June 2, 2002

The Corn Crusade

David Corn struggles against "conspiracy theories"

David Corn, The Nation's Washington editor, has inexplicably set himself up as the defender of conventional thinking and the attacker of "conspiracy theory" in regard to charges that the Bush administration knew more than it has told us about Sept. 11, enough in fact to have prevented the catastrophe.

"Conspiracy theory" is a term that is used to discourage thinking in unconventional ways, ways that allow for the possibility that prominent politicians and elected officials sometimes involve themselves in illegal and/or amoral activities.

In an editorial, Corn says correctly that "conspiracy theories" often distract attention from other charges that are less spectacular, but need serious attention. This is a hazard of maintaining a free marketplace of ideas. The theory of freedom of expression is that the stronger ideas will ultimately triumph. This may not be true in every case, but free dialogue is much too valuable to suppress because it does not always yield perfect results. The fact that there are many theories that do not prove to be true does not mean that every theory that supposes shocking illegal or irresponsible actions by people in positions of power should be discounted out of hand.

Corn appears to be deeply offended that anyone could suggest "that the US government had foreknowledge of the specific attacks and either did not do enough to prevent them or, much worse, permitted them to occur for some foul reason."

Corn's decision to establish himself as the defender of the government against "conspiracy theories" places The Nation in the absurd position of quoting the most reactionary responses to McKinney, not presenting arguments, but literarally calling her names. Corn attempts to bolster his own position by quoting Senator Zell Miller (a Georgia Democrat who always votes with the Republicans) calling Congresswoman McKinney "loony"; Ari Fleischer "quip[ping]" that "The congresswoman must be running for the Hall of Fame of the Grassy Knoll Society"; and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution calling her a "nut." A very embarrassing state of affairs for The Nation.

Since Corn cannot possibly know the answers to the questions about what the administration knew and how it behaved in regard to 9-11, the virulence of his reaction seems to be based in large part upon his horror at the suggestion that "anything of such a diabolical nature had transpired." Unfortunately, the fact that the alleged behavior would be deeply shocking does not prove it did not happen. A quick survey of the history of the Bush/CIA milieu and its activities from the illegal war against Nicaragua to its involvement in the recent coup attempt in Venezuela proves that illegal and reprehensible actions are not beyond the sphere of possibility with this gang.

As the administration's case crumbles, Corn finds himself in an ever more untenable position.

What a sad waste of ink, and a squandering of the credibility The Nation has built for over a century. Corn has placed The Nation in the impossible position of having to be the defender against speculation about an administration that has proved itself capable of exceeding the worst that was every publicly suggested about it by its worst detractors. Remember, this is the unelected administration that rose to power by suppressing voters and vote counting and reducing the Supreme Court to an agency of the Republican party. What could be shocking after that?

In response to this sad state of affairs, I wrote the following

Letter to David Corn

June 2, 2002
Dear David Corn:
Why are you blowing your credibility and squandering The Nation's great reputation by staking out a position in defense of the Bush administration's integrity in reference to September 11? You cannot know that the administration acted with integrity, so the appropriate stance would be one of open-minded skepticism. There is nothing to gain from a defense of the administration and the status quo. That is not your function. The Bushmen have plenty of well-paid spinmeisters to do that for them. You have a job to do as an advocate for the Nation and the people. It's very disappointing to see you placing yourself in such a position. It is very likely that further evidence will come out that will show your professions of faith in the integrity of the Bush administration to be dead wrong yet again. These are people who have outdone themselves time after time with their audacity in defying every tradition of fairness and respect for the law and democratic principle. Your faith is misplaced. Save yourself from further embarrassment and find a graceful way to back off from your position.

David Cogswell
Hoboken, N.J.

June 6, 2002

The story of David Corn and The Nation versus Cynthia McKinney, Michael Ruppert and all "conspiracy theory" generated some letters that are worth sharing.

