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Penn Magazine November 2017

The inaugural issue of Penn Magazine

In Search of the Last

In Search of the Last Liberal Intellectual Memory Hole Blog March 27, 2013 by James Tracy In the wake of the Sandy Hook School shooting public incredulity with the official version of events led to numerous speculations on what really happened. In short order corporate media marshaled pundits to disparage such alternative interpretations as “conspiracy theories” and the work of deranged and even malevolent Sandy Hook “truthers”. The now-prevalent phenomenon where only the narratives authorized by law enforcement and government authorities are worthy of serious consideration suggests the unmistakable extent to which public discourse has declined. In such an ideational system journalists and academics are expected to either fall silent or perform the rearguard action of deflecting criticism from the state. Events such as Aurora or Sandy Hook have profuse informational gaps and a multitude of questions authorities have not begun to adequately address. Regardless of political stripe journalists and academics especially should be instinctively distrustful of such momentous incidents. Unfortunately many put short-term interests of preserving reputation and livelihood above the obligatory search for truth. Today’s project of policing the public sphere for unorthodox thoughts is a form of stealth authoritarianism that combines the weight of academic or 12/Penn Magazine/November 2017 journalistic expertise with a phony liberalism (or conservatism) to confirm the often unexamined perspectives of a specific political constituency. Such a technique is most readily employed against the apparently irrational ideas, beliefs and practices of a foreign other. In this regard “conspiracy theorists” and “truthers” typically play the “straw man” role. For example, a recent piece by Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan exhibits anxiety over major media’s attention toward individuals critical of what authorities have told them to believe about Sandy Hook. [1] Nyhan is fearful that research into the Newtown massacre con- tradicting the government’s official narrative – what he emphatically terms “conspiracy mongering” and “obscure myths” – may be given a platform by more “prominent advocates” from the political realm. From here the dangerous notions could gain the support of the unenlightened – “credulous believers” and “new adherents who would not otherwise have been exposed to or persuaded by false claims.” Such verboten ideas, Nyhan argues, should instead be allowed to “wither and die.” The problem with this stance is that it consciously paves the way for the official false claims and myths that powerful political entities and corporate news and entertainment media are capable of forcing upon the public mind and collective memory, be they Osama bin Laden masterminding the 9/11 attacks, babies being thrown from incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals, or North Vietnamese forces firing the first shots in the Vietnam War. Such a position is not unusual from a palace court intellectual; whether it is morally sound and faithful to the liberal tenet of speaking truth to power is a matter for another day. In reviewing other arguments of those using this form of defamatory innuendo toward the Sandy Hook truth community I encountered numerous poorly reasoned arguments and claims that could not withstand serious scrutiny and amounted to a bulwark for the official narrative – indeed, arguments most appealing to those with a dangerously unexamined faith in state power and lacking the inclination to consider alternative perspectives or investigate the event for themselves. This prompted me to contact several notable “conspiracy theory” decriers and request an interview with each of them. Instead of mere name-calling, I remain sincerely interested in better understanding why such apparently intelligent individuals have come to arrive at their conclusions and become the self-appointed guardians of legitimate public exchange. I thus set about assembling a set of questions on a wide array of “conspiracy”-related issues and phenomena. I figured I would begin by reaching out in a collegial manner to Professor Nyhan himself. “Sorry, not interested,” he replied, rather tersely. I next contacted Ben Smith and C.J. Lotz, staff writers at the popular liberal website Buzzfeed.com, who wrote a piece remarkably similar to Dr. Nyhan’s titled, Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theories Edge Toward the Mainstream.[2] Smith and Lotz never responded to my emails. [Continued here: http://memoryholeblog. com/2013/03/27/in-search-of-the-last-liberal-intellectual/]

Susan Lindauer tells her story as a CIA asset in her book, “Extreme Prejudice,” in which she relates the urgent message she wanted to relay to the American people and was prevented from doing so by the American government. Susan Lindauer—FBI. Open the door. We have a warrant for your arrest.” For a few crucial moments, I was too stunned to act. “Open this door immediately. This is the FBI.” Actually I couldn’t. Quite mysteriously the door jamb had broken about three weeks earlier. The door swing on the air, so that I had no choice but to barricade it shut with plywood and mails. Among friends I speculated that federal agents cracked the door frame during one of those warrantless searches on the Patriot Act that Congress was so jazzed about. Suddenly my paranoia did not appear so irrational after all. I pointed to the other side of my house, and started to back out of my living room. I needed to get dress. That made them very, very angry. “WE ARE THE FBI. OPEN THIS DOOR OR WE WILL BREAK IT DOWN.” “What?” You already broke it. XTREME URGENCY You’re going to break it again?” I shook my head at the FBI agents staring back through my window. “No! You have to come to the side door.” I turned on my heels and fled. A stamped of agents raced to the door off my bedroom, as I cautiously pulled it op;en. A whole team of feds forced their way inside. Now I started shaking. “What exactly are you doing here? May I see some identification?” “Susan Lindauer, I am Special Agent Chmiel. YOu are under arrest on the Patriot Act. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say, can and will be used against you in a federal court of law ...” The FBI’s presence in my bedroom him me like a dirty punch in the gut. At the mention of the Patriot Act, however, I knew this was serious troube, and it coudl be scary trouble. Still, I had no idea that my arrest was connected to Iraq or my Pre-War Intelligence activities. I had no inkling what illegal actions the government had clocked against me. I was waking up to make coffee. I was not a bank robber, a drug dealer, or a murderer. I had a couple of minor speeding violations. That’s it. ... ... The FBI hustled me to a sedan in handcuffs, and we drove off towards Baltimore, gambling it would be out of range of the Washington media. I ketp it light, joking about the fingerprint machine that scanned thumb prints straight onto a computer screen. Pretty cool technology, I guffawed. I was waiting for the punch line, confident that someboy extremely high up would quickly receive an angry phone call, telling the FBI they’d made a hugely embarrassing mistake. Obviously they didn’t know who I was. I tried to keep the mood friendly, no hard feelings whey they got the order to release me. I was sure the situation would change momentarily. I could be magnanimous for an hour or so. Keep dreamin’ baby. Federal prosecutors charged a former Congressional aide on Thursday with working with the Iraqi intelligence service before the war, and investigators said she had sought to influence American policy by presenting herself to a highly placed relative, Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, as an intermediary. The woman, Susan P. Lindauer, 40, was arrested Thursday morning by federal agents at her home in Takoma Park, Md. Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment that said she had repeatedly met with representatives of the Iraqi intelligence service starting in 1999 and that she had traveled to Baghdad in 2002 for meetings with Iraqi intelligence officials. Ms. Lindauer described herself as an antiwar activist and said she was innocent. The indictment said Ms. Lindauer delivered a letter early last year to a United States government official listing her access to and contacts with Saddam Hussein’s government. Investigators said the official was Mr. Card, one of President Bush’s closest associates. Ms. Lindauer [is] either a second cousin or a distant relative of Mr. Card. Federal law enforcement officials said that despite Ms. Lindauer’s extensive contacts with the Iraqis, there was little evidence to suggest that she had harmed national security by passing any sensitive intelligence to the Hussein government. Instead, she was largely perceived, even by some law enforcement officials, as a woman who fancied herself a peacemaker. — New York Times, March 12, 2004 November 2017/Penn Magazine/13

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