.
November 21, 2013 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Who Killed Michael Hastings? (SLNYMAG) Reflexively distrustful, eager to make powerful enemies, the young journalist whose Mercedes exploded in Los Angeles one night couldn’t possibly have died accidentally, could he? posted by MisantropicPainforest (60 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Single page.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:10 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Richard Clarke, the former counter­terrorism czar, told the Huffington Post that “my rule has always been you don’t knock down a conspiracy theory until you can prove it [wrong]. And in the case of Michael Hastings, what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyber attack.”

A what now?
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:21 AM on November 21, 2013


A what now?

Oh, you, know, like remotely cutting off the brakes, disabling power steering, spoofing GPS coordinates, maliciously recalibrating the speedometer. That sort of thing.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:26 AM on November 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Researchers Show How a Car’s Electronics Can Be Taken Over Remotely

Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Automobile, IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, May 2010:

We conducted our computer security analyses on two modern cars. These cars were introduced into the U.S. market in 2009 and are of the same make and model. We determined that someone with access to the internal network in the car could use his or her own computer equipment to take over a broad array of safety-critical computer systems.

For example, in live road tests, were able to forcibly and completely disengage the brakes while driving, making it difficult for the driver to stop. Conversely, we were able to forcibly activate the brakes, lurching the driver forward and causing the car to stop suddenly. We were also able to control the lighting within the cabin, the external lighting, the vehicle's dash, and so on.


That said, the linked article makes a good case that speeding (both kinds) is probably to blame for Hastings' death.
posted by mediareport at 6:33 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Imho, the statement “In the case of Michael Hastings, what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyber attack” covers it perfectly. John Brennan has murdered innocent people through the drone program at least, so let people read as much into that consistency as they like.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:59 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


According to the L.A. Times the coroner's toxicology report showed traces of marijuana and amphtamine. Not a factor in the crash. If he just drove his car into a tree that's pretty weird but it isn't like weird stuff doesn't happen all the time for no reason at all.
posted by bukvich at 7:02 AM on November 21, 2013


what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyber attack

That sounds awfully ominous until you reflect that that is true of every single car accident in which a driver lost control of the vehicle and the car had some significant computer control component. "Is consistent with" is about the lowest evidentiary bar imaginable.
posted by yoink at 7:26 AM on November 21, 2013 [22 favorites]


There's really nothing factually in this piece that we didn't know before -- just more speculation and connecting of dots. To me, this effort to sustain the controversy over Hastings' death is beginning to reek of trooferism, and the "Reverse Betteridge's Law" subtitle of the NY Mag piece is just plain irresponsible.

It's certainly true that Hastings had a lot of enemies who could have pulled something like this off, but there are many far more likely explanations, and unless we find more evidence, you have to go with Occam's razor. I'm not saying we should stop looking for this evidence, and if you want to talk about these theories because they're interesting, that's fine, but putting them on equal footing with the most likely (but far less click-baity) explanation is irresponsible. Hastings' own wife believes it was an accident, and she presumably knows more than we do about whose feathers her husband was ruffling, and what kind of trouble he might have been getting himself into.

I'm glad there's a thorough investigation of the facts going on, but really, these alternate theories are alternate for a reason. There is one most likely and credible theory of Hastings' death right now, and that is of a tragic accident.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:48 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


My honest assessment of this:

1. Occam's Razor (which is not infallible) says that it's most likely that Hastings simply had an accident while speeding.
2. That said, there are many suspicious elements to this story and there's certainly a possibility that he was assassinated, but...
3. If he was, the chances are that we'll never know unless someone confesses.

(EDIT: Should have previewed, but I guess everyone takes refuge in Occam when there isn't enough hard data...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:53 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The headline doesn't match the tone of the article at all. The story paints a pretty convincing picture that an accident is the most likely explanation. It doesn't even attempt to explain what a non-accident theory would be: That cyberhackers planeted a bomb in his car that caused him to run red lights?
posted by justkevin at 8:03 AM on November 21, 2013


Reflexively distrustful, eager to make powerful enemies, the young journalist whose Mercedes exploded in Los Angeles one night couldn’t possibly have died accidentally, could he?
posted by Going To Maine at 8:04 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've never really understood people's need to "shoot down" "conspiracy theories". It is entirely plausible that Hastings was killed by someone who didn't like him poking around in their business. This isn't "steel melts at 2750 degrees" or "lizard people run the government". Journalists are killed all the time.

