Le Monde Hit Piece on Sott.net’s Analysis of the Merah Case and ‘Conspiracy Theorists’

Authoritarian Followers stick their necks out for corrupt governments

The following article appeared in the French Le Monde newspaper on June 19th 2012. We are running it, with commentary, because it stands as a perfect example of the ‘yellow journalism’ so favored by the mainstream media in their efforts to dupe the public. Yellow journalism is defined as “journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers.” In this case however, the specific aim of Le Mondeis to discredit and ridicule rational deductive reasoning around the actions of alleged ‘Muslim terorrist’ Mohamed Merah.

The Merah Case: A Trip to ConspiracyLand

Soren Seelow
Le Monde

Grey areas, contradictory statements, media hype, political hijacking, shades of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, police forces blunders, shady role of the Intelligence services… the Mohamed Merah case, where a young man was accused of murdering seven people last March in Toulouse and Montauban, has all the ingredients to feed conspiracy theories. Since the beginning of the case, suspicions of political manipulations have emerged, strengthened by the case’s inconsistencies, and have spread around, giving rise to alternative theses running in parallel with the official version. Let’s take a plunge into this shady world of conspiracy, and let’s take a look at its reflexes, techniques and ideological agendas.

Right off the bat, the author admits that there are problems with the official story, yet, in the mind of the author, this fact somehow constitutes evidence that anyone who questions the official story is a ‘conspiracy theorist’.

March the 19th. France is still in a state of shock following the murder of three soldiers in Montauban, when a man, nicknamed the “bike gunman” by the media, kills three children and an adult in front of a Toulouse Jewish school. Merah’s name hasn’t surfaced yet, the media are still promoting the “neonazi killer” version. Within a few hours of the shooting, Philippe Poutou, then NPA [New Anticapitalist Party] candidate to the presidential election, declares: “It looks like it’s a nutter, but maybe it’s not by chance that this is happening in the middle of the electoral campaign. Maybe there’s a political agenda behind it designed to distract the attention away from the economic crisis.” The NPA party immediately dissociated itself from this dubious statement. But the seeds of conspiracy would soon flourish on the Internet.

Apparently, anyone who questions the official story is a ‘crazy conspiracy theorist’, even well-respected politicians. The author immediately begins to omit facts in his argument. He states that Merah’s name hadn’t yet surfaced by the time of the shooting at the Jewish school on the 19th March. According to Liberation Magazine(and also reported on France 2’s News programme on the 22nd March):

“The hunt for the suspect of the 7 murders […] began after the murders in Montauban on the 15th March. The next day, the DCRI pulled out “two lists of 15 names” of far-right extremists and islamists in the area. Among them, M. Merah, “spotted because of 2 training trips to Afghanistan in 2010 and Pakistan in 2011″ according to an intelligence official.”

So on the 16th of March, French authorities had Merah’s name as a suspect among 14 others. Merah would surely have stood out among these 15 people given that he was a long-term asset of French intelligence.

From Merah’s innocence to Israel’s guilt

These seeds are quickly spread around on “specialized” websites such as Sott.net, le Réseau Voltaire [The Voltaire Network], Mecanopolis, Oulala.net or Legrandsoir.info. After Merah was identified, the suspicions of manipulation were not so much about the political “timing” as about the killer’s identity.

For Sott.net, a multilingual websites network whose place is quite prominent in the conspiracy world, the case is settled: Merah is “innocent”. The “proof”, fraught with fallacies, feeds on the numerous grey areas of the case (contradictory accounts of the RAID assault, questions about the exact nature of the relationships between Merah and the Intelligence services, etc.), before reaching this blunt conclusion: the young man was manipulated by the Intelligence services before being executed.

Here the Le Mondejournalist chooses to put words in our mouths. At no time did Sott.net claim that the case was “settled”. We simply stated that, based on the evidence, something was very wrong with the official version, and we proposed likely alternative versions of the story, versions that made more sense based on the evidence. At no time did Sott.net say that Merah was definitely innocent, but that, if he was involved, it was very likely as a French intelligence asset.

