Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Matthew Cadbury, the always insightful GLT posted this on our list today. Relevant to the revolution and the pursuit of truth thread today.

Matthew Cadbury
I was disturbed (but not surprised) to read in the newspapers that a recent NBC poll shows that 42% of the US population believe that Saddam Hussein was behind the September 11th attack (the reality, of course, is that none of those involved in September 11 were Iraqis and there was no Iraqi involvement of any kind in the attack). How do so many people come to be so misinformed?

The misinformation is certainly deliberate and has been done by "Team Bush" to justify attacking Iraq. Rumsfeld mentioned Al Qaeda 8 times in his last press conference on Iraq, this constant drip feed of Saddam/Al Qaeda eventually influences people.

We have discussed the importance of a free press before in this group, so where has the free press been in the USA the last few months? Has the free press not been able to counter government misinformation or has it not tried?

One problem with a free press is that it might produce the news that gets the sales, so how do you guarantee that truth is involved?

Why do US citizens tolerate being lied to by their government?
Has the USA lost respect for the truth?


In spite of what the polls may say, I think most Americans will readily concede that there's no proof that Iraq has done anything to America over the past twelve years, let alone plan and execute the 9/1l attack. Unfortunately, however, Americans are willing to support an expansionary war that has been catalyzed by the attacks.


I'm not sure. I move in pretty informed liberal circles here in NYC -- where 75% of the population opposes war -- and I still hear a lot of people saying things like, "well I still feel like there was some connection, you know?" When I start to point out a lack of evidence and a history of hostility between Saddam and fundimentalist organizations I'm inevitably asked for "proof" that Saddam wasn't involved.

Revolution and the pursuit of truth indeed.

hello. my name is Andreas Heidecke, a former german policeman, who tries now getting some visions working.
   Over the last years I realized that there are so many wrong informations around. We call it the "Information Age", but all I can see is a getting more and more missinformed population. I will fight against these kind of lies. It should get the work of my life. We need contact persons, privat reports out of the trouble, an information network with an artifical intelligence which is scanning all available and incoming news from all imaginable sources for getting the facts out of the scrub, moist and lies. Alltogether, with the power of weblogs, our brainwork and donations we can overcome the hardest times. With these donations I'll get this network running, buying cameras, digital devices, mobiles and send them to well selected persons all over the world. I think that this could be a very well running plan !
I would appreciate every comment about this. There are many hazard in the way, but it's all worth it !

Thanks for the response. When I first saw the towers collapse, my imagination conjured an image of S.Hussein laughing in ecstasy. My blood boiled. I wanted us to hit back.

Forget about proof. We only needed evidence that Hussein did it and the world would have cheered us on as America beat the war drums. But the Bush administration has not demonstrated that there is direct or convincing evidence that Iraq caused any of our problems. Bush has circumvented the constitution he swore to protect by completely ignoring Article 1, section 8.

It should be a helluva lot more difficult to declare war in a Republic.
It should be the highest act of legislation. What happened to our other two branches of government?
The congress has been bulldozed by a powerful executive. Noone has appropriated any money for this war. And since none has been appropriated, the president will get every dime he wants because congress members who vote against future appropriations will be accused of being against our "boys and girls in the field".
Abandonment of the American Constitutional tradition has taken place in this country, everybody. We're in a real crisis here. Do we have a color-coded threat level for this?

Thanks for the viewpoint from NYC. Can't believe people are really buying into such lies over there.

>>"Why do US citizens tolerate being lied to by their government?
Has the USA lost respect for the truth?" ||| If so, the rest of the world now demands that Americans who do care stand up and do something about it now.

A few days ago a story got high ratings on Daypop: Americans are turning to foreign media Internet sites in large numbers, to get a more balanced picture of what is going on.

I think it will be an interesting test for the power of free speech over the Internet to compare the American war propaganda results this time to those of Gulf War One. Legitimacy being the weak point of the American illegal war, the American government would love to be able to control all the reporting about it. But this time, independent reporting can't be shut down easily.