Good for you David. Unfortunately Corn and the rest of the writing stable at the Nation, like most "left intelligentsia", know which side their bread is buttered on and make a point of eschewing anything that even looks like a "conspiracy theory" to protect their bourgeois credentials and "credibility" with the establishment they so long to be part of. Their record on the JFK and other assassinations is abysmal, and always has been. The editor, Kristina van den Heuvel is of a like mind, despite the best efforts of critics to show her the truth. Corn is a kept bulldog on just these issues, and has attacked me in print, as does Max Holland, another reactionary. You are right that they cannot know, and had they any real history under their belt (like Operation Northwoods for instance), they would at least maintain a healthy skepticism. Pearl Harbor's real history is now known, and no less of a perfidy, so what makes Bush baby and the CIA/DIA/FBI so holy this time around? All of them knew the scenario by 9:05 am, without any possibility of denial, and Bush/Cheney even gave a shoot down order on the two remaining planes moments after. I sat here in DC and listened to warnings that the plane was coming here, saw the buildings being evacuated, including the Pentagon, and then watched Flight 77 enter the most restricted air space in the world 40 minutes after Tower two was hit, and fly unchallenged by intercept jet or surface to air missile, into the heart of our so called Defense Department, which apparently cannot even defend itself. That stand down alone is enough said, though there are many indicators of advance knowledge or its potential by some sectors. When did Bush know and when did he forget it? Who cares. I am sure he would be the last to know. What they also had long advance knowledge of was their war into Afghanistan, made public to surrounding countries in July by Colin Powell. War did they know and when did they grow it? That's the right question. Even if "nobuddy knew nuttin" ahead of time, they sure made the most of it when it arrived. -- John Judge

John Judge, for anyone who doesn't know him, is one of the great political thinkers of our time and a tremendous resource whom everyone in America would do well to read. Judge has perhaps the clearest understanding -- backed up by an astonishing wealth of knowledge and research -- of the post World War II development of fascism of anyone I have read or heard. -- DC

Other John Judge sources include:
The Hidden History of the United States

Real Democracy

Judge on Congresswoman McKinney

Judge on the WTC Disaster

The Nation supported the conclusions of the Warren Commission against Mark Lane's conspiracy thinking. They remain part of the established and consequently compromised left. While it may seem unusual for a left leaning journal to support a right leaning administration, in matters which would attack the center, from which the real power operates, left & right can always circle the wagons.

Although there are jerks like Corn defending the status quo, on the other hand some elements of the liberal press are leading the charge. CBS broke the story and the Post and Newsweek have added new revelations against the FBI and the CIA. At this point I think there is a struggle going on between factions of the Con and we may have a new Watergate situation coming up. That'll be a lot more fun to contemplate than an invasion of Iraq which more and more seems like a cowboy (oil)pipe dream.-- Jamie Thistle

In one exchange, my correspondent was trying to be kind to Corn and The Nation, after all it was embarassing enough for them now and it's hard to see how they can gracefully pull out of this as the administration continues to look more and more incompetent at best, unworthy of the responsibility to protect America. I wrote to him that I admired his ability to feel kindness under the circumstances, but that I felt no such need of restraint. Tough love is in order.

It does no good to indulge self-destructive behavior even in your friends. Corn has chosen to make this his battle, and part of what makes it such a waste is that it is utterly unnecessary for him to put himself and The Nation in such an embarrassing situation.

Of all the causes there are to fight for, what a pathetic position for Corn to stake out to defend: that the administration couldn't possibly be guilty of any wrongdoing in regard to its failure to protect the American people, and that anyone who thinks differently is a "nut" or "looney." It's a very immature position for a publication with a distinguished history.

Essentially Corn was devoting a column to trying to discredit Ruppert by listing elements of Ruppert's history that are supposed to discredit anything he may have said.

For what? Even if he were to succeed at totally discrediting Ruppert, what would it prove? It's totally a side issue.

The issue of overwhelming weight right now -- which utterly trivializes Corn's desperate attempts to slam McKinney and Ruppert -- is about what happened to our national defense systems to allow such a catastrophe as September 11! The issue is that they are trying to suppress an investigation! It is unbelievably presumptious for Corn to speak from foregone conclusions about what led to the catastrophe when none of us are in a position to know that. But we are in a position to demand an investigation. And as long as the Bushes are stonewalling, that is the issue. This other stuff Corn is talking about is a fantasyland.