One should read the entire expose in order to understand the ideological background underlying this thesis: “the real masterminds of international terrorism” are… “Israelis”. In the article “How is the world going to end in 2012”, one reads that “the final implementation of the fascist, totalitarian New World Order will be accomplished this year”.

Again, more lies from Le Monde. At no point in the series of articles on Sott.net that deal with the Merah case did we say that “the real masterminds of international terrorism” are “Israelis.” As for our analysis of the real meaning of 2012, we stand by it.

“Conspiratorial ideology thinks that everything is conspiracy, that there is a global conspiracy. It draws on old anti-judeo-masonic themes, the idea of an international and sprawling zionism”, explains Rudy Reichstardt, the founder of Conspiracy Watch, a website described as an “observatory of conspiracy theories”. “The conspiracy world is a red/brown galaxy which – from the extreme left to the extreme right – is gathered around an anti-imperialist ideological basis”. A collusion which has recently been illustrated by the René Balme affair. Balme is a Front de gauche [French far left party] candidate to the legislative election whose website, Oulala.net, hosts far right, antisemitic and conspiracy theorists’ material.

Now the Le Monde journalist calls for the opinion of a Right Wing Authoritarian followerto explain what ‘conspiracy theorists’ are all about: “Conspiratorial ideology thinks that everything is conspiracy.” Such an outrageous generalisation hardly deserves a response. I mean, if I question the 9/11 attacks or the Merah case for example, does that means that I think that my cat is trying to kill me? If I question the official government story on any major event, am I an anti-Semite?

Merah, Bin Laden, DSK, 911…

Conspiracy ideology is marked by a systematic, almost obsessional approach which tends to weave an invisible thread between certain important events of recent History, in the service of one same world view.

Again, this statement is nonsensical. People who promote the idea that governments etc. engage in conspiracies generally base their opinions on reasonably hard evidence and proven historical fact. The difference between people who tend to believe that governments and other ‘powers’ can and do engage in conspiracies and those who believe governments would never do such a thing is that the latter tend to be ‘Authoritarian Follower‘ types who find it extremely uncomfortable to seriously contemplate the idea (and evidence) that the established authorities might be criminally-minded. Such people therefore tend to accept, a priori, that governments tell the truth.

On Mecanopolis, Hani Ramadan, brother of Tariq Ramadan, is defending the idea of a false flag operation designed to provoke a rise in islamophobia, which he links to Bin Laden’s death and the 911 attacks : “About Mohamed Merah, we can be certain that he is the author of the Toulouse and Montauban murders. Or at least, as certain as we can be of Bin Laden’s body lying at the bottom of the ocean”, writes the director of the Centre islamique of Geneva. How can one not feel uneasy about the official version of the event, in these electoral times? How can one not draw a comparison with 911?”

“As usual, the conspiracy world quickly jumped on the case from the very first days, as it did with 911, Bin Laden or the DSK affair”, says Rudy Reichstadt. The most recent example of this systemic conspirationism being movie director Mathieu Kassovitz, who had already questioned the official version of 911, posting a tweet (which has been deleted since) questioning Merah’s guilt:

“Who killed these Jewish children? Are we sure that it was Merah, and are we meant to believe the official version despite its inconsistencies?”

Mathieu Kassovitz is a well-known French film director, and his question above is very reasonable. Yet the mere fact that he poses such a question consigns him to the lunatic fringe, as far as Le Mondeis concerned.

Official version against alternative source: who to believe?

Mohamed Merah will never be judged, and we are indeed allowed to wonder about the numerous issues which have risen about this complex affair, and by the slowness of the investigation. “Not all alternative versions are delirious”, comments sociologist Pascal Froissart, author of La rumeur. Histoire et fantasmes. [The Rumour. History and fantasies]. The State apparatus lied to us a lot in the past – Tchernobyl, Mitterrand’s disease, and so on… Doubt is rather healthy”.

