News From Afghanistan: Understatement-ad-Absurdum, Snake Oil and Propaganda
1. Incorporate references to the Protocols of Zion in the Afghan constitution. 2. Arrange to have the Afghan parliament sponsor the launching of a few hundred missiles into civilian neighbourhoods in Israel. 3. Sign an oil deal with Hugo Chavez.
Not that Karzai deserves good press, particularly in light of the way his government has so badly banjaxed the country's first Afghan-run presidential elections. But in the news business, the big picture we get about faraway places is made up of stories, and stories are made up of sentences, and my cynicism wasn't exactly tempered today when I read this sentence:
The Taliban had urged citizens to boycott the election.
So that's how we're describing it. In its vicious campaign of violence and intimidation aimed at disrupting the The Taliban had urged citizens to boycott the election.
Meanwhile, in the Ottawa Sun, columnist Eric Margolis tells us, once again that it's all about oil. I couldn't find a single sentence in that whole column that wasn't either stupid, plain wrong or downright outrageous, but this one really stands out: "The current war in Afghanistan is not about democracy, women's rights, education or nation building. Al-Qaida, the other excuse, barely exists. Its handful of members long ago decamped to Pakistan. The war really is about oil pipeline routes and western domination of the energy-rich Caspian Basin." [Update: Elaboration and background here.]
When it comes to Margolis, it really is about oil. Snake oil.
Margolis is a long-time Taliban enthusiast and an apologist for Hamas. It is curious that Margolis is held in such high esteem by self-proclaimed "anti-war" noisemakers of the leftish type, given that he's a founding editor of the noxious Yankee Pat Buchanan's extreme-right American Conservative magazine, but there we are. The really oily bit is that Margolis is the millionaire majority owner of Jamieson's Laboratories, which makes a tidy profit by bilking gullible cold-sufferers with this stuff.
But quackery persists. Mark Collins explains how it's rubbish: "Nonsense. Afghanistan has no role in the production or transportation of Caspian Basin oil. Most of that oil is in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Azerbaijan has no need for Afghanistan as a pipeline route. Neither does Kazakhstan. Its oil is exported by pipeline via Russia and to China." But some people just can't help themselves. They just can't give up.
Over at The Torch, Damian Brooks has had quite enough of journalists who produce anti-journalism of the sort that results in the sentence The Taliban had urged citizens to boycott the election. "Now, they'll argue they can't take sides and that they can't give one point of view more weight than another. Bullshit. That's like having a broken leg and giving equal credence to the opinions of your doctor and your six year old daughter on the matter: one is credible on the subject, and one isn't."
Aye and aye.
ADDENDUM: A dependable journalist, Rosie DiManno, knows bullshit when she sees it:
"So appalling was the destruction from simultaneous bombings in Kandahar city on Tuesday evening that even the Taliban – who, of course, are always to be taken at their disingenuous word, at least by deranged purveyors of moral equivalency in the West – hastened to deny responsibility.
"Who else, then? Aliens? Or perhaps it was a diabolical CIA plot, as the mutton-headed conspiracy theorists will no doubt assert in blogo-land. . ."