If you haven't read the column yet, here it is.

To the editor ...

I think you are completely awesome. But the Osama tape is real. I was hoping you would realize this. True, America is evil, Israel is evil, radical Muslims are evil ... but Nick, the tape is real. Why don't you discuss Osama's possible motives for letting the tape get out? Why do you concentrate on the technical aspects of the videotape? Your writings are usually more subtle than this. I'll tell you about motives: Osama and his group are very proud of what he did, he knows he is going to be killed soon, so he wants the world to know that it was indeed he who masterminded the bombing. Now for all eternity the world will know for certain, that it was one OSAMA BIN LADEN who is to thank for beginning the end of the West.

Come on, Strakon, most of your black-helicopter stuff is rational and well-thought-out, but this is just paranoid silliness. There are ways the United States lies, and there are ways it doesn't. This is not one of them. Sheesh.



Strakon replies

Being in a mood of Christmas cheer, and awed at being called "awesome," I will let Frip get away with that "black-helicopter" crack.

But even if he is a highly placed intelligence executive — or even if he is Bin Laden's confessor — I can't figure out how he knows what "for all eternity the world will know for certain" about Bin Laden, his motives, and the 911 plot. My own writing was more modest, relying more on doubt than on certainty. And I'd hate to think that skepticism is now to be equated with paranoia.

The aspects of certainty, or at least confidence, that my column does reflect flow from my habits of mind involving government and my general assumptions about human action. On those questions, Frip and I will just have to disagree; I stand by what I wrote.

We must disagree, too, on the proposition that "America is evil." My belief is that the United State is evil; but that as for America our patria — the unstained remnants of her — our dream and memory of her — all those things are, in a word, good.

Finally, as for the end of the West, I have written extensively on this subject, and on occasion I have even been accused of being subtle. I will eschew subtlety here and declare that the beginning of the end of us white Westerners has nothing to do with Wile E. Bin Laden, who in the context of civilizational history will be lucky if he is awarded a footnote. Although I always try to do my own thinking, I have ended up agreeing with James Burnham on a number of points (if often along a different path). One important point of agreement is concisely expressed in the title of his best-known book:

The Suicide of the West.

December 21, 2001

One primary thing makes me doubt the tape — it's too good to be true. It's the wet dream of those who want to legitimize blaming Bin Laden for 911. It contains everything that anyone would want him to say in a confession, all in one neat package, just as if the White House had written a script for him. It's like finding a tape where Clinton admits killing Vince Foster, screwing Paula Jones out of her right to legal redress, threatening Gennifer Flowers's life, bombing the aspirin factory just to get Monica off the front pages, committing perjury, framing Billy Dale of the Travel Office, selling pardons for contributions, and all the rest. It's just too perfect to be believed.

Bureaucrat X


Strakon replies

You can bet on one thing, BX. The Red Guard mediadrones who are drooling over the Bin Laden tape would have haughtily and smugly and categorically rejected a similar tape starring Bill Clinton.

December 21, 2001

Strakon writes: "But here's one thing that is true: from where we sit it's impossible to tell for ourselves."

That is by far the most important point for anyone to take from this column. It deserves pull-quote status.

Strakon's respondent "Frip" missed that all-important assertion, and he thinks that Strakon was saying that the tape was a fraud. (How he knows it was not, he does not say.) But Strakon not only was not saying that, he was saying something much more important.

Where states, their actions, and the motives of their drivers are concerned, more and more often we cannot know what actually happens. Will we ever know whether George W. Bush "really" won the Florida vote? Only after he became popular did recounts say that he had. Joe Sobran recently pointed out that information concerning the Pearl Harbor attack remains classified, despite the fact that Nazi Germany, imperialist Japan, and the Soviet Union are all gone. From whom are these secrets being kept?

And as long as there are state secrets, there must be gaps in our knowledge of what the state has done and of what it is doing. There must even be gaps in our knowledge of how large the gaps are and how important they are!

I am reminded of poor Winston's Smith realization that he could not really know whether the year even was 1984, so much history had been distorted. The "history" that he routinely rewrote for the Ministry of Truth was itself not real history, but merely an earlier rewriting.

Finally, I cannot resist commenting on Strakon's rhetorical question, "In the circumstances, which sort of production would have been more credible: a dark, muddy, jittery videotape such as the one we were handed; or an ultra-sharp, ultra-high-fi DVD?"

This is one of those questions that might have generated different answers of varying plausibility just a few years ago, but today it can be answered with absolute certainty merely by contemplating another rhetorical question:

Which movie did audiences leave thinking they had seen a real documentary — "The Matrix"? or "The Blair Witch Project"?

Ronn Neff
Senior editor, TLD

December 22, 2001

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