You may be aware of the term “puke funnel” which is used to describe either a well-orchestrated right-wing campaign to smear and discredit people or, depending upon the topic, to create a new and improved reality more amenable to the instigators’ needs. A classic example is how Ahmad Chalabi plied Judith Miller with access and lies about WMD’s in Iraq which Miller unquestioningly reported, only to have Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice cite her reporting as further evidence for the need to go to war.
Judith Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and authority on the Middle East for the NYT, appears to have been the most reliant on Chalabi. In an email exchange with the NYT’s Baghdad bureau chief John Burns, Miller said Chalabi “had provided most of the front page exclusives for our paper”. She later said that this was an exaggeration, but in an earlier interview with me, Miller did not discount the value of Chalabi’s insight. “Of course, I talked with Chalabi,” she said. “But he was just one of many sources I used.”
Miller refused to say who those other sources were but, at Chalabi’s behest, she interviewed various defectors from Saddam Hussein’s regime, who claimed without substantiation that there was still a clandestine WMD programme operating inside Iraq. US investigators now believe that Chalabi sent these same Iraqi expatriates to at least eight Western spy agencies as part of a scheme to convince them to overthrow Saddam.
The story had an enormous impact, one amplified when national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state Colin Powell and vice-president Dick Cheney all did appearances on the Sunday-morning talk shows, citing the first-rate journalism of the liberal NYT. No single story did more to advance the neoconservative cause.
“The White House had a perfect deal with Miller,” he said. “Chalabi is providing the Bush people with the information they need to support their political objectives, and he is supplying the same material to Judy Miller. Chalabi tips her on something and then she goes to the White House, which has already heard the same thing from Chalabi, and she gets it corroborated. She also got the Pentagon to confirm things for her, which made sense, since they were working so closely with Chalabi. Too bad Judy didn’t spend a little more time talking to those of us who had information that contradicted almost everything Chalabi said.”
You can see the same forces at work in the matter of Peter Gleick and the Heartland Institute papers as the people who support the institute unleash their yappy attack dogs on Gleick in order to deflect from the fact that Heartland is a corporate front group for companies who see the world as their ashtray. Earlier in the week you had I’m-not-angry, I’m-just-very-disappointed Andrew Revkin at the NYT (is gullibility a feature or a bug at the Times?…discuss) display his Miller-esque knack for being manipulated while over at The Atlantic our gal Megan McArdle was putting in a serious amount of work (as noted by DougJ) arriving at the conclusion that the disputed memo must be fake because…well, she has mad forensic skillz so just shut up:
The textual analysis alone would make me suspicious–but the fact that the document was created much later, using a different method, with different formatting–makes me fairly sure that while the other documents are real, this was written after the fact, by an author outside of Heartland. If there were any way to get conclusive proof, I’d bet heavily against this document being real.
That said, I think it’s impossible to prove — at least with my forensic skill levels. People do write crazy memos sometimes–there are lunatics in every movement, and most organizations. While this just doesn’t feel like the right kind of crazy to me, it’s possible I’m wrong.
And when has that ever happened?
Add to that McMegan’s diagnostic skills:
And ethics aside, what Gleick did is insane for someone in his position–so crazy that I confess to wondering whether he doesn’t have some sort of underlying medical condition that requires urgent treatment.
Insert your own gastritis joke here.
But no puke funnel is complete without creating a mutually reinforcing daisy chain of remarkably similar narratives. The Times’ Revkin who, subsequently came under fire after his initial post, appealed to ‘authority’:
[7:37 p.m. | Updated | I've been remiss in not pointing out the important reporting of Megan McArdle of The Atlantic on the origins of the Heartland files and some of Gleick's statements. Her latest piece is a must-read that asks more probing questions and clarifies what is, and is not, responsible investigative journalism.]
Many commentators have critiqued Gleick’s actions, and in particular, have addressed the question whether at least one of the documents he published–the only significant one, really–was forged by him. Megan McArdle has done an especially good job in this respect. I am not sure whether she was the first person to raise the question of Gleick’s fake document, but she was certainly among the first.
Fellow Power Line blogger and F. K. Weyerhaeuser fellow at the American Enterprise Institute Steven F. Hayward piles on from his perch at Philip Anschutz’s Weekly Standard:
Then there is the content of the memo itself, which tellingly is written in the first person but bears no one’s name as an author. One is supposed to presume it came from Heartland’s president, Joe Bast, but it is not quite his style. Megan McArdle of the Atlantic sums it up nicely: “It reads like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic. By an intern.” Numerous observers have pointed to items in the memo that are strikingly inauthentic or alien to the conservative think tank world…
Which, to use the words of Susan of Texas, brings us back to Megan McArdle:
As I noted before, Megan McArdle has been on a tear lately, attacking a man who had made himself an enemy of her elite. She has written six posts, a couple of them incredibly long, in the defense of Heartland Institute and the Koch brothers, despite the fact that she says she has no interests in common with either. But they are her elite, and when they are attacked she leaps to defend them, a trait that has made her happy and wealthy. She does not need to be told to obey. Obedience in the service of the elites is a way of life for authoritarian followers. She enjoys it. Her critics make her laugh.
And pay well it does, as someone is actually giving money to McMegan to write a book (according to her “neener neener I’m just taking time off to write a book, you boorish people” twitter twat). The working title is, I assume: Technically True, Collectively Nonsense: A McArdle Make-Up-Your-Own-Facts Adventure but Stuff I Think I Know would be equally acceptable. Following the death by exhaustion of at least three fact-checkers, I expect that her critics will return laughter once it is published.
In the meantime, her work for the Kochs is done here. The circle of life is complete. The check is in the mail. This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whisper campaign…