And to say that the "most likely" explanation of Hastings' death is a mundane traffic accident seems strange. What's your probability measure, exactly? I mean, yes, if we put the names of all the people who die in a given day in a hat, and choose one at random, the probability that the person died in a car accident is obviously much, much higher than the probability that they were assassinated by a car bomb or hacking the car's computer system. But that's not what this is - this is a journalist, whose entire career was premised on pissing off powerful people, killed under deeply suspicious circumstances after he had spent much of the previous month warning people he was close to that something like this might happen. Something tells me that the usual probability calculations don't really hold here.

I dunno. Ever since this NSA stuff, I'm inclined to give "conspiracy theorists" a whole lot more credibility and latitude. It wouldn't even remotely surprise me to find out, 20 years from now, that this was an assassination.
posted by downing street memo at 8:20 AM on November 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


Michael Hastings' car had Mercedes Mbrace2 technology, which allowed for firmware updates to be pushed remotely over the 3G cell network. There was no airgap.

The NSA already has a history of destroying physical systems using cyber attacks.

Killing Michael Hastings via malicious firmware upgrade, if it did happen, would be untraceable yet suspicious enough to leave a chill on anyone following in his footsteps.
posted by anemone of the state at 8:24 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


To me, this effort to sustain the controversy over Hastings' death is beginning to reek of trooferism, and the "Reverse Betteridge's Law" subtitle of the NY Mag piece is just plain irresponsible.

Did you read the article?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:29 AM on November 21, 2013


> It doesn't even attempt to explain what a non-accident theory would be:

It'd be that someone disabled his brakes, or pushed the speedometer, using some sort of hardware or software hack.

> I've never really understood people's need to "shoot down" "conspiracy theories".

Because most of them are not just batshitinsane, they're downright offensive. Consider all the people who believe that Sandy Hook is a "false flag" operation run by the government - that the grieving parents are "crisis actors".

Don't get me wrong - the government often does amazingly crazy clandestine stuff. If Operation Midnight Climax appeared in a movie, you'd never believe it - ditto with MKUltra. But there's an unfortunately large group of people who believes that every major news story is fake...


> It is entirely plausible that Hastings was killed by someone who didn't like him poking around in their business. This isn't "steel melts at 2750 degrees" or "lizard people run the government". Journalists are killed all the time.

It is plausible but I still think the probability is less than 50%. Some people are being killed by US intelligence agencies - quite likely even journalists - the trouble is that we don't know which ones.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:31 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


CBS News’s Lara Logan, appearing on CNN’s Reliable Sources, said, “Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has.”

So Lara Logan is actually kind of a Hawkish butthead huh?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:35 AM on November 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


The important point, the point I always try to make here which seems to get deliberately misinterpreted, is that it's OK to say, "I do not know the answer."

For example, is the story that the US tells us about the death of Bin Laden true? I have no idea.

The US government gave us one story (Bin Laden coming out shooting, using a woman as a human shield), then gave us another one - but since we've gotten absolutely no hard evidence of any type, not one second of video or one photograph, I have to file it as "unproven".

Unfortunately, this results in flak from both sides. I get "How can you doubt the word of the US government? You must be a crazy conspiracy theorist," and, "It's an obvious coverup - you must be a government plant." But I'm neither. I'm just someone who doesn't believe anything without hard evidence.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:36 AM on November 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


I've never really understood people's need to "shoot down" "conspiracy theories".

Who's shooting down anything? And why the scare-quotes around an accurate description of what these theories are? These are far more credible conspiracy theories than the 9/11 truther theories, or the Obama birther theories, or the JFK assassination theories, but they're still theories which require one to believe that this man not only had many enemies with a motive to kill him, but many enemies that could orchestrate something like this and do so without getting caught, putting themselves at great risk to do so.

As I said, it's fine to speculate, but the framing of the piece's headline, and misleading phrases like "what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyber attack", are transparent attempts to inflate the credibility of these theories.