Kassovitz’s tweet nevertheless reveals the conspiracy theorist’s dynamics. Drawing on “grey areas”, the conspiracy theorist follows a thread which compels him to outright reject the official version. “We don’t know everything, therefore it’s a conspiracy.”

Precisely. The very fact that there are ‘grey areas’ and that the established authorities refuse to divulge information that would clear up those ‘grey areas’ means that it is perfectly rational to conclude that the official story should be rejected.

Kassovitz’s stance follows the publication (by the Arabic Algerian daily Echourouk) on Tuesday, June the 12th, of the Arabic translation of Merah’s alleged declarations in two videos shot during the RAID assault. According to the French transcription of the alleged content of these videos, the young man allegedly discovered, prior to his death, that he had been manipulated by the secret services. “I am innocent”, he says in the transcription.

Nobody has ever seen these videos. French justice has been requesting them, without success as of now. The investigators and Paris’s prosecutor’s office have raised “serious doubts” about their existence, on the grounds that no recording equipment was ever found in Merah’s flat.

On conspiracy websites, the content of these dubious tapes, which was published by a newspaper connected to Algerian Intelligence services – who are themselves known for being masters of manipulation – is nevertheless quoted as material evidence of conspiracy. The authority of the source doesn’t count: the official version being fallacious in itself, only allegations coming from the fringe can reveal the truth.

“Even if these videos didn’t exist or were forgeries, the goal would be reached”, explains Rudy Reichstadt. “It’s less important to convince the public than to instil doubt. In 10 years from now, details will have been forgotten, only suspicion will remain.”

If the tapes exist, then they are in the possession of French authorities. If they do not exist, it is more or less inconsequential, because Merah’s alleged claim to innocence is not one of the major reasons why any rational person should question the official story. On the topic of tapes, the official story claims that French police at the scene of the siege at Merah’s flat engaged in protracted dialogue with him and that these conversations were recorded. Is it too much to ask for these recordings to be made public? Sott.net’s motivation in writing on the Merah case is not to instill doubt, but to make the facts of (and problems with) the case available to the public, so that the public can come to their own conclusion.

The media’s role: the devil is in the details

This suspicion has been fueled by the media (see video below) and by the declarations of ex Intelligence officials like Yves Bonnet, former head of the DST, who implied without any proof that Merah might have been a DCRI informant. The investigation hasn’t yet thrown light on this issue; the promoters of alternative theses are taking advantage of this lack of information.

The claim that Merah was a French intelligence asset is not based on the implications of one man. It is based on a wealth of evidencethat strongly suggests that Merah was a French intelligence asset.

In the age of Internet and 24 hours news channels, unchecked contradictory statements and fallacious allegations are spreading around, sowing confusion in the public’s mind. On Sott.net, media approximations are not the sign of a lack of professionalism, but the proof that we’re being lied to:

“An eyewitness at one of the shootings stated clearly that the gunman, who always wore a motorbike helmet, was ‘quite fat'” […] So, the author of the article concludes that “chances are, Mohamed Merah is not the Toulouse assassin.” This cause and effect based on a single eyewitness account is developed further in this video.

“Witnesses will say all kinds of nonsense, as often in these kinds of events. The account of this lady, Martine, has never been taken seriously by the investigators. But the media have to feed something to the public, and this creates confusion among the public opinion”, explains Frédéric Helbert, an independent journalist who has been dissecting the developments of the case since its beginnings.

First of all, media reports at the time of, or immediately after a major event are not by definition the result of “unprofessionalism”, they are often a source of official information which may later be changed as needs dictate. In the Merah case, much of the information that came out at the time of and immediately after the ‘siege’ at Merah’s flat was provided by French Interior Minister Claude Gueant. So are we to assume that Mr. Gueant did not say the things he said, or are we to assume that he was lying? If Merah was not shot by a sniper after jumping out of this apartment window, why did Mr. Gueant say so? Why did the head of the SWAT team at Merah’s apartment, Amaury de Hauteclocque, say that Merah was shot by a sniper from outside? Where did these authoritative figures get this information and why were they confident enough to make the statement to the press, if, as we are now told, Merah was shot 30 times inside his apartment where he was found dead? How could they have been so wrong? And why have they not explained the massive divergence in the two stories?

