Monday, September 11, 2006

I Thought This Crap Was Over or WTF Happened to Critical Thinking?

I thought this was done. Dead. Buried. Pulled from the meme-pool by the life-guard of common sense. But no. I still see people linking to YouTube or Google Video and saying "See! See! This is what America's imperialism has wrought!"

What the hell am I talking about? Good old Jesse Macbeth. Remember him? He was the alleged US Ranger who claimed (among many other things) to have executed children as part of interrogating the parents, infiltrating a mosque and slaughtering the worshipers, and personally killing a mother and her three children (including an infant). There was a video interview that was posted to back in May 2006 where he detailed these atrocities.

Holy cow! Another My Lai. This was incendiary, incredible news. The Anti-War Left was jumping all over this as definitive proof of the evil of the US.

Except there was one problem. None of this ever happened. Within hours, it was being deconstructed and refuted by many on the internet.
Blackfive led the charge along with other mil-bloggers. What were the problems with the video? Why were they claiming hoax?

Take a look at the entry on
Wikipedia for Jesse. It pretty much spells out all the little "inconsistancies". Of course then there's the response of the Army itself regarding his service in either Special Forces and/or the Rangers:
“Initial research by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort
Bragg shows no Soldier with the name of Jesse Macbeth having ever been
assigned to the Special Forces or the Army Rangers -- which are, in
fact, two separate disciplines. This appears to be some sort of hoax.
No Soldier by that name at Fort Lewis to our knowledge, in the past,
either. Of course, the line about "go into the Army or go to jail" is
vintage TV script not heard since the 1960s. There are also numerous
wear and appearance issues with the Soldier's uniform -- a mix of
foreign uniforms with the sleeves rolled up like a Marine and a badly
floppy tan beret worn like a pastry chef. Of course, the allegations of
war crimes are vague, as are the awards the Soldier allegedly received."

So. Why the hell am I bringing up this (relatively) ancient history. Well, some people are still falling for this after "discovering" it on YouTube (or Google Video -- sort of the less popular book-worm cousin of the HS cheerleader that is You Tube). And these people are showing up
everywhere. I'm a security professional, and as a result I subscribe to a lot of technology and security related mailing lists. Some of the un-moderated lists get items such as "The real truth of American Fascist Imperialism!" or "OMG!!!11! Bushitler's Real Purpose In Iraq!~!". This gets tiresome so most of this stuff gets quietly and automatically filtered out. Unfortunately, every now and then one gets through.

This was the case today. In the mailing list appeared a message "OT: ". Now the OT was a nice touch to let us all know that the subject of the message was "Off Topic" and not related to Information Security. But of course, curiosity got the better of me and I opened the message.

When will I learn.

All that was in there was a link to a this
Google Video page. No content to the message other than that. As if the author of the message was saying "If you watch this video, the obivious truth should hit you like a clue-by-four between the eyes." I was expecting the heavens to part and see the sainted pantheon of the Democratic Underground* sing in an angelic choir about the evils of the Bush-Rove-Cheney-Haliburton conspiracy.

So, I replied that this had been shown as a hoax some time ago. OK? Thanks for playing.

He reposnds by sending me a link to his own blog with other links to... Google Videos [ed. corrected from YouTube]. Kind of a circular argument. I am supporting my position by citing myself talking about my position. And linking to undocumented videos does not make it right or even authorittive.

Really, I am constantly amazed by the lack of critical thinking people exhibit these days. It doesn't take long to find actual citations to back up a position. A loon talking in a video is *not* a credible source. Unfortunately, people want to believe something that backs their own opinions so badly that they will take unsubstantiated stories as truth and use that as evidence. These are the same people who ignore scientific evidence and believe that the US government destroyed the WTC. Or believe Intelligent Design is a valid scientific theory (Hint: it's not. It's just another faith-based belief. It's completely untestable via the scientific method - hence, it's not a scientific theory. It's theology playing dress up)

Of course, eventually someone points out that the "evidence" being cited is a fraud and fake... Well, at best that someone gets ignored, at worst called tool of the vast neo-con conspiracy. (Seriously,given the government's track record at keeping things secret... a "vast" conspiracy is ridiculous at best)

Just because something is on the Internet does not necessarily make it true. Now we can go all reductio ad absurdum and claim nothing can be believed, but it's really not that hard to verify information. A good ability with a search tool such as Google, is all you really need. Of course you still need to take what you dig up with a grain of salt. But for most things, there will be a preponderance of authoritative evidence if they are real.

Most of the refutations were relying on points of fact -- not emotive arguments and ad hominems (of course the El DeBarge meets the Army comment was pretty good). And most of these facts were cited. Either by pointing to authorities/experts (such as people who were verifiably Rangers and would know) or a multitude of documentation.

Hoax and fraud does nothing but weaken one's position regardless of the overall validity of said position.

* - For a good laugh, read the DUs forums. They're being serious. Really.

UPDATE: Holy shit. The fool is still arguing about the validity of this video. I had put some refutation and links to most of sites that had "outed" Jesse. Of course, I managed to pull others into this little free-wheeling discussion on the mailing-list.

Now he's frothing at the mouth going into full moon-bat mode. His "rebuttal" is almost as long as my post here, so I need some time to read it. I think it will require an entry of its own.

UPDATE2: Never mind. Just the same old, tired nebulous talking points that have been argued ad infinitum. Yawn. I though I might see something original.