Friday, September 20, 2013

Uncritical vs. Unbiased Reporting: An Email to Joel Mathis

Below is an email I sent to Joel Mathis of on 9/12/2013, regarding his criticism of Paul Kurtz's coverage of the ReThink911 campaign.

Dear Mr. Mathis,

My name is Adam Taylor. I am a 9/11 activist and a contributing writer and researcher for several 9/11 truth websites, including Debunking the Debunkers, AE911Truth, and ScientificMethod911. Having read your recent Philly Post article, I'm very disappointed to see that you have offered an unfair and misinformed criticism of Paul Kurtz's coverage of AE911Truth's ReThink911 campaign. It's obvious that, contrary to what you claim of Mr. Kurtz, it is in fact you that has provided an uncritical assessment of the issues surrounding the events of September 11th. Allow me to enlighten you to a few of your errors that is quite unbecoming of someone who claims to be a journalist. 

For starters, your entire criticism of Mr. Kurtz's article as failing to provide "counterarguments" to AE911Truth's position is entirely unfounded. True enough, the article does only discuss the group's position on the collapse of the WTC buildings. But why is that such a bad thing? Is Mr. Kurtz required to present every viewpoint on the collapse of these buildings? While Mr. Kurtz provides no criticisms of AE911Truth's work, nothing in the article necessarily endorses their position either. It could be that Mr. Kurtz agrees 100% with them. But nowhere does he say that in his article. He does not state his own opinion, but merely reports on the event in an unbiased manner, which is exactly what a professional journalist should do. Perhaps you believe that the mere mention of the group is uncritical endorsement, and that Mr. Kurtz should not have done so. If this were the standard practice of all journalists, they would likely have very little to comment on. 

But ironically, your article provides us with a perfect example of what uncritical journalism actually looks like. You provide two examples of supposed "debunking" of the truth movement's claims. Your first example is Popular Mechanics, and it seems that along with Rachel Maddow you've placed a disturbing blind faith in their analysis of the movement's arguments. Popular Mechanics has long been responded to by many people within the 9/11 truth movement, including Jim Hoffman, David Ray Griffin, and AE911Truth founder Richard Gage. I myself have written an extensive multi-part response to Popular Mechanics' latest version of their book Debunking 9/11 Myths. By your own standards, shouldn't you have mentioned these "counterarguments" in order for your article to be considered an "honest report"? And just how honest is this source of yours to begin with?

It's unlikely that Popular Mechanics has much to say about the group Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, given that they've largely ignored them. In their previously mentioned Debunking 9/11 Myths book, there is not one mention of AE911Truth or its founder Richard Gage. Now it's one thing to give no mention of this group, but it's another thing to deny its existence completely. And that is essentially what Popular Mechanics has done. In their book they actually claim that "not one of the leading conspiracy theorists has a background in engineering, construction, or related fields." Keep in mind that this book was published in 2011, and by this time AE911Truth was comprised of around 1600 professional architects and engineers. Does Popular Mechanics sound like it's presenting an honest assessment of the truth movement? I provide a summary of other omissions and distortions in their book here

Your second example, Rational Wiki, fairs no better. While no critique of their entire 9/11 conspiracy page exists to my knowledge, much of what they discuss has already been addressed by the movement as well. Simply type in any subject they bring up into the search engine at Debunking the Debunkers and you'll find answers to their arguments. But the specific section of their page you link to shows just how uncritical the writers of that site are. They fail to note that NIST's WTC7 report has been exposed as extremely erroneous, and contains a multitude of deceptions and misrepresentations. Did you bother to critically analyze either of these sources? And if not, then what justifies your criticism of Mr. Kurtz  supposedly doing the same thing?

As I said at the beginning, it's very disappointing to see the position you've taken on this issue. You criticize Paul Kurtz for giving the movement an "unchallenged platform" (which, by the way, it's really not; that's what the comments section is for), whilst all that he has done is provide an unbiased coverage of the group's efforts to get a new investigation into the collapse of the three WTC buildings. Rather than show that Mr. Kurtz was wrong for giving them uncritical coverage, your article gives off the impression that he was wrong for giving them any coverage at all. You conclude your article by saying that:
It’s one thing to raise questions: That’s the job of journalists. When there are people who offer different, credible answers on those questions, it’s also the job of journalists to present those.
The media has for many years presented the government's scientific assertions about the collapse of the WTC. Now it's AE911Truth's turn. The group presents exactly the kind of "different, credible answers [to] questions" that you talk about. And it's no one else's fault except yours if you fail to see that. I recommend that you issue a formal apology to Mr. Kurtz for your unfounded criticism of his reporting and journalism methods. I hope you will take my comments into consideration, and do exactly what AE911Truth's campaign is encouraging people to do: re-think 9/11.


-Adam Taylor