Tag: TV

Breakfast with Osama, Petra and Corin

Breakfast TV; I have conquered you.

If you want to watch me talk about the conspiracy theories surrounding Osama bin Laden’s demise on this mornings TVNZ Breakfast programme, then look no further than here. It’s a short piece; four minutes tops, so there’s an awful lot that could have been said that was left, well, unsaid.

International visitors to this blog (Hello, there!) can watch the clip on YouTube.

I was also completely unaware of the photo of Osama bin Laden that was behind me.

I was given a set of questions to help me prepare, I’ll let you see what I might have said by way of my notes on them so to flesh out what I covered; they also act as a partial explanation as to why it was I talked about the Osama bin Laden conspiracy theories in the way I did.

Now, I should point out that these musings are not necessarily what I’d say on reflection or have said on air; these are my initial reactions to the questions, jotted down quickly whilst eating dinner and watching “Enemy: Starfleet,” the most recent “Star Trek: Phase II” production. So if they’re off or a bit weird, it’s because faux-sixties SF was addling my tired brain.

Enough excuses.

What’s fuelling these conspiracy theories – an information void?

Both a void of information and a general suspicion, both by the Republicans in the US and people skeptical of the War on Terror generally, as to why this happened now and whether it happened at all.

There’s a lack of information with respect to no photos, the weird story about the burial at sea (which has been sneered at and endorsed by various experts), the way the official story changed from “He used his wife as a human shield” to “He was unarmed when he was shot” and the role of the Pakistani intelligence service.

There’s also the misinformation; Sarah Palin claiming it occurred because of evidence solicited by the CIA’s not-torture waterboarding, et cetera.

What do you think is behind that lack of official information around OBL’s death?

Speculating here, but I think a lot of the issues here are due to our expecting large amounts of data to be available immediately in the internet age. If you look at the way the story broke on Twitter so quickly and so accurately, it seems odd that we don’t actually know much more now than we did on Monday afternoon. Governments like to release information at a rate they feel comfortable with to control the discussion; we want all the data now and some people have even gone so far to fabricate data (like the fake photo of bin Laden’s corpse) to fill that void.

Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if the US government is smoothing over some of the operational issues, like working out a narrative with Pakistan to explain why American troops enacted a kill on Pakistani soil. The US had to reveal that bin Laden was dead so they could control the way the story broke, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy with the timing.

If conspiracies are shut down when questions are answered – what are the crucial questions here?

I’m assuming this is a question like “Why are the conspiracy theories proliferating if the data is out there?” If that;s question, then I’ve already answered it.

Can conspiracy theories be instructive in coming to a better understanding, or do they just get in the way- white noise if you like?

Conspiracies occur; no one doubts that. Watergate, the Moscow Show Trials… We have lots of examples of conspiratorial explanations, a lot of which were dismissed by people in authority who were just covering up what really happened. Even if we think most conspiracy theories are bunk, and I’m actually not sure we can assume that without having a really good argument for some claim about how hard it is to satisfy inferring that a conspiracy exists, thinking about claims of conspiratorial behaviour now tells us things like:

“Just how much do we trust official sources?”

“How often do we think conspiracies occur?”


“Who is it they we distrust the most?”

I suspect a lot of the conspiracy theorising about bin Laden’s death is as much to do with “Did it really happen?” as it is to do with frustrations about the War on Terror, America’s role as the world police force and worries about civil liberties being eroded everywhere. I mean, everyone is say “Are we going to be allowed shampoo on airplanes ago now?” which shows that a lot of people think, no matter their opinion on what happened on 9/11, that what happened next was less than desirable.

Have you been watching with interest as these theories spill out? What are some of the more interesting you’ve seen?

Alex Jones, the more extreme version of Glen Beck, who is an example of everything about FOX News which is wrong, has claimed that bin Laden has been dead for years and his body has been kept frozen on ice, saved up for an opportune PR moment (in this case, Obama’s bid for presidential re-election). Jones’s theory is fascinating because he claims bin Laden died in 2002 from kidney failure and that it was Bush and his cronies who put bin Laden on ice; Jones thinks there is no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats and thus all this is is a stunt to keep the status quo popular so to further their control over America and the world in general.