There is an investigation going on looking for hard evidence, but absent that hard evidence, there is the most likely explanation, and there are alternate explanations. These alternate explanations are, in fact, conspiracy theories. If there's new evidence, then let's see it, but this is just a coat of paint on top of the same theories with the same flimsy circumstantial evidence.

Did you read the article?

Of course I read the article, and to its credit, it hedges in places that make it less sensational than the headlines suggest, but still, it gives undue credibility to these alternate explanations, and framing matters at least as much as content does.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:36 AM on November 21, 2013


would be untraceable

Why would that be untraceable? A malicious firmware upgrade would be a reasonably easy thing for a forensic investigator to confirm or deny. So would the presence of malicious hardware. Was a forensic investigation done on the car at all, or was the LAPD part of the conspiracy as well?

Paranoia is not proof that someone is out to get you. I'm simply not convinced that Hastings was an actual threat to any one in power sufficient to warrant a very visible and public assassination. In fact, given the conspiracy theories that swirl around such events, it seems to me like it would have been much safer to keep him alive and self-destructing.

yet suspicious enough to leave a chill on anyone following in his footsteps.

It didn't work, then, because Matt Farrell is publishing Hasting's story on John Brennan in Rolling Stone. Farrell has some choice things to say about conspiracy theorists.
posted by muddgirl at 8:38 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


This article is disappointing in that it brings up the hacking angle once and doesn't look at feasability at all before brushing it aside- either out of a lack of technical understanding on the authors' part, or out of not wanting to seem like a conspiracy theorist.

What's also disappointing is how few people have been discussing mbrace2, the non-airgapped nature of modern Mercedes cars, and the ability to push updates over 3G. It's probably due to the expensive nature of a Mercedes and the closed-source nature of the firmware that nobody's been able to do a public assessment of vulnerabilities- although if you're dealing with an agency that can spoof a certificate authority, all bets are off.

Lupus' 50% assessment is probably right- but even if Michael Hastings died in an accident, what we're starting to see here is that an assassination via hacked car is possible given the unnecessarily-networked nature of modern cars and the security states' sweeping powers. And that isn't acceptable.
posted by anemone of the state at 8:42 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why would that be untraceable? A malicious firmware upgrade would be a reasonably easy thing for a forensic investigator to confirm or deny.

Even if they bothered to look, a forensic investigator might have trouble getting information off NVRAM chips that had been through a car fire. Depending on the nature of the hack, code could stay in RAM.
posted by anemone of the state at 8:46 AM on November 21, 2013


Depending on technical details, it coud be possible to use a facility designed for firmware upgrading but only make changes which reside "in RAM" without being written to durable storage like EEPROM. This technique is used by CHDK, software which improves the functionality of Canon cameras; to enable CHDK after powering on your camera, you initiate the firmware update process through camera menus but the camera's firmware is not modified in EEPROM/Flash. In this case, later forensic examination might not be able to recover any trace of the uploaded code.
posted by jepler at 8:47 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]




(whoops, meant to quote this from the article linked above:)
[Jonathan] Hastings said he flew to Los Angeles shortly before his younger brother’s death after speaking to him by phone and worrying that he might be experiencing a drug-induced manic episode, something that had happened about 15 years earlier.

“I immediately booked a flight to L.A. for the next day, with the thought that maybe I could convince him to come back to Vermont to dry out or (less likely) get him to go to detox/rehab there in L.A.,” Hastings said. “When I got to L.A. and saw him, I immediately realized that he was not going to go willingly.”

He said he began making arrangements with their youngest brother to fly to California and help him get Michael checked into a hospital or detox center, and Hastings said he thought he’d at least convinced his brother to stay at his apartment to “chill out” for a few days.

“But he snuck out on me when I was sleeping, (and) he crashed his car before anyone could do anything to help him,” Hastings said.
posted by scody at 8:49 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Hastings (in his soberer moments) would agree that this government isn't capable of covering up huge crimes against their own citizens. Why bother? They perform enough of them right out in broad daylight, in accordance with laws we don't even realize we voted for.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:54 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even if they bothered to look,

Why wouldn't they bother to look? Investigating why a car crashed is part of the job of a forensics team, whether that crash is user-error, a bomb in the compartment, or severed break lines. I'm sure Mercedes would also be interested in vulnerabilities.

