Sunday, May 13, 2007

Decoy ducks and submarines

Lies and secrecy provide a fertile soil from which myths are born. A lot of mystery and speculation has, therefore, surrounded the loss of the trawler Gaul.
Stories like those about the vessel having been sunk by a submarine or captured by the Russians are still inflaming many imaginations, granting the Gaul tragedy a more dramatic and mysterious twist.
These myths also serve the present oligarchs well: they deflect from an embarrassing truth, offer an alternative to the disputed results of the RFI, but do not bear financial implications. (In this way, the families can have their fair share of discontent, but cannot sue for compensation because the evidence is not there.)
The design defect identified as the most likely cause for the loss of the Gaul, on the other hand, could prove more costly, meaning that several institutions might become liable for substantial compensation to the families of the victims.
The Gaul 'sunk by a submarine' story – based on some tattle somebody overheard in a cafeteria – was therefore taken very seriously by the 2004 RFI panel; so seriously, in fact, that the proceedings were re-started to hear the gossip.
(I don’t say that fishermen never got entangled in matters of espionage or warfare, or that vessels were never lost due to submarines. What I mean is that there is no factual evidence that this was the case with the Gaul.)
To keep the myths going and deflect attention from concrete technical matters, a number of rumour merchants - turned decoy ducks, Internet trolls and salaried opinion formers, knowingly or not, are now in the business of using these spectacular scenarios as ‘red herrings’ to counter the emerging facts.
Thus, each time some factual evidence comes out, the submarine also pops back up to the surface and each time the design defect is invoked, the Russian spies rear their heads again.