such
newspaper reported that thus-and-so claim was made by so-and-so. The
paper reported on the claim, but that doesn't mean the claim is true.
For Instance: Last Friday night, when I ended up debating Ruppert live
on KPFK, in his closing statement he stressed the purported significance
of an item remaining on his current timeline article (tagged as "Expanded
and Revised, February 11, 2002"). At first glance, Ruppert's written
description of the point is impressive: "August 11 or 12 -- U.S. Navy
Lt. Delmart 'Mike' Vreeland, jailed on Toronto on U.S. Fraud charges
and claiming to be an officer in U.S. Naval intelligence, writes details
of the pending WTC attacks and seals them in an envelop which he gives
to Canadian authorities. [Source: The Toronto Star, Oct. 23, 2001; Toronto
Superior COurt Records]"
Ruppert's summary, "expanded and revised" on February 11, makes it seem
like the most significant report about the Vreeland matter in the Toronto
Star is his October 23 citation. But just as easily available were subsequent articles
published in the Toronto Star shortly afterward. On October 27, under
the headline "Judge Nixes Spy Story," the same newspaper quoted the presiding
judge, Archie Campbell, referring to Vreeland: "There is no independent
evidence to support his colossal allegations and the allegation of conspiracy
on its face has no air of reality." Another news article, published in
the Toronto Star on October 31, quoted the judge as describing Vreeland
as a "petty frauds man with a vivid imagination."
I can only think two possibilities as to why, in Ruppert's timeline
still posted on his site in early March, he cites the October 23 article
in the Toronto Star but makes no mention of the existence or content
of the October 27 and October 31 articles that appeared in the same newspaper:
Either several months later, Ruppert didn't know about those articles,
or he knew about them and went out of his way to leave them unmentioned.
In other words, as a researcher and a public polemicist, he's either
shoddy or less than honest.
We could call this the "selective vacuum cleaner approach" -- pulling
in whatever supports a these and excluding context and perspectives that undermine
it. So, for instance, if a newspaper in Indian or an Indiana intelligence
service is the attributed source of a report linking a high-up Pakistani
official or Pakistani intelligence agency to the hijackers, it won't
do to acknowledge that Indian sources would have a strong motive for pinning
terrorism on Pakistan. Yes, the newspaper printed such a report -- but
what does it really mean?
But even if we accepted the idea that many of the reported claims are factual
claims and not just reported, Ruppert tends to use convoluted substitutes
for logic in his eagerness to make the case for CIA " foreknowledge" and
U.S. government "criminal complicity" in what happened September 11.
When connecting the dots, many innuendoes and suppositions are so central
to the case that logic sometimes points backwards. So, the fact that
oil companies and the Bush administration have done all they can to take
advantage of September 11 events is presented by Ruppert as backing up their
claim of "foreknowledge" and "complicity."
We I went to Ruppert's web site a week ago, I clicked on his listing
of web sites he recommends as sources of information. One of the sites
was listed with a quotation from Ruppert declaring it to be, in his opinion,
the best site on the web for information. And what site was that? The
It's especially disturbing to me that some progressive radio stations
have offered Ruppert's tape as a fundraising premium. Listeners might
easily assume that this strongly implies some significant level of station endorsement
or association with the product. The fact that Ruppert's tape raises
a lot of money is not a strong argument for continuing to give airtime
in the form of de facto infomercial for his wares wares and his claims.
Does Ruppert include some interesting and solid information in his mish-mash?
Sure. But such information is available for a lot of researchers who
are, in contrast, progressive -- and who don't combine the solid information
with fast--and--loose machination that reach specious conclusions.
For progressive media outlets and progressive movements, this kind of
stuff is potentially very destructive. Many listeners will be understandably
put off and as a result some are likely to question the station's overall credibility.
And such programming, when it is "successful," encourages people to fixate
on the specter of a diabolical few plotters rather than on the profoundly
harmful realities of ongoing structural, institutional, systemic factors.
When logic becomes secondary to flashy claims, and when assertions unsupported
by evidence become touted as hard-edged fact, any temporary "sizzle" hardly
compensates for the longer-term damage done to the station's standards.
A key question remains: Aren't the well-documented crimes of the U.S.
government and huge corporations enough to merit our ongoing outrage,
focused attention and activism?
The issues raised by promotion of Ruppert on the air have many layers.
If people at KPFA want to explore this in more depth, I'd recommend that
they contact, for instance: Steve Rendall at FAIR (email@example.com, 212-633-6700
ext. 307), who as a media analyst can shed light on major problems with
the way Ruppert has utilized various data and media; Chip Berlet (firstname.lastname@example.org)
who can shed a lot of light on what's wrong with Ruppert's line, its
hazards for progressives and its benefits for right wing efforts; and
Martin Lee (email@example.com), whose extensive work researching and writing
about the CIA and about right-wing movements has resulted in insights
that he could bring to bear on the subject of Ruppert's work.
My own opinion is that KPFA should not be offering Ruppert's materials
as pledge premiums, nor should KPFA be airing carts promoting his lectures,
nor should be be given de facto infomercial airtime to do his thing without having
to face real challenge. If he's going to be on KPFA's airwaves, I believe
that equal time should be devoted to hearing critiques of his assertions
from people like Rendall, Berlet and Lee. Since KPFA has already given
Ruppert a lot of airtime with nary a word of challenge on the air, there
should first first be appreciable time devoted to hearing from debunking
voices in order to call it even. I believe that it would be a disservice
to KPFA listeners to leave them with the impression that progressive
aren't available, or aren't worth hearing, to refute the kind of sloppiness
and conclusions that Ruppert has already put out over the airwaves.