The Ceremony of Innocence Is Drowned


In the oceans of newsprint and tsunamis of pixels expended on the London bomb plot stories over the last two days, I don’t recall seeing — anywhere, either in the US or UK media — that one little word which differentiates honest journalism from the noxious regurgitations of state propaganda: "alleged."

Everywhere, you read that a "bomb plot was thwarted" — not an alleged bomb plot. Everywhere, you read that the plotters (or most of them) have been captured — not the "alleged" plotters. Everywhere, whatever line is being laid down by "intelligence officials" and government poo-bahs is accepted uncritically and megaphoned out to the public. Everywhere the presumption of innocence — one of the bedrock liberties of the "way of life" that we are supposed to be defending — is gleefully tossed aside.

Now it may be that there was a bomb plot. It may be that those who have been rounded up were indeed planning to blow up airplanes with IPods and Juicy Juice with a nitro twist. Certainly, the state terrorism of the Bush and Blair regimes — which has killed more than 100,000 innocent Muslims in Iraq alone — has fomented a whole new wave of hatred and extremism that will inevitably result in non-state terrorist violence directed against the West: an incontrovertible fact confirmed by Bush’s and Blair’s own intelligence services.

But in the present case, neither the existence of a plot nor the guilt of the alleged plotters have been proven in a court of law. This doesn’t mean that the claims of government officials should not be reported or taken seriously. (Although anyone who remembers John Ashcroft’s deathless pronouncements from Moscow about thwarting the "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla — among many other hair-raising scare stories in both the US and UK that turned to be far less than meets the eye, albeit politically well-timed — will retain a healthy skepticism until all the facts are in. This is only natural when dealing with proven liars like the Bush and Blair regimes — liars who have used mendacious fearmongering over and over to enhance their own weak political standing, and moreover, liars who in this case control all of the information about the case; there are no outside, independent agents making charges, or bearing witness to open incidents — just the same governments who have lied to us about "intelligence" and "security" issues time and again, telling us about secret plots tracked in secret by secret forces, who now hold the alleged plotters in secret). Nor does the lack of judicial judgment mean that talking heads and scribbling scribes shouldn’t speculate wildly to their heart’s content about the alleged incident and its implications, if that’s what floats their boats (and sells their product).

But it does mean that every now and then they ought to toss in an "alleged" — if they are interested in retaining at least the form of independent journalism, that is. But not many are concerned with that sort of thing these days. The presumption of innocence — like the Geneva Conventions — is just another "quaint" relic of a bygone era.