Friday, May 14, 2004

"Here Is the Enemy": Montage at Work

Tom Walker of the Work Less Party, aka the Sandwichman, posted the following entry to MaxSpeak:
This has come up in the comments section of MaxSpeak that is also mentioned in comments on Atrios and Whiskey Bar. As the implications are potentially extremely serious, I think it merits greater exposure even though the connections are, as far as I know, only circumstantial.

On March 7, 2004 an "enemies list" composed of signatories to an anti-war petition was posted on the Free Republic website. The introductory and subsequent comments on that list suggest that the purpose of the posting was to encourage people to harrass the individuals on the list and to circulate their names to agencies and individuals that might take action against them.

Nick Berg's father, Michael Berg was on that list and he named Prometheus Methods Tower Service, Inc. as an affiliation. According to his family on March 24, 2004 -- approximately two weeks after publication of the enemies list on the Free Republic website -- Nick Berg was detained by Iraqi police who handed him over to US forces, he was then held until April 6 when he was released, the day after his family had filed a lawsuit in Philadelphia federal court. Nick Berg was not heard from again after April 9. ("Here Is the Enemy," May 12, 2004)
Tom says, in his comment on my blog entry "The Mysterious Death of Nick Berg," that Tom's blog entry above is "no more than two sets of facts but they are facts that the reader cannot resist putting together into a story." Observe readers' responses to Tom's montage of facts a la Walter Benjamin at Max Speak's "Here Is the Enemy" page.

Tom's posting to the Progressive Economists Network listserv on the same topic "Internet Hate Group Targeted Michael S. Berg, Company" was composed as "an attempt to rigorously apply montage in the guise of a conventional news story."

More prosaically, I hope that Michael and Suzanne Berg will file Freedom of Information Act requests concerning (1) whether the Free Republic's enemies list was forwarded to the FBI; (2) what exactly prompted the FBI to detain and investigate Nick Berg; (3) what the US government knew about Nick Berg after his release from US custody in Iraq; (4) whether the Islamist militant group who executed Nick Berg had indeed "tried to trade him for prisoners at Abu Ghraib," as reported by Robert H. Reid of the Associated Press: "'For the mothers and wives of American soldiers, we tell you that we offered the U.S. administration to exchange this hostage for some of the detainees in Abu Ghraib and they refused,' one of the men read from a statement" ("U.S.: Berg Had Been Advised to Leave Iraq," May 12, 2004); and (5), if the answer to (4) is yes, what response the US government made to the Islamist militant group's overture.

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