In this case, later forensic examination might not be able to recover any trace of the uploaded code.

I see a lot of potentials and not a lot of actual concretes. That's my problem with making definitive statements like, "So-and-so was murdered" as conspiracy theorists do. It seems to me like people who say, "It's more likely that it was an accident, given Hasting's history and the number of car accidents that occur in a day" are the ones who are being open-minded.

And again, what's the compelling interest that justifies a violent, newsworthy assasination? The CIA, the FBI, and the White House have a long, proven history of infiltrating and discrediting organizations and journalists who are reporting on shit they don't agree with, in ways that are much more subtle and hard to detect.
posted by muddgirl at 8:54 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is intereseting, though, how even though it's likely Hastings died accidentally, the kinds of questions the saner among the conspiracy theorists raise may have a certain value in their own right.

Maybe we should be talking more about how a certain convergence of technological advances has made something as farfetched sounding as government or other assassinations by remote vehicle control system hacks a real, not entirely absurd possibility.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:55 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


what we're starting to see here is that an assassination via hacked car is possible given the unnecessarily-networked nature of modern cars and the security states' sweeping powers.

much as I love a good conspiracy theory (and not just to laugh a; I like how they get us at least imagining possibilities outside of our particular boxes), I have a hard time taking the hacked car scenario too seriously, simply because car accidents have become so survivable over the years, what with seat belt laws, air bags, improved crush-zones. Even if you can pull off the hi-tech stuff (which strikes me as completely plausible), it's long odds that the actual impact will do more than shake the driver/passengers up.

Show a failure of the car's air bag system and I start to get interested ...
posted by philip-random at 8:56 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


lupus_yonderboy: Because most of them are not just batshitinsane, they're downright offensive. Consider all the people who believe that Sandy Hook is a "false flag" operation run by the government - that the grieving parents are "crisis actors".

The side effect of these really out-there conspiracy theories is that it serves to marginalize anyone who questions the official account of events, however reasonably. Don't believe the government panel that's investigating the government's involvement in $event? You must be some moonbat that thinks actors and Greys must have carried it out!
posted by dr_dank at 9:02 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


The manic episode angle makes sense.

We should still be having a conversation about why cars have 3G radios connected to engine control units.
posted by anemone of the state at 9:03 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Because most of them are not just batshitinsane, they're downright offensive. Consider all the people who believe that Sandy Hook is a "false flag" operation run by the government - that the grieving parents are "crisis actors".

I think it's deeply revealing that in American English we use the same phrase to describe stuff like "Sandy Hook was a false flag operation to justify taking our guns" and stuff like "Journalist who pissed off powerful people trained in secret killing dies under suspicious circumstances".

they're still theories which require one to believe that this man not only had many enemies with a motive to kill him, but many enemies that could orchestrate something like this and do so without getting caught, putting themselves at great risk to do so.

I guess I'm just not sure why this is some giant leap in reasoning. It seems quite plausible, on the surface. Am I missing something?
posted by downing street memo at 9:09 AM on November 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


> The side effect of these really out-there conspiracy theories is that it serves to marginalize anyone who questions the official account of events, however reasonably.

Exactly. I have to believe that there's a good chance some of these wild-eyed people are in fact paid shills, because if I were running an intelligence agency I'd certainly spend a little time doing that.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:16 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


We should still be having a conversation about why cars have 3G radios connected to engine control units.

The ECM knows engine data like RPM and broadcasts it on the CAN bus for any other module that needs to know it.
posted by rfs at 9:16 AM on November 21, 2013


> but many enemies that could orchestrate something like this and do so without getting caught, putting themselves at great risk to do so.

I don't see the "great risk" if he was killed by having his car's navigation computer hacked. It would be impossible to authoritatively trace it back to any specific individual or organization unless they were both inept and unlucky.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:18 AM on November 21, 2013


"Journalist who pissed off powerful people trained in secret killing dies under suspicious circumstances".

Journalists piss off powerful people trained in secret killing all the time. Why was Hastings murdered and not, say, any of these reporters?

