Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Trouble With Stupendia

In two recent posts, I've reviewed current articles by Jeremy Kuzmarov on one hand, and Ben Howard, Aaron Good, and Peter Dale Scott on the other. Regarding the latter, "Why Did Key U.S. Officials Protect the Alleged 9/11 Plotters?" (reviewed here), I wrote:
I'm sad to say I'm surprised by how shallow it is. ... the authors provide many indications that the "hijackers" were protected by members of "our" "security services" once they arrived in the U.S.

But they never give us any indication that they realize they're talking about patsies. They write as if the patsies had committed the crimes.
By this I meant, among other things, that the towers didn't "collapse" because of impact by airplanes, or fires, or both. They didn't collapse in any but the molecular sense.

For the most part, they turned to toxic dust. The larger (heavier) particles covered the city, several inches deep in places, the smaller (lighter) particles drifted away on the wind, and the mid-size particles hung in the air for days and caused untold death and suffering among first responders and others.

In my view, if we are to make any sense of 9/11 at all, we must accept at least this dollop of obvious-at-the-time (but now suppressed) truth.

I continued:
The article is still worth a read, as long as you read it carefully. Some of the evidence they present is extremely important, but the crucial details are easy to overlook because they're buried.
Regarding the former, "The U.S. May Have Lost the Military War in Syria, But Has Won the Propaganda War at Home By Portraying its Murderous Invasion as a Moral Crusade" (reviewed here), my good friend James wrote:
I do not have an issue with anything in Jeremy Kuzmarov's article (except perhaps the slack he cuts Chomsky). It is not what's in the article but what's not in it. And it is an almost universal omission.

There's lots of data/facts etc. but little to no logical progression tying it all together and leading to a conclusion that identifies "who" and "why".

All these atrocities have a cause and a motivation behind them. For instance, Syria became a target, we learn, because it shared a border with Turkey.

Why was that a problem and to whom?

It's a particular bug of mine, I admit (and I'm probably guilty of it myself). It seems all journos do it, even the likes of John Pilger. In fact, he's terrible for it.

Perhaps Jeremy takes the view that it is not his prerogative to interpret the meaning of it all for us. Fair enough.

Regardless, his article introduced a lot of information I did not know and I appreciate that very much.
This insightful comment stirred up some long-forgotten memories, which led to an actual clear-headed train of thought for a change, and I propose to describe some of the sights that were visible from the train, in the hope that they might be useful to you.


Many years ago, I wrote a long and very detailed article about one of the horrible events that took place in Iraq, and one of my friends described it as "a stupendous compendium". I shortened the expression, removing the complimentary aspect of it, and called it a "stupendium", only half in jest.

Later I wrote some other pieces in a similar style (but not too many, I hope!) and I read plenty of "stupendia" from other authors. So I came to recognize the "style", which more or less amounts to dumping all the pieces on the table and letting the reader try to put the puzzle together. Or drawing all the dots but never hinting at how they are connected. Too many details, not enough synthesis. The wealth of details is extremely valuable, but often readers can reach the end of a stupendium without any idea of what it all means.

I think there are many reasons why people write like this. One is editorial interference. Writers under tight control can sometimes show us some dots, but they can never show us all the dots, or tell us how the dots are connected, because that would jeapordize "national security", or "advertising revenue" (which amount to the same thing when you think about it).

Another reason is fatigue. Pulling together all the information for a stupendium is a huge job, and the information is usually so horrible that it takes an emotional toll as well as all the hours of work. Sometimes after compiling the info for a stupendium, I've barely been able to write it up, and adding another section (or several) explaining what it all meant seemed beyond me, so I just poured the pieces on the table and slept for a couple of days.

A third reason is, let's call it "fear" of negative feedback. And that depends on the audience. If you've cultivated an audience of pro-Israeli readers, for example, you're not likely to write anything about Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians, for example.

I'm sure there are other reasons, but I probably don't need to spell them all out (even if I could).

Regarding Jeremy Kuzmarov: He's the managing editor of CovertAction Magazine so I don't imagine he's under too much pressure (to toe anyone's line). He's not running the whole show on his own, so there's undoubtedly some pressure. But I don't think that's a big problem for him (from what I know, which isn't much).

And I don't think fear of negative reaction is a part of the equation for him, either. He responded directly and respectfully to my criticisms, and people who can do that are not usually afraid of reactions. His response was very admirable in my opinion, and people who are not admirable simply cannot do that. They can't even fake it.

I think it's more likely that the independent writers who commit "serial stupendia" are [1] exhausted by the effort and can hardly imagine doing even more, and/or [2] unaware that a "bare stupendium" is quite unsatisfying for most readers, who don't already know what the puzzle looks like, or how the dots are connected.

Sometimes they already know what the puzzle looks like before they even start collecting the pieces; that's why the start collecting the pieces. And along the way they fall into the common trap of forgetting that most of us don't know what they know. I do that at work, and when talking with my wife, even when I'm trying not to; so how could anyone not do it?

A clear recent example was part 2 of the "Twenty Year Shadow" series, in which Peter Dale Scott and his co-authors dumped all the pieces on the table and fled. Because I already had a good idea what the puzzle looks like, those pieces were valuable to me. But I were coming to it cold, so to speak, I would have had no idea what the point of it all was, or whether there was any point at all.

I don't mean to be too critical of Jeremy or Peter because I think they're two of our smartest and best friends in the world of intel analysis. On the contrary: I sympathize with them; and I understand the difficulty.

But that doesn't mean we can't encourage them to do better. So maybe we should.