Thursday, January 12, 2012


You have to see this with your own eyes. Go look. Read the first paragraph, then compare it to the last paragraph.

The Economist wanders over and finds the U.S. government dumping subpoenas on Boston College for research materials on paramilitary organizations that were active during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. A set of fact claims clunk against their thick skulls, and their fingers twitch. They start to type. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how they get their bread: they type stuff.

The first paragraph is about the need for justice, for bad people to be brought to account for their crimes. Jean McConville was murdered, full stop. "From a police point of view, all such serious crimes must be investigated, using all available evidence." Jane Tennison is on the fucking case, people, and she will not be deterred. She will by god hunt down the criminals and haul them before a judge to face what they've done. From a police point of view, all such serious crimes must be investigated, using all available evidence. This is a murder investigation, the most serious police business there is, and murderers must be caught.

Last paragraph: "It is highly unlikely that Mr Adams will be prosecuted even if the tapes do reach Belfast. But his reputation may suffer if he is linked to an IRA cell that carried out punishment killings."

So we start out with justice, but we end with political reputations. I mean, nobody's going to be prosecuted or anything, don't get me wrong, but from a police point of view, all such serious crimes must be investigated. It's like The Economist assigns different paragraphs to different writers, and they aren't allowed to communicate before the issue is put into print.

Slopping out this wandering theme, the magazine craps out more slop to support it. On Jean McConville: "The IRA killed her, believing, almost certainly wrongly, that she was an informer for the British."

I kept looking for the part where they showed evidence for that "almost certainly wrongly." I'm still looking. When you're shaping an argument and you need an act to be entirely senseless to fit your chosen position, just make it up. In contemporary English, the term for this is "journalism."

The only public evidence for the claim that McConville probably wasn't an informer is the 2006 report from the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. The ombudsman got the British army on the phone and said that, like, did you guys use a widowed mother of ten as an informer in Divis Flats and get her killed and leave her children without parents? And the army said that, hey, no way man. And the ombudsman typed it up. The good news is that the ombudsman has demonstrated the skills required for a career in contemporary journalism, and has another line of work available when the government paychecks stop.

Note also that The Economist doesn't say a fucking word about why the PSNI is investigating a murder that happened in 1972. Not a word. "From a police point of view, all such serious crimes must be investigated, using all available evidence." Forty years later. Feel free to explain that to your readers at some point.

And watch this terrific evasion: "The British government shows no enthusiasm for prosecuting Mr Adams. But this has not stopped the Northern Irish police, who are also investigating more than a dozen other unsolved killings by the IRA and other paramilitaries."

The problem is that, under the terms of the legal assistance treaty that the PSNI is using to get the interviews at Boston College, the police can't contact U.S. authorities directly. Instead, they contact their designated "central authority" for the processing of international requests, the Ministry of Justice for the United Kingdom, which then directs a formal request to the central authority in the United States, the Department of Justice. The effort to complete the request and obtain the desired materials is managed between the central authorities, between the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Justice. When the Ministry of Justice gets the materials, they send them on to the police, who asked for them in the first place.

So a the magazine invents a split in which the "British government" is sitting over there in a corner, enjoying a sandwich and minding its own business, while the PSNI rattles cages and runs wild in the streets. But the British government is pursuing the Boston College material. The British government has asked the American government to issue subpoenas. But somehow they show "no enthusiasm" for the thing that they are actively doing.

A whole patchwork of absolute nonsense, wrapped up in a steaming pile of bullshit. Well done, The Economist.

But of course, lazy bullshit is the new normal. Watch the Wall Street Journal dish it out like the pros they are:

At the heart of the legal dispute is the unsolved, nearly 40-year-old killing of Jean McConville, a widowed mother abducted in front of her children and murdered by the IRA as a suspected spy for the British government. The IRA has admitted to the murder though the killers never were identified.

Her death came as violence swept through Northern Ireland in the 1970s, with paramilitary groups targeting civilians and each other. The McConville case went nowhere for decades.

"Went nowhere for decades." Unexplained.

At least have the sense to be embarrassed.


  1. So the Economist article is awful. Having said that, should the murderers of Jean McConville be prosecuted?

  2. Interesting. You're quite willing to dish out the venom, but don't seem to be able to answer a straight forward question.