Friday, May 28, 2004
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Top 10 Conspiracy Theories of 2003-2004
By Mike Ward, AlterNet
May 18, 2004
On August 6, 2001, while vacationing in Crawford, Texas, George Bush
received an intelligence briefing called "Bin Laden Determined to
Strike in U.S." It included revelations that al Qaeda members were
conducting "surveillance of federal buildings in New York"; the World
Trade Center was mentioned in the first paragraph, the prospect of
terrorist "retaliat[ion] in Washington" in the second. According to
the briefing, Osama bin Laden's organization was acting in
ways "consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of
attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New
But Bush must have had headphones on, because 36 days later when he
saw Flight 11 fly into the World Trade Center, he claims his first
thought was, "There's one terrible pilot." Even after the second
crash Bush assures us he was unsure what was going on: "I grew up in
a period of time where the idea of America being under attack never
entered my mind."
The attacks of 9-11 have since been used to justify two military
actions that the government has chosen to call "wars," the more
recent of which - a "pre-emptive," which is to say unprovoked,
assault on Iraq - has yielded American soldiers their bloodiest two
weeks of combat since 1971. Odd, then, that every expressed reason
for the Bush administration's massive and deadly undertaking in Iraq,
most conspicuously Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass
destruction, has evaporated under scrutiny. In fact, the only thing
we know for sure is that the invasion isn't about oil. Tony Blair,
among others, has been quite clear on this: any attempt to explain
the war in Iraq as an oil war is a "conspiracy theory."
This makes one wonder whether other so-called conspiracy theories
might be more worthy of consideration than we've been led to believe.
Some months ago I wrote an article originally published in Popmatters
magazine about this. In light of subsequent events, the time was
right to revisit it - particularly since the political climate in
America, with its indefinite detentions and pointless color-coded
alerts, has taken a more Orwellian turn than anyone ever imagined
1. Prior Warnings.
Right after September 11, rumors began floating around that World
Trade Center employees of the Jewish faith had been mysteriously
alerted to stay home that fateful morning. This racist fantasy had an
equally ugly counterpart among anti-Islamic reactionaries: that
Muslims the world over knew of the 9-11 attacks in advance and
managed, en masse and in their millions, to keep it a complete
Such bizarre hearsay about collective foreknowledge has many
unpleasant effects, not the least of which is to delegitimize an
otherwise worthy question: was anyone told beforehand that something
shocking might happen on or around 9-11? It turns out quite a few
people claim to have received such warnings. Although the mainstream
press tends to mention these accounts in isolation or attribute them
to uncanny serendipity, when taken together they cry out for further
The airport security service for San Francisco mayor Willie Brown,
for example, had contacted him eight hours prior to the strikes and
warned him not to fly, and controversial author Salman Rushdie also
claims to have gotten warnings before September 11 not to take to the
tarmac. As reported in the Sept. 24, 2001 issue of Newsweek, several
employees at the Pentagon cancelled their flight plans the night of
September 10, citing "security concerns." And last but not least,
Justice Department head John Ashcroft had stopped flying commercial
aircraft two months before 9-11. Why? The FBI cited an
unfavorable "threat assessment" - but after September 11 has been
unwilling to elaborate on this.
2. What Was With That Handshake, Anyway?
As I write a scandal is unfolding at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq,
