Thursday, April 13, 2006

Discrediting the Source

Dymphna's post last night about the London tube bombings (and the possibility of a failed fifth bomb) gave several commenters indigestion because of her citation of the BNP as a source.

The BNP (British Nationalist Party) is a white supremacist group that ought to give anyone pause. Browse the websites that link to it for a while, and you get the idea that they’re the “political wing” of the skinheads and Paki-bashers.

But does that mean that their information is no good, and should be disregarded?

Consider the following:

  • Hitler said that the Communists were a threat. Was he wrong?
  • George Wallace said, “There's not a dime's worth of difference between the Republicans and the Democrats.” Well, is there?
  • Joe McCarthy was an alcoholic and a demagogue who used false evidence to discredit someone. Does that mean that the US government was not infiltrated at all levels by Communists?
  • Enoch Powell was a racist and a white supremacist. In his famous 1968 speech, he said:

    In 15 or 20 years, on present trends, there will be in this country three and a half million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants… Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population… Now we are seeing the growth of positive forces acting against integration, of vested interests in the preservation and sharpening of racial and religious differences, with a view to the exercise of actual domination, first over fellow-immigrants and then over the rest of the population.
    Was he wrong?
  • Bill Clinton wanted to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and considered Iraq to be a threat to the national security of the United States. Was that true?

Discrediting the source of an assertion is a way to dismiss the assertion with arguing its substance.

In this particular case, I have no opinion. I’m not well-versed in current domestic counterintelligence in the UK, and thus am not qualified to offer one.

It’s true that the BNP has a vested interest in promoting this particular meme, since it dovetails nicely with their cause. But a lot of organizations – from the British government through all the major media – have a vested interest in promoting the opposite meme. “There are no grand Al Qaeda conspiracies; nothing to see here; everyone go back to sleep.”

In fact, it’s a good thing that different groups have a vested interest in promoting various pieces of information; that’s what provides the energy and resources to make the information available.

This blog has a vested interest in finding and displaying evidence for the danger of radical Islam. The MSM, various government agencies, the Democratic Party, CAIR, the ACLU, and a large cohort of leftist NGOs all have a vested interest in showing that there is no such danger.

Obviously, it’s not an even match.

The important thing about any item of information is whether it is credible. Multiple independent sources which confirm it would help make it credible – so can any of our British readers offer alternative sources for the “fifth bomb” meme?

This is a blog, not a newspaper, and it will occasionally present material which is thinly sourced. But a blog’s advantage is the distributed intelligence that goes along with it. If commenters supply further credible material to support or discredit this story, we will post it.

Even if Ramsey Clark is the source.


Anonymous said...

This blog has a vested interest in finding and displaying evidence for the danger of radical Islam.

Why do you write "radical Islam", instead of just "Islam"?

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

I'd take issue with the description of the BNP as a white supremacist group - it puts them in the same basket as the KKK or David Duke. Thats not quite true. True, in the past they were somewhat shady and anti-semitic (the "skinhead political wing" would be applied more correctly to Combat 18 or the National Front), but they have gone a long way to becoming legitimate with Nick Griffith leading - no more pernicious than the Freedom Partys of Jorg Haider. And despite the abuse heaped on the Freedom Party, Austria has hardly descended into fascism.

Baron Bodissey said...

fellow peacekeeper --

You're right; compared with the National Front they're mild. And they're not raving lunatics.

But is it still true that only white people are allowed to join the BNP? That's what made me use the term "white supremacist".

El Jefe Maximo said...

I'd probably disagree with Governor Wallace's characterization of Democrats and Republicans...true then, perhaps, but assuredly, no longer.

I wonder, also, if you are being quite fair to Enoch Powell. Arguibly, Mr. Powell can be (and has been) characterized as "racist" ...but this would apply to many or most pre-modern era politicans, who were all products of their background, their education, their times. Makes me wonder if tagging them with the modern term is quite cricket.

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

Point taken Baron, you are right :

Membership of the British National Party :

Party is open to those of British or kindred European ethnic descent. While we welcome contact and co-operation with nationalists and patriots of other races, and with the many non-whites who also oppose enforced multi-racialism, we ask them to respect our right to an organisation of our own, for our own, as we respect and applaud their measures to organise themselves in like fashion.

However, white supremacism is a rather negatively charged term, and IMHO a still shade or two too extreme in portraying the BNP, thats all.

Baron Bodissey said...


I lived in England during Powell's heyday, and I've read up on his speeches and writings recently. You can find quotes from him about "the danger of the Negro" or somesuch in quite a few places, including the "rivers of blood" speech.

