Friday, January 07, 2005


Tsunami conspiracy?

I am beginning to think that the role of the mainstream media is becoming little more than an almost ritualistic denial of any thought, fact or theory that appears on the internet. This function of the media—"to set matters straight"—is hardly new, but seems to be growing as mainstream reporters jealously challenge the internet.

This was brought to mind as I read Neil Western's "Tsunami conspiracy theorists come out" in Australia's News Interactive. He opens with

Just 11 days after Asia's tsunami disaster, conspiracy theorists are out in force, accusing governments of a cover-up, blaming the military for testing top-secret eco-weapons or aliens trying to correct the Earth's "wobbly" rotation.

In bars and Internet chat rooms around the world questions are being asked, with knowing nods and winks, about who caused the undersea earthquake off Sumatra on December 26, and why governments did not act in the minutes and hours before tsunamis slammed into their shores, killing almost 150,000.

Note the conflation of a speculation ("who caused the undersea earthquake off Sumatra") with a legitimate question ("why governments did not act in the minutes and hours before tsunamis slammed into their shores"), thereby making the question seem somehow beneath the reader's consideration. Indeed, if there are "knowing nods and winks," they are from Mr. Western to his readers.

While filling the rest of the article with a denunciation of the view that the earthquake was manmade, Western gives only three paragraphs to the question of U.S. government accountability—

The Free Internet Press, which claims to offer "uncensored news for real people", has an article saying the US military and the US State Department received advanced warning of the tsunami, but did little to warn Asian countries.

America's Navy base on the Indian Ocean jungle atoll of Diego Garcia was notified and escaped unscathed, it said, asking "why were fishermen in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand not provided with the same warnings?".

"Why did the US State Department remain mum on the existence of an impending catastrophe?," author Michel Chossudovsky pondered.

He then dismisses the question, not in usual media fashion, by quoting from an expert, but by quoting from a comment on the post!

"Probably because fishermen in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand don't have multimillion dollar communications equipment handy," one respondent said as readers posted angry replies.1

The post by Michel Chossudovsky to which Western alludes is at the Canadian site, Centre for Research on Globalisation. Chossudovsky provides a timeline, copies of NOAA bulletins, some excellent maps and reasonable questions. Senator Snowe of Maine, unknown until now as a conspiracy theorist, has also proposed some questions of her own.

The conspiracy about which I find myself most concerned is a conspiracy in the media to disinform the public.


1 I tried, unsuccessfully, to locate this comment. Assuming the reporter didn't just make it up, I wonder if it was by ANONYMOUS. [back]

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