They can't really start building an American wall around the Internet, can they?

This prescient article from Robert Fisk of The Independent is a good checklist for discerning what we'll be reading and viewing over the coming weeks.

Whoops, I thought that URL for the article entitled "The War of Misinformation Has Begun" took in my last post.
Sorry if I've not got this correctly entered:

How ironic: Misrepresenting one multimedia poll about American opinion to prove a point about Government and media propaganda. Where's the link to this poll, and why do all of you suddenly swallow a poll story from the same media you usually treat with deserved skepticism?

Look at the Europeans in this thread jumping all over this as evidence that the American population is brainwashed and ignorant. Of course their own governments and media are totally objective and honest and their people in tune with THE TRUTH (hah!). Here's one hint: Don't trust anything Robert Fisk writes any more than you trust CNN. The Guardian and Der Spiegel are more agenda driven than the New York Times (which, by the way, opposes Bush on Iraq - along with National Public Radio, the LA Times and a whole host of other major media outlets, so this myth about government/corporate owned media manipulating support for the war is not as grounded in reality as you'd like to believe). Also, look at Government owned media in Europe (e.g. the BBC) and you will see a true horror story about disinformation and bias!

Congratulations on mastering the obvious: The U.S. Government engages in spin, GASP! Who would have thought it?!

As for the poll, itself, I've seen it before (it's an old one from before the Iraq debate kicked into full gear) but I believe the questions were vague enough so that people who think there is a causal relationship between the situation in Iraq and 9/11 might have answered the question wrong. Wouldn't be the first time there's been a flawed and misleading poll appearing in a major media outlet, as I'm sure you'll agree. You should include a link to the study so we can judge for ourselves. I will research it myself if I have time.

Finally, I do not claim that all 250 million Americans are well informed, politically savvy, cosmopolitan internationalists. You wont have a hard time finding some statistic (e.g. only 10% of Americans have passports) to back you up if you want to argue that they are less informed on average than Europeans. But Americans have more common sense and a healthy amount of libertarian beliefs that help protect freedom and democracy. Remember the old expression about European intellectual disdain for American politics: "Facism is alway descending on America but it somehow always lands in Europe."

Ciao mes amis. Bon chance avec le Vielle Europe. Los Europeos no tienen ninguno idea de lo que es necesario para defender la democracia y los derechos ser humanos. Son como ninos mal educados.

Matthew Cadbury
Like Christiaan, I hope what is happening is the consequence of wise men following noble goals. But even that isn't good enough, whatever your wisdom and your goals may be, the only tangible reality is your actions. We cannot judge people by their thoughts, we can only judge them by their actions. This seems to me to be one of the West's and in particular the US's problems, we know we have good intentions, but the rest of the world judges us by our actions (and if you look at what we actually do, it's easier to see why many people might hate us).

In the case of Iraq, the US and Britain are about to attack Iraq against the wishes of the UN. That will make the US and Britain aggressors as well as liars, no amount of talking or arguing can change this simple reality.
It makes me very sad. All the more so that the principles we hold dear have been sacrificed on an issue as insubstantial as Iraq. When all is said and done Iraq is a ruined country, not a military superpower threatening our survival.

The one useful thing we can do is try to learn from this mess, how did we end up here? At the beginning it all went very well, we defeated Iraq very easily in the 1991 war and imposed disarmament on it. The inspectors went in and were extremely successful, dozens of scud missile launchers were destroyed along with chemical and biological weapons capability. I think we got greedy, unfair and unrealistic; the problem was our goal of total disarmament. We should have been happy (as the French and Russians are) that Iraq had been 95% disarmed, claimed a great victory for UN diplomacy and left it at that.

