The Oddness of the Current Press Moment 1

Fenster writes:

The small dust-up over whether the French government suppressed evidence of torture and mutilation at Bataclan is a good case study of the oddness of the current press moment. Heat Street ran a piece saying yes: Snopes has for the moment debunked it fairly effectively IMHO. The story continues to run on right-leaning sites without any mention of the debunking.  Some of these are press outlets that are in the business of recycling right-thinking news (see here and here for example).  Others, like Fox and the New York Post, are essentially mainstream outlets that tilt right, and profess to actually cover, and not just recycle, the news.  And for the record, Drudge has a link up, though where you put Drudge on the news spectrum is up to you.

Meanwhile, the entire kerfuffle is not mentioned at all in the MSM.  Arguably that’s because they are persuaded by the Snopes skeptical view.  But one way or another, it is fair to consider this story at this point in time to be “news”, though it is news of a particularly interesting variety that suits our moment: a story poised somewhere between being and nothingness, content to inhabit that ambiguous space.

I was a bit put off that The American Thinker blog ran with an uncritical story endorsing the suppression angle.  The author is one Rick Moran.


no, not Moranis, Moran.  With an “a”.


Kidding aside, I like The American Thinker.  It doesn’t always live up to the highfalutin’ promise of its title, but it usually presents interesting and thoughtful commentary, if sometimes inflammatory and more than occasionally doctrinaire.

Moran’s story was just posted a few minutes ago, well after the Snopes debunking’s ready availability on the web.  But there is no mention of any critical evaluation of the suppression story.  It looks true.

One Fenster Moop wrote in to The American Thinker in response.

Careful there, American Thinker! I take your point about the general problem but you ought to closely evaluate the argument that the original Heat Street story—the source of all the stuff out there from the Daily Caller to Fox News–does not hold up. Snopes–which I do not always trust when it veers too far into political territory–does a pretty good debunking here.…

I first found the Heat Street article credible but then went out on my own to take a look at the inquiry report that forms its basis. Granted, I had to patch things together from badly translated material already posted, Google Translate and my own high school French. But I do not see that the inquiry material supports the charge of suppression, or even that of atrocities having been committed.

What do we have? One police officer, Monsieur TP, who arrives at the scene and finds and investigator coming down from the second floor who says he saw scenes of torture and dismemberment, and who promptly goes outside to vomit. Nothing first hand from M TP.

Then we have a father who sees his son at a morgue and who recounts how the people there would not let him see his son, given how disfigured he was. He appears to have had an eye taken out. But this is pretty shaky stuff in the confusion of the moment. A recollection by a father of what a mortician said in a crisis situation. Any report? Any official record that the missing eye was definitely due to torture and not shrapnel, say? No.

The report has a bit more of this kind of indirect stuff, but not even much more of that. And no direct witnesses, accounts, or forensic evidence.

The prefect of police states flatly there is no forensic evidence and no evidence of blades left behind, instruments that would be needed for the guttings and beheadings allegedly committed at the scene. He concludes the atrocity rumors were just that.

Now if you are conspiracy minded you will draw from the prefect’s testimony that bien sûr there was a cover up. But all that depends on the reliability of stories about atrocities, and we have no decent direct accounts of that as far as I can see. And even if there were atrocities, while the prefect’s account might be questioned there is no direct evidence of suppression. I say this because several of the news accounts out there have morphed the story into one in which the suppression angle is front and center, as if it has itself been established. As far as I can see, it has not.

So for the moment I am persuaded by Snopes argument. Maybe I would not brand the suppression story as “False”, as Snopes did. But I do not see the Heat Street charges well-supported in the record, and that includes for me a brief detour into the French press looking elsewhere for first person accounts of things like beheadings, and the filming of them. I don’t see them.

I could be wrong of course. The truth may be out there. But I respect The American Thinker, read it quite regularly and would hope it would exercise care in its editorial judgments. And I don’t think you should have run this story, at least without taking on the quite reasonable counterarguments. Perhaps Monsieur Moran will do a follow up in which he evaluates Snopes’s arguments. This would be a good idea, no?  Journalisme?

In the end I find this a great example of the pajama style journalism age we now live in. Shoe leather? Fahgeddabaddit.

Ha. You want to establish atrocities and a cover up? Go find the story!

Used to be counted as a bad thing that freedom of the press exists only for those lucky enough to own one. Now every man is a Hearst, and that has its own downsides. To paraphrase Burke, the effect of press freedom for all is that individuals may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints.

Now, if people got out of their pajamas and chased the story down, what might they find?  Who knows, they may find evidence of atrocities and news suppression.  I just now came across this account, which looks pretty credible but again suffers from being second-hand.  And why do I have to spend a half-day looking up sources to support a story that on its face is not well sourced, with many in the press not bothering to worry about sourcing?  Good reportage is still possible here both on the atrocities themselves and the possibility of willful suppression of the events.

I am still in my pajamas.  And for now, I side with Snopes.  But I welcome Monsieur Moran’s follow-up story, too.


Fenster commented at The American Thinker around 10AM.  It is now noon.  The comment was definitely posted because it received a snarky response from an American Thinker who thoughtfully pointed out that Snopes is a left wing shill and not to be trusted.  I wrote back that thinking, even American Thinking, involves grappling with the actual issues presented.  Meanwhile, I note that at some point in the last hour The American Thinker pulled my comment and it is listed as awaiting “moderation.”  Sounds like fun!  I look forward to my moderation.  Might it involve a summer camp, maybe, with marching and lectures about Hayek and Marx?

But that’s maybe too cynical.  Maybe they are having second thoughts about the original post.  Stay tuned.

Note 2: Going back over the translations I do now see one reference to a specific mutilation.  It is the one I referenced above, where the father was shown his son in the morgue but was not allowed to see the actual wounds on the body.  This comes from one of the inquiry’s investigators, who says he has a letter from the father concerning his experience after the event.  The best translation I can make of the relevant part of the father’s letter reads as follows:

 . . . in the Forensic Institute of Paris, I was told, and this with reservations in the light of the impact that this represented for me at this time, that we (?) had cut off her testes, that they had placed in the mouth, and that he had been gutted.

OK, that’s getting close to a first hand account but it is still not totally convincing.  The testimony is not delivered in person by someone who can be identified but is included in a letter sent to one of the investigators, and simply read at the proceedings.  It does not appear to be testimony.  We don’t know who sent it.  We don’t know who the person was who told the father about the mutilation.  And the father did not view the body.  Still, it is a disturbing tale, and one that might be chased down fairly quickly by an enterprising reporter.  If you are still a believer in the suppression angle here’s your chance.  Everyone else is parroting the one weak account available.  Go get your story.

Bonus! Fenster wrote earlier about the lack of shoe leather in what passes for journalism in the current era.  Kids today!

About Fenster

Gainfully employed for thirty years, including as one of those high paid college administrators faculty complain about. Earned Ph.D. late in life and converted to the faculty side. Those damn administrators are ruining everything.
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8 Responses to The Oddness of the Current Press Moment 1

    • fenster says:

      Je vous remercie. Ceci est le rapport que je traduisais mal et sans doute raté des choses . Je ne vois toujours pas de preuves suffisantes pour étayer les allégations . Je vois cela surtout comme un exemple de la façon dont la presse a été creusé et que nous sommes submergés par des histoires recyclées qui ne sont pas très bien sourcés . Je ne pense pas que ce serait difficile de sauvegarder les revendications avec une meilleure preuve, mais la presse ne fais plus pas autant .


      • Glengarry says:

        NB. Reported to the French National Assembly, so quite official.

        M. T. P. Des corps n’ont pas été présentés aux familles parce qu’il y a eu des gens décapités, des gens égorgés, des gens qui ont été éviscérés. Il y a des femmes qui ont pris des coups de couteau au niveau des appareils génitaux.

        M. le président Georges Fenech. Tout cela aurait été filmé en vidéo pour DAECH !

        M. T. P. Il me semble. Les victimes en ont parlé.

        Mr. T. P. Bodies have not been presented to families because there were beheaded people there, murdered people, people who have been eviscerated. There were women who had been stabbed in the genitals.

        Mr. President Georges Fenech. All this would have been videotaped for DAECH! [ISIS]

        Mr. T. P. I think so. Victims have said so.

        A few lines further down:

        M. T. P. Ils se sont fait exploser. Il y a eu des personnes décapitées, égorgées, éviscérées. Il y a eu des mimiques d’actes sexuels sur des femmes et des coups de couteau au niveau des appareils génitaux. Si je ne me trompe pas, les yeux de certaines personnes ont été arrachés.

        Mr. T. P. They blew themselves up. There was decapitated people slaughtered, gutted. There were expressions of sexual acts on women and stabbing in the genitals. If I’m not mistaken, the eyes of some people have been gouged out.


  1. fenster says:

    I read that, at least I attempted to, and thanks for the English. I think this is one of the firmest statements.

    And when you just read the words here it sounds compelling. “There were beheaded people there” on its face means just that. But what is the context? My reading of the context for this testimony is not that TP is a police official who had reviewed all the evidence and was presenting it to the Commission. He was they guy who showed up after police were on the scene. He saw no mutilations and he heard they happened on the second floor from one other police officer who went outside to throw up but who himself is not reported as saying that even he witnessed the scene. So when TP says “bodies have not been presented to families because there were beheaded people there, murdered people, people who have been eviscerated. There were women who had been stabbed in the genitals” my reading was that I read it as his recounting some of the second hand information he got on the scene.

    Then Fenech, a member of the Commission says “all this would have been videotaped for DAECH!” But where does that come from and what the heck does it mean? I didn’t see any testimony about observing videotaping, even from Mr. TP. From what I can see Fenech introduces the idea on his own, with an exclamation point even. Mr. TP then says “I think so. Victims have said so.” Pretty confusing. TP only says he “thinks so”, so he is hardly holding himself out as one who knows.. He then seems to endorse the idea in saying “victims said so.” But we already have heard from him that he didn’t see anything that happened, and he himself makes no prior mention of videotaping.

    Yet in some stories charging cover up the notion of the mutilations being videotaped was treated as a fact when the only thing I see is Fenech suggesting it without any particular prompt.

    I am not trying to be willfully ignorant here. I don’t agree that Snopes had it right when it deemed the charges “false”. There is some material–especially Mr. TPs quote above–that clearly address mutilations. But I just don’t see how you pull from an official inquest with no first hand accounts and only a few indirect accounts that it happened, and then that there must have been a cover up.

    There may well have been a cover up, and I totally agree the powers that be in the press and in governments systematically play down issues where Muslim violence is concerned. But where’s the evidence of a cover up?

    The mainstream press has ignored the story. I don’t agree with that either. They may argue that the charges have been “debunked” but per the above I don’t agree with that. There is something in there? But what? If I were an editor with money I’d send someone to look into the story. It should not be hard to find these people and to ask for context and leads, starting with Fenech and TP. If I were an editor without money I would run a story but it would fall well short of concluding the events happened and that they were covered up.


    • Glengarry says:

      I don’t find this as mystifying as you do. It read to me like the respondent (a police or possibly army officer) had seen the bodies and talked to survivors. The question about DAECH/ISIS was probably not kosher in an American court, but this wasn’t court.

      As to why it’s being ignored (even by the alt right, it seems), there could well be an element of media cover up — it wouldn’t be the first time — and it might well be that these details are being revealed too late for a proper reaction. We have already had a number of spectacular terrorist attacks after that.

      It might also be the whole thing is so psychotically over the top that it’s difficult to take in, yielding a sort of numbness or refusal to accept that it was even worse. The Paris story is no longer the first act of a Tom Clancy action movie of coordinated roided up jihadists with a grievance blowing up football games and mowing down concert goers as quickly as they can — there is also a serial killer torture porn rape murder segment, which makes the movie a bit unreal and, you know, racist. Yet, as we know, there already are plenty of examples of ISIS doing such things; it’s just the previous videos were not shot in Paris.


      • JV says:

        Have any actual witnesses been interviewed and has their testimony been published? I don’t put it past these people to do the horrible things that are being alleged, I just haven’t seen any actual first-hand accounts. And it all sounds too much like the trumped up details of already horrific acts that have been fully debunked in the past.


      • Glengarry says:

        Again, it read to me like the respondent (a police or possibly army officer) had seen the bodies and talked to survivors. Sufficient for me, you’ll have to dig further yourself to see if it was all just a pack of vicious lies. But I don’t think so.


  2. fenster says:

    I don’t find the idea of it not being publicized shocking at all. I was just listening to an account of the Munich Olympic massacres that said the same kind of stuff happened to the Israeli athletes–castration and torture. And that it never made the press and did not make it into later treatments like Spielberg’s movie. It could be Spielberg was part of a long-term plot but at least in this instance more likely it was a matter of taste and turning away from the extreme nature of the acts. Maybe this was part of any glossing over at Bataclan, and maybe along with that was a desire to play down Muslim viciousness. I just think it is hard to tell from this. I don’t recall in other parts of Mr. TPs testimony that he said he witnessed anything himself or was in charge of assembling corroborated reports or anything like that.


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