- I turn to my favorite government story, the one that
tells us about TWA 800. The fascinating thing about this case is the way
that the skeptics have been isolated in this country, notwithstanding their
considerable stature. Begin with a member of the official government investigation
that has bravely challenged the findings: The International Association
of Machinists and Aerospace Workers has virtually ridiculed the claim that
old wiring initiated the blast, and pointed to holes in the fuselage that
seem to suggest a high-energy explosion outside the plane. You will =never
read about that in the mainstream press. The machinists join an impressive
company of marginalized critics.
- On the center right, there is the Association of Retired
Aviation Professionals (ARAP) and former staffers to Congressman Michael
Forbes, whose district the plane went down in (notably his former administrative
assistant Kelly O'Meara, now a reporter for Insight).
- There's former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Thomas Moorer, there's Accuracy in Media. There's the Village Voice and
the widow of a Lockerbie victim who was appointed to a select Presidential
commission on airline safety and who has now sued the government, saying
her dissent on TWA 800 was cast aside.
- On the lib-left, there are Dr. Tom Stalcup and Graeme
Sephton, who have brilliantly analyzed the government's radar data for
the Flight 800 Independent Research Organization (or FIRO). There's former
CBS producer Kristina Borjesson, who went out the door in part over this
case. Not to mention all the eyewitnesses on Long Island, whose accounts
are insulted in the latest National Transportation Safety Board report.
- Some of the questions these people raise are so compelling
four seconds of crucial data from the flight data recorder seem to have
been removed, says former TWA pilot Howard Mannthat any reasonable person
who hears them has to at least question the official version.
- These questions have been taken up in countless places
outside the mainstream. The French and Australian press have covered Stalcup
and Sephton, for instance. Or, there's the respected travel writer Joe
Brancatelli of biztravel.com, who has attacked the FBI for bullying the
NTSB and corrupting the investigation. A poll by Aviation Week lately found
that two-thirds of its respondents did not believe the government findings
on TWA 800. But the Clinton court cannot abide the skepticism.
- The critics are routinely written off as conspiracy theorists,
their points blacked out. The idea that our government might lie about,
say a blown military exercise off Long Island is simply too preposterous,
and damaging to world progress, to ever be discussed. It's Wen Ho Lee all
over again. Ralph Nader has called this a "democracy gap." In
which affluent corporations want you to spend your citizen-time this fall
arguing whether the journey of an overstuffed daddy's boy from Tennessee
is more compelling than the journey of a moronic mama's boy from Texas,
much as you spent August arguing whether the corporatist Richard Hatch
or the bleeding heart Kelly Wiglesworth should get the $1 million on Survivor.
- This column appears on page 19 in the 9-25-00 edition
of The New York Observer.
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