May 22nd, 2004


LiveJournal, Strawberries, and Conspiracy Theories

Sometimes I fear I'm turning into a news ticker instead of a human. I need to write more actual journal entries instead of hyperlinks. I need to have more of an actual life outside of reading news articles, so that I'd have something to write about other than them. I especially need to write the journal entry I had almost finished writing a month ago, that was going to be about Esther Newton's book Margaret Mead Made Me Gay, but that my computer decided to eat before I could post it.

I've shortened my LiveJournal friends list by about 20 people in the past two days. I do this altogether too much. It's a side effect of wanting to read more people than is actually possible, and then realizing it isn't possible.

This weekend I want to buy a pot for potted plants and attempt to grow strawberries in it. All my previous efforts at taking care of plants have resulted in me killing the plants in less than a week, so I had banned myself from ever owning anymore plants, for fear that the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Plants would prosecute me. But then while I was busy being annoyed at how even though I like strawberries, they're only sold in baskets about three times as big as the number of strawberries I actually manage to eat before they go bad, it occurred to me that strawberries are a weed and that they grew for decades in my family's backyard without the slightest effot whatsoever to prevent them from dying, and that if there's any plant anywhere that I'm capable of not killing in less than a week, weeds would surely be the most likely candidate. So the Great Let's-See-How-Long-It-Takes-Gayle-to-Murder-Strawberries Experiment begins.

There, have I fulfilled my goal to write more entries about my own life now? Shall I go back to talking about the news again? Yes, I think I shall. But at least I can write my own perspecitive on the news instead of just hyperlinking to other people's.

So, I recently saw someone three degrees of LiveJournal-separation away from me enthusiastically endorsing paranoid conspiracy theories regarding Nick Berg's beheading, and after following the links to the paranoid conspiracy theory websites provided, I'm really wishing that there weren't so many leftists out there who are actually living up to right-wingers' acusations that leftists are so eager to believe the U.S. government is responsible for every single evil in the entire world that they disregard all evidence to the contrary. So although I'm happy to say that I haven't seen anyone closer than three degrees of separation from me supporting such things, I would like to do my part to help make sure I continue not to.

The Nick Berg paranoid conspiracy page is one of the better known ones, and I actually did find their section about Michael Berg's name being posted on to be worth reading. The main argument their page makes, however, is an argument that Nick Berg was murdered by the U.S. government. I do not find this theory at all plausible. The consequences of getting caught would be even more horrific than the consequences of Abu Ghraib (because American citizens tend to care more about the murder of a somewhat affluent white American citizen by the American government than about the rape and sometimes murder of a whole lot of brown-skinned Arabic-speaking foreigners by the American government), and in order find convincingly-accented Arabic speakers willing to be filmed and somehow brilliantly fake a convincing Islamic website to post the video on, one hell of a lot of high-ranking people would have to be involved. There are very few Americans knowledgeable enough about Arabic to pull all that off convincingly, and hardly any of thsoe knowledgeable enough would be willing - so if anyone did do it and the scandal ever got out, the U.S. government couldn't possibly pass it off as some little hack job by a few lowly soldiers barely out of high school, like they're still hoping to do with Abu Ghraib. Nope, sorry, I don't believe they're dumb enough to risk it.

I don't mean to deny that there are plenty of questions surrounding who actually did behead him. The idea that al-Qaeda-linked terrorist Zawahiri, whose name is cited in the video itself as being responsible, would give his name yet wear a mask to cover up his very well known face that could have easily confirmed that it was really him is indeed odd. But then, the Iraqi police are now suggesting that a nephew of Saddam Hussein's was responsible and not Zawahiri at all, which would quite suffice to explain the masking. The primary evidence the paranoid conspiracy websites are relying on to claim that the U.S. committed the beheading seems to be the fact that Nick Berg was wearing an orange jumpsuit in the video that either resembled or was a U.S.-style prison jumpsuit, even though he was said to have been released from the U.S./Iraqi jail weeks earlier, and the vague resemblance of a chair Nick Berg is seen sitting in to some chairs seen in the Abu Ghraib photographs. First of all, the chair Berg was photographed in appears to have flared armrests whereas the armrests of the Abu Ghraib chairs appear to be straight. Second, chairs are mass-produced and often resemble each other - who cares? Third, bright orange is a convenient color to put a prisoner in if you want to make him easily visible if he's trying to run away from you, and it's doubly convenient to use on an American prisoner (and an American audience watching the video) to reenforce your authority, because Americans associate that color with imprisonment already. Fourth - come on, don't you at least imagine the U.S. would have enough sense that if they were going to make a totally insanely dangerous fraud video of themselves beheading an American citizen and pretending to be Arabs, they'd at least take their prisoner out of the U.S.-issued jail jumpsuit first? How dumb can you possibly imagine they are?

Ahem. So let's hope that's cleared up now, and that future internet discussions of the U.S. government's evils will focus on the considerably numerous atrocities that the U.S. government can be shown to have actually committed or at least be reasonably suspected of having committed. Okay?
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