Sunday, November 12, 2006

# Posted 11:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG IS NOT THE ONLY NUTJOB ON THE BBC: OxBlog rarely has anything good to say about Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia School of Journalism and frequent contributor to the New Yorker. But this time, I have no choice but to give credit where credit is due.

When I was on BBC radio last Tuesday to talk about the elections, another one of the guests on the show was American journalist Greg Palast. Although I didn't get a chance to interact with Palast directly, I took advantage of being a guest on the BBC's liveblog to flatly contradict his assertion Americans don't see illegal efforts to rig the outcome of US elections as wrong or disturbing.

However, because I didn't have the facts at my fingertips, I did not attempt to contradict Palast's assertion that millions of votes (mostly from the left) are deliberately lost or discarded for no reason whatsoever in every US election. Palast got a respectful hearing from the show's host and is often a guest on the BBC.

Yet in Nicholas Lemann's recent attack on post-9/11 conspiracy journalism Palast is one of the main targets. (Lemann's essay was published in the Oct. 16 issue of the New Yorker, but not online.)

I figure that Lemann's attack on Palast is pretty credible, since Lemann himself is a card-carrying member of the condescending intellectual left. As Stephen Colbert might say, Lemann is a factinista.

Anyhow, here's what Lemann has to say about Palast:

There are books brought out by mainstream publishers but aimed at an audience of committed believers and Bush-haters, and therefore written in a spirit more of exhortation than of persuasion. A French best-seller in 2002 was "The Horrifying Fraud" by Thierry Meyssan. In the United States, there is "Armed Madhouse" (Dutton, 2006) by Greg Palast, a private investigator turned ournalist whose periodical work appears (not by accident, he says) in Britain, in such respectable venues as the BB and the Guardian, but not in the United States; he has been published here in Harper's and The Nation.

"Conspiracy theorists believe George Bush, long before the invasion of Iraq had a plan to control its oil," Palast writes in his introduction. "That's wrong. He had two plans and my investigative team obtained both." One of these, "Plan A", was produced by a State Department team at a "confidential gathering" at the home of an Iraqi exile named Falah al-Jibury in Walnut Creek, California in February 2001 and involved a military coup against Saddam Hussein. The other, the hundred-and-one page "Plan B," titled "Moving the Iraqi Economy from Recovery to Sustained Growth" -- essentially a blueprint for privatizing the Iraqi economy and turning it over to American corporations that were Republican political contributors -- was produced, Palast asserts, by neoconservatives in November 2001.

"Armed Madhouse" is great fun. It's written with brio and with sarcastic, knowing humor, and it has a breezy narrative drive that comes from Palast's showing himself finding, detective style, a succession of obscure policy analystswho provide him with pieces of the secret puzzle. I wouldn't know from reading it exactly where one could get hold of a copy of Plan A or Plan B; generally, Palast gives us a mixture of named and unnamed sources, treats public institutions (like the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University) as covert agencies, and does not operate at a courtroom evidentiary standard. Skeptics who need to be won over do not seem to be the intended audience.

Now as any good logician would know, one cannot infer from Palast's strange writings about the war in Iraq that there is necessarily any flaw in his work on rampant fraud in US elections. But my working hypothesis is definitely that someone out there has or will expose how the rest of Palast's polemics also fail to "operate at a courtroom evidentiary standard."
(5) opinions -- Add your opinion

David, Could we have a citation to where Lemann says this?
"Moving the Iraqi Economy from Recovery to Sustained Growth" -- essentially a blueprint for privatizing the Iraqi economy and turning it over to American corporations that were Republican political contributors"

Is he aware that A. Many american corporations donate money to Democrats? B. That non-US companies invest in 3rd world countries. C. that privatizing != "turning over"
Ralph, I don't have a page number for you at the moment but will post one here tonight. As noted in my post, Lemann's essay appeared in the Oct. 16 issue of The New Yorker
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