The New Yorker and the Paranoid Style

Re: "Paranoid Style" How conspiracy theories become news. by Nicholas Lemann. Published in the October 16, 2006 issue of The New Yorker

A regular visitor to 911blogger has been bugging me to write about this piece in last week's The New Yorker magazine. (I've written a couple other online bits, critical of the establishment scribes who scuttle out of their cubicles on cue; eager to do the obligatory leap through the fiery hoop for rewards that vary from agenda perpetuation to simple personal gain.) (1)

There is no serious analysis of 9/11 skepticism in Lemann's article, but there are the familiar, obligatory swings at Loose Change, and a torpid blind faith in the "official story", which itself is the crucial Conspiracy Theory begging to be examined. Of course, this doesn't happen either, but we are treated to a sort of overview of a bunch of stuff, from pooh-pooh-ing election fraud, to a mini-review of "Hijacking Catastrophe".

In his survey of contemporary and historical conspiracism, Lemann fails to note scientific surveys which show a growing number of Americans who do not buy the "official story", and lumps so many different flavors of documentary together with his FFWD>> through Loose Change that the reader is left with an immovable weight of blandness crushing down upon his shoulders that could only be bestowed by a History Professor with little to no interest in the subject matter he or she is writing about. Lemann is a Professor at, and Dean of, the Columbia Journalism School, and I guess that's different than being a History Professor. Yet, I feel like I read a clockwork dissertation on the general relativity of all conspiracy theories viewed through a camera lens smeared with Vaseline and then treated to a pass of Gaussian Blur, just to make sure you don't walk away with anything tangible.

Instead of reading one of the many great books on 9/11 skepticism that have been produced this year alone, Lemann picks an online documentary that has been plucked by so many wannabe debunkers already that original analogies of contempt for the content are all used up. Instead of a walk-through of Operation Northwoods, Lemann simply describes Northwoods as "decades-old", as if that takes away its power. The Hydrogen bomb is "decades-old" too, does that make it irrelevant?

Put simply, skirting around the multitude of issues that inspire 9/11 skeptics to ask questions and seek answers, is shoddy. Pretending that Loose Change is the entire universe of 9/11 skepticism is intellectually dishonest. Ignorance of the panacea of 9/11 skepticism is no excuse for a journalist, the Dean of a Journalism school, no less!

There is no "Paranoid Style" and Lemann does not explain how "conspiracy theories become news".

1. United 93 - Fact-Based Docudrama! - Mobbing 9/11; Gravois as Screech Owl

New Yorker attack piece

I enjoyed your critique, reprehensor. I hope it will result in some letters of protest being sent to both the author and the magazine.

I notice that Lemann gets the title of his article from the title of a book written in the '60s by the historian, Richard Hofstadter: "The Paranoid Style in American Politics".

In that book Hofstadter presented the view of the radical critic that, Americans' fear of Russia and communism was unwarranted paranoia. Now, in a deceptive bit of intellectual jiu-jitsu, Lemann attempts to turn this powerful critique against itself, against the radical critics of today. That is, against the 9/11 Truth movement.

He does this by saying the paranoia of the past came from the right and was directed outward, but that now the same paranoia comes from the left and is directed inward, toward our own government. This is an attempt to be clever, but a moment's reflection shows it to be complete nonsense. The clear contemporary analog to the fear of "the Reds" in the past is fear of "Islamo-fascism" or "terrorism" today. Both are irrational and directed outward. Both are also fostered by the power elite for their own purposes of control.

The dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University should not be able to get away with such a deliberately misleading bit of journalism. Nor should the prestigious New Yorker go uncriticized for publishing such an intellectually dishonest piece.

Just Because

Just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean people aren't out to get ya! The 9/11 Truth community would be well justified in watching its back!

~Lux Vestra--Let Your Light Shine~

Typical for the New Yorker

[And if you send them anything as a letter, they claim it becomes their property and they can publish it, edit it, for any medium. So if anyone has Lemann's personal email, please post.]

I know, my friend made me read this thing too.

The New Yorker is a magazine for the comfortable middle class, with pretensions to intellectual heaviness. They never do anything hard-hitting or controversial. Even if they do a long piece on an important subject - something they were known for, much more, before Tina Brown took over, it was always with a detached curiosity, (as shown cartoon-style by the dandy with the monocle looking at a butterfly, which covered their anniversary issue every year), not with any emotion that would imply a move to change or even to anger or outrage. Everything is always very comfortable there - which is pleasing to the rich and which is how the middle class are conditioned - to be pleasing to same.

I started off with the article hopeful, since Lemann is almost too good a writer to be a journalist - obviously intelligent and because he hedged his opinion by dropping hints to what I wishfully imagined to be his real POV, saying things like.....referring to 9/11, "It is hard to think of any event in our national life at once so devastating and so puzzling since the assassination of President Kennedy."


