While it might be expected that those who are pejoratively labelled 7/7 'conspiracy theorists', -- owing to little more than their desire to see what Tony Blair promised as "all the evidence that we have" so that they "can see exactly what happened" -- might take issue with the nature, content and intent of the BBC's Conspiracy Files episode regarding 7/7, there appears to be a general perception that it is only 'conspiracy theorists' who would find the 7/7 episode of the Conspiracy Files objectionable.
“I do accept that people want to know exactly what happened, and we will make sure that they do. There will be some five different Select Committee inquiries into the matter. We will bring together all the evidence that we have and publish it, so that people—the victims and others—can see exactly what happened.”
This, however, is far from the case, as exemplified by one of the most cogent and coherent comments left on the blog entry of Conspiracy Files producer Mike Rudin where he announced the programme's broadcast.
J7 are in the process of producing our own review of, and response to, the Conspiracy Files episode that we declined to participate in -- a programme that was two years in production and which was still being edited almost up until the time of broadcast. In the meantime, we thoroughly recommend the lucid, concise and highly informative comment made by brynberian on the BBC web site, as reproduced below:
184. At 2:23pm on 02 Jul 2009, brynberian wrote:
I watched The Conspiracy Files programme about the 7/7 bombings on BBC2 on Monday night, and was left disappointed in the standard of journalism therein, and worried by the implications of this lapse in BBC standards.
The series purports to debunk various popular conspiracy theories, in this case the allegations that the 7/7 bombings were carried out not by Islamist suicide bombers as official reports suggest, but by the British Government or Mossad, or both, and that official accounts amount to a cover-up.
I should first point out that I do not personally hold this belief. I dont have access to first hand evidence, but my instinct is that 7/7 was indeed the work of suicide bombers. However I strongly objected to the sloppy manner in which the programme attempted to disprove the conspiracy theory, more akin to political propaganda than investigative journalism.
For a start, when someone levels an accusation against a government, official reports commissioned by that very government cannot constitute evidence for the defence. The evidence needs to come from an independent source. The programme was instead heavily reliant on governmental reports to rebut the claims made by the conspiracy theorists- which weakened its case considerably and made no ground whatsoever in contradicting the allegations. If a source is not trusted, how is more information from that source going to make any difference? It makes no more sense than citing the New Testament as definitive proof to Muslims that Christianity is right. Without independent verification, both parties will simply persist in their mutual mistrust.
Let us suppose (and heaven forbid that this is the case) that the allegations against the government WERE true, that they had orchestrated murder of their own citizens for political gain. In this scenario of course the government would do everything it could to cover its tracks, evidence would be synthesised, false witnesses made to testify, whitewash reports would be produced. We have seen this happening recently in the phony democracies of Iran and Zimbabwe- if our government was as corrupt as these and many similarly unsavoury regimes around the world, such practise would be standard. Therefore, where a governments word is doubted, it is fairly reasonable to assume that cover ups may have taken place. Wed like to think we live in a freer and fairer society than these, yet we can point to many recent instances where our government has been seen to be lying to its people. (We are fortunate indeed to have our relatively free press and media to keep tabs on such things). Regardless of whether these specific allegations are true or false, it is reasonable and objective to question the word of the government. An allegation cannot be refuted simply on the grounds that it dares to do so.
Tony Blairs statement on 7/7 was examined, in particular his seemingly premature claim that those people acted in the name of Islam before any investigation into the atrocity had taken place. What did the programme makers do to reassure us of Blairs innocence? Simply quote the second half of the same sentence; the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims, here and abroad, are decent and law-abiding people who abhor this act of terrorism every bit as much as we do.
If a statement is accused of being untrustworthy, how can words taken from later in the same sentence constitute any kind of defence?
It is well known that Blair in office was an expert in the art of rhetoric and spin, and could sell any government action, however unpalatable in reality, with cosy politically correct terms. This was commonly used in support of George Bushs War on Terror- championing freedom, democracy, enlightened Western liberal values, womens rights, keeping the world safe from ideas later proved to be fictitious such as Saddams weapons of mass destruction or his alleged ties with Al-Qaeda through expert media manipulation the minds of the public were kept focussed on these things, not on the civilian slaughter that was being carried out.
That Blair on 7/7 made a speech full of reassuring PC terms is hardly remarkable and does nothing to deflect the valid point that he pinned the blame (whether rightly or wrongly) on Islamists before any evidence had been gathered.
Much was made of a certain internet film 7/7 Ripple Effect, revealing its author (using the pseudonym MuadDib) to believe himself to be Jesus Christ. Another conspiracy theorist, who had pointed out a mistake in the governments version of events (forcing the Home Secretary to revise the time of the train the suicide bomber was supposed to have taken), was revealed in the programme to be a holocaust denier. Examples of anonymous threatening letters that had been sent to various people accused in the film were shown, as well as the revelation that it had been distributed to 7/7 survivors, mosques as well as court houses trying alleged 7/7 accomplices.
The viewer was clearly meant to link scepticism of the governments account of 7/7 with Nazism on the one hand, and quasi-religious insanity on the other, as well as the aggressive psychological intimidation characterised by the threatening letters. The implication being that, to question the governments statements on 7/7 is to ally oneself with such people, to become a dangerous social pariah.
What wasnt mentioned was that 7/7 Ripple Effect is in fact rejected by J7, the July 7 Truth Campaign, the main organisation that affiliates those who question the governments account of the bombings. Their website contains a section entitled 7/7 Ripple Effect- a rebuttal and rejection in which MuadDib is strongly criticised for holding offensive anti-Muslim views as well as his wild claims to be the messiah. The page summarises; J7 are not in any way party to the making of the 7/7 Ripple Effect. We do not support the film, its producers, its unsubstantiated conjecture, or the sending of the film to relatives of victims or survivors.
Why then did The Conspiracy Files, a programme with the veneer of investigative journalism, emphasise the work of a rogue lunatic as the main representation of the 7/7 conspiracy theorists position?
The holocaust denier and the threatening letters were the other main points of identification with the 7/7 sceptics. Again, rogue extremists used to represent a position that for the main part encompasses law-abiding, peaceful and rational people who simply question the governments account of the bombings. It is not objective to characterise a movement by its lunatic fringe- otherwise we would regard all animal lovers as letter bombers, all Labour party members as Stalinists, all Tories as fascists, all Catholic priests as paedophiles.
A cursory glance at the J7 website http://www.julyseventh.co.uk/index.html will reveal the attitude of more typical people holding the 7/7 sceptics view. That such people were not represented at all in the Conspiracy Files says much about its objectivity.
The programme reached its climax with the mad old man who uses the name MuadDib being hunted down and confronted, Roger Cook style, by the unseen Conspiracy Files reporter. Why are you bringing the British government into disrepute? he huffily demanded, to a silent response.
A peculiar question, especially now in the wake of the expenses scandal, and almost daily revelations about how the government lied to us on rendition and torture during the Bush/Blair years, not to mention the false WMD claims, and the growing awareness that the evidence on which the case to go to war against Iraq was based was fixed. The government doesnt need a beardy weirdy who thinks hes Jesus to bring it into disrepute, its already doing a splendid job by itself.
As Ive said, I dont personally hold the belief that the 7/7 attacks were government endorsed. Although disillusioned with the governments recent conduct, I believe in our democracy. But I can only sympathise with anyone who is suspicious of the governments official line, as its moral credibility is so thin.
Instead of what amounted to pro government propaganda, the programme should have asked the really important question- whether true or false, why are such allegations so easy to believe?
The fact is that in matters pertaining to the War on Terror, not to mention in other well known areas of misconduct, the government has been seen to behave deceitfully. This, compounded with a massive civilian death toll to account for, makes it unsurprising that such conspiracy theories flourish. It will take more than official reports, or tabloid TV such as this misguided programme, to change that.
Perhaps the effort and money that went into making this programme could have instead been directed towards finding independent verification that the four men in the martyrdom videos were indeed the alleged four attackers, that the CCTV footage of them is accurate beyond doubt, that the still image of bomb making equipment at their flat is accurate. All this would go much further in disproving the allegations against the government than the flimsy arguments and rhetoric of The Conspiracy Files ever could.
If anything Im more sceptical of the governments position than before I witnessed this debunking. If the programme makers were so sure of their argument, why did they resort to such shoddy tricks and claptrap? With truth on ones side, objective language and enquiry will do. Facts need not be concealed. One can afford to give examination to the strengths as well as weaknesses of the opponents argument.
The standard of reportage and objectivity at the BBC is normally exemplary. I am therefore astonished that they have offered us this affront to journalism.