Thursday, June 16, 2005

Chemical Warfare?

I have written previously on the modus operandi of the mainstream media in foisting their agenda on the American public. Here is an example dealing with the Iraq campaign of the Global War on Terror. The current debate and manufactured controversy over the detention of illegal combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is another good example. A media organization (say - Newsweek) will publish a story (I'm not going to legitimize it by calling it a report - it's a story, i.e. fiction) about a subject (like maybe ill treatment of prisoners, or desecrating a supposedly holy object) that is later discredited.

This process happens all of the time. It may be, as in the cases above, about large organizations correcting errors, or something as small as an elementary school student having homework corrected. Errors are made, and corrected, and we move on, having learned from the mistakes. Sometimes the corrections come from within, as in self-correction or editorial correction. Sometimes they come from without, from teachers, fellow students, new information sources, the public at large, etc. No big deal.


When the intellectually dishonest continue to advance the discredited information, when the truth receives little or no attention, the discredited information becomes part of the generally accepted conventional wisdom. Perception IS reality! Now it IS a big deal. The rising debate over Gitmo is a good example of this process.

Now we have another little item that will fit into this category. On May 22, 2005 the New York Times published an editorial titled Inside The Kill Zone. It starts out nicely enough:

There is a park outside New Orleans with rows of old oak trees and the ruins of a colonial plantation. It is a pleasant place to take a stroll -[...]

But then gets right into the meat of the subject:

[...] and it would be an ideal staging ground for a terrorist attack on Chalmette Refining. An attack on the refinery, which has 600,000 pounds of hydrofluoric acid on hand, could put the entire population of New Orleans at risk of death or serious injury.

So far, so good. Undoubtedly, we need to protect our infrastructure, and population. The editorial presents facts and figures that I'll grant legitimacy to for the sake of this post. And at the conclusion it offers some good advice:
[...] Those who live near one of the 15,000 chemical facilities scattered across the country - that is, most Americans - have an important stake in this fight. They should urge their senators and representatives to pass a tough law that keeps America safe from the weapons of mass destruction hidden in its own backyard.

However, (You knew there'd be a however, right?) in the body of the editorial comes this:

[...] The security holes at chemical facilities are glaringly obvious. On a recent visit to Chalmette Refining, a Times editorial writer had no trouble standing in the nearby park for 15 minutes with a large knapsack. At two plants in Dallas that use large amounts of chlorine, the same writer parked a car on the periphery and milled about for more than a half-hour without being stopped. The fencing was minimal - far less than at a nearby automobile factory. It would not have been hard to explode a bomb or fire a weapon near the chlorine. [...]

This leaves the distinct impression that all or most of our chemical infrastructure is only minimally protected, that no one is paying attention to possible hazards, and that 15,000 locations are sitting there with large bullseyes painted on them. Simply call your local Terrorist Travel Tours Agency and book a cruise. One way ticket to the target of your choice, a room booked overlooking your target, continental breakfast provided, tour of facility before attacking it, box lunch, and tour guide available for those who might be spatially handicapped.


But wait! There's more. There are some people that dispute the impression given by the Times editorial. Will Franklin at WILLisms reports that ExxonMobil challenged the N.Y. Times on the editorial. A letter written to the Times says, in part:

What the Times first failed to report -- and when confronted with the facts, refused to report -- was that the Chalmette refinery security manager walked outside the gates and across a road just outside the park to confront the writer after observing him in the park. He advised the writer that refinery security had him under surveillance while he was in the park adjacent to the refinery and that his presence was causing concern.

When ExxonMobil contacted The New York Times to ask why these important facts were not included in their editorial, we were told in an e-mail response from your deputy editorial page editor that these facts were "not relevant." ExxonMobil also provided your paper with photographs of the writer in the park, which were taken with a hand-held camera while the writer was under surveillance by security. Your editor dismissed the photos as simply "proof that our writer was there." While the Times does not deny the writer was challenged, the Times e-mail stated that your editorial did not result "in any omission in reporting that created an inaccurate impression."

We couldn't disagree more. The challenge by the security guard and the photographs are proof that the writer was under surveillance in the park. It certainly appears that the Times wanted a report on lax security at the Chalmette refinery to support your editorial, so your paper simply suppressed key facts. The action taken by our security personnel was appropriate and professional. Despite your paper's denial of a correction, clarification, or retraction, we continue to strongly believe your readers and especially the citizens of Chalmette, LA, deserve to know this full story. For this reason, we are sharing these facts with our Chalmette employees.
You should read the whole letter, and the response from the Times, and of course, Will's commentary. He even has pictures of the writer in the park, Stephen Spruiell reporting for National Review has also weighed in with commentary on this. (Update: Forgot to add The Conspiracy To Keep You Poor And Stupid, for the commentary, and the original point to this story.)

Hard, factual evidence has been presented that the N.Y. Times editorial presents an erroneous view of the security situation surrounding some, and by extension all, chemical facilities. Evidence is there to show that the N.Y. Times knowingly allowed this erroneous impression to remain. Therefore, their premise has been discredited.

Or has it?

Due to the imbalance in readership between internet entities and the N.Y. Times, more people will be left with the impression that we are at great risk because of security failures than those people who know that the initial editorial has been debunked. In a month, or two, or a year, someone at the N.Y. Times (probable) or another MSM outlet (possible) will report or opine that something did or will happen, and that the fault lies with current officials failing to adopt adequate security, and offer this May 22 editorial as proof. This I predict.

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