"Bush quickly, and evidently correctly, identified al Quaida as the party responsible of the attacks on the United States" (italics mine and bold type mine. ), I gave him a break.

He didn't just come out and say "Bush identified Al the perpetrator"


"Bush correctly identified Al the perpetrator" but said "Bush identified Al Quaida, evidently correctly, as the perp[]."

I imagined he had to say that since neither he, and nor anyone one else in the MSM or in the government, ever gave good enough reasons as to why we can know for sure.

Since it's never proved or shown, it has to be "evident" since it's merely accepted. It's just their word. (We are meant to suppose all the evidence is "top secret" and could compromise our "National Security" if let out? Don't people remember that same excuse used by the Iran-Contra perps and by Nixon?)

Anyway, it gave me hope to see Lemann didn't argue that Bush "correctly" identified the perps, but he only said,
"evidently correctly," which implies that he really doesn't know. Which he doesn't. So at least he was being somewhat candid and truthful.

(Much as the 9/11 Commission didn't investigate, but "couldn't imagine" insider trading that involved the parties that it pointed to. This is all about imagination. )

But I chose to read waht Lemann said, at first, with some false hope.

I also enjoyed his sentence:
"The conspiracy against America that Bush announced five years ago forms a kind of matched set with the conviction, widely held at least by those who don't like Bush and his policies, that the Administration conspired to use the September 11th attacks to launch an unrelated and unnecessary military adventure, whose prosecution has entailed so many dark doings - secret imprisonment, torture - that the war in Iraq looks like a tactical plot contained within a strategic plot"

You almost think he could be saying what we think.

Though he characterizing our view as if we minimize the Iraq War because it is subsumed in the more generalized strategic plots - This is just a hint at the common Talking Point of many so-called "Liberals" - that the 9/11 Truth movement, even if they are right, diverts attention from the real crime - which is the illegal war in Iraq. Some even contend 9/11 wasn't needed as a pretext. And therefore argues against 9/11 as a motive.

Lemann calls himself a journalist, yet he's got the chutzpa to subtly demean Robert Kennedy , Jr. The title of this article is "Paranoid Style" and he cites Kennedy's articles about the stolen election of 2004 as one of an "efflorescence" of "theories about conspiracies by the powerful" coming out this year.

This sluggard is a journalist, yet he has no idea that both Kennedy's father and uncle were not murdered by lone gunman nuts? So what is there for Kennedy to be "paranoid" about? What an insulting rube!

By this framing of RFK jr., Lemann also implies that what Kennedy writes about is a "conspiracy theory," yet he doesn't go into the details of how that could, or would, be the case. Is Kennedy's case on the election of 2004 good or not? He doesn't really go there. It's just a question of style!

This story is just another in a long line of "stories about the story," so he just gives us a gloss. Above was just a particularly sick example.

YAWN. That trick is so old and overused and is exactly why New Yorker is only a pretentious vanity press.

Then Lemann goes into the underground world where people actually discuss the "hidden forces now at play in world affairs." This alternative reality world "makes itself known [] inside [the real world of journalism] often via denials and refutations that can't help but purvey the underlying theory. "

He compares it to the relationship between the superego and id, which I find telling, since I believe much of the 9/11 truth denial is tied up with subconscious desires and fears. Yes, it is repressed, much as the id is said to have to be repressed in classic psychoanalytical theory.

Lemann mocks Loose Change and implies it's Propaganda. - though by his telling, if you'd never seen it, it would be very bad Propaganda. (And Loose Change is neither bad, nor Propaganda.)

He tries to do a psycho-historical analysis, reminding us of details, such as" "We still don't know, for example, who was responsible for the anthrax attacks...") which "details" are supposedly what feed that which he frames as unfounded "conspiratorial conjecture."

Just how conservative are, both Lemann and the New Yorker, can be seen when he lumps Greg Palast into the subterranean brew of alternative journalism bubbling below the surface of the mainstream.

Greg believes the government narrative on 9/11 - believes anyone who thinks otherwise is a nutcase and UFO-alien-abducted believer. Greg also believes there is no danger we will ever run short of oil - both of which are mainstream POV's. Greg also relies entirely on official sources.

Lemann doesn't even trust Greg Palast- too outré for him. Or he pretends it.

Lemann is an idiot when he makes a comment about the believability of a book as a function of footnotes. (I do believe he is referring to "endnotes" which appear at the back of a book. Footnotes are at the bottom of a page.)

What about when the endnotes are bogus? Such as the works of Ann Coulter? (cf. "Lies and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them" which is by Al Fraken and is well researched, not because it has footnotes or endnotes, which it does) but just because it is well-researched.) Everyone on TV always cites how great Coulter's book is because of the footnotes, and here Lemann states how books without them are no good? (Palast has the same prejudice.)

