The Litvinenko case suffers from the intransigence of false beliefs
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
A recent conversation drove home two unfortunate facts concerning justice in the Alexander Litvinenko death case:
The first is that most people with any awareness of the matter have developed beliefs about what happened based on mainstream media reports. That's problematic since the news stories generally support a fabricated version of what actually befell Litvinenko. That leaves people with false beliefs.
The basic media storyline is that Vladimir Putin was surely culpable in the polonium poisoning that led to Litvinenko's death. (See "David Cameron's Litvinenko Hearings Are a Silly Political Sham.") However, no one has disclosed verifiable facts to back up the Putin allegation.
Second is that there seems to be considerable resistance by people to abandoning their false beliefs -- even when confronted with clearly countervailing evidence and facts.
The referenced conversation participants were Hedie and James, not their real names. Things were kicked off in view of the imminent release of an official UK report on Litvinenko's death. Here's how the exchange went:
Hedie commended as background a BBC documentary titled "Litvinenko's Murder: The Inside Story." I had already seen that program. I'd label it a "so-called" documentary. It gives the inside story alright. It's the story that was fabricated inside the Boris Berezovsky camp in an effort to destabilize Russia. Berezovsky was an extraordinarily-active political arch-enemy of Putin's.
BBC's program jumps right in with the allegation that Litvinenko's was a "killing with some state involvement." That's the fabricated plot right out of Berezovsky's unsubstantiated Putin-did-it playbook. No real evidence. Just unsupported allegations.
In the ongoing conversation with Hedie and James, I questioned the reliability of the mainstream UK accounts. What was Hedie's reaction? She replied, "I don't see any reason whatsoever not to trust the UK government Inquiry. It was conducted by those with very high expertise..."
I guess that's the impression many if not most people are likely to have formed based on mainstream media accounts. It's not unexpected that Hedie came to believe in the authenticity of the reportage.
But Hedie's defense of her beliefs invoked a logical fallacy. It is known as "appeal to authority." Here's how it works:
X asserts that A is true.
X is an apparent authority.
Y believes in X's credibility.
Therefore Y concludes that A is indeed true.
This chain of reasoning becomes a fallacy if Y has accepted X's authority uncritically. That's what Hedie obviously had done. She had uncritically accorded credibility to the UK story. That led to acquiring beliefs from misleading media reports. And now she was fighting to protect those beliefs.
What would a critical examination of the UK role in the Litvinenko case have revealed? The UK has had a dog in this fight. The UK government is no kind of objective authority here. It has actively protected itself against any liability for not safeguarding Litvinenko from danger about which UK officials potentially had foreknowledge. It allowed the Berezovsky crowd to virtually dictate the path of the hearings. And in the end it introduced high-level political interference to quash any possibility of an honest and reliable conclusion.
Hedie rejected my suggestion that Berezovsky had contaminated the Litvinenko story. She said, "This is not about Berezovsky, but about hard evidence."
To the contrary, however, the case is not really about hard evidence. My research has shown that in this whole proceeding what's called "evidence" is not actually evidence at all. It merely amounts to allegations that are based upon other allegations that are based upon still other allegations. There is no substantiation for the overall theme of the story. Hedie's contention about hard evidence is just her putting forth further resistance to abandoning a false belief.
In a very real sense the Litvinenko case is indeed all about Berezovsky. He fabricated the basic storyline and put a lot of effort into convincing the masses and official London of its truth.
You can't understand the Litvinenko affair without understanding Berezovsky's underhanded motives that created it.
Earlier I made reference to Berezovsky's efforts to destabilize Russia. That was not a wild allegation of mine. It was a clear goal of Berezovsky's. He had expressed that goal in his own words and deeds. He even called for a violent revolution, throwing out the constitution, and installing a monarchy with Prince Harry as King of Russia. Not with the historic Russian title "emperor" or "tsar" mind you, but "king." No kidding. These are Berezovsky's own words and sentiments.
Can you believe that mainstream media, and yes, even British officialdom would buy into the Litvinenko account of a guy like Berezovsky? Didn't they bother to check out the reliability of their source?
The official record of a High Court judgment in a civil action involving Berezovsky spells out his absence of credibility. The judge called him "inherently unreliable." That is a trait that goes directly to the core character of the man. The judge added that Berezovsky "regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept."
For James' part in the conversation the same pattern of thought emerged. He asked for proof that the mainstream Litvinenko story had been falsified. I offered the example of the well-publicized deathbed statement.
The Berezovsky camp reported Litvinenko had dictated the statement that incriminated Putin in Litvinenko's poisoning. Berezovsky henchman Alexander Goldfarb claimed he wrote down Litvinenko's words. In a peer reviewed report I presented at the 2007 World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists I pointed to the implausibility of Goldfarb's story. Ultimately Goldfarb confessed that the statement contained his words, not Litvinenko's. The story of the deathbed statement had been a hoax. Goldfarb even admitted that there was no factual basis for his allegations about Putin.
What did James get out of that explanation? He alleged that I "did not believe the deathbed statement because of who reported it." James' comment is kind of a non sequitur. But the takeaway point is that he tenaciously clung onto a false belief about the deathbed statement, even when confronted with objective and verifiable evidence that it was a hoax.
The approach of James and Hedie to the fabricated Litvinenko story is not unique. If you look around at online comments to mainstream media articles about Litvinenko, you'll see many more Jameses and Hedies.
They have been taken in by the misleading media reports and by the tenor of the UK government's witch hunt for Russian culpability. Note that I'm not saying there is no such culpability. I just don't know. But what I've found through my research is that those who are trying to convince us of the Russian culpability are resorting to fabrications and lies. They constitute the mainstream story.
And the Hedies and Jameses of the world are believing it all. They bear witness to the intransigence of false beliefs.
The unfortunate result is that for the masses, the facts of the Litvinenko affair just don't really matter.
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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