September 16, 2006

Making (Up) History

There are many ways to make up truth. The most effective technique requires multiple sources that reference and reinforce each other. For this to work, disparate authorities make seemingly small contortions of fact, and then others refer to these aggregated authorities to make the case that a falsehood is true.

This is what a Committee of the US House of Rep's was doing when the UN's Atomic Energy Agency (IAEC) busted their work. The House committee wrote a report exaggerating the nuclear threat posed by Iran, but the IAEC called that report, "incorrect and misleading," as well as "outrageous and dishonest."

The intended purpose of the report was to give the White House and other war mongers an illusion of evidence to support an attack on Iran. Once the lies had the imprimatur of a "government study," they could then be used as a tool of persuasion. The task of anyone disagreeing with the report would then be to disprove the multiple inaccuracies. In this way the debate becomes a level removed from the question at hand. This technique puts layers of questions into the discussion, making it more difficult for facts to separate themselves from the fiction.

The full effect can be seen by reviewing the work of the White House Iraq Group, and Judith Miller, former "journalist" for the New York Times. In this scam, White House officials led Miller to sources for stories that made their case for the invasion of Iraq, and then those same officials would refer to the New York Times to support their arguments. Much of that reporting was later discredited by the NYT editors, but long after the war had started, and with little public notice.

This technique is tried and true. We've seen it used effectively to cast doubt on the existence of global climate change, the probability of evolution, and the hazards of smoking.

It can also be employed locally as well. To dismiss an employee, for example, supervisors might place small and questionable concerns into an employee's file. When these one-sided anecdotes are taken together, they seem to add up to a larger issue. The employee, to defend herself, must then pick apart and dispute all the smaller complaints. These layers of fallacy are usually too much to overcome.

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