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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/1/21

Primary and Secondary Spook-Speak

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The Wikipedia article on "Propaganda techniques" lists about 70 specific ways to disguise or hide the truth, but, strangely enough, omits the most common one, which is omission. This can be easily illustrated by the New York Times, the so-called "paper of record," whose longtime motto is "All the News That's Fit to Print." There you will find no mention, ever, of the following, just random examples taken off the top of my head:

David Ray Griffin

JFK and the Unspeakable

The Devil's Chessboard

Sevim Dagdelen

Daniel Hale [whistleblower]

Thordarson [Julian Assange case]

Diana Johnstone

Caitlin Johnstone

You will find many references to Michael McCaul, a U.S. Representative from Texas, but not a word about the recent report his Minority (i.e. Republican) Staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee made publicly accessible on Aug. 2, 2021. You might expect a meticulously researched 84-page paper on "The Origins of Covid-19: An Investigation of the Wuhan Institute of Virology" endorsed by 24 members of Congress to find its way into the "newspaper of record," but it does not. Why is this news not "Fit to Print"?

For the answer to this question we need only look at what the New York Times did find fit to print almost four weeks later, namely an article by one of the NYT's own "national security reporters," Julian Barnes, titled "Intelligence Review Yields No Firm Conclusion on Origins of Coronavirus." The NYT, like other major newspapers, has a paywall, so I will quote the relevant paragraphs in full.

Barnes omits not only any mention of the House Report, but also any direct link to the IC (Intelligence Community) Review he is reporting on, although it was made public on the same day (Aug. 27) and would have been easily accessible to readers, being only half the length of Barnes' article (496 and 1011 words, resp.).

The second glaring omission, in both the IC Review and Barnes' article, is any mention of the role that American institutions and scientists played in the research at Wuhan and in the cover-up regarding that research, which occupies 17 pages of the House Report. The IC Review and Barnes mention only the Chinese as actors and obfuscators of the truth.

But I want to focus on only one question that is clearly -- that is, not clearly, and purposely so -- key to the whole issue: Was the virus genetically modified? This is the clearest way to put it, because if you say "man-made," you are likely to be told, as I was told by one expert in 1989 about AIDS (see here), "We can't make a virus." I replied that we can't make a horse or a donkey, but we can make a mule. (The expert did not respond to this.) You will run into the same trouble if you say "synthetic virus," although these now can in fact be "made" (see here). The favored term by scientists seems to be "chimeric virus," although this too can be ambiguous since they can occur naturally as well as in the laboratory. The House Report, which is thorough and precise (with 227 footnotes), defines "Chimeric Virus" as "An artificial, man-made virus. Created by joining two or more viral fragments," as opposed to a "Natural Virus," which is "A virus found in nature; "wild type " (p. 10).

Comparing these three documents -- the House Report, the IC Review, and the NYT article -- gives us a good look at what I will call primary and secondary spook-speak. I am not saying the House Report is the truth, and they do not say that either, but I think it is an honest and non-partisan (even though no Democrats signed on to it!) effort to present the scientific evidence accurately and ask the relevant questions. This cannot be said of the IC Report or the NYT.

Lest I be accused of comparing apples and oranges, I will note that the full text of the IC Report is not yet available, and who knows if it ever will be, or if it is justifiable to keep a document secret that purports to evaluate a scientific question. The NYT article, of course, is "just" an article" (and there is so much other news that is "fit to print"!). So I will limit myself to apples and apples, that is, to only one section of the Executive Summary of the House Report, namely the 288 words on p. 6.

The House Report says that "a natural or genetically modified virus could have easily escaped the lab and infected the community. Committee Minority Staff has also identified scientists who are directly tied to the WIV, and who worked on gain-of-function research in the years prior to the start of the current pandemic, who had the ability to genetically modify coronaviruses without leaving any trace evidence."

Now let's see how the IC Report, in what I am calling primary spook-speak, handles the issue of genetic modification:

Most agencies also assess with low confidence that SARS-CoV-2 probably was not genetically engineered; however, two agencies believe there was not sufficient evidence to make an assessment either way...

Four IC elements and the National Intelligence Council assess with low confidence that the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection was most likely caused by natural exposure to an animal infected with it or a close progenitor virus...

One IC element assesses with moderate confidence that the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2 most likely was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology...

Analysts at three IC elements remain unable to coalesce around either explanation without additional information, with some analysts favoring natural origin, others a laboratory origin, and some seeing the hypotheses as equally likely.

Before going further, let's see how Mr. Barnes reports this, in secondary spook-speak:

After the review, the National Intelligence Council and four other intelligence agencies reported that they believed the virus that causes Covid-19 was most likely created by "natural exposure to an infected animal through an animal infected with it, or close progenitor virus."

This is not just an omission but an outright lie. The four IC "elements" and the NIC did not report that they "believed" this but that they "assess with low confidence" that the virus "most likely" had a natural origin. "Low confidence generally means questionable or implausible information was used, the information is too fragmented or poorly corroborated to make solid analytic inferences, or significant concerns or problems with sources existed" (Wikipedia, quoting the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran from 2007).

The immediately following paragraph continues and emphasizes this lie in the first sentence, and in the first half of the second sentence:

Before the review was conducted, only two agencies favored the natural exposure theory. But the new report said the intelligence council and other agencies favoring the natural theory "

Barnes does not cite a source for this claim about what "two agencies favored" before the Review. It is not in the Review. But it helps him mislead the unsuspecting reader into thinking, on the basis of what he has read so far, that now, after the review, not just two but four agencies (if that is what "elements" means) and the NIC "favor the natural theory" -- until he about-faces in the middle of the second sentence to add the crucial phrase that he has carefully omitted up to now:

had only low confidence in their conclusions - a sign that the intelligence behind the determination was not strong and that assessments could change.

Oh, the reader must now understand, if he is paying extraordinary attention, before the review two agencies "believed" the natural origin theory, but now, after the review, four agencies do not believe it, because that is what "low confidence" means. It does not mean the "determination was not strong." "Determination" is also misleading since that word means "the act of deciding definitely and firmly" (Webster's), which is no doubt why the IC have settled on the word "assess," meaning to judge or evaluate, in any case with less connotation of decisiveness than in the word "determine." If you think this is splitting hairs, consider the difference between "I determined that John won the race" and "In my judgment, John won the race."

The problem with the phrase "low confidence," which Barnes side-steps first by omitting it and then, at the last possible moment, offering a misleading paraphrase ("the determination was not strong"), is further compounded by the hopelessly (and I think intentionally) entangled double negative and self-contradiction contained in this sentence in the IC Report:

Most agencies also assess with low confidence that SARS-CoV-2 probably was not genetically engineered.

This has to be either deliberately deceitful, or the writer(s) could not have passed a highschool English composition course. What does it mean to "assess with low confidence" that something "probably was not" so? Given the definition of "low confidence," of which the IC are fully aware and use consistently (in contrast to "moderate confidence" and "high confidence"), it can only mean -- again, if you are willing to rack your brain to figure it out:

Most agencies are of the opinion that the theory of natural origin is possibly true, but based on questionable, implausible, fragmented or poorly corroborated information.

I have substituted "natural origin" for "not genetically engineered" because that is the only alternative. If it was not genetically engineered, it came either directly from an animal or from a tissue sample taken from an animal (the so-called zoonotic or natural origin).

There is only thing the IC Review says with more than "low confidence," that is, with "moderate confidence," which means "credibly sourced and plausible information" (Wikipedia):

One IC element assesses with moderate confidence that the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2 most likely was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

This has no mind-wrenching double negatives, but it is tricky as well. The IC start with two "plausible hypotheses": "natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident." But they further define "laboratory-associated incident" as "probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling." This is a false dichotomy, because as I have said, the only two alternatives are a genetically modified virus or a "natural" virus, whether the latter infected a human by "natural exposure" to the animal, by "handling" the animal, or by "handling" a tissue sample from the animal.

Why this false dichotomy? Because by conflating genetic engineering (man-made) with other "laboratory-associated incidents" you significantly reduce the prominence of what is really the only alternative to a natural origin, which is a man-made origin. You manage to make what are only two alternatives seem to be four alternatives: natural, animal handling, sample handling, and genetic engineering -- whereby the first three are actually the same, namely natural (animal) origin. We are not told which of the last three alternatives were suggested by the "one IC element" (which Barnes suggests was the F.B.I.), or if they made a distinction, but it would be important to know if they did.

Barnes does not feel it necessary to improve on this obfuscation and reports it faithfully, using the same word, "experimentation," although unlike the IC he does manage to avoid any reference at all in his article to "genetic engineering":

On the other side of the debate, one agency said it had concluded, with moderate confidence, that the pandemic was the result of "a laboratory-associated incident" in China. According to the declassified report, analysts at that agency gave weight to the risky nature of work on coronaviruses. The agency also said the accident most likely involved "experimentation, animal handling or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology."

"Experimentation" is preferable to "genetic engineering" because it is vague to the point of meaninglessness. ("Experimenting" with what?) This again pushes the crucial point, and the only alternative to an animal origin, namely genetic engineering, into the background.

In sum, the IC Review, in primary spook-speak, tells us almost nothing, and the NYT, in secondary spook-speak, refines this by telling us even less. Neither even begins to answer the legitimate and clearly formulated questions raised by the House Report. Whether the full spook report will do any better cannot be known, since it is invisible.

(Article changed on Sep 01, 2021 at 6:39 PM EDT)

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Michael Morrissey Social Media Pages: Facebook Page       Twitter Page       Linked In Page       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Former teacher, born in the US now a German citizen. Author of "Correspondence with Vincent Salandria," "Looking for the Enemy," "The Transparent Conspiracy," et al. and most recently "Chomsky, Prouty and Me." I blog at (more...)

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