where American soldiers are accused of torturing and brutally
humiliating prisoners, possibly at the behest of military
intelligence officers. In a particularly bitter irony, Abu Ghraib was
once a favored torture chamber of Saddam Hussein, a fact that leads
some to ask whether there are actually any good guys in the U.S.-Iraq
There are more reasons than this to wonder. Where Iraq's human rights
violations are concerned, U.S. foreign policy has long been sterner
in rhetoric than in deed, dating back at least to the 1980s - when
many Bush administration figures were dealing with Iraq on behalf of
then-president Reagan. Among these were Mideast envoy Donald
Rumsfeld, whose 1983 meeting with Hussein resulted in a videotaped
handshake that has since crossed the world countless times on the
Internet. Speculation abounds as to what may have transpired at this
meeting, but one thing is certain: at the time Hussein was employing
chemical weapons almost daily in his hideous war with Iran. In 2003
the Bush administration referred to these gas attacks as part of its
justification for invasion, but for whatever reason it has taken 20
years for Rumsfeld et al. to discover their own outrage over these
3. That's Our Plan and We're Sticking to It.
From the toppling of the Taliban to the creation of the Homeland
Security Department, September 11 has been used to justify virtually
every action that the Bush administration has taken since. But as
with so much concerning the administration, this is more complicated
than it appears. Case in point: conspiracy theory web sites - and
later on, mainstream progressive e-zines - have made much hay of the
Project for the New American Century, an extragovernmental pressure
group which has long been bent on conquering Iraq. As far back as
1998, PNAC sent the Clinton administration a now-notorious letter
insisting that the sanction-choked country posed an imminent danger
to the United States. P-Nackers such as conservative writer Bill
Kristol argue that the oil moguls and weapons firms PNAC represents
have long been preoccupied with Iraq out of an abiding humanitarian
concern, but the fact remains that where Iraq is involved, September
11 has not altered policy so much as it has been used to justify
policies that were already in place.
4. The Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Your Liberties.
Similar stories haunt the USA Patriot Act, which was promoted as a
response to 9-11 but in fact resembles anti-terrorist measures passed
following the Oklahoma City bombing as well as an anti-drug bill that
was scuttled in 2000 for being too "reactionary." The stunning 9-11
attacks created a more compliant social climate for such harsh
measures, so that after the attacks Congress passed the Patriot Act
without even bothering to read the provisions it had earlier found so
Different people draw different conclusions from this. Unabashed
conspiracy sites like www.prisonplanet.com speculate that the
government deliberately orchestrated the 9-11 attacks in the hopes
that this would drum up support for war and indoctrinate the American
people into willingly abandoning their freedom. Others such as Gore
Vidal make slightly more temperate accusations, that corruption and
real-politik policies left American security in a dire state of
neglect, setting the stage for the attacks. Whoever is right, it
seems clear that although life in America has changed radically in
the wake of 9-11, the plans in the highest levels of the government
have remained oddly unchanged.
5. The War in Iraq Is Not About Oil.
We have noted with relief the assurances of those on high that the
Iraq War has nothing to do with control of natural resources. We can
therefore assume that the following facts, though interesting, are
Iraq holds the world's second-largest oil reserves, and owing to
decades of wars and sanctions many of these fields lie un- or
underdeveloped, simply waiting for sufficiently motivated energy
firms to come along and tap them.
As luck would have it, executives from such firms are exceptionally
well-positioned to influence the current administration.
Oil and gas prices in the U.S. are currently the highest they've ever
been, a problem that oil from Iraq is likely in the coming years to
And finally, the highest priority of the administration's military
forces when they moved into Iraq was to secure its oil ministry, even
as museums and hospitals in Baghdad were being looted.
6. Bread and Circuses.
For a long time following 9-11, strange facts such as these were
rarely mentioned in the mainstream media. This is no longer true.
Anomalies from the August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Briefing to the
agenda of PNAC are now common knowledge, but many people seem not to
Why this is? Part of the answer probably can be found by looking at
the assumptions underlying the media's coverage of war. Although they
will occasionally cover news items that might damage the U.S.
government's credibility, in general the American media have waxed
awfully uncritical since the cynical days of Vietnam, and
particularly since 9-11. For example, the attack on Afghanistan,
which was portrayed as a response to 9-11, was also presented as a
kind of World War II re-enactment in which the U.S. - with its 700 or
more military bases in 120 countries worldwide - was cast as
a "sleeping giant" in a stunt intended to link 9-11 and Pearl Harbor.
Bush spoke of America, which has engaged in more than 200 military
actions since 1945, as a "peaceful" nation, but "fierce when
to anger." The "axis of evil" speaks for itself.
Such puffery not only misrepresents the U.S. government as benevolent
in foreign affairs and reluctant to use military force, it also
dehumanizes Islam in American eyes, much as the Japanese were
dehumanized in World War II. It is additionally useful for shaming
those who question government actions, tarring them as a kind of
Fifth Column. But the most important effect of the war on
terror/World War II analogy is to create the illusion of clear lines
between good and evil in the current conflict when in fact those
lines, as in Vietnam, are becoming blurrier by the day.