Strangely enough, it was the blacks (African and Caribbean) he was worried about, and not the Pakistanis and Arabs. He really did seem to have a special obsession with blacks.

But he was an educated, cultured, and humane man, too. A very odd mixture.

Baron Bodissey said...

As for George Wallace -- if you exclude national security issues (a big "if", I admit), he was right then, and he's right now.

El Jefe Maximo said...


Okay, you've some experience with Powell, so I'll defer to your opinion on that subject.

As for Governor Wallace and dimes, the national security thing is indeed a big "if" and what I had in mind.

Baron Bodissey said...

Jefe --

Yes, you're right. That's why I won't vote for a Democrat for national office if my life depends on it, because my life does depend on it.

And you're also correct that Wallace was right in 1968 even if he wouldn't be now. Back then most Democrats still believed in a strong defense, even if they did like the UN more than the Republicans did. But now... they're like a combination of the Wobblies and America First when it comes to international affairs.

Baron Bodissey said...

Zwergele --

Well... I didn't quote the BNP, Dymphna did. I might have been a little more hesitant to use them as a source.

But she's not as familiar with them as I am, and I wasn't at home to advise her! So it was her call.

That said, don't you think the story itself is interesting? I sure would like to find another source for it.

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

In any case its a damn good conspiracy theory - it explains things otherwise unexplicable without unduly straining credulity. Its credible, even if the messenger is deemed unworthy the story is indeed worth checking.

If the blogosphere starts self-censoring itself because of fear of being tangentially smeared by association with PC unapproved sources, then we really are f***ed. As fluffy points out, also on other issues the BNP makes more sense than mainstream political parties rather too much of the time.

Frank said...

Zwergele makes a couple of conceptual errors here. First, ad hominem is a fallacious argument style both the left and right use with abandon..."he beats his wife, therefore he knows nothing about [insert irrelevant topic]", or in this case: "BNP is white supremacist, therefore all its information is suspect."

Neither of course holds true, and both are nonsequitous. Zwergele seems to realize this halfway down his/her post when s/he cites previous misinformation from other sources as sufficient reason to disregard subsequent information. This is an entirely different argument. If BNP has been guilty in the past of falsifying hard data and presenting it as truth (as opposed to presenting unpalatable opinions), then that IS in fact a reason to tread warily with subsequent presentations of hard data.

Its valid to consider the source of hard data, but the source should be considered in relation to its hard data merit, not its opinion. If Hamas announces that all Jews are rodents, I will discount all further hard data it presents, because clearly Jews are not rodents. On the other hand, if Hamas announces that its opinion Jews are all rodents, I will discount its opinion, but I cannot reasonably use its opinion to discredit any facts it may present.

snowpea said...

This is an unpleasant dilemma that many of us may face at some point down the road: if the only serious political force advocating some vitally important measure, or offering us physical protection, also happens to be racist or otherwise fundamentally repugnant, at what point do we nevertheless support or cooperate with it as a lesser evil? (Trying to reform it from within, perhaps.)

I don't know whether the BNP is racist or not. One worrying thing about their website when I went there a while ago was its apparent preference for paganism over Christianity. Also, there was a BNP public Yahoo discussion group whose tone was rather less civilized than their website. On the other hand Nick Griffin seems to have considerable personal stature by comparison with the bunch of sleazy mediocrities who now seem to dominate mainstream British politics. I got the impression that some of their spokesmen may be not very well educated people who have rightly decided to cease deferring to the corrupted educated elites and so now have to come up with moral ideas of their own making.

Frank said...

snowpea said:
"This is an unpleasant dilemma that many of us may face at some point down the road: if the only serious political force advocating some vitally important measure, or offering us physical protection, also happens to be racist or otherwise fundamentally repugnant, at what point do we nevertheless support or cooperate with it as a lesser evil?"

I defer to Churchill and his oft quoted suggestion that he would, if Hitler invaded Hell, make at least a favorable mention of the Devil in the House of Commons.

Jason Pappas said...

I don’t vet every site I link to—who has the time? Of course, I prefer to link to sites that have consistently high quality info or just an honest and decent attempt at furthering the debate. But every now and then I link to a site that is reasonable on one issue and then I discover down the line that they go off the deep end on another issue. That’s the internet. I link to them a little less and choose other sources if I can. Quite frankly, I don’t take links as the linkers endorsement of the other guy’s total position.

ba ba said...

The BNP aint all that its cracked up to be.

Its much better than that.