Could have some truth to it. But in this context, it is beside the point if the book in question has footnotes/endnotes or not. He never gets to the meat of any of the issues he describes. He treats the issues themselves as stories, places opinions delicately, gives a brief and partial notice on the subjects, that the "cognoscenti" are supposed to get:

"Books without footnotes" subtext, "Book was no good."

But the real subjects of this underground brew of alternative information sources, his supposed sophisticated readers are supposed to understand, amount to nothing. He doesn't elaborate the details. If he did, he couldn't get away with what he implies.

Much of what should be discarded nowadays, in the realm of information, but is not, passes by flattering the audience.

Let's talk to you, our audience, as though you are the insiders. We are insiders and so are you. We can give you shorthand, and you can get it.

Much avant-garde art does the same thing. And it works. If the audience is insulted at the same time (which it invariably should be if it had half a brain) all the better! The real smart people "get it" and are not offended or insulted. That's how you pass the test of being an "insider." To themselves, to the victims, that is.

Lemann implies the latest political documentaries, starting with "Fahrenheit 9/11," are bad journalistically. He picks little quotes and voice overs, cites them out of context, and implies they are unsupported. Yet he doesn't take the respective subjects of the various documentaries seriously enough to engage or debunk. Nor does he address why there is such a vacuum these productions are obviously filling.

So my conclusion here was Lemann must be an obvious ringer. Operation Mockingbird. What else? Dean of School of Journalism at Columbia, the nation's most prestigious journalism school, so he tacitly approves the present state of mainstream American journalism. I think that says it all.

I meant to write up my attendance at a panel, "Journalism and Ethics" which took place a few weeks ago the the Ethical Society on Central Park West. Same conclusion.

Many of these journalists are obvious colluders, cover-up artists, sell-outs, flaks and con artist. The upper West Side audience was LAUGHING OUT LOUD, in their face, at the panel by the end of the presentation. (I believe Joe Friendly got it on videotape.)

The establishment journalists also showed in their speeches, as does Lemann in this piece, concern about the "Internet." Perhaps as a competition? Even though they are the ones who are getting paid!

And no wonder. The real feeling after seeing the audience reaction that night is that they must be obviously afraid of losing their credibility. And no wonder. Check out what passes for news on TV.

They *know* people are talking behind their backs. And what to do about it? That terrible id again. The return of the Repressed.

That is our only hope.

(To really facilitate a fascist take-over won't the Internet have to be shut -down?

Maybe not.

Maybe it's just a way for powerless folks to blow off steam?


information is a military weapon.

The Administration came out last week thorough one of there spokespeople and said, "The Internet is a tool for Terror organizing."

But maybe that is also disinfo!

"Let them think they have power. Tapping away alone on their little keyboards."


By the end, Lehmann is really bothering me.

He critiques a political movie: "We see John McCain, William Kristol and Richard Perle [and] it's clear we're not meant to make up our own minds whom to believe between them and, say, Chalmers Johnson" as if his own, supposedly antiseptic journalism, does not tip his own hand!


Then he gets to the 9/11 Apologia. It's all a big "Coincidence" folks, 100000000 billion to 1. If you want to get technical, it's not really impossible!

"But hell, we're doing broad brush here, no nitty-gritty technical details. This is, after all, the "story about the story," not the actual story. And we're in a puff magazine, an up-scale Reader's Digest, for people who can actually read but who cannot, apparently, think."

"How dare you connect all the dots?"

We get the main complaint against those with pretenses to know...."everything individual thing you say may be true, but what do all those separate facts have to do with each other?"

Also an old technique - used against those who would say cigarette smoking caused cancer, for over 30 years.

Yes, correlation is one thing, but causation is another.

Lemann says: "Almost all this material, though, treats correlation as causation, and jumps across open evidentiary spaces to make things that aren't demonstrably connected look as if they were."

Hey....Where was this sentence when all the Columbia-Journalism-School-educated-Press-people swallowed the "going to war to get back for the World Trade Center disaster?"

There are different evidentiary standards applied between the powerful and the weak? A lot of "coincidences" are allowed for the powerful.

And his last line is a non sequitur: Profound tragedy is just "people screwing up." Modern trivialization.

He subtly blames those who look at the facts, as though they over-dramatize, as though they are just trying to enrich their boring world with a story!

This guy is the Dean of the most prestigious journalism school in the country, yet he seems to have missed all the major stories of this century and last. People who get them are drama queens. Whadda joke.

"Even if you eat it imagining it is fresh, it is necessary
to conjure up many images.

What you drink is really your own imagination; it is no old tale, my good man.”
-Jalalu'l-Din Rumi trans. Arberry