Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Thank God for Polite Disagreement

I don't want to give the impression that I believe per se that anyone who has a word to say against the BendingTruth campaign is a nasty hypocrite or a moron. It is simply, quite honestly that most of them are, and are extremely willing to demonstrate it. And anyone who passes a disrespectful here comment like "ASSHOLE" can expect to be treated like one. Anyone who flippantly dispenses buzz-phrases like "freedom of speech" while displaying an absolute ignorance of the implications of raising such concepts will be dealt with in an equally flippant manner. Anyone who displays incredibly hypocrisy or sheer stupidity and can't keep a civil tongue in their head may find themselves mocked ruthlessly on this site, or they'll just be ignored. (The Golden Rule and all that)

On the other hand, if anyone can string together a few words of polite objection they are more than welcome to express them here. Which brings me to El Bonzi who wrote at length in the comments under the Freedom Of Speech For Grown Ups entry.

You can read everything he has to say in his entry so I'm just going to condense to address the points he raised:

a) "The way you seem to be displaying this big protective shield for the supposedly Iraqi girl would lead one into thinking there is something to hide."
First off I'll note how it's one of the wonderful vagueries of the English language how - as in this sentence - you can use "one" as a synonym for "me", to imply there exists a widespread or logical inference, where it may well be one utterly outre and entirely unique to the speaker. Do other readers think that the BendingTruth campaign in its scope undermines Riverbend's credibility? Bonzi seems to suggest as much but I'm going to just point out that it's an unproven, even dubious assertion.

And it represents a couple of logical fallacies. The more exposure Troy gets the less chance he has of making people stumble on one of his fake sites thinking it's run by the female Iraqi blogger, which is what he intended. Every time he pokes up somewhere promoting his smearblogs I tend to pop up explaining his history. This absolutely thwarts his intention and has nothing to do with anyone (other than Troy) having anything to hide.

For another thing I have no more evidence than anyone else that Riverbend is either an Iraqi in Iraq or that she is not. I'm not in some kind of inner circle where me Salaam Pax, Riverbend and Saddam sit around a flat in Greenwich Village laughing it up over cocktails about about all the trouble we're causing for the Republican Party. On the other hand I'm not bunkered down with her in a Mosul suburb. Riverbend and I have intermittent email contact only, but I do believe she's real. I don't stake my life on it but I believe it's true. I quoted from the Online Journalism Review last week where they suggested that the blogosphere has a kind of inbuild fact-checking facility, where if someone, like Troy, tries to fake a blog enough people will swarm it to find out the truth. Now there are certainly plenty of people who would like to demonstrate that Riverbend is a fake, and I tend to agree with OJR that if she were someone would be able to come up with the goods on her. Remember plenty of people thought Salaam Pax was a fake. And they were wrong. I take the position that since they pass my basic test of realism Riverbend, Salaam Pax, Zeyad, Hammorabi, Boots on the Ground are what they claim to be. If anyone has any good evidence that they aren't I'll look at it, but I'm not going to start trying to demean people as unreal simply because I may not agree with some of their opinions.

Everything Bonzi has said to support his scepticism about Riverbend is basically circumstantial. Her anonymity, the fact she hasn't approached the press, the fact she's not working as an interpreter. She has said she wants to remain anonymous for her personal safety. Bear in mind Salamm Pax still retains his psuedonym. Quite possibly when they feel safer, perhaps in time, they will be more public. But even for interpreters the streets of Iraq can be rather dangerous. Salaam Pax seems to believe Riverbend's real and I respect his judgement. But look the bottom line is I can't prove Riverbend is real. Nor am I going to try to. That's outside the ambit of the BendingTruth campaign - and as some have noted I spend enough time on this already!