Devoting a column to character assassination of people who don't share his blind faith in the goodness of the administration is petty and unbecoming for a paper that has the essentially dignified tradition of The Nation. It's very disappointing. -- David Cogswell

June 14, 2002

David, Come Home!

Today David Corn, the Washingon Editor of The Nation, turned up in LA Weekly with a follow-up to his recent editorial in The Nation blasting "conspiracy theorists" who think the utter lack of response to the threats that culminated in catastrophe September 11 was not all just well-intentioned incompetence. There they go again, screwing up! Those darn guys!

That piece was mostly devoted to denigrating two people: Michael Ruppert, the former L.A. cop who operates the Web sites www.copvcia.com and From the Wilderness, which, among other things, document evidence of foreknowledge of the attacks by government officials and investors; and U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who Corn calls "looney" because she said publicly that the administration may have known more about the attacks than they had previously admitted a week or two before the administration was forced to admit that the president and others had known a great deal more than they had previously admitted.

Actually that also wasn't Corn's first crack at those who suggest the administration should not just be taken at its word about what it knew before September 11. This has become Corn's trademark cause. As far back as March 1, he was pounding the same pulpit, condemning McKinney for "peddling unproven conspiracy theories," and saying "the idea that the government detected the attacks and allowed them to occur ... is absurd."

Absurd as it is, we know now that the statement is literally true. The government -- or many people in it -- knew more than enough to take major action. But, the government -- no one in it -- even took basic precautions. Many have told us they would have done something, they tried to do something. But were thwarted by their superiors.

Corn wrote another piece about it in TomPaine.com. I suspect there are many other milestones in Corn's passionate crusade against conspiracy theorists.

But Corn apparently feels he has not yet fully made his point, and he has again taken the idea further, with a follow up in LA Weekly, perhaps because other editorial forces at The Nation felt they had had enough of that particular theme for a while. Or maybe he's just seeking to take his message to the people. In any case, Corn hasn't gotten this out of his system yet and so he published this follow up, but instead of jumping into the issues and explaining why he disagrees with Ruppert, he starts with a mini-history of Michael Ruppert, told in words that drip with contempt like a biography by Albert Goldman.

It's all so pointless because what if he succeeds in showing Ruppert to be an utter fraud, an insane person? What has he accomplished? It still leaves us with a list of very disturbing unanswered questions. Ruppert is little more to most people than the name on top of a list of unanswered questions, and those questions are the point. Not whether Ruppert is a disillusioned cop who got into a relationship that embittered him toward the CIA. Just the facts, please. Those biographical details have no bearing on the case. The statements are either true or they're not. If you can disprove them, why waste your time on destroying Ruppert personally. Who cares about Ruppert? I want to know what happened to our defenses on September 11. And if we can't trust the people who are there to protect us, then let's get people we can trust. But first, let's find out what happened. Ignorance has never been a great way to deal with a threat.

In the midst of his character assassination of Ruppert, Corn pauses to note, "What is curious is that news of the investigations into the short-selling has taken a quick-fade. The Securities and Exchange Commission will not say whether it is still investigating this trading. Suspicious minds, no doubt, can view the public absence of government interest as evidence of something amiss."

The fact that insider trading leads to an inescapable conclusion that there was fairly widespread foreknowledge in the investment community, is a fact Corn goes so far as to acknowledge is "curious." That's a big concession for him. It's not, apparently quite curious enough to arouse his own investigative impulses, but it might cause a "suspicious mind" to ask questions. Corn, obviously, is not such a "suspicious mind," and will stick to behaving properly and punishing those who make suggestions that disrupt the natural order of the universe. A president would never do something like that.

I would just urge Mr. Corn to move on, consider Michael Ruppert a dead horse and get on to getting answers to the unanswered questions. And The Nation should hire some more suspicious reporters.

-- David Cogswell

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