In my previous post I urged George Monbiot to check the basis of his assumptions about the narrative he accepts regarding Syria.
So to state a point that should not need stating: to question is not to deny – although nor is it to affirm. It is to seek knowledge and understanding. Being less impressed than George by the quantity of data presented as evidence, I have only ever commented on its quality.
As can be seen from my earlier blogs on Syria, I was shocked to discover – and only very belatedly – how we have been systematically misled by organisations that many of us assume can be trusted implicitly.
George still trusts the Syria testimony of organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Far be it for me to tell him who to trust, but I did urge him to look more closely at what they present for evidence.
Instead of doing that, he has entrenched more deeply his defence of the NATO narrative. He also appears to believe he has satisfactorily responded to my concerns (via twitter).
I don’t think he has, so I shall just record how the exchange went, from the perspective of my twitter feed. My aim is to ensure that this important question for serious public debate is not just shut down.
Our exchange centred on a set of six questions George tweeted:
As can be seen, the first five questions all invite me to speculate about the facts of the recent chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun. These are good questions in themselves, but given that the very point of my open letter to him was that we are not in a position to know the facts, I was surprised he solicited conjectures from me. So I just answered his sixth, more general, question.
Still, he pressed me on the rest, and we had this exchange:
For the record, my beliefs had not changed in the 10 days since that previous post, and I shared it because I think it makes plain why I would not join him in speculation about the facts. (Since his response is a little dismissive, let me add: Who I believe is independent of who I like. My article was about the former. While I do find it generally harder to like people that I don’t believe, unless they are especially charming, I don’t necessarily like everyone I believe. As pointed out in the paper, I believe some of the claims made by ISIS and Al Qaeda spokesmen.)
Today, George has updated the blog I challenged:
Further Update, 1st May 2017: Human Rights Watch has now published a report on the gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun, and a further 19 chemical weapons attacks in Syria that appear to have been perpetrated by the government. Already, HRW is being denounced as part of the conspiracy by some of my correspondents on the left, using a meme developed by the paranoid right as their excuse for not reading or crediting its report: namely funding for HRW by the evil mastermind of the new world order, George Soros.
I very much regret that George has mistaken HRW for an independent source of verification. I also regret his departure from the canons of reasonable public debate. I engaged with his views in the first place because I regarded him as someone who – unlike a great many in journalism – would respect them. I hate to think I could have been wrong about that.