July 26, 2007

Crimes and Journalism

I've had nothing to say about the recent furor over the articles in The New Republic by a soldier serving in Iraq--first because it was unclear in the beginning if this person was really who he claimed to be and if what he wrote is true. It appears now that he is actually a soldier, and actually serving in Iraq. The only question now is if the things he describes are true.

If they are, it makes me wonder why any reputable media organization would ever stoop to allowing such a person an outlet for confessing these obscenities without wanting the person brought to justice. Is TNR now to be considered the place where every other sort of disaffected psychopath can tell his story frankly and openly without worry that he'll be subject to justice? If one of the guards at Abu Ghraib had written stories for them, would they have been as energetic to hide the person's identity to keep him or her from suffering official repercussions? Or does TNR just not care about seeking justice, as long as it has a means to wage a wider, political battle with those who do not share its editorial viewpoint? TNR and the author have both asserted that these articles are not intended to be representative of every soldier in Iraq, but given the fact that no dissenting views were sought, and given that an overt effort was made to shield this soldier from military justice, seems to point to a different conclusion. Namely, that it is indeed meant to be seen as representative of the culture of the US Army, and further, to expose this condition, that it is necessary that rightful justice be withheld from one man. When did it become within the purview of ethical journalism to shield self-confessed criminals (criminal within the context of the Uniform Code of Military Justice) from punishment? Who gave TNR that right? And if they have that right, how is it detemined who gets the benefit of their editorial sanctuary, and who does not?

The other alternative is that the stories are not true. Or that they contain only partial truth, woven with a healthy layer of mendaciousness. Or that they are true only in the non-truthful-truthiness way that has now become the preferred method of certain people in determining reality versus fiction, namely whether something is true on some indeterminate "higher level," one that promotes a particular point of view, whether or not the microscopic version of events unfolded as it did. (As when Bluto rallied the Delta House with his stirring and heroic monologue which referenced the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor. "Don't stop him--he's on a roll.")

If this is the case--and again, it's not clear yet that it is or isn't--but if it is, again what does that say about TNR? Were they so willing to believe something that fit their preconceived notion (aided by years of wholesome and uplifting Hollywood depictions of military-grade sociopaths) that they simply could not be bothered to fully check the source and his stories before they were printed? Did they not care whether it was true or not? Did they not learn anything from all the broken Glass on the floor? Or is making a buck just that important? Or is it even about the money? Is it about pridefulness, and hubris, and the desire to be seen as the holder of some special insight others are unable to possess?

I have no idea.

All I know is that no matter what, it's not one of journalism's finer performances.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at July 26, 2007 10:56 AM

One might also note that "journalism's finer performances" is an extremely low bar to jump these days.

What matters most to the rest of us unwilling to drink from the Fount of all (Journalistic) Stuff that Ought to be True is the terrible calumny this is to the hundreds of thousands of decent, honorable men and women prepared to die for the rest of us.

Who spend their days not only not acting like laughably paper caricatures of bloodthirsty, rampaging Huns, but performing incredible acts of decency and self-sacrifice.

Posted by: skinnydan at July 26, 2007 11:53 AM

In the comments at Hot Air they've posted some excepts from what is thought to be the soldier's blog. One line:

Cut your wrist let it bleed onto the paper in unique soulpatterns of mindthoughts.

Boy's a little overwrought if you ask me.

Posted by: Janis Gore at July 26, 2007 12:16 PM

Right about now, slashing his wrists might be looking like the best option. The gig is pretty much up for this guy at this point.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at July 26, 2007 11:15 PM

Referring back to that same piece of prose, a poster at Hit & Run said, "If we're going to have warrior poets, we need some warrior grammar lessons."

Posted by: Janis Gore at July 27, 2007 11:39 AM

Ah, well--thank goodness for editors, eh?

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 27, 2007 11:45 AM