Two weeks ago, a rumor circulated that the Department of Homeland Security was “behind” the crackdown at Zuccotti Park. The rumor originated with Michael Moore who got it from a thinly-sourced article in Examiner.com. I wrote about it here and here.
The author of the Examiner.com article, Rick Ellis, published multiple updates to his thinly-sourced post, and promised that he would provide more information once he had it. That was on November 15. No further information has been provided.
I figured it had been settled. As Joshua Holland, writing for Alternet noted, “There’s a lot of speculation, but very little substance to the tale of the “nationwide” crackdown on the Occupy movement. ”
So I figured this rumor would be put to bed. I was wrong.
Today — ten days after the rumor had been debunked — Naomi Wolf saw fit to write an article so fraught with hyperbole — “what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war” — and so utterly fact-free that its publication should hang like an albatross around Naomi Wolf’s neck for the rest of her career. It is Judith Miller-style hackery, and it is shameless.
Karoli has the story in a post aptly titled “How Bullshit Magically Turns into Fact“:
Naomi Wolf wrote a nonsensical piece today that’s being spammed all over Twitter. It asserts that there is a deliberate plot afoot via collusion by the United States Congress, the Department of Homeland Security and our oligarchical overlords to undermine the very populist, leaderless Occupy Wall Street movement. One of her key pieces of evidence is an unsupported and unverified report that 18 mayors coordinated their crackdowns with the Department of Homeland Security. There’s only one problem with that: It’s nothing more than innuendo. Here, let me show you.
Here are the two links she provides as evidence: One to Wonkette; the other to Washingtonsblog.com. Both articles point back to this absurd article on the Examiner.com site (a very, very right-wing Phil Anschutz, write-out-of-your-butt-with-no-evidence kind of site). Washingtonsblog goes one step further, updating with this:
(And for those who are understandably doubtful about Examiner.com as a news source, here’s an AP story from a couple hours ago that verifies everything except the specific mention of DHS coordination.)
Got that? The headlines on both of these stories (Wonkette and WashingtonsBlog) were splayed across the sites in very large heading fonts: “Homeland Security Coordinated….” and yet the AP confirms everything BUT DHS coordination. Still, that didn’t stop Wolf from ignoring the AP story entirely and writing a piece for the Guardian that included links to bolster her argument that clearly don’t.
Why? I reiterate. No one has a source, no one has any evidence, and the originating story which Michael Moore and now Naomi Wolf breathlessly spread quotes an anonymous source with the promise of still more to come in the future. Well, it’s the future. It’s two weeks later and crickets from Mr. Ellis. Mission accomplished, though. Ask people who are paying attention to the OWS movement and they’ll swear up and down that yes, it was coordinated by DHS because MICHAEL MOORE and now NAOMI WOLF say so.
Truth: We don’t know. It isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility for mayors to consult with DHS. After all, that’s what they’re there for. To help local and state governments deal with threats. At best, one can conclude that maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t coordinate.
But again, it doesn’t matter if you can spread it on the Internet and get Keith Olbermann to pick it up and give Michael Moore a mic to spread that nonsense further (see video).
Milt Shook did a fantastic job showing us that the originating Examiner.com writer is not a credible source, too. Read it.
Undeterred, Wolf actually says this like it’s something readers have reason to believe:
In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.
There you have it. Bullshit, spread worldwide, with the full cooperation of so-called journalists. It’ll work, too, because she has enough name recognition that people won’t question her claims.
Naomi Wolf should supplement her article with information necessary for readers to make a judgment as to whether her claims are merely opinion fueled by conspiracy theories and designed to exploit the emotions and tensions running high in the wake of the various Occupy crackdown, or whether her claims have the sort of basis in reality that publication in an international newspaper of the Guardian‘s stature should require. It’s what a “real” journalist would do. Then again, perhaps Drudge journalism is winning the day and we simply cannot trust what we read at all anymore — from any source. With rare exceptions, I’ve already given up on American newspapers. Am I going to be forced to give up on papers in the UK as well? If publication of this sort of tripe is any indication, then yes — yes I will.
This is an egregious failure on Wolf’s part, and she should correct it.
Karoli has an update:
Update re: alleged DHS coordination In Portland, Feds were involved because occupiers were on federal land. But pay attention:
There is another line of thinking out there that runs directly counter to the federal-coordination theory: Ruiz wouldn’t comment on this, but one well-placed city source said, in fact, that the feds were mostly inclined to leave Schrunk Plaza open. It was city officials who cajoled them into getting on board—lest they watch most of Occupy’s camp merely move several hundred feet south onto federal land. Which would have been awkward for the city. But also interesting.
Should you accept as fact the idea that the feds were reluctant and the city pushed them along? NO. Why? Because it’s attributed to an anonymous source with nothing to back it up, which makes this theory as worthy as the DHS coordination theory, or just speculation with no facts behind it.
[via Odd Time Signatures]