Monday, September 04, 2006

March 11th....El Mundo Goes Backpacking

There was a certain amount of expectation as we entered September – what story would the newspaper El Mundo choose to lead the charge once again on the issue of the Madrid train bombings in 2004, and the allegation that there is a hidden conspiracy behind the attack? Expectation was highest amongst the Peones Negros (Black Pawns), the sect-like movement that has been created to propagate this absurd campaign. The high priest of this sect is Luis Del Pino, who has been at the forefront of promoting conspiracy theories about the bombings and who formulated the phrase “the socialisation of doubt” to summarise the objectives of the campaign. The Peones Negros had been predicting for weeks that September was going to be a hot month – we are not talking here about weather forecasts – and that El Mundo could be about to deliver a fatal blow to the case against those accused.

So last Friday, the 1st September, duly arrived and there was a front page story in El Mundo about the “Vallecas bag”, the rucksack containing an unexploded bomb which was recovered from one of the trains. This bag is a key piece of evidence in the case being presented for trial, after all it contained the telephones (used as timers in the bombs) that led to the first arrests, and of course was packed with the Goma-2 ECO explosive which the accused are alleged to have used in all the bombs that did explode. It is not the only key piece of evidence but has been the focus of all attempts by the conspiracy theorists to suggest that the bombings were not really carried out by Islamist terrorists. It is called the “Vallecas bag” after the police station in this area of Madrid where it was eventually discovered the night after the bombings. The bag had been removed from the trains along with all other personal effects that were recovered in the aftermath of the explosions.

Friday’s story was based around a police report on an unidentified DNA profile that had been detected on the Vallecas bag. Clearly, the lack of identification of the profile means that the police are unable to say how this person came into contact with the bag. In a speculative attempt to offer a solution the report suggested that the bag “could” have been “manipulated” before it was discovered to be a bomb, and having been transported with other personal effects recovered from the trains to the IFEMA exhibition hall which was being used as an emergency centre following the bombings. The quoted words are the most important thing here, the conspiracy theorists have been keen to show that the bag was not under constant vigilance, and of course what they really try to suggest is that it was planted by persons unknown involved in the conspiracy. The use of the word “manipulated” in the report can of course just be a reference to someone having touched or lifted the bag, but manipulation can also have a sufficiently sinister interpretation to make any conspiracy theorist get excited. As with other El Mundo stories on the subject (see the links at the end), the reader is invited to make connections that are not actually supported by any evidence:

- no evidence of any kind is provided to show that anyone at all touched this bag in IFEMA.
- no evidence is provided that the chain of custody of the bag was ever breached.
- not even the tiniest scrap of evidence exists to show that the Vallecas bag is a planted fake.

The Peones Negros, however, are driven by faith rather than reason. They got the message that El Mundo wanted to transmit and soon the message was out on Internet that the Vallecas bag had been manipulated and was therefore no longer valid as evidence in the case. For Del Pino and his followers it is always the other side that has to prove things, they see no obligation to provide evidence for anything that they allege. In true sect fashion, they have discussions on their blogs about how to spread the word, and recruit new followers. The peones are told how to introduce the topic into casual conversations at work or when with friends. They are now starting to speculate on these blogs with ill-concealed relish about the political instability that could potentially follow a collapse of the trial, and how it will be revealed that the alliance between ETA and the governing Socialist Party was behind the bombings. El Mundo itself has now more or less openly declared that the bombings were a coup d’etat organised to achieve a change of government. They are now very close to the line where they will have to put forward names for this vast conspiracy that is being alleged, the stakes are getting ever higher.

This is not a situation where a newspaper reveals the results of an investigation as they emerge; rather it is a calculated drip-feed of stories aiming to bring down the case against those accused, and time is running out. Anyone with a little bit of knowledge about the bombings and the subsequent investigation can find flaws with these stories on a single reading, the deliberate mixing of fact and speculation together with the open invitation to draw conclusions not supported by any of the evidence provided in the article means that the stories do not stand up. It is extraordinary that the second largest newspaper in the country should lend itself to what is nothing more than a campaign for political revenge – in the process trampling the memory of all those who died in the most serious terrorist attack that Spain has ever known. The lack of any sort of democratic ethic on the right-wing of Spanish politics has probably not been so evident since the death of Franco over 30 years ago. The links listed below deal with just some of the other stories that El Mundo has printed in its attempts to promote the conspiracy theories about the bombings. For any student of journalism who seeks a demonstration of the difference between genuine, honest investigative reporting, and the politically motivated manipulation of data, El Mundo has provided the most perfect example imaginable – of the latter.

Related Links:

El Mundo And Their Experts
Playing With Dynamite
Faulty Connections


Tom said...

The sick thing is how many comments that del Pino twat gets. 1,900 on one post! Utter insanity.

By the way, who do you think drove Zapatero to IFEMA so that he could tamper with the bags? My preliminary investigation suggest that it could may possibly have been Jesús de Polanco. I can see no evidence that this isn't the case.

Graeme said...

I'm afraid you're wrong there Tom -Polanco was too busy filling the van they found by Alcala station with fake evidence. It must have been Rubalcaba who drove Zapatero to IFEMA - and not just to tamper with the bags, but to plant the bomb. If you can't prove me wrong, then it has to be a fact!

Tom said...

You could be absolutely right and without any facts getting in the way, we'll have to assume you are.

I did read that Polanco created the plot in order to 'get the socialists in to power with the final goal being the toal destruction of Spain'. And people believe this crazy BS about Alan Qaeda?