“Conspiracy theorists discredit from the get-go any official statement or speech, any official media, whereas they themselves only use information broadcasted through these networks” says Rudy Reichstadt. They don’t investigate, they collect what they find and stage it in an plausible way. They proceed through innuendos, point out the grey areas and present them as evidence, and exclude what doesn’t fit in their demonstration. Of course, the official discourse is sometimes fallacious – it happens. But the conspiracy theorist’s discourse itself is fallacious and manipulative.”

I can’t speak for every ‘conspiracy theorist’, but the editors of Sott.net do not disbelieve “from the get-go, every official statement or speech.” We simply question official stories when they clearly do not mesh with the available facts. For the journalists at Le Monde and sites like ‘Conspiracy Watch’ however, such open-minded questioning is evidence of some sort of mental disorder. The truth of the matter is, as I have already noted, that such people are constitutionally unable to question the established authorities because they are ‘Authoritarian Followers‘ – people who, having no internal sense of their own authority, project it outwards onto the established authority of the day. They are, in essence, seriously invested in the benevolence of the authorities to which they look for stability and comfort in their lives.

The account of the assault: a faulty official version

This suspicion regarding official discourse has been greatly reinforced by the extraordinary confusion which has been reigning supreme since the beginning of the case. “Here we are with a story where all officials are lying. Communication is heavily restricted, which is a godsend for conspiracy theorists”, comments Frédéric Helbert.

The blurry account of the assault given by the RAID’s head to the Monde.fr has been heavily commented on certain sites. Amaury de Hauteclocque states: “He [Merah] came out to meet us with three colt 45s of 11.43 caliber. I gave the order to return fire only with stun grenades. But he moved forward into the apartment and tried to kill my men. It was probably one of these snipers [positioned on the balcony] who killed him.”

The head of the RAID never mentions any shooting by his men positioned in the flat, therefore alluding that they only had non lethal weapons. In fact, Merah didn’t have three Colts but only one, and the RAID men who first went into action did shoot with real bullets when Merah rushed out of the bathroom shooting in their direction, says Eric Pelletier and Jean-Marie Pontaut in Affaire Merah, l’enquête [The Merah case investigated]. After six minutes of fire exchange, the PJ [Judiciary police] found 69 cartridge cases shot from Merah’s 11.43 caliber Colt, which had several cartridge clips. They also found about 300 cartridges cases shot by the RAID men.

Sott.net immediately pointed out the holes in the account of the head of the RAID, adding several factual errors : “Not one of these bullets hit either Merah or any of the other members of the assault team. […] we can presume that the one officer who fell into a state of shock did so when he realised that 300 bullets fired from automatic weapons in a 6×6 meter apartment all missed their target.” This statement is inaccurate: about thirty bullet impacts were found on Merah’s body. Merah wore a bullet proof vest, and several policemen were injured during the operation.

What the Le Monde journalist omits here is that the above statement (and others) by Sott.net were made on the very day of the siege at Merah’s apartment and was based on the statements of the French Interior Minister and the head of the RAID. Perhaps the Le Mondejournalist could try his own hand at explaining the serious differences between the first authoritative account of events at Merah’s flat and the later, much different, account from the same sources?

“The official account of the assault is incoherent, says Frédéric Helbert. Six to seven minutes of fire exchange in a 6×6 meters flat, 300 cartridges, 28 shooting impacts on Merah’s body, all of this is hard to believe. I myself have a hard time understanding the whole thing. Nothing was clearly explained, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. When one doesn’t know, one invents. Add to this the fact that Merah’s mother wasn’t allowed to see her son’s body, who was in a sealed coffin. And, the conspiracy theorists just love that…”

We at Sott.net do not “love” the fact that the French authorities have refused to explain the massive discrepancies in the official story and have refused to explain what really happened. On the contrary, we are appalled. Surely they CAN explain what really happened and explain how the head of the RAID and the French Interior Minister (who was on the scene for much of the siege) could have made false statements to the press? We also do not “invent” in the absence of information, we use the available information, and the contradictory accounts from official sources, to present a plausible scenario that makes the most sense. We find ourselves in a position where we HAVE to do this because the French authorities have, for some reason, abdicated their responsibility of providing a reasonable and rational explanation of the events surrounding the killings in Montauban and Toulouse and the killing of Mohamed Merah.