7. What You Gonna Do When They Come For You?
Propaganda of earlier decades is usually pretty easy to recognize. In
hindsight, for instance, most of us can see that the duck-and-cover
newsreels of the 1950s and '60s were selling Americans a bill of
goods about the "survivability" of nuclear war.
But how good are we at recognizing media PR today? Some would say not
terribly - at least if the popularity of reality TV is any
indication. From Survivor to Fear Factor, reality shows all ask us to
identify with people whose lives are being captured on camera, often
almost continuously. And they encourage us to think that's okay.
This is happening in the context of an increasingly intrusive
surveillance apparatus in America and Western Europe, where the
average city-dweller can expect to be photographed by closed-circuit
cameras anywhere from a dozen to 73 to 300 times a day. Not many
people complain about this, perhaps at least in part because Big
Brother has changed the way Americans feel about Big Brother. But
it's hard to imagine earlier generations accepting such a state of
affairs, weaned as these generations were on novels and movies -
1984, Fahrenheit 451, even Videodrome - which warned that excessive
surveillance would spell the end of freedom.
8. Chip Me!
In the finest homesteading tradition, the Jacobs family of Boca
Raton, Florida, has volunteered to plumb a new technological
frontier: They have agreed to have "VeriChips," computerized ID tags
about the size of grains of rice, surgically implanted in their
bodies. On May 10, 2002, their dream was realized. Today the Jacobses
constantly emit a low-frequency hum that's readable with a
specialized scanner, which makes their medical histories accessible
in much the way your Shoppers Food Warehouse preferred customer card
allows your cashier to learn, with a single swipe, that you prefer
Implantable chip technology is in its rudimentary stages today; in
the future, more sophisticated chips are likely to be put into your
kids as homing devices to help discourage child abductions; they
could serve as permanent biometric identifiers; still more advanced
models might even be able to monitor your body chemistry and
administer precise doses of psychiatric drugs to regulate your mood.
Despite the Jacobs' enthusiasm, some are less than tickled about this
new technology, particularly since being chipped, like owning a
credit card, will probably someday become a prerequisite to such life
necessities as renting an apartment. Also, once the chip is in your
body, you have precious little say in what the device does. The
ramifications of this are ominous, particularly where chips that
administer psychoactive drugs are concerned. In his conspiracy
nightmare "Blueprint for a Prison Planet," Nick Sandberg sums up the
worst-case scenario: "With implant technology accepted as being part
of life in the twenty-first century," he wonders, "who is going to
notice if they no longer require us to actually program them, but
seem to do it without our help, no longer allowing us access to our
true feelings even if we wanted them?"
9. Peak Oil and the End of the World.
Chicken-littlism may well be humanity's oldest avocation. Since the
beginning of what some of us like to call "civilization," doomsayers
from the Muggletonians to the Heaven's Gate cult have frantically and
confidently spoken of the world's imminent demise - and each time,
they've been all wet. The latest pessimistic vision of the future
regards "peak oil": the idea that as rising demand for oil outstrips
the capacity of producers to supply it, formerly stable economic
systems will be thrown into disarray, leading eventually to the kind
of anarchy foretold in movies like Mad Max.
One would hope peak oil is a hand-wringing fantasy on a par with the
survivalist craze that accompanied Y2K. But there are some facts in
favor of the peak oil agitators: a recent, stubborn rise in gas
prices, with little relief in sight; the ominous fact that the
world's total oil production declined in 2001 and 2002, and rose in
2003 by only .5 percent, while demand rose by nearly 2 percent; and
the otherwise inexplicable war in Iraq - which, though a political
liability in the short run, is likely in the long haul to yield the
U.S. virtually unending supplies of oil just when the peak oil
theorists claim it's going to start getting quite scarce.
If the peak oil theory is right, the Iraq war, terrible though it is,
will be remembered - like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand or
the Nazi invasion of Poland - as a mere prelude to a much bloodier
affair. According to proponents like Kenneth Deffeyes and Colin
Campbell, the coming decline in oil supplies will trigger privations
in seemingly unconnected economic sectors. Industrial agriculture,
for instance, depends heavily on oil and so much of the world's
population will face starvation in a future of dwindling fossil
fuels. Many oil-peakers speak of a coming "die-off," as the world
population adjusts to the resources available to it - by perishing in
the billions from war, famine, exposure, and civil unrest.
10. Life After the Fall.
The peak oil theory has been around for some time now, so some people
have thought long and hard about its consequences. Such folks include
new-urbanists like Jane Jacobs - who forecast that Americans will see
fewer lengthy commutes and more self-sustaining local communities, as
higher prices at the pump obviate automobile addiction in the U.S. -
and more pessimistic "anticivilization" thinkers like Internet scribe
Ran Prieur and Richard Heinberg, who foresee a future in which a much
smaller populace ekes out a spartan but sustainable existence,
feeding largely off the detritus of late capitalism's industrial-
sized excesses and marveling at the degree of this generation's
waste. Conventional wisdom holds, somewhat vaguely, that alternative
power sources such as hydrogen or nuclear power will come along at
the last minute to rescue the West from such a fate. But the
anticivilization thinkers have worked long and hard to imagine the
consequences if no such alternative is found.
It's worth noting that the world they envision is one in which many
people live today. It resembles, for instance, the privations of Sadr
City - the now-famous ghetto of Baghdad where running water is
unreliable and raw sewage flows in the streets - or the arid
countryside of Sudan, where political upheaval has displaced a
million people and the prospect looms of another Rwandan-style
genocide, complete with the same indifference from the supposedly
In The Soft Cage, a book on the rising surveillance state in America,
Christian Parenti quotes Slovenian writer Slavoj Zizek regarding
9/11. Writing of that horrifying taste of third-world violence in the
first-world streets of America, Zizek sardonically welcomes Americans
to "the desert of the real." "The point," Parenti explains,
to justify the crimes of 9/11," but instead to awaken Americans to
the reality that "the world is a brutal, vicious place and that
America is deeply implicated in its worst aspects." In other words,
even if the well-to-do in the West can somehow avert the fate that
the peak oil theorists predict, for peoples around the globe the end
of the world is now - and this has been true for a long time.
Mike Ward is a contributor to PopMatters.
Scene: The Equipment Scandal
What Happens: In a 17-minute sequence excised from the nearly four-hour Bollywood musical, British colonial Rachel Shelley sneaks some cricket equipment to Indian villager Aamir Khan, setting off a chain of events: jealousy in Khan's girlfriend, betrayal by a teammate, and incarceration when a British commander insists that the equipment was stolen.
Why It Doesn't Belong: For starters, the movie is already four goddamned hours long. Anything that doesn't involve singing, dancing, or the actual playing of cricket is best left out. Also, the sequence is anchored by an interminable interrogation scene in which each team member must individually prove that he isn't the traitor.
Where It Might Belong: As a stand-alone, semi-allegorical short film, in which gifts from strangers lead to unfortunate ends.
Speaking of Lagaan, one thing that just occured to me: does a colonial governor really have the authority to halt taxation for three years on a bet in a cricket match? I couldn't imagine the home government approving such an arrangement.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Well, so far this month. Someone bought my six-volume vhs set of Star Blazers: The Comet Empire off of Half.com. For $50! I was sent it as a comp by the manufacturer five years ago, and watched one of the tapes once. It was a disappointment.
$50, though. Awesome.
Monday, May 24, 2004
More disappointment from Washingtonienne. She thought her college yearbook picture was unflattering? Clearly, her judgement is not sound.
I respect her attitude about all this, but if she wants to ride out her full fifteen minutes, she needs better make-up, better lighting or better standards. Not sure which.
I have to admit I'm disappointed that Wonkette is more of a hottie than Washingtonienne. Washingtonienne looks a lot older than her 24 years. I don't know if I'd pay her $400 for sex-in-the-ass. Maybe if I had the spare cash, and felt like exercising petty power over a young office drone. But again, she doens't look all that young, does she?
I'm starting to think that any amount of prostitution is enough to give a girl that lived-in look.
Friday, May 21, 2004
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Monday, May 17, 2004
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Has become this:
Maybe it's the cigarette, maybe it's because she was torturing our colonial subjects, but I thought Pfc. England looked pretty hot in the prison abuse photos. Now she just looks kind of chubby and dumb. Pregnancy just doesn't agree with some people.
Monday, May 10, 2004
Military might makes America great!
Apr 22 2004
When I open a newspaper or turn on the TV and see another fallen hero in Iraq,
I am sorely reminded that we are fighting the fifth war of my lifetime. Unlike earlier
wars, this nasty, bloody business of today's war against terrorism is being fought by
America's finest all-volunteer military. Unfortunately, wars are necessary entities
for people to live in a free, democratic world, and Americans are enjoying
unprecedented freedoms because of the valiant fights for liberty by their ancestors
in years past.
I know it is a bitter pill for today's wimpy pacifists to swallow, but the
sacrifices made by all Americans in past wars, particularly World War II, gave
us the victories to become and sustain our envied status as the most powerful
nation on Earth. This unique status, the fact that we are a Judeo-Christian
nation and our democratic freedoms are the reasons warring factions worldwide
hate us. This alone is why we find ourselves again embroiled in defending our
great nation from evil perpetrators bent on terrorizing and destroying Americans
at home and abroad.
The whining against the war in Iraq by the pacifists, socialists, atheists
and cowards among us (terrorists from within) is no mystery. This un-American,
godless crowd has been so brainwashed during the past 50 years by ''rewritten''
American history, they don't have a clue about real democracy, patriotism and
military preparedness. The shift from real American patriotism to pacifism began
in earnest during the 1960s and 1970s, and was emboldened during the
presidential tenure of Lyndon Johnson, our socialist standard bearer. And then,
''in your face'' pacifists Ted Turner and ''Hanoi Jane'' Fonda hit the national
scene. Their mantra was ''make love - not war,'' and thus the sexual revolution
took off. Future cowards were bred daily. Ted Turner created CNN worldwide cable
news and flooded the world with his 24/7 socialist propaganda machine.
Naturally, CNN painted Americans in an unsavory light, and still does so today.
Those who CNN couldn't reach, academia did. Public schools and particularly
universities took up the ''ugly American'' cause. Socialist, pacifist professors
preached rewritten American history. Unsuspecting minds soaked it up. Suddenly
it became popular to rethink treatment of our evil enemies. Wait them out,
negotiate with them. Worse yet, ignore them. This thinking was most prevalent
during Clinton's presidency. He activated the military spasmodically here and
there, but when the going got rough, the United States cut and ran, leaving us
vulnerable and looking weak.
Folks who are too young to remember World War II need to brush up on what
makes America great - military might! In 1941, two aggressive facist powers,
Japan and Germany, attacked our people. On December 8, 1941, then President
Roosevelt declared war on Japan. The German Nazis announced to the world that
they were opposed to democracy and intended to destroy it. By 1944 the armed
forces of the United States numbered more than 12,000,000. We got busy defending
our democracy. In August 1945, President ''give 'em hell'' Harry Truman dropped
a couple of atomic bombs on Japan (talk about collateral damage) and a new era
of American supremacy began. Shortly afterward, the Japanese, who got our drift,
surrendered, and at 7 p.m. on Aug. 14, 1945, President Truman announced that
World War II had ended. Our subsequent occupation of Japan did not breed
resistance but rather taught Japan and the rest of the freedom-loving world a
costly lesson. It resulted in a grateful resolve by the Japanese, Germans and
others to work together to live peacefully. Then like today, Great Britain stood
with us and engaged determinedly to defeat our enemies.
We must tune out today's pacifist whiners and stay put in Iraq as a
liberating, stabilizing force. Like St. Paul in the Scriptures, I thank my God
with every remembrance of our great commander-in-chief, George Bush. He's
today's ''give-'em hell'' Harry.
Jessalyn Bailey is a registered nurse and a native Jacksonian. Write to her
at The Jackson Sun, P.O. Box 1059, Jackson, TN 38302 or you can send an e-mail
''The whining against the war in Iraq by the pacifists, socialists, atheists
and cowards among us (terrorists from within) is no mystery.''
Sunday, May 02, 2004
Today's tempest in a teacup comes from the grey laen where comic books and politics intersect. Yes, it's as worthless as it sounds.
Micah Wright is a comic book writer. I've never seen his comic book work, but I think I have linked to his entertaining anti-war posters, which repurpose World War Two posters into anti-Bush propoganda. I've given a few copies of the book as gifts.
