I’m a LIAR!

My esteemed cousin William, now blogging from his comfy fellowship at Harvard, brings to my attention to the story of Tania Head, former president of the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network, 9/11 survivor, and apparently an utter fraud. As the linked NY Times articles states, her claims that she escaped the south tower and that her fiancee perished in the north one are almost certainly false.

William seems to think that this is indictment of the administration and the Times, saying

This lady’s brand of craziness…is mirrored in the nonsense of the NY Times devoting time and energy to debunking her story. Bush lied, and thousands and thousands have died; this stupid lonely chick tells some stories, and the Times rakes her over coals.

I’m going to have to disagree. While Head apparently never profited financially from her involvement in survivor organizations, she’s still caused plenty of emotional damage, especially to the family of “Dave”. She compounded their grief over his death with thoughts that “Dave” had hidden his entire life from them. How else to explain his impending nuptials to a woman they had never met?

Additionally, Head’s enemy here is not the Times, but the truth. The Times was just the vessel, the truth was bound to catch up with her anyway, as witnessed by La Vanguardia’s recent foray into the matter. And let’s not blame the Times’ city desk for not taking on the Bush administration, it’s a perfectly legitimate local story.

I think my cousin falls into a fallacy about journalism that I’ve seen before, namely in the comments of Litbrit’s descent into 9/11 crackpottery over at Ezra’s place:

Doubting government’s official stories–questioning them, even–is a function of journalism.

This sounds all nice, but it’s completely wrong. As pointed out by Vidor in that same comment thread, the purpose of journalism is to discover the truth, not to question the government; the latter is merely a tool used to obtain the former. Tania Head’s sins are nowhere near as great as the Bush administration’s, but that doesn’t mean she deserves a reprieve from her reckoning with reality.

This post’s title inspiration below:



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