July 17, 2004

2 Good 2 B True: Sinister Syrians Over America

I'M WITH DONALD SENSING @ One Hand Clapping when it comes to the Sinister Syrians Story that's making the rounds. Sensing notes, about the article: "But while it is factual she was fearful, her fear does not provide facts. And I suspect that many of the readers who seem so confident from her article that there was much more going on than met the eye conclude that less from the factual content of her story than her skill at communicating her emotional states in all their gripping detail. "

I had the same sort of gut-reaction two days ago when I came across this tale for the first time. As I read it, I first wanted to believe it. I wanted to believe it badly. I even clipped it to my notebook where I keep things I feel I should write about. And there it stayed.

Looking at it later, I felt the "Device" in my brain activate. The "Device" is something that gets implanted in you if you spend decades editing book and magazine copy. The Device is best thought of as "The BS Meter" where the pointer goes from zero all the way up to 11. The BS Meter is not there to keep you from publishing BS (That's up to you.), but to let you know when you are dealing with it, so you don't confuse idealism with circulation.

When you feel that pointer move up the scale, you learn to become wary about what you are reading. That's not to say what your are reading isn't true, but only that it might not be true. Looking at this tale of terror filled skies again today, I have to say that I find it reads better as fiction than fact.

In addition, I happened to catch the tail end of a radio reporter's interview with the editor of the story at Women's Wall Street. I won't bother to reproduce it here except to say that the editor's tone reminded me most... well, of me whenever I had some dubious story that the magazine was running that I had been charged with palming off on the media. It's a kind of breathless, assured, precise, and, "excited" tone that infuses your sell. This woman had it and was working it. It was not like listening to an editor so much as listening to a PR agent for a little known media outlet that had finally scored a "national scoop" and was determined to ride it to the last bus stop, no matter what.

Listening to her cite the various big-media that was "about" to be all over her big scoop, I remembered what it was like to deal with a story that was "sensational" if not, well, exactly nailed down. You "Yellowcake It." You push it. You push it hard. You mention all the media that is going with it ("See, they think it is true!"), and you mention all the big media that is NOT going with it ("Coverup!). Either way, you win.

So in the end, I have fewer facts than the story for not believing it.

But I've peddled a few bogus stories to the media in my day, and I know the tone when I hear it being done.

And that BS Meter's Pointer did sweep up the scale. Not to 11, but high enough.

Posted by Vanderleun at July 17, 2004 12:38 AM
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I would be sceptical too, if 9-11 hadn't happened. But it has. Plus as Michelle Malkin states on her blog site, a big chunk of it was confirmed by a spokesman for the Federal Air Marshall Service. So, I am not so sure.

So what to do? It might not be true, but then again, it might. How do you err on the side of caution here?

Posted by: Ben at July 17, 2004 7:26 AM

I'm skeptical for another reason: there were 14 of them.

If you had 14 men who were willing to blow themselves up, would you put them all on the same plane, or would you put them on several different planes? If all you're doing is assembling a bomb and hiding it in the bathroom, you wouldn't be expecting a struggle, and you'd probably figure one or two guys could handle it. You'd also have to know that 14 Arab-looking men would arouse a lot of suspicion. And even if it was a just a dry run, why risk getting 14 people caught?

Posted by: Tom L at July 17, 2004 8:06 AM

So the 12 Muslim Swedes could skate through?

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at July 17, 2004 8:43 AM

There are only 3 Muslim Swedes. (I know, I've met them all.)

Posted by: Tom L at July 17, 2004 9:12 AM