"Someone has to take out the garbage"

I didn't expect to see the type of paranoid conspiracy nonsense that I remember from the 2000 smear campaign against McCain resurfacing in the blogosphere, but it has.

I'm sorry to see that unsourced, unsubstantiated trashy gossip is being taken seriously, but I guess that's what happens when a "respectable" online news source like WorldNetDaily (yes, I'm being sarcastic) picks it up and treats it as news:

They [apparently a "small group of GOP senators and congressmen"] have been having discussions with a Russian whom we'll call "T" for translator. T's father was the Soviet military intelligence officer who ran the "Hanoi Hilton" prison holding captured Americans during the Vietnam War. One of those prisoners was John McCain.

The GRU ? Glavnoje Razvedyvatel'noje Upravlenije or main intelligence directorate of the Soviet (now Russian) Armed Forces ? operated the entire North Vietnamese prison system holding American prisoners of war. GRU officers, all of whom were Russians, oversaw the interrogation of every American POW.

The interrogations themselves were conducted by Vietnamese who spoke some English. After each interrogation session, which could often include torturing the prisoners at the direction of the GRU officers, the Vietnamese interrogator would write a report of the session ? in Vietnamese.

These reports had to be translated into Russian. T, a bright teenager living in the GRU compound in Hanoi, had become fluent in Vietnamese, and ended up translating many of the reports and interrogators' notes.

According to "T," McCain only pretended on occasion to be a prisoner during his captivity, but he actually lived high on the hog with a couple of Vietnamese prostitutes in an apartment. And Bill Clinton, working for the CIA since 1968, knows all about this, and he has the documents and the Clintons are going to release them at just the right time but Ann Coulter is really good and we should vote for Hillary if Romney doesn't win.

Sigh.

It's a long piece, but that's my best attempt to summarize it. There's simply nothing there. Unless you believe in the story of "T" -- the secret weapon the Clintons are going to use to derail McCain. (But isn't McCain a commie liberal hell-bent on ruining America and no different from the Clintons? Why go to all this trouble?)

Some bloggers (and no, I will not name them) are taking this more seriously than others who (fortunately) realize that a better role for bloggers is in debunking as opposed to promoting unverified nonsense.

I like Ed Morrissey's take (bear in mind he's a Romney supporter):

Wheeler doesn't actually produce any evidence, documentary or testimonial. Conveniently, Wheeler says the CIA has it hidden. That doesn't keep him from dropping this turd in the middle of the primary punch bowl.

I have had it with whispering campaigns. Some Senators think John McCain is "clinically nuts"? Then they need to step forward and explain that diagnosis, openly. Being temperamental isn't the same thing as "clinically nuts", and the description Wheeler gives sounds a lot closer to the former than the latter. I've had coaches who could blister the paint off the walls and pack a semester's worth of Salty Language 101 into a post-match review, but that didn't make them "clinically nuts".

And this smear about living in a hotel room with prostitutes while being held as a POW is particularly despicable. I thought the lost-airplane smear was bad, but this smells worse than anything I've ever heard in politics. Shame on Wheeler for pushing this story without so much as a scrap of evidence, and especially in the face of compelling testimony to the contrary. What's Wheeler's basis for passing this along? He heard it from the son of the man who supposedly interviewed McCain for the KGB, without ever seeing the translations . As if the KGB never engaged in disinformation and sabotage campaigns!

And this:

Pathetic. Disgusting. Rancid. Gutless. He'll throw the mud, but he won't give the evidence. What a revolting piece of work Wheeler is. This kind of character assassination should have no place in politics, and the only evidence it provides is that of Wheeler's moral derangement.

UPDATE and BUMP: Someone asks me in the comments if it wouldn't be better to ignore people like Wheeler. Unfortunately, no. Someone has to take out the garbage, and if it keeps piling up,. the stink gets on everyone in the room.

The whole thing is a rehash of 2000, and the same people are probably behind it. It is no accident that the stuff is unsourced and unverifiable. That makes it much harder if not impossible to refute. The burden ought to be on this "Dr. Jack Wheeler" nutjob to prove what he says, but I'm sure he won't.

It's more fun to circulate unprovable theories that only secret government agents and double agents know but won't tell! Just ask them! They won't talk! Or they'll deny it! (Just like Roswell. The Chemtrailers! The 911 impoders! The Bilderbergers, the Skull and Bones, and the Masons!)

McCain made a secret deal with the North Vietnamese Communists way back when, to take over this country, and it's about to happen!

The only way to stop him now is to vote for Hillary!

Sometimes it takes Communism to defeat Communism.

This is satire, right?

UPDATE: Commenter Alphie says it it is possible to criticize the smears without repeating or linking to them.

He's right, except it should be borne in mind that I barely quoted this nonsense, and merely summarized it. Nor did I provide links to the bloggers who circulated it uncritically.

My real quarrel here is with WorldNetDaily and the gang of paranoid conspiracy theorists who always seem to get a pass, and continue to crank out stuff that no reasonable person should take seriously. No matter how outrageous their claims, they're still considered "respectable," and there are bloggers who -- whether through naivite or simply because they find it emotionally pleasing -- will link to it and accept it as "news."

One of the reasons I think this happens -- and the main reason I took the time last night to write this post -- is that if I didn't say anything, they'd be getting a pass from me!

And if I hadn't related the substance of the charge, it would be more difficult for people to understand the seriously irresponsible, dangerously wacko nature of it. Were John McCain not a public person, he could sue WorldNetDaily and end up owning the damned outfit.

This is not the first time, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Seriously, I am sick and tired of my own tendency to pull punches with the creepily hegemonic WND. I hesitate, and the reason I hesitate is that (much to my chagrin) they employ and work with some people I respect. It pains me to do this. It really does.

But I agree that someone has to take out the garbage, and this is big time garbage. Had it been a case of an over-wrought, hyperbole-driven blogger circulating an anonymous email, I wouldn't have bothered.

UPDATE: Sebastian of Snowflakes in Hell points to an damningly thorough article by James H. Warner -- a fellow prisoner with McCain (and not a McCain supporter, BTW) which refutes the baseless allegations point by point:

Recently, I have seen several allegations that condemn Senator John McCain for his behavior as a prisoner of war. I believe that these allegations are false. I am in a better position than the Senator's accusers to know the truth since I was a prisoner with him, having been captured a little over a month before him. I have contacted hundreds of my comrades on our e-mail list and not one of them can confirm anything that has been alleged against McCain.

Let me tell you what they have told me and what I saw myself, and answer some of the charges. First, I should say that I have great respect for Senator McCain, even though I am at odds with him on many issues and have remained distant from his campaign. I say this up front because I think that a defense mounted by one of his supporters would be less credible.

Read it all.

The paranoid WND crowd ought to be ashamed of themselves, but I'm sure they aren't.

posted by Eric on 02.07.08 at 12:11 AM










Comments

It is possible to criticize the smears without repeating them.

Or linking to them.

Really, it is.

alphie   ·  February 7, 2008 1:03 AM

Thanks Alphie. I tried to address your criticism. It'd a bit of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation. Ignoring this garbage does not make it go away, and I fear that if I didn't spell it out, people would not understand the nature of the perfidy.

But there's little I can do. We have the First Amendment, and circulating anonymous lies is permitted as it should be. My argument is with the laundering of them by outfits considered respectable by people who should know better but look the other way.

I've held my tongue countless times, but I refuse to look the other way on this one.

No good will come of any of this, I'm afraid. At least I'm on record as being against it, and my conscience can sleep better.

Eric Scheie   ·  February 7, 2008 8:26 AM

So does this mean we should spread the rumor that WorldNetDaily is uncritically repeating KGB disinformation sent to it by the Clinton campaign?

Anthony   ·  February 7, 2008 11:24 AM

Have you seen this?

Sebastian   ·  February 8, 2008 4:34 PM

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