Readers may recall my post from back in February about the mysterious sounds that were causing headaches (literally) to US embassy personnel in Cuba. It led to all manner of speculations about the Cubans themselves unleashing, or allowing some other nation to unleash, some high tech Cold War-type sonar devices on them. The fact that the evidence produced was highly vague and that the Cubans had no motive for doing such things did not stop the wild speculations.
Well, now it appears that US embassy personnel at a consulate in China are experiencing similar symptoms and Matt Taibbi writes that the New York Times has ratcheted the conspiracy theories up to 11, exploiting the fact that the US public will believe pretty much anything about a nation that is considered to be an enemy.
The truth is we know nothing about what is causing these events. The only thing researchers have been able to determine is that those afflicted seem to have damage that resembles concussive brain injury.
That is terrifying and bizarre. Some previously unknown environmental condition, terrorists or space aliens, for that matter, seem as likely an explanation as an international conspiracy.
Not according to the Times. Noting that the Havana episode “roiled” relations with Cuba last year, the paper wrote:
But with Americans now exhibiting similar symptoms in Guangzhou, American officials have raised suspicions about whether other countries, perhaps China or Russia, might be to blame.
Remember, this is the same newspaper that last year was telling us that if these illnesses were caused by a foreign actor, such attacks couldn’t have been pulled off without the host country being involved.
So what are we talking about now? A Chinese-Russian conspiracy? Or a Cuban-Chinese conspiracy? The two nationalities have previously conspired to create excellent restaurants in New York, after all. Or is it a trifecta, a Cuban-Chinese-Russian conspiracy?
What exactly would be the benefit to any of these countries – but particularly Cuba, a small, economically struggling island nation desperate to restore normal trade relations with America – in doing this?
What would any of them gain in using a space age, undetectable weapon to cause perplexing brain injuries specifically to American and Canadian diplomats?
After pointing out how easily the media drift into weird theorizing on the basis of so little information, Taibbi points to a larger problem of which this case is just a symptom, and that is the paranoid fears of the American public that results in its willingness to swallow any crackpot theory that suggests a danger to them from whoever is the enemy du jour.
This embassy-illness story is unlike any other in a lot of ways – the scary-weird factor is off the charts – but the reporting of it is an all too commonplace example of the power of the printed word, when it comes to demonizing foreigners. Journalists know it, but the public mostly doesn’t grasp how easy it is to make audiences believe that other people (particularly ethnic people) want to commit pointless, evil acts of violence against us.
Our history shows that once we start pointing fingers at a foreign country or nationality, people start seeing those enemies hiding under every rock, with knives in their teeth. The more alien the culture, the quicker we are to believe the enemy wants to hurt us for no reason.
Even if you leave aside the current bogeyman, Russia – where there is already a long list of false alarms and crazy accusations – this is a pattern that extends far back in our past.
At the height of the run-up to the Iraq war, Americans actually believed Iraqis might send drones full of poison flying over American cities. After the Oklahoma City bombing, when virtually the entire press instantly pointed the finger at Middle East belligerents, we had columnists like Mike Loyko saying we should just pick any country and start bombing it – “If it happens to be the wrong country, well, too bad, but it’s likely it did something to deserve it anyway,” is how he put it.
And we wonder how it can be that so many people believe Donald Trump’s absurdities such as that Mexican immigrants are rapists and murderers. It is because they have been softened up for a long time by our media to think America has many powerful dark enemies who are utterly evil and capable of the most dastardly acts, This same mindset enables the security complex led by FBI-CIA-NSA and aided its hangers-on of so-called experts and analysts in the media to demand more and more resources and powers to allegedly combat these shadowy miscreants.