- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

We live in the era of the factoid. I use the term in its original connotation, as coined by Norman Mailer in his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe. A factoid is a piece of information purported to be factual but which is actually spurious, or more precisely concocted. It is then disseminated through the media and gains widespread acceptance by means of repetition.
There are several reasons for the unprecedented reign of the factoid in today's world. First, The domination of electronic media provides fertile ground for factoids to grow. Soundbites are almost always factoidal in nature. When Frances Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union during the 1950s, Eisenhower's first response was a flat-out denial. This was a lie or to put it more mildly, a factoid. Likewise, when Khrushchev placed offensive medium-range nuclear missiles in Cuba, his first reaction was to deny their existence. These two examples were so easily debunked as to be trivial, but they point up the fact that TV and radio, as well as newspapers, provide rapid turnover in purported factual reporting which relay impressions of truth (facts). If false and uncorrected, these can perpetuate falsehood for years or even decades and undermine the hopes for justice and peace which are predicated upon truth, as they must inevitably be.
Political correctness is another reason for the primacy of the factoid. After World War II, as the horrors of the Holocaust came to light, the sympathies of the world, and the US in particular, were with tiny Israel, as overwhelming Arab forces attempted to destroy her. When these efforts failed in 1948 and again in 1956, a David-and-Goliath legend developed. Then in 1964, at the Jordanian Pavilion at the New York World's Fair, a major factoid was created: the existence of the State of Palestine and the existence of the Palestinian people. There has never been a nation called Palestine in the history of the world. If you believe otherwise, find a book written before 1964 that mentions such a state. As for the Palestinian people, they are, and were, simply any and all Arabs who are or were living in the territories (West Bank and Gaza) between 1948 and today. I grew up in the borough of Queens in New York. This does not make me a "Queensian" with a right of return, the right to a legislature, the right to govern myself free of U.S. laws within the borders of Queens, the right to set off bombs within the rest of New York until the US recognizes my legitimacy as a "Queensian," etc. I know this sounds strange, but such is the nature of a well-formed and carefully maintained factoid: repeated often enough, supported by vocal, well-meaning "liberal" ideologues, any untruth attains the semblance of truth in the cyber-electro world, where even secondary sources are no longer read even by the pundits themselves.
Can you handle the truth? The 1948 UN partition of the British mandate of Palestine (the name comes from the Philistines, the ancient barbarian inhabitants of Canaan) was supposed to result in two nations, one Jewish, one Arab. The Jews accepted the partition and established Israel in May of 1948, while the Arab nations rejected partition and immediately invaded Israel from three directions, beginning the War of Independence, which Israel managed to survive despite the absence of assistance from the rest of the world. In the course of these hostilities, Egypt occupied Gaza and the Sinai, and Jordan occupied the West Bank, both of which were supposed to be part of the new Arab state deriving from the British mandate. No one in the rest of the world, Arabs included, seemed particularly concerned about the Arabs in these areas.
Then came the Six Day War in 1967. The Israelis performed with such skill and decisiveness that world perception of the Jews changed overnight. No longer the pathetic victims in frock coats being beaten in the streets and led with impunity to the gas chambers as the world watched with indifference, the Jews were fighting back, and so they were now labeled imperialists, terrorists…Nazis. Ultimately, leftist leftovers from a cold Cold War in Europe and at Berkeley and other U.S. schools revive Vietnamese and South African rhetoric as the Iraq war looms with another factoidal bromide: When a conflict arises, the weaker party is always the victim and the stronger party is always the aggressor. This is false logic, my friends. I call it the tyranny of the weak. It's the same kind of thinking that al Qaeda uses. We in the U.S. may well have made some (big) mistakes in our Mideast policies. We may be richer and stronger than Iraq or Saudi Arabia. But this is no excuse for enduring Jihad against us or our allies.

Frederick Grab is a former California deputy attorney general.

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