The former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer says ‘If you doubt he’s dead, no photo will satisfy’. Is there an element of truth to that?

Definitely; given that photoshopping is easy and that the altering of photos has been going on as long as photography has been around, a photo won’t cut it, which is why they went for the DNA evidence, but given that there’s already a substantial feeling of mistrust towards the American government, even that evidence is being doubted.

Can the hardcore believers in these conspiracy theories be shifted in their belief?

Not the hardcore, no. They a) don’t accept any official information and b) already believe they know the truth of what is going on.

So Say We All

(I forgot I hadn’t published this…)

So, ‘Battlestar: Galactica’ the best show on TV you are probably not watching, is coming to an end after four seasons, with the lead writers claiming that this means they can finish off their story arc and provide for an exciting finale.

The fans, for some reason, are pissed.

There is something very odd about fandom in that fans will fight and fight and fight for a show to survive even when the architects of that show think it would be better otherwise. Yes, some shows get cancelled before their allotted time and some shows only begin to express their greatness as they come to a close, but, by and large, a lot of shows live on too long (I’m looking at you, last season of ‘Buffy…’).

There was a great mini-series in the UK called ‘Ultraviolet’ (not related to the recent film of that name) about a modern day vampire conspiracy. The story had a very definite beginning, middle and end and was commissioned for a second series. Some fans were astounded by the writer’s claim that he had exhausted the ideas of the show and that he wanted to go onto something new, even going so far as to propose their own, frankly quite terrible, plot ideas for a further six episodes.

‘Battlestar: Galactica’ is a show that has an evident goal for its characters; they want to get to Earth. This season they are going to do it. Sure, they could go on for a few more years, dragging it out. I think it’s admirable that they want to tell a complete story and are willing to do it going out on a high rather than trying to prolong the story for as long as possible and then have to cram in an ending at them moment they are told the show is cancelled.

Back to the conspiracies soon. And the One Line Doctor Who Reviews.

A break from your irregularly scheduled programming…

Welcome to the occasional pop culture revue. No Conspiracy Theories today.

So, TV. It’s a companion of sorts; not as exciting or entertaining as the FHG but, well, it fills a certain pop culture-sized gap in my pysche. And TV has suddenly got a lot better with ‘Lost’ being back; I watched the opening episode of season four last night and, once again, I’m hooked.

‘Lost’ hasn’t done particularly well with the audience appreciation, recently; the people who lauded its inventiveness in season one seemed to want, in season two, a show that ‘matured’ and calmed down to become either a standard drama or go full tilt with the SF angle. For me, though, the show has just got better and better, with stories that wow you or make you think the show is going in a direction opposite to that which it is, every episode satisfies. Indeed, I was indignant when ‘The Beginning of the End’ ended after a mere forty-two minutes. I need my bites to be bigger.

When not watching ‘Lost’ I do find myself watching other delights like ‘Pushing Daisies’ (ignore the Herald review, which I won’t link to; the show has legs a-plenty), ‘Torchwood’ (season two is better than season one, but season one wasn’t particularly good…) and, yes, ‘Stargate: Atlantis’ (which is actually quite good; you’re probably just prejudiced because MacGyver used to be in it).

Of course, a lot of my favourite TV scheduling is getting nipped in the bud because of Big Business. Over in the States the Writers Guild of America is striking because the production companies don’t want to give writers an residues on internet revenues for the shows guild members have written for. That’s the reason why Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert have been less funny recently; they are doing their shows unscripted. It’s the reason why ‘Pushing Daisies’ will end after episode eight here without any real sense of conclusion.

If there was going to be any talk of conspiracies it would be here that a wise and assiduous writer would mention that this isn’t really conspiratorial behaviour at all but rather an good example of Chomsky’s notion of institutions acting in conspiracy-like ways whilst not actually conspiring.

And now for some more ‘Torchwood.’ Who knew that Cardiff was the centre of the bisexual revolution?

Pop culture revues will be infrequent. We return now to more standard programming.