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The Daytona Beach News-Journal (Florida)

Showtime for Justice Dept. Shams, with Press' Support

Pierre Tristam

A government staging a show trial -- by definition a fraudulent government -- has already determined the guilt of the people being tried. Parading them before a court gives the government a schmear of legitimacy while making an example of the people on trial. The goal is to instill fear, not render justice, so the staging is more important than the outcome. Stalin's Soviet Union in the 1930s was the grand master of show trials. George W. Bush's America is this decade's champion.

Two years ago Bush, flanked by that other paragon of truth, Alberto Gonzales, claimed in a speech that "federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charged have been convicted." A Washington Post analysis based on the Justice Department's numbers showed that 39 people, not 200, were convicted. This year, New York University's Center on Law and Security puts the Justice Department's success rate in terrorism prosecutions at 29 percent (compared with 92 percent for felonies).

Even those prosecutions aren't always what they seem. That was the case with Jose Padilla, first arrested and held illegally and without charges as an "enemy combatant" for 3 1/2 years. He was considered among the "worst of the worst," to use Dick Cheney's dime-novel phraseology, supposedly because he was ready to blow up apartment buildings in Chicago, only to be convicted on the most bogus fall-back charge of them all: conspiring to commit terrorism abroad (no details provided, obviously).

We've been treated to similar show trials since Sept. 11, 2001, including the ongoing one against Miami's "Liberty City Seven," those poor Haitians who had no money, no weapons and wouldn't know Sears from Roebuck but nevertheless are charged with plotting to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago. We had the mistrial in the case of a Dallas charity whose double-whammy indiscretion was to be Muslim and Palestinian-oriented, which reminded me of a Ramadan promotion by the Saudi Arabian branch of McDonald's in 2000: 26 cents from the purchase price of every burger would be sent to a charity running Palestinian hospitals. Time magazine's predictably moronic reaction was this headline: "Official Sandwich of the Intefadeh?"

Always count on the establishment press to fuel the government's shams. Show trials wouldn't be possible without a ready public, without judges primed to let the travesties smear courtrooms and juries gullible to buy into the scam. Just as the press fuels fears and prejudices disproportionately more despicable than the hysterias in question -- "illegal" immigrants, the drug war, child abductions, sex offenders, whatever Nancy Grace is talking about -- the press is doing so consistently with what writer Susan Faludi so aptly calls "the terror dream." The closer to home, the more sensational -- and the more phony the fears. On that score, the nation's leading news organization is no more discriminating than Lou Dobbs or Nancy Grace.

Two weeks ago The New York Times ran a massive story titled "An Internet Jihad Aims at U.S. Viewers -- Slick Videos and Blogs in English Sell Anti-American Extremism." The story speaks of "100 English language sites" but details only one, that of Samir Khan, a 21-year-old North Carolinian who "wrestles with his worried parents about his religious fervor" and says nasty things about America. His audience? The Times says "500 regular readers." Meaning what? Daily readers? Weekly? I checked Khan's web site ranking on Alexa, the standard Internet audience meter. He came in 300,000 positions below my own personal Web site, which ranks somewhere on another planet. Talk about pitiful.

Khan's postings are equally insignificant, including his links to "the latest blood-drenched insurgent videos from Iraq." Those are in no way more lurid or morally questionable than the Pentagon's Air Force-snuff videos that end up featured on the Discovery Channel's military shows. But The Times featured the story on its front page, in two columns above the fold, in alarmist prose meant to evoke fear and outrage, questions like the one that appeared in a subsequent edition ("Should jihadi Web sites be shut down or read carefully?"), calls for absolute shut-downs from reactionary bloggers and the talk-show Politburo and, of course, Justice Department warnings. "The Internet has facilitated the radicalization process, particularly in the United States," FBI Director Robert Mueller has been warning on his Web page since January.

Show trials need their depositions and exhibits. After six years of terror frauds, the press is still delighted to oblige.

Pierre Tristam is a News-Journal editorial writer. Reach him at or through his personal Web site at .

© 2007 The Daytona Beach News-Journal

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