Nice assessment of what went wrong. Of course its the US's fault. Everything is. I like how you wouldn't even consider blaming Saddam for not complying with the terms of the Peace agreement he signed. Your part about 95% disarmed is cute. Ah, if only they (Clinton, this was before Bush) hadn't gotten greedy. Afterall, why quibble about a few tons of VX Nerve Gas, Anthrax and a clandestine Nuke program?

Claiming Saddam poses no threat is so 9/10.

Saddam may be a threat, but he hasn't done anything to the US. Would you like me to punch you in the gut because you *might* hit me first?

Of course if I was a raving lunatic with a history of hitting others, you might be justified.

If you don't consider Saddam a threat to anyone, may I ask you what you base this belief on? Containment works? Or are you an isolationist who believes that the U.S. should leave the region and let things be? Saddam might attack his neighbors and gas his own people but he wouldn't dare attack us (and nevermind those connections to Hamas, Ansar al-Islam, etc.) No skin off our back if he invades some little sheikdom, right?

"If you don't consider Saddam a threat to anyone, may I ask you what you base this belief on?"

My views on this are pretty idyllic, but here they are.

1. The subtext for the war is economic more than it is an issue of security. We must focus on ending our addiction to oil. I hate the slogan, "no blood for oil." I don't think we're fighting Iraq so that we can take theirs, but the entire mideast region would be much less relevant to us were it not for the sticky black goo that happens to accumulate under the Earth's crust. Developing energy alternatives that suit our needs is expensive and damn near impossible, but it is less pricey than World War. If we can actually make oil obsolete, than we can undercut the middle east and exclude them from the world economy altogether. *That* is how to exact revenge. It'll be sweeter that way too.

2. In the meantime, I favor a degree of isolationism, yes. I believe that any nation should only go to war when there is a clear and present threat to it's national security. Currently, I see no such threat. "Remaking" the middle-east to look more democratic is in the national interest of the United States, but it is not a laudable foreign policy or military goal. As horrible as it may sound, I believe that we cannot make anymore military moves in the middle east until allies or Americans are directly threatened. Sadly, that may mean we'll have to wait for another tragedy like 9/11 to occur before we can satisy our collective urge to ravage the middle east.

Also, anyone ever notice that Iraq switched to the Euro as an oil transaction currency in November of 2000? ;) Venezuela and Iran shortly thereafter started talking about doing the same thing.

HINT: It's making Washington and the Federal Reserve quite nervous.


Call me French-european biased if you will, but Saddam might not be more of a threat than Kim-Jong-Il or even George Bush for that matter. You don't go and invade a country like Irak because its leader 'might' have concealed some WMD, or because invading Irak 'might' bring happiness and freedom to its people. This is just plain ridiculous and not to mention prone to foster additional terrorist threats against the US. Anyway, just my 2 JPY on the subject.


Wonderful logic. One can never be certain of anything so no action can ever be taken. Chirac and de Villepin seem to have embraced this stance whole-heartedly.

I see you using scare quotes around "might." You would make a good politician (in any country). I like how you cast doubt all over the idea without actually denying it - quite fitting for a post under the heading "truth and the power of words."

John -

I fear that I'm stretching the mileage of this thread, but let me ask you - what is your stance? You've countered to your heart's content, now make your case.

Oh my. The thread is still going. Sorry to be so coy, Mike. I started off by criticizing Ito-san's post. I do not believe that Isolationism is feasible nor desirable. Look what happened in the 20's and 30's. There would definitely be a bloody war in the Middle East and elsewhere as the balance of power flipped and chaos ensued. Your proposal to isolate the whole Middle East doesn't sound well thought out to me. Do you realize that you are advocating further oppression and impovershment for one fifth of all humanity? The consequences would be suffering and death on a scale many times greater than a Kosovo or Afghanistan style American bombing campaign. Your point about alternative energy sounds good to me. Bush mentioned it in the SOTU speech but he's been known to lie. Either way, it doesn't help us with the present crisis.

I believe that Saddam must go. Ideally it would be the Iraqis who did it but Saddam has succeeded in slaughtering any and all who rose up against him like the Northern Kurds and the Southern Shiites and "Marsh Arabs" (they mistakenly and fatally thought the US would back them in '91 after the Iraqi army was routed, but, to the US's eternal shame, Bush I chose to listen to the rest of the UN coalition and betrayed them, leaving Saddam in place - this shows the perils of acting multilaterally). He tortures and murders or exiles anyone who dares criticize him. So now it's up to the 101st Airborne and their British commrades. No matter how high that Iraqi death toll banner at the top of Ito-san's page rises, it will never approach one tenth the number of victims that Saddam has killed.

This whole 12 year long Mongolian clusterf#&k of UN sanctions and inspections has been a disaster for America, Iraq, the UN itself and the whole world. The best hope for everyone's future, especially the Iraqis, lies with Saddam swinging from a lamppost.

Hopefully this will lead to a democratic prosperous Iraq in the same manner that Europe and Japan were rebuilt after the war. Hopefully the US will then be able to pull out of Saudi Arabia. The face of the Middle East will be drastically different and those governments will actuallly have to consider REAL reform. Iran has a strong democratic youth movement. The future is not without hope. The world will be a better place when Saddam and his Tikrit mafia are gone. Here is British Labour MP Ann Clwyd:

"There was a machine designed for shredding plastic. Men were dropped into it and we were again made to watch. Sometimes they went in head first and died quickly. Sometimes they went in feet first and died screaming. It was horrible. I saw 30 people die like this. Their remains would be placed in plastic bags and we were told they would be used as fish food ... on one occasion, I saw Qusay [President Saddam Hussein’s youngest son] personally supervise these murders." I do not have a monopoly on wisdom or morality. But I know one thing. This evil, fascist regime must come to an end. With or without the help of the Security Council, and with or without the backing of the Labour Party in the House of Commons tonight.

To John and others: I'm sorry I have not engaged in the dialog or tried very hard to elaborate on my position. I am against the war. I have come to this conclusion after hearing eloquent arguments both for and against the war. People who are arguing on both sides are doing a much better job than I could ever do so the only thing I feel comfortable doing is quoting interesting quotes and trying to encourage productive debate that I can read and continue to think about the issues more. This is a VERY complicated issue and I have a difficult time taking a strong stance. I think keeping important facts highlighted and keeping ourselves from oversimplifying the issues is essential.

Emotions are running high so those of us who are able to debate in a human voice will be the bridge, I think.

Joi -

Well, thank you letting us use your site as a forum to discuss this issue.

John wrote, "The best hope for everyone's future, especially the Iraqis, lies with Saddam swinging from a lamppost."

I hate to admit that I would probably burst out in cheers and applause at the sight of something like that. However, the U.S. simply cannot waltz in and topple another government without there being a clear and direct threat to US national security or that of America's allies. It's that simple.
Saddam has never acted out against the US unless he was provoked.

"This whole 12 year long Mongolian clusterf#&k of UN sanctions and inspections has been a disaster for America, Iraq, the UN itself and the whole world."

Agreed. Many of the members of the UN have been disingenous in their opposition against the war.

"Your proposal to isolate the whole Middle East doesn't sound well thought out to me. Do you realize that you are advocating further oppression and impovershment for one fifth of all humanity? The consequences would be suffering and death on a scale many times greater than a Kosovo or Afghanistan style American bombing campaign."

I'm not sure it would be that gloomy, but so be it. Too bad, so sad. More than 90% of the conflict in the world today involves muslim contingencies or muslim states. Think about it. That means that if these groups did not exist, the world would pretty much be at peace. That part of the world has proven, time and again, that it is incapable of acting responsibly on the world stage. A radical change such as the obsolesence of oil will force these states to grow out of the middle ages and eradicate religion from their politics forever. It has to happen.