As will happen to a vocal anti-war polemic in a time of contraversy, Mr. Wright experienced considerable retort. He responded in kind, unveiling his secret weapon: he was an Army Ranger who fought in Panama, and therefore above criticism.
But he actually wasn't.
This weekend, Wright blew the whistle. Depending on how you read his statements, he was either about to be outed in the Washington Post, and decided to confess to get ahead of the story, or broke the story to the Washington Post.
Here's how he put it (I'm reprinting the entire statement, because of his subsequent edits):
My name is Micah Wright. I'm a former Army Ranger, and I've been lying to you. I've kept the secret for years now, but all lies grow and eventually get out of control. This is me coming clean about my Big Lie. What did I lie about? Oh, nothing much...
Except that I was never an Army Ranger. I never served a day in a Ranger Regiment. I never went to Ranger School. The closest I ever got was Army ROTC.
This entire Army Ranger thing is a stupid lie which has its roots back in college. When I was in the Army ROTC (and I really was, trust me), I met a lot of Rangers, and got to know some of these amazing men. They always impressed me with their inspired competence and their commitment to one another. Though I enjoyed my time in Army ROTC, I decided that eight years of military service was not for me and I left the program. That ended my involvement with the military. But once I was out of the Army ROTC program, there was a lingering impression among friends that I had been in the Regular Army.
Skip forward years later to 2002. It's post-9/11. We'd bombed and invaded Afghanistan. The War On Terror had officially begun. The Patriot Act had passed. Thousands of Muslims had been swept up and held on secret charges. America was becoming a scary place.
That's when I started creating my propaganda posters. I took familiar and iconic war propaganda images from World War II, replaced their text with new messages urging the viewer to reject the lies that they were being fed by the President, and by the news media to which America turns for the facts.
Immediately upon putting the Remixed Propaganda posters on the internet, I received some of the most appalling and hateful email that I'd ever imagined possible. It was an ugly time in our country and people were lashing out in anger and fear against perceived "domestic enemies." I got countless death threats and letters accusing me of being a "traitor" for speaking out against George Bush. I should have my eyes gouged out, knees broken, be shot in the face, killed like a rat with a shovel, on and on. I received such a deluge of these letters that I began to seriously worry about my safety. I even had my phone number de-listed after some threatening phone calls.
In that atmosphere the old Ranger lie came easily to mind. I put up a "companion page" to the posters which claimed that I was a military veteran and who were these people to tell me what I could or could not say? I was a Veteran, dammit, not just a Navy fry-cook or an Air Force typist, either, I was a former Army Ranger! I was interested to see how that one piece of information juxtaposed against the posters would change people's minds about what they were seeing.
After posting the webpage saying that I was a former Ranger, the number of death threats dropped drastically. I still got hate mail, but it was now of a different sort, telling me that my opinion was idiotic or that I had been misled. My fellow Americans seemed to believe that if you had served in the military, this gave you leeway to say what you felt... but if you were NOT a veteran, God forbid you should think opposite of what everyone else thought. Did any of that justify my lie? No. But it made it easier to tell. Too easy.
Then I was contacted about doing a book of the posters. The editor knew the work was good, but that wasn?t the best part. Here, he said, was a man who had been to war but who was AGAINST war! That would be the sales hook! A simple confession at that moment would have ended the lie?and, I felt, my hopes for publication. I chose to continue the lie and to claim that I -was- indeed a Ranger. What would it hurt, I thought, it's not like I'm applying for a job as a policeman or something, I'm just writing a book, right?
And so the Big Ranger Lie grew and grew and grew... and eventually grew out of my control.
As the book progressed, I was enthusiastic... it was shaping up really well. Then my Editor mentioned that he wanted me to detail all of my Ranger experiences in Panama for the foreword--my Big Ranger Lie had tripped me up again. I immediately threw myself into my research, learning as much as I could about the Rangers, talking to Panama vets online, reading contemporary accounts of the invasion and several books and papers from Panamanian sources to get the other side of the story.
Everything in the foreword to "Back The Attack" is based on the truth? except none of it happened to me. It happened to other people, other Americans, other Panamanians. What I learned while researching government and military control of the press in the Panama of 1989 seemed increasingly crucial in examining what was happening around us in the America of 2002... many of the same exact tools were being used and NO ONE in the media was questioning them. It was infuriating to read the Pentagon's words about the War On Terror being directly parroted by the media without any analysis or fact checking. And that anger became my justification for continuing the lie.
That was when my petty Big Ranger Lie became the Big Ranger Media Hoax. How much of my story would anybody bother to verify? Would they ever bother to do even the most basic fact-checking? I actually planted conflicting evidence online, claiming in some places to have served in the 3rd Ranger Battalion, claiming in others to have served in the 2nd Ranger Battalion. Would anyone notice? I put up a photo of "my" Ranger Class on my website and identified myself as an African-American Ranger. Would anyone in the media notice? I gave out fake Platoon Sergeant and Company Commander names... would anyone in the media bother to check to see if they were real? To get quotes from them about what kind of "Ranger" I had been?
The answer was NO. A resounding NO. A roaring stupefying deafening NO. I watched in amazement and simultaneous horror as the story of my "service" spread from small press book reviews to mainstream news outlets. The story appeared in the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, the Fox News Channel, and countless smaller places.
The peak of the Ranger Media Hoax, though, was a 2-page story in The Washington Post. A reporter called me... I decided to push it. The reporter listened to the story about Panama. He asked if I'd been involved in other military combat. I told him about various imagined secret and classified missions in Peru, Honduras, Costa Rica... I had myself fighting in countries that the United States had never bothered to fight in, I put myself alongside The Nicaraguan Contras... back when I would have been in 8th grade. Would he notice? Or would he eagerly demand more, more, more? He couldn't get enough. Had I been involved in many battles? Had I ever been wounded? Had I ever killed anyone? I hesitated... most of the vets I'd spoken to about this subject were very reluctant to discuss these things. How should I approach it? Claim to have beheaded Manuel Noriega myself? Would he fact-check THAT? Did I have any photos of myself in the Army, he asked? No, I claimed, I'm notoriously camera shy. This should have set off alarm bells: the soldiers I have known have all been camera crazy... there are tons of combat photos of Panama. Meanwhile a photo of "my" Ranger Class was online with myself identified as a black man. Did he clue in? Nope. I was astounded... one of the most important Newspapers in the world was about to print what I said, simply because I affirmed that it was true.
A day later, the article ran. My outrageous lies were printed verbatim. They'd dedicated two full pages to a ridiculous hoax which could have been exposed with a half hour's work. My beliefs in the veracity of the corporate media had been shaken previously, but now they were shattered. I couldn't figure it out. How had this happened? I stared at the paper in shock. Then I realized that the Washington Post had only done what they normally do: run whatever anyone in a uniform or position of authority told them to.
It certainly wasn't unprecedented. After all, Governor George W. Bush had done the same thing in 2000 when running for president. Questions arose and were quickly squashed about his military service. Even today, Bush still hasn't released all of his military records but NO ONE in the media is crying out for them. It's no wonder that my much smaller-scale hoax worked! Of course, this doesn't excuse my hoax... but it certainly motivated it.
Within hours of seeing print, the edges of the hoax began to unravel. I received two separate emails from real Rangers and Special Forces soldiers. They had seen right through me. No matter how much research you do, you can't fool an expert, and in this case the experts weren't fooled for a second. Web pages sprung up overnight: Micah Wright is a Big Fat Liar. "Yes," I thought, "I am." Outraged Rangers started phoning the Washington Post. We haven't heard of this guy. His photo isn't familiar, who the hell is he? The Post, chagrined, began "investigating" after the fact... by calling ME and asking if I was telling the truth.
On the face of it, it was an easy story to disprove. A simple Freedom of Information Act request would turn up no records of me having an active duty military career. Was sending that piece of paper too hard for anyone in the corporate media to do? No wonder huge corporations get away with Enron-sized ripoffs. No wonder Jayson Blair was able to get away with making up the news. No wonder that 55% of Americans still think that Saddam Hussein carried out the 9/11 attacks. The media was sleeping on the job. The Jayson Blair story exploded at the New York Times in April of 2003--the story about "Ranger Micah" ran in the Washington Post on July 6th, 2003. It wasn't like they had no idea that there was a problem or that they should check their sources. Why were they so asleep at the switch?
The entire time the Hoax was running, I asked myself the same question over and over again: why did so many people believe it? Did it seem true because the media had reported it? If so, what does that say about our blind faith in these institutions? If the media got the story so horribly wrong about ME, what else are they horribly wrong about? What other whoppers have they passed along to us without checking the facts on? My take on the situation is that our media picks up a story and repeats the litany over and over again until it becomes fact. This time it was "Ranger Micah" -- what was it last time? What will it be next time?
So why come clean now, you ask? Why shouldn't I continue on, seeing how far I can push it? Well, frankly, I'm sick of it. The corporate-media-hoax part of the joke isn't fun any longer, and the personal side has never been fun. I'm sick of lying to my friends, to employers, to my fans, to myself. I'm not a Ranger. I've lied to so many people about this that it's made me physically ill. I haven?t been able to sleep and I?ve just about given myself an ulcer. The phone would ring and guilt, terror and panic would grip me: is this the day that I get found out? Or is it NPR wanting to do a story on me? How long should I compound the media hoax? To lie to more people? The waiting has become too much. I'm killing the hoax and I'm stopping the lies.
The cat?s out of the bag now... I've finally told the truth. I wish I had a long time ago. In the last year dozens of real Rangers have been killed or wounded overseas--how can I keep lying in the face of that kind of dedication? When I read about the death of Pat Tillman, who sacrificed a high-paying football career in order to join the Rangers, I felt like even more of a fake and a heel. It's time it all ended: I'm not a Ranger, I was never a Ranger and I'm sorry for ever saying that I was. I apologize to every Ranger and to the families of every Ranger.
I lied, and I apologize for that from the bottom of my heart... it was a lousy thing to do and I'm sorry about it. A special apology is owed to the people who I hurt by putting them in the position of spreading my lie, people taken in by the Hoax, and people whose credibility I've helped corrode. For the last two years, this has kept me up nights, wondering why I didn't just come out with it. I can only blame that most human of emotions: fear.
There was one thing that I didn't imagine, that I couldn't imagine: that a lie like this would grow and grow and eventually consume every facet of my entire life. It has weighed on my heart and on my mind for two full years now, slowly crushing my spirits, contaminating my friendships, and threatening to destroy everything about me. I'm well shed of it now. I just hope that others can find it in their hearts to forgive me.
And please... no more death threats.
April 15, 2004
Within a few hours of posting, he removed the most of the media criticism, leaving the current version on his site.
Obviously, this is a story for a slow news day, which I'm in the middle of. The slow news day, not the story.
It brings two things specifically to mind. First, the kind of patriotic justification of opinion is something that's worried me since 9/11. Because I'm so in touch with humanity I guess, I was mostly worried about the amound of bad policy that would rammed though accompanied by various refrains of "I was THERE on September 11th!" and the like. This is the lefty opposite (and one reason John Kerry drones incessantly about his tour in Vietman), where we're only allowing a certain class the moral authority to speak to issues of war and national security.
That fallacy has been ripe since Vietnam, with all the unverifiable tales of vets being spaat on, and of how the protests underminded the boys at the front. And it's nothing new -- some Germans after the First World War blamed their defeat on a civilian "stab in the back."
And it's bullshit. The public has every right to voice a say on, and influence, national policy, especially questionable national policies like war. There may be be excellent reasons to continue warfare in Iraq, but it's stupid to inists that only current and former soldiers get a say. The civilians form the mass of America, and are entitled to dictate its direction.
More importantly, contributions to a public debate need to stand or fall on their own. If you are so unsure of your opinions you have to butress them with false resume, you'll want to brush up on your subject matter before it's necessary to play soldier to get respect.
Wright fell into that trap, and now he's gnawing his leg off in public.
The second thing this brings to mind is the macho culture among writers. Ernest Hemingway liked to drink and go on safariis, depite being a writer and named Ernest. Lots of writers are reknowned for their expoits in bed, bars and brawls, and it's appealing, despite being statistically insignificant. I've been to the home pages of many writers who type brutal threats to critical emails, forgetting that the reality of an overweight man hunched over a keyboard isn't exactly intimidating. I'm sure I could kick any writer's ass (and there I go...). Pretending to be a Ranger is part of that pathology.