“Doubt is healthy in a democracy”, admits Rudy Reichstadt. “The problem is that conspiracy theorists question everything except their own questioning.” Entrapped by their ideology or defence reflexes, “they are the opposite of a free mind”.

In their ability to free themselves from the automatic belief that government officials would never lie or engage in criminal activity, and their willingness to point out problems with the official narratives around major events, ‘conspiracy theorists’ are perhaps the last bastion of true free thinking in French and Western society and the last line of defence against the juggernaut of big Western governments as they attempt to dupe the entire world into believing that bombing other countries back to the stone age and murdering millions of civilians is the essence of ‘freedom and democracy’.

Individuals like the Le Monde journalist who penned this unimaginative hit-piece, and the extremist founder of ‘Conspiracy Watch’, are crippled by their inability to see what is going on in our world because they are so profoundly invested in the inherent benevolence of an external authority figure that acts for them in the absence of their own sense of personal authority. Bizarrely, however, such people would have little problem accepting the idea that other non-authority figures can and do act in criminal ways. For example, if I were to suggest to the Le Monde journalist or the founder of ‘Conspiracy Watch’ that many people have, do and will continue to set fire to (or otherwise damage) their own property and then blame it on someone else in order to claim insurance money (for one example of a motive), they would probably unreservedly agree with me. If I pointed them to a specific case where the evidence strongly suggested that someone had engaged in this kind of criminal activity, but that the evidence was not strong enough for a conviction, they would probably have no problem accepting that it was likely that the person in question was guilty. Yet transfer precisely the same dynamic to a government (or other authority figure) and they immediately balk at the idea and invent all sorts of nonsensical reasons why I am a ‘crazy conspiracy theorist’.

In short, that is the major problem with our world today. It’s not just a matter of corrupt governments engaging in massive criminality, it is the legions of ordinary Authoritarian Followers who will bend over backwards (and ultimately forwards) in an effort to explain away the evidence that the ‘leaders’ in whom they place so much faith are, in fact, a cabal of essential psychopaths who have used and continue to use the ‘big lie’ to systematically destroy human society and human lives.

I leave you (and, who knows, maybe the Le Monde journalist too) with a few words from Richard Dolanthat expose the ridiculousness of those who suggest that conspiracies do not exist or that ‘conspiracy theorists’ are somehow mentally deficient for pointing out that which should be obvious to any rational human being.

The very label [conspiracy] serves as an automatic dismissal, as though no one ever acts in secret. Let us bring some perspective and common sense to this issue.

The United States comprises large organizations – corporations, bureaucracies, “interest groups,” and the like – which are conspiratorial by nature. That is, they are hierarchical, their important decisions are made in secret by a few key decision-makers, and they are not above lying about their activities. Such is the nature of organizational behavior. “Conspiracy,” in this key sense, is a way of life around the globe.

Within the world’s military and intelligence apparatuses, this tendency is magnified to the greatest extreme. During the 1940s, […] the military and its scientists developed the world’s most awesome weapons in complete secrecy… […]

Anyone who has lived in a repressive society knows that official manipulation of the truth occurs daily. But societies have their many and their few. In all times and all places, it is the few who rule, and the few who exert dominant influence over what we may call official culture. – All elites take care to manipulate public information to maintain existing structures of power. It’s an old game.

America is nominally a republic and free society, but in reality an empire and oligarchy, vaguely aware of its own oppression, within and without. I have used the term “national security state” to describe its structures of power. It is a convenient way to express the military and intelligence communities, as well as the worlds that feed upon them, such as defense contractors and other underground, nebulous entities. Its fundamental traits are secrecy, wealth, independence, power, and duplicity.