If I were an all-powerful organization trained in killing, I would want the journalist I assasinated to die in completely unsuspicious circumstances. The fact that the car crash was so dramatic makes me less suspicious, not more.
posted by muddgirl at 9:21 AM on November 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


A manic episode--yeah, that can definitely cut into your ability to use judgment in driving, and that can be dangerous. And exactly the sort of person who is more inspired to speak up against powerful figures--well, bipolar does have some overlap with that kind of thing. Stephen Fry, Abbie Hoffman, the sort of intense and passionate people who can do great things can also sometimes cross the line into a state that becomes unhealthy and dangerous. I think it's really dismissive of those risks to create conspiracy stories to explain it, like bipolar can't kill you. It can.
posted by Sequence at 9:41 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe we should be talking more about how a certain convergence of technological advances has made something as farfetched sounding as government or other assassinations by remote vehicle control system hacks a real, not entirely absurd possibility.

Former VP Dick Cheney believes in the possibility of a conspiracy to have his robotic heart hacked remotely, and so he had the wireless features removed from his model before installation. True fact.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:43 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Former VP Dick Cheney believes in the possibility of a conspiracy to have his robotic heart hacked remotely, and so he had the wireless features removed from his model before installation. True fact.

I bet he's watched Season 2 of Homeland.
posted by muddgirl at 10:03 AM on November 21, 2013


I'd be willing to wager Cheney's got at least a couple of old, well-worn tinfoil hats lying around his secret bunker.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:15 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just imagine if these "assassination by remote car hack is plausible!" folks were also your family doctor.

"Hi doc, I have this cough that won't go away."

"Hmm, well you could have influenza. A lot of people get that this time of year. Or...a government agent may have slipped into your medicine cabinet in the middle of the night and replaced your daily vitamin pill with a neurotoxin developed by black ops researchers."

"So which is it?"

"Well, we know that neurotoxins exist. And you do take a daily vitamin. And your medicine cabinet is presumably unlocked. So...do the math!"

People frequently reveal information that gives the U.S. government sad frowny face and they don't wind up dead. The powers of denial, leaks, spin, and character assassination are far more effective, as has been demonstrated time and time again.
posted by thebordella at 10:27 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thebordella, that analogy isn't even remotely valid. If I were a doctor, and my patient just happened to be actively pissing off a bunch of people with easy access to neurotixins, it would be malpractice not to consider that possibility.
posted by downing street memo at 10:30 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


it would be malpractice not to consider that possibility.

Cite? I don't think that, for example, whichever doctor that prescribed marijuana to Michael Hastings could be sued for not considering that his PTSD symptoms were caused by psychotropic agents slipped into his drinking water, but I accept that I could be wrong.
posted by muddgirl at 10:43 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Downing Street Memo is focusing on selective pieces of information.

Suppose your patient has indeed been "pissing off a bunch of people with easy access to neurotoxins". So, there's one possibility.

But there's more to the picture. Your patient also has a cough with signs of influenza -- which is incredibly common. Your patient also has a history of influenza. He's been sick with it before.

Now you have a more complete picture.

Considering possibilities is fine, but they do not all weigh equally in a diagnosis/investigation.

The patient in this case had a chronic condition that often leads to tragic outcomes. Even his own immediate family has cited evidence of this, in fact leading up to the days and hours immediately preceding the event.

And yet the evidence for the assassination counter-theory is "it could happen!" and "because enemies!"

This is why House was a TV show and not a documentary.
posted by thebordella at 10:50 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd be willing to wager Cheney's got at least a couple of old, well-worn tinfoil hats lying around his secret bunker.

I'm not surprised that no one calls Cheney or his doctor conspiracy theorists, but it's like that joke about the difference between crazy and eccentric. It's all about the perspective.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:56 AM on November 21, 2013


And yet the evidence for the assassination counter-theory is "it could happen!" and "because enemies!"

You have as much "evidence" as I do - that is, zero. We're making inferences here. All I'm saying is that reflexive disdain of this "conspiracy theory" seems intellectually counterproductive.
posted by downing street memo at 11:27 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not unreasonable to apply a prior probability ("accidents due to driver error are very common") to a specific circumstance ("Michael Hastings died in a car crash"), but the ghost of Thomas Bayes laughs at you when you just do that blindly to dismiss other possibilities.