I think it's fair to say that the balance of informed opinion seems to concur on the belief that Riverbend is real. I respect that some people may disagree with that, and I won't try to change their minds. But it has been proved that riverSbend was a faker in the US posing as an Iraqi. That is a fact not in dispute and BendingTruth merely exists to distinguish between the two and remove as much possibility of confusion as it can. I know by doing so I am destined to take a certain amount of flak from some on the right who would like to see dirty tricks perpetrated in their name swept under the carpet, instead of taking the more mature approach and just calling them for what they are, as many sharing their political inclinations have had the integrity to do.

b) Bonzi "It seems as though you are obsessed with this thing between You on Bending Truth, RiverSbend and the girl on Riverbend."
Well first of all it's difficult to forget someone when they're flooding your email address with 150K spam emails every hour, or signing you up to dubious "Personal" websites as does Troy, or his support. Secondly as I explain in my intro the notion of a bitter old coot in the US trying to distort the freedom of speech of a newly liberated Iraqi bugs me a lot. And it is an important matter.

I watched Bernard Goldberg on Fox the other day discussing liberal bias in the news and he made some sense. He suggests not that there is a huge conspiracy to give a left-wing bias to the news but that because many media people are liberals and spend their whole lives meeting only liberals that this intrinsically biases them toward seeing any wrong-doing by another liberal as "not that bad" while seeing any wrong-doing done by someone on the right as the gravest calumny. Now I am no fool, so I certainly am open to the accusation that that is exactly what is happening here, that if Troy was a liberal doing this to e.g. Zeyad I'd think it was no big deal. But you'd be wrong to do so. It's as simple as that. If a liberal did to Zeyad, what Troy has done to Riverbend I'd think it was despicable. And I'd say so. I'm not sure I'd have the time to devote to denouncing them that I spend on denouncing Troy but I'm pretty sure someone else would spring up who would and they'd get all my support in so doing.

And I can also say that Wendy McElroy of Fox News, the Centcom webmaster and a hell of a lot of people who are not rote liberals are able to see that pretending to be someone else, especially a newly liberated Iraqi citizen, with the intent of smearing them and misrepresenting their opinions is a pretty serious matter. It stinks. [Can I also, in support of my bona fides, say here that the last president of the US committed freaking perjury! We can bang on all night about Ken Starr smear campaigns, American puritanism and blah, blah, blah... But he committed perjury and that's my bottom line!]

And I'm going to have to suggest to Bonzi that Bernard Goldberg's observation works both ways. That it's possible that someone who is not a liberal may tend to be unrealistically diminish the gravity of Troy's offences simply because of the political climate in which they exist. And the weight of opinion I have seen would tend to judge that he [Bonzi] is being less objective in suggesting Troy's campaign is not worth getting worked up about, than I am in continuing to spotlight his nefarious activities.

But it's true a couple of people seem to be concerned about the amount of time I spend on this blog. And I'm very touched by that I have to say. I guess these people worry that devoting a couple of hours a day to Bending Truth may be causing me to neglect my social life, my work, my marriage. Well rest assured dear readers that my BendingTruth blogging has - despite her fervent hopes - not deflected my attentions one iota from Mrs AtBendingTruth, my friends still hate me, and my work life is not suffering.

And I have to say that, while the concern brings tears to my eyes, maybe these worried readers ought to spare a thought for people like Andrew Sullivan or Matt Drudge both of whom seem to devote a comparable amount of time to their online activities and are surely as deserving of such well-wishes as I am. But, I hear them cry, those guys are getting money from their websites, which is not the case with you. Well rest assured, dear readers, I am well taken care of in that manner. Let's just that not all that money Saddam managed to smuggle out of Iraq was directed straight to Syria...*

But you know what I think is really weird, and has really lowered my respect for so-called compassionate liberals? It's that, where a political inclination has been indicated, every single one of the people concerned that I'm spending too much time on this blog is from the right! Every single one! Isn't that so weird?! Every single person who worries I might be devoting too much time to tracking the right-wing smear campaign run against a left-leaning Iraqi woman is from the right themselves. Not one single liberal seems to care that I'm risking over-exertion the way the proWar crowd do. Compassionate liberals? Ha!


Anyway I guess my bottom line to Bonzi is thanks for taking the time to write a thoughtful post, and for holding off on the profanities and the disdain. And if you are correct that (a) Riverbend is fake; you would most assurely be right that (b) I spend too much time on this blog.

BUT if on the other hand you're wrong about (a) as I believe you to be. Then you're certainly wrong about (b) as well.

*That was a JOKE, by the way