[photo] Mark Jeftovic

easyDNS CEO, Career Contrarian & AntiGuru

How to detect a net.myth in 4 easy steps.

I’ve mentioned George Ure’s UrbanSurvival many times here. Always interesting, one of my daily rituals is to read it while I eat lunch at my desk. The problem when you make your mainstay exploring the wider fringes of culture, technology and economics is a lack of third-party verification on many things. George falls prey to this from time to time.

Take this week’s report that Dick Cheney has asked StratCom to game out an attack on Iran in the event of “9/11: the sequel”, whether Iran was involved or not. Truly chilling stuff.

“The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing – that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack – but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.”

Scary as that is, it looks bogus to me, and I’ll outline the steps I take to weed these things out:

1) Google an excerpt of the exerpt.

Look at the results. On any given issue you should see a mixture of mainstream, fringe and blogosphere hits from all sides of the issue. If the issue is real and white hot, then everybody and their hangnails will have something to say about it, from all sides of the spectrum.

These results are pretty consistant and homogenous. They all come from the “conspiracy fringe” and they’re all pretty inflammatory (“Cheney to Nuke Iran In Event of Another 9/11”, etc)

2) Cross reference against news sources.

We all know what passes for “news” in the mainstream is more like Orwellian soma, but if something is real it will at least get picked up there if only to downplay it and declare it a non-issue.

At this stage you don’t want to use the excerpt, you want to do a new search with a keyword dense query.

In this case we see use +Cheney +Stratcom +nuclear +Iran +Terrorism and we get a couple hits, from more sources that seemed to have picked up the meme “as is”. But for a “something real” we should see a lot more sources here. If not the national services then at least a smattering of regional affiliates of mainstream news congomerates and wire services should have some chatter around it. There isn’t any.

3) Look for natural “drift”.

At this point, a real article that is this inflammatory, we would see different excerpts quoted and commented by different people with different viewpoints. If you keep seeing the exact same excerpt quoted in exactly the same manner and find the citations to be circular rather than linear (everyone links to the next nutjob’s blog and nobody links back to the original source), the story is further suspect.

4) Try the source.

This one will settle it. I don’t have access to the latest issue of American Conservative and wouldn’t know where to get one up here in Canada (where American Conservatives loathe to tread). I did call their office and found that they’re closed from July 22 thru Aug 12th, now that’s convenient and also a huge red flag.

So my guess is this is either a bogus story or the one excerpt has been taken in a very narrow context and then jumpstarted out the blogosphere. People eat this stuff up, it isn’t hard to whip people into a frenzied countdown to armageddon. (As I’ve noted before, there seems to be a certain class of people who are truly disappointed when stuff like this fails to transpire as advertised).

If anyone has “the latest” copy of American Conservative (an exact issue number cite usually accompanies most real stories),or contact info for Philip Giraldi (the article’s author) then let me know.

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