In this case, it would be interesting to know if any of the car's electronics survived the crash, if forensic investigators looked at it, or if they were willing to say, for example, that the firmware read off the crashed car matched code that was certified by the manufacturer. I don't think that's been answered - and it's probably unanswerable.

On the balance of probabilities, I'd guess it was just a coincidence and accident. But is it irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:40 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Hmm, well you could have influenza. A lot of people get that this time of year. Or...a government agent may have slipped into your medicine cabinet in the middle of the night and replaced your daily vitamin pill with a neurotoxin developed by black ops researchers."

This is asinine. Michael Hastings pissed off some powerful people, and died a horrific death driving a drive-by-wire car with an Internet connection and remote firmware upgrade capability. It's not that outrageous for his death to spark speculation.

He was probably having a manic episode. But drawing parallels like this is foolish. One year ago, there were a lot of people who would have written off claims of massive NSA spying on the Internet and phone calls as paranoia, but the capability was there and as it turns out, the NSA was taking advantage of it and abusing it.
posted by anemone of the state at 11:56 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


He was probably having a manic episode.

Why are we discounting the fact that he could have been drugged by a government that is known to experiment with psychotropics as a means of silent warfare? The fact that one possibility (his car was hacked) is immediately jumped on, and the other (he was being drugged to discredit him) is ignored is just one reason that conspiracy theories are frustrating, unproductive, and even actively harmful. We've latched onto car hacking because it's scary and sexy, not because it's any more likely than any other way of causing someone's death.
posted by muddgirl at 12:11 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


We've latched onto car hacking because it's scary and sexy

Uhh...or maybe it's because the man died in a car wreck?
posted by downing street memo at 12:54 PM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe we should be talking more about how a certain convergence of technological advances has made something as farfetched sounding as government or other assassinations by remote vehicle control system hacks a real, not entirely absurd possibility.

No one would find accusations that the Canadian government had murdered a journalist plausible. Fixing the technological problem of hackable cars is trivial compared to figuring out what to do about the fact that the United States currently has the sort of government that assassinates journalists with some regularity.

No one suspects Canada because we have a history of respecting human rights and liberties. No one will suspect us until it's far too late.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:26 PM on November 21, 2013


Also from scody's link:
“I really rule out foul play entirely,” [Michael Hasting's brother] said. “I might have been suspicious if I hadn’t been with him the day before he died. After all, he definitely was investigating and writing about a lot of sensitive subjects. But based on being with him and talking to people who were worried about him in the weeks leading up to his death, and being around him when he had had similar problems when he was younger, I was pretty much convinced that he wasn’t in danger from any outside agency.”
Emphasis mine.

It's certainly possible that his car was hacked instead, just as it's also certainly possible that the poor logic of the hacking arguments may be the result of undercover agents preemptively discrediting the troof. As such, I'm going to assume that everyone promulgating this theory actually works for the government, until they can 100% disprove this working assumption.

NICE TRY, OFFICERS
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:55 PM on November 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


If I wanted to assassinate someone with a known drinking/drug problem who regularly drove themselves around town, I would probably first try some honeypot type of scheme (get a beautiful woman or intriguing new source to meet up and provide drinks), or try tampering with his drugs/drink before I would work on a much more complicated car hacking scheme.
posted by cell divide at 3:35 PM on November 21, 2013


No one suspects Canada because we have a history of respecting human rights and liberties. No one will suspect us until it's far too late.

Yeah, well, Canada, no one suspected that you could have Marion Berry reincarnated in the body of Chris Farley as mayor of one of your major cities, and he could govern it and live as if Nero had been in 1930s Chicago, via a side trip through the Big Easy.

But colour us impressed, by gum you can do that.

Not just nice guys, after all
posted by C.A.S. at 5:24 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


You have as much "evidence" as I do - that is, zero. We're making inferences here. All I'm saying is that reflexive disdain of this "conspiracy theory" seems intellectually counterproductive.

There can never, ever, be "conclusive" evidence against a conspiracy theory because the absence of evidence is simply cited as proof that the conspiracy was a really, really clever one. There will be precisely zero "evidence" that the Illuminati didn't cause every single car accident in the United States last year. That does not mean that it's a good idea to assume that the Illuminati killed anyone at all.

