The power of the source: A short answer to the article of Boukhari Meraghni


Question Mark by Jean-Michel Folon / Marco Belucci, WM

In his article “Information, the ultimate weapon” Boukhari Meraghni examines three of the most significant failures of Western policy in recent years, their genesis and their reflection in what he calls the “mass media”. He draws a sobering conclusion: The mass media cannot be trusted, thus the consumer has to constantly challenge every given information.

While I agree with his conclusion and most of the examples Boukhari brings forward, especially concerning the very dubious claim of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in the forerun of the Iraq war and the questionable international intervention in Libya that left a mainly intact country to a raging civil war, I do have a problem with the sources he provides to back his arguments.

If lacking reliability of mass media should make the consumers scrutinise every information given, it should so much more require them to consider carefully where the information is coming from, therefore to assess the reliability of the source. The author quotes among others two (in my opinion notoriously unreliable) conspiracy theorists in order to prove that mass media are unreliable – Michel Collon, who has been called the “king of Belgium’s conspiracists“, and Thierry Meyssan, who is most known for his highly controversial book “9/11 – The Big Lie” This seems paradox to me.

And what is more, the author becomes an unreliable source as well: He states that the US “welcomed” and supported terrorist groups in Iraq, adducing a document obtained through court order by the watchdog group Judicial Watch as proof. This document, while proving that the US new about IS, simply does not support the allegation that the US “welcomed” IS in any way. It is rather a factual report describing the situation as it was at the time. It does neither contain anything on US actions in Iraq (only on those of its allies), nor does it give any clues on US intentions there. I do agree that US actions in Iraq provided an ideal breeding ground for militant extremists like IS and that the US might have indirectly and unwillingly supported IS by training and equipping opponents of the Assad regime in Syria who later joined the IS, but the document provided does (in my opinion) not at all back the claim that the US did so willingly.

Information is a weapon if (ab)used as such, for example to justify a military intervention as in Iraq or an annexation as in the case of the Crimea, which should make the consumer challenge information provided by the media. But this should equally apply to sources outside the “mass media”, especially when it comes to conspiracy theorists: Replacing a mistrusted source with a second source that is even less reliable does not help an otherwise legitimate argument.