Nearly everything of significance undertaken by America’s military and intelligence community in the past half-century has occurred in secrecy. The undertaking to build an atomic weapon, better known as the Manhattan Project, remains the great model for all subsequent activities. For more than two years, not a single member of Congress even knew about it although its final cost exceeded two billion dollars.

During and after the Second World War, other important projects, such as the development of biological weapons, the importation of Nazi scientists, terminal mind-control experiments, nationwide interception of mail and cable transmissions of an unwitting populace, infiltration of the media and universities, secret coups, secret wars, and assassinations all took place far removed not only from the American public, but from most members of Congress and a few presidents. Indeed, several of the most powerful intelligence agencies were themselves established in secrecy, unknown by the public or Congress for many years.

Since the 1940s, the US Defense and Intelligence establishment has had more money at its disposal than most nations. In addition to official dollars, much of the money is undocumented. From its beginning, the CIA was engaged in a variety of off-the-record “business” activities that generated large sums of cash. The connections of the CIA with global organized crime (and thus de facto with the international narcotics trade) has been well established and documented for many years. – Much of the original money to run the American intelligence community came from very wealthy and established American families, who have long maintained an interest in funding national security operations important to their interests.

In theory, civilian oversight exists over the US national security establishment. The president is the military commander-in-chief. Congress has official oversight over the CIA. The FBI must answer to the Justice Department. In practice, little of this applies. One reason has to do with secrecy. […]

A chilling example of such independence occurred during the 1950s, when President Eisenhower effectively lost control of the US nuclear arsenal. The situation deteriorated so much that during his final two years in office, Eisenhower asked repeatedly for an audience with the head of Strategic Air Command to learn what America’s nuclear retaliatory plan was. What he finally learned in 1960, his final year in office, horrified him: half of the Northern Hemisphere would be obliterated.

If a revered military hero such as Eisenhower could not control America’s nuclear arsenal, nor get a straight answer from the Pentagon, how on earth could Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, or Nixon regarding comparable matters?

Secrecy, wealth and independence add up to power. Through the years, the national security state has gained access to the world’s most sophisticated technology, sealed off millions of acres of land from public access or scrutiny, acquired unlimited snooping ability within US borders and beyond, conducted overt or clandestine actions against other nations, and prosecuted wars without serious media scrutiny. Domestically, it maintains influence over elected officials and communities hoping for some of the billions of defense dollars. [including scientists, universities, etc.]

Deception is the key element of warfare, and when winning is all that matters, the conventional morality held by ordinary people becomes an impediment. When taken together, the examples of official duplicity form a nearly single totality. They include such choice morsels as the phony war crisis of 1948, the fabricated missile gap claimed by the air force during the 1950s, the carefully managed events leading to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution… […]

The secrecy stems from a pervasive and fundamental element of life in our world, that those who are at the top of the heap will always take whatever steps are necessary to maintain the status quo.

[S]keptics often ask, “Do you really think the government could hide [anything] for so long?” The question itself reflects ignorance of the reality that secrecy is a way of life in the National Security State. Actually though, the answer is yes, and no.

Yes, in that cover-ups are standard operating procedure, frequently unknown to the public for decades, becoming public knowledge by a mere roll of the dice. But also no, in that … information has leaked out from the very beginning. It is impossible to shut the lid completely. The key lies in neutralizing and discrediting unwelcomed information, sometimes through official denial, other times through proxies in the media.

[E]vidence [of conspiracy] derived from a grass roots level is unlikely to survive its inevitable conflict with official culture. And acknowledgement about the reality of [conspiracies] will only occur when the official culture deems it worthwhile or necessary to make it. [Don’t hold your breath.]

This is a widespread phenomenon affecting many people, generating high levels of interest, taking place in near-complete secrecy, for purposes unknown, by agencies unknown, with access to incredible resources and technology. A sobering thought and cause for reflection.” [Richard Dolan]

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