This is the whole point of Occam's Razor. You can always multiply potential causes that cannot be "disproved" for any event you care to name. There is no hypothesis that can't be saved by speculative postulates. But in the absence of actual positive evidence in support of the hypothesis it is idle to place any credence in it when there are massively more probable explanations to hand.

And that is the case with Hastings's death. People die in single-car, high speed crashes by the thousands every year. There has been not a single documented case of the US government arranging the assassination of a US journalist on US soil in the history of the world. Sure, this might be the first ever such case. But it might also be reverse vampires. You don't have any evidence that it's not the reverse vampires, do you?
posted by yoink at 9:35 AM on November 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


There has been not a single documented case of the US government arranging the assassination of a US journalist on US soil in the history of the world.

Did anybody else get a little shudder on second thought when reading how carefully the emphasized part above had to be parsed in order to make it strictly true?

Uggh... I don't buy into the pro-assassination or the anti-assassination arguments myself, much less feel strongly inclined to accept or reject either a priori. I'm quite comfortable admitting I don't know enough to believe anything here. But it is news to me (and unnerving) that all the technological hurdles for remotely hacking and sabotaging vehicles have been cleared. That's unsettling enough in itself, given what both governments and thugs around the world have shown themselves capable of.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:48 AM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did anybody else get a little shudder on second thought when reading how carefully the emphasized part above had to be parsed in order to make it strictly true?

O.K., there has never been a single documented case where the preponderance of the evidence tends to show that the US government arranged the assassination of a US journalist anywhere ever. I wasn't trying to exclude "close" cases, I was trying to emphasize how profoundly shocking and unlikely the proposed scenario is. There is simply no evidence that the US government has ever, in its entire history, set out to deliberately attempt the targeted assassination of a US journalist.
posted by yoink at 9:58 AM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Phew. That's a relief. I thought I had missed something related to that infamous kill list that was all over the online media for a while there. Is yoink right? Anybody got a counter claim? It would be nice to think there are at least a few remaining bright lines we haven't crossed. I've honestly lost track by this point.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:05 PM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


There has been not a single documented case of the US government arranging the assassination of a US journalist on US soil in the history of the world.

Well, except for Gary Webb, maybe. Most people who commit suicide don't usually get around to firing a second bullet.

Interesting how these people who threaten powerful interests die such spectacularly odd deaths that always get ruled as accidents or suicides, without fail.

Anyhow, it is documented that the US prosecutes US whistleblowers and journalists on US soil under specious applications of law. For those other individuals, if it doesn't kill them, it can kill their reputations and livelihoods.

It is also documented that the US military has killed non-US journalists. That one's on the books. As well as imprisoning and indefinitely (if indirectly) detaining journalists under what usually turn out to be questionable charges that were based on lies.

You can't prove a negative, and that's a fine and fair statement in its own context, I suppose. But you have to deny a spectacularly epic mountain of circumstantial and direct evidence to dismiss people asking fair questions about how the lives of journalists (if not their careers) are threatened and ended by powerful American politicians, bureaucrats, business leaders and military with a different set of interests.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:11 AM on November 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, except for Gary Webb, maybe. Most people who commit suicide don't usually get around to firing a second bullet.

Guns are a highly effective tool for suicide, but they're not INSTA-MAGIC-DEATH wands. There are plenty of well documented cases of suicides who failed to die from the first shot. Webb wrote not just one but multiple suicide notes, including individualized notes to all his children. His wife also described him as having been seriously depressed for years prior to the suicide. If Webb is your slam-dunk, go-to case to prove that the US govt. routinely assassinates journalists whose reporting displeases the government, you are conceding my point.
posted by yoink at 7:41 AM on November 24, 2013


I'm not conceding anything, merely pointing out that there is already a lot of evidence for the US government being a bad actor when it comes to how it deals with its interests being threatened, and that some healthy skepticism seems warranted about your strident claims that the US does not kill US journalists, when it has already killed non-US journalists and has threatened and imprisoned others, regardless of nationality. You can't prove a negative, but one can rationally infer from current evidence. That's all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:54 AM on November 24, 2013


« Older "I will not post any casualty reports for 24 hours...   |   A reluctant and minor footnote. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments