For 8 years consecutive years, I taught a course on research methodology and political analysis. But after watching US and other western officials present their case for attacking Syria, and the accompanying mainstream media’s coverage , I realized that I had shortchanged my students all these years. In fact I had left them ill-equipped to assume careers as journalists, academics, diplomats and NGO workers, with my focus on completely useless concepts as empirical evidence, objectivity, quantitative analysis etc. If I am to ever teach this course again in future, I will revise my syllabus and condense the course contents into one handout that contains the following 10 simple guidelines for ensuring methodological rigor:
1) In the absence of any compelling evidence, simply appeal to “common sense”, while dismissing any credible counter-evidence as “fanciful” and hence nonsensical (footnote, John Kerry Aug. 30; White House spokesman Josh Earnest, Aug. 29)
2) When cornered on live television about counter-evidence, appear exasperated and proclaim “look, I know what some people are saying but it’s as clear as daylight” (footnote, veteran correspondent, Christiane Amanpur on CNN, Aug.30)
3) In the absence of any trace of truth to your claims, try to establish a consensus reality which includes the ever-so credible, Arab League and note their “agreement” with your assessment (footnote, White House spokesman Josh Earnest, Aug. 29)
4) Present all the anecdotal evidence you want (ignoring how the term is an oxymoron), without supplementing it with a shred of hard, empirical evidence, which the public can directly observe, by citing the need to keep “additional intelligence classified because of sources and methods concerns” (footnote, US Intelligence Report on Syria, declassified, Aug. 30)
5) Always adopt circular reasoning: “we know X is culpable because our intelligence assessments said X was culpable 10 times this year of the same crime” (footnote, practically every single US official and mainstream journo)
6) If the claims you are making seem outlandish and illogical given the absence of a motive, simply refer to the “irrationality” of the accused state/individual/group (footnote, practically every single US official, liberal academic and mainstream journo)
7) Protect yourself from any potential, irrefutable counter-evidence that could become known to the public, by qualifying your “undeniable” “facts” and “evidence” with a “we have high confidence”— i.e. we are not 100% sure— disclaimer (footnote, US Intelligence Report on Syria, declassified, Aug. 30; John Kerry, Aug.30)
8) Respond to all cynical questions about the reliability and veracity of your evidence by expressing moral outrage at the audacity of those questioning you. This can be done in crude fashion, “you are a baby-killer” as per Syrian opposition activists, or a more sophisticated “Anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass,” (Footnote, John Kerry, Aug. 30)
9) Ensure that all evidence you cite is self-referential, i.e. drawn from your own ranks and from your close allies (footnote, practically every single US official, liberal academic and mainstream journo)
10) If anyone from your own ranks or from among your close allies digresses from the consensus reality you have masterfully constructed and reveals information that contradicts your narrative, try to undermine the credibility of the highly-placed source by injecting your reports with snide allusions like the term “controversial” (footnote, mainstream media accounts of Carle Del Ponte, Member of Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, who held rebels responsible for use of Sarin gas; mainstream media accounts of Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning).
I don’t want to question in what moral universe would a state like Israel, which is the very embodiment of genocide and moral obscenity and whose very existence is a crime against humanity, be deemed fit to judge alleged war crimes committed by other nations. Of course this question applies equally to the US as well but we are talking about Israel now.
I dont want to employ any moral or value-laden arguments; i simply want to refer to euro-american standards of justice like ”fair trial” and “neutral arbitration” (which is why the west created not-so neutral institutions like the UN), as well as scientific standards for inquiry like “impartiality”.
In what western legal universe would it be deemed fair to use as legal “evidence”, information provided by a party to the conflict, which has occupied the territory of the state in question, repeatedly attacked and threatened it, and publicly called for the overthrow of its government? In what legal universe would “evidence” or “intelligence” provided by such a state be deemed credible and reliable? In what legal universe would such a state be deemed an impartial observer of alleged war crimes? In what legal universe would it be considered fair to completely bypass a supposedly neutral arbiter of justice like the UN in favour of Israeli [mis] information?
Full report here