[NOTE: I've been covering the "Baghdad Diarist" story since July, and here's a checklist of articles: master list to August 14; an almost complete list pre- and post-August in "A Convenient Leak for Dan Quayle’s Brain" 10/25 (which was featured on Salon's blog report October 30, and The Moderate Voice 10/27), and "Colonel Boylan Goes off the Reservation," 10/28]
New Republic editor Franklin Foer caved on Saturday, using the old Bush Administration technique of releasing bad news so that it will vanish in the flaccid weekend news cycle.
Franklin Foer, after months of intimidation over one story (out of three), wrote an exceptionally long, legalistic blizzard of hair-splitting, concluding with this gutless pronouncement:
In retrospect, we never should have put Beauchamp in this situation. He was a young soldier in a war zone, an untried writer without journalistic training.* We published his accounts of sensitive events while granting him the shield of anonymity–which, in the wrong hands, can become license to exaggerate, if not fabricate.
When I last spoke with Beauchamp in early November, he continued to stand by his stories.† Unfortunately, the standards of this magazine require more than that. And, in light of the evidence available to us, after months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them‡. Without that essential confidence, we cannot stand by these stories. [emphasis added]
[* Note, not exactly true, he was in the writing program at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and his wife graduated with a degree in Journalism from same. This is a needless snark from an editor whose professional qualifications seem increasingly shaky: 'Glass' houses and stones, pun intended. † Should be "reports" ‡Raising the bar to a level that I've never seen in journalism, and ofttimes not in legal proceedings. HW]
I know. It is easy to condemn Foer for caving in, after five unrelenting months of attacks from Pajamas Media, from Butt Plug Bob, from the Weekly Standard, from Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, from Red State and Michelle Malkin, from Blackfive, the Jawa Report, protein wisdom, the Van der Galiën Gazette, The Captain’s Quarters, Blue Crab Boulevard, Powerline, Jules Crittenden and the other yowling hate monkeys of the Reich Wing Blogosmear™. The New Hampshire Hillary campaign headquarters hostage incident rightly dominated Memeorandum Saturday morning, but by seven o’clock, the top news, the MOST IMPORTANT STORY IN AMERICA (according to blog swarming) was The New Republic’s “retraction.” Hostage crises had to take a back seat.
And not a single “progressive” blog involved. The auto-da-fé seemed ‘by invitation only,’ with kudos tossed all ’round for bringing this “enemy of the Republic” to ground, and continuing the drum beat for Franklin Foer’s head (on a platter with a side of freedom fries).
But don’t be so quick to condemn Foer for his craven lack of moral courage and/or testicular fortitude. He well reflects the state of his nation. Here’s what I appended to Glenn Greenwald’s “I know you are but what am I?” Salon posting this morning noting an even more egregious situation with the National Review Online that’s being quietly ignored (rather than challenge the flying monkeys, we seem to, instead, parallel them and then cry hypocrisy and loose the whimpering, whipped dogs of blogwar):
Look: it’s easy to condemn The New Republic’s editor, Franklin Foer, for his gutless caving yesterday, leaving Scott Beauchamp to twist in the wind. “When I last spoke with Beauchamp in early November, he continued to stand by his stories. Unfortunately, the standards of this magazine require more than that.”
But moral courage, if you’ve been around the block at all, is an impossibly rare commodity, and the fact that the smallish magazine (circulation = less than 100,000) held out against the unrelenting assault of the flying monkeys of the Blogosmear™ has to count for something. We EXPECT moral cowardice from most Americans.
It’s how an election was stolen in 2000, and again in 2004, it’s how we were bullied into two imprudent wars (in case you hadn’t noticed, Afghanistan is falling apart, and we’re losing provinces), one of which was actively and irrefutably a war crime. It’s how we’ve been bullied into submission to widespread wiretapping, surveillance, secret search warrants and searches, gag orders, extraordinary renditions, torture, extra-territorial prisons, etc. etc. etc.
In light of it all, it would seem hypocritical in the extreme for condemning yet another non-flying monkey, in the light of our own national collusion with the thugs and bullies of the right.
It would be ironic if Foer lost his job, of course, since his mea culpa seems calculated to ensure just the opposite, but then, the willingness of the catamite media to mindlessly rebroadcast the non sequitur “Stephen Glass” story with every update on the Beauchamp story (Foer didn’t come to work for TNR until, literally, years after the Glass scandal — which was about Glass, and not TNR, again, the victim made to appear guilty for being victimized) is well established.
No: moral courage is a commodity in short supply, and it ill behooves us to form into yet another “circular firing squad” to condemn anyone on the “left” for lacking moral courage or spine.
Far more appropriate to celebrate those rare few who DO exemplify that rarest quality, nowadays. Like Glenn Greenwald, for instance, but there are others.
Meanwhile the flying monkeys are dancing around their bonfire (of the vanities) and howling at the waning moon.
The Sudetenland has, once more, been annexed.
And nary a word from those who would appease the flying monkeys of Greater Wingnuttia.
John Cole posted a brilliant parallel post on Balloon Juice, and I’m not disparaging Greenwald’s post, but, frankly, the sound of any response has been of the pin drop variety.
Which seems odd, since the rank and file seem to GET IT. Attack these flying monkeys. Point out that Butt Plug Bob of Confederate Yanker isn’t some “citizen journalist,” but, rather, a dangerously out-of-control extremist who’s actually being feted for his endless hate-filled attacks on anyone and anything that challenges his microencephalic ideology.
The Washington Post has a ‘legitimizing’ interview with him, here. And it’s important to know who Butt Plug Bob is, because Bob has been the Army’s point man on this, and has pursued the “Beauchamp Affair” with an obsessiveness since July that has seemed to border on the pathological. Why, the phony Brent Bozell “Newsbusters” website (the funhouse mirror reflection of Media Matters) has its own “Bob Owens Blog” indicating, perhaps, the equal credibility that Owens and Newsbusters share.
Butt Plug Bob (for his paranoid, never-retracted Christmas Eve 2005 post accusing Google of a conspiracy to destroy Christmas by allowing a “Baby Jesus Butt Plug” to show up at the top of a Google search) is the Ron Jeremy of the blogosphere:
Untalented, excessively hypocritical, filled with a rank overestimation of his own intellectual capacity and/or talents; a reprehensible human being and an endlessly rationalizing partisan hack, he exists, seemingly, like Gene Simmons, Ted Nugent, Chuck Norris or a thousand other famous and feted no-talent hacks, to remind us of Ecclesiastes (ironically) 9:11
“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” [KJV]
It is neither the quality of Butt Plug Bob’s hatred nor the depth of his research that have created his status among the savages of the Reich; rather, it is his monomaniacal pursuit of this story.
When a private in the army wrote some tales with a few anecdotes about what he had experienced in the war in Iraq, and a few disagreed, no grain of sand was left unturned. Scale models of armored vehicles were built. Experts were called, emailed, and interrogated. Myspace accounts were looked up. Entire fields of Cray Supercomputers had to be brought online just to handle all the “debunking