Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Evan Solomon Misfires

Evan Solomon, it seems to me, has somehow managed to get away with making an entire career out of begging the question. Indeed, not only is his journalistic mark almost invariably missed, but the missile of his insight often, too, has the habit of ricocheting a couple of times, unsteadying various unintended targets, before it finally thunks down in the ineffectual dust.

What I didn't realize was that he can be as obtuse in print--usually the last refuge of those (like Evan) unable to think on their toes--as he is during the endless, offensively puerile prattle that is the trademark of CBC News: Sunday. In reply to an editorial that appeared in the National Post yesterday--that criticized Mr. Solomon for his mishandling of what might have been "a useful (and entertaining) examination" of the various conspiracy theories surrounding the events of 9/11--he, as ever, succeeds only in making it rather painfully clear that he didn't actually understand the criticism when he undertook to rebut it.

He says: "The Post suggests that merely by examining the conspiracy theories, the CBC somehow supports their allegations. That's neither logical nor true."

No, indeed, as that wasn't what the Post was suggesting at all. And they really weren't being that subtle about what they were suggesting either.

The point was, Evan, that your piece "9/11: Truth, Lies, and Conspiracy" was exceptionally poor journalism. To wit: it consisted in large part of a meticulously close examination of the various conspiracy theories being peddled about, only to shoot them down with no ceremony (and no style) at the story's disproportionately terse conclusion. I don't think anyone could've been under the impression that the CBC, or even Evan Solomon, were persuaded by the nostrum spouted by the conspiracy theory straw man they'd set-up only to knock it over with a sneeze ... But this is precisely the problem. The story was obviously and painfully contrived.

Imagine the first 28 minutes--of a half-hour long piece about a suspected murderer--being devoted to the hearsay of neighbours. All their suspicions settle upon The Boyfriend; well-known to beat the victim on occasion, to drink compulsively, etc. The story builds and builds until there can be little doubt as to the man's guilt, and then, in the remaining two minutes, he is instantly cleared by a yawning police constable, who says that (a) The Boyfriend was out of the country at the time, and (b) Osama bin Laden has already taken responsibility for the crime!

What the Post was getting at, Evan, was that you missed a fairly good opportunity to produce a good, relevant, and informative story, i.e. that there are a phenomenal number of idiots in North America, willing to entertain the most absurd, reason-defying long shots over the more obvious explanation. The real story here was the deleterious effect upon common sense of the novelty appeal of conspiracy theories.