Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Wrapping Up the Little Red Hoax

If you have not already read the New Bedford Standard-Times's account of how the "Little Red Book" story was revealed to be a hoax, please do so. You will find yourself amazed that anyone could have believed this story. Here's a sample:

In Thursday's retelling of the story, the student added several new twists, ones that the professors and journalist had not heard before. The biggest new piece of information was an alleged second visit of Homeland Security agents the previous night, where two agents waited in his living room for two hours with his parents and brother while he drove back from a retreat in western Massachusetts. He said he, the agents, his parents and his uncle all signed confidentiality agreements that the story would never be told.

He revealed the agents' names: one was Nicolai Brushaev or Broshaev, and the other was simply Agent Roberts. He said they were dressed in black suits with thin black ties, "just like the guys in Men in Black."

He had dates and times and places, things he had signed and sent back in order to receive the book. The tale involved his twin brother, who allegedly requested the book for him at UMass Amherst; his uncle, a former FBI attorney who took care of all the paperwork; and his parents, who signed those confidentiality agreements.

But by now, the story had too many holes. Every time there was a fact to be had that would verify the story -- providing a copy of the confidentiality agreements the student and agent signed, for example -- there would be a convenient excuse. The uncle took all the documents home to Puerto Rico, he said.

What was the address of the Homeland Security building in Boston where he and his uncle visited the agency and actually received a copy of the book? It was a brick building, he said, but he couldn't remember where it was, or what was around it.

I understand the desire of the two professors to want to believe their student and stand by him. Still, the question remains: how could they have bought such a ridiculous story without first checking into it themselves? And how could so many so-called "reality based" liberals and leftists do the same? Even Senator Ted Kennedy cited this "incident" in an opinion piece for the Boston Globe.

The only reason I can find that explains the widespread acceptance of this story is the emergence of what William Kristol has called the "Paranoid Style in American Liberalism":

But leading spokesmen for American liberalism-hostile beyond reason to the Bush administration, and ready to believe the worst about American public servants-seem to have concluded that the terror threat is mostly imaginary. It is the threat to civil liberties from George W. Bush that is the real danger.

Among a large part of the left side of the American political spectrum, especially in the echo chamber of academia, an atmosphere of paranoid hysteria has taken hold that puts to shame the black helicopter-militia crowd of the 1990's. Even now, like Professor Juan Cole, many on the left are parroting the fake but accurate line: just because this particular story is false doesn't mean that the evil Bushitler hasn't set up a fascist police state. For numerous liberals and leftists, this belief has become an article of faith, impervious to the actual facts. This attitude definitely exists in the library profession, and has had a substantial impact on how library organizations, and ALA in particular, have framed the debate over the Patriot Act. The widespread adulation of Michael Moore, who has proclaimed that "there is no terrorist threat", is just one example.

As long as many on the left continue to think of the enemy as being Bush and Cheney instead of bin Laden and Zarqawi, stories such as the Little Red Hoax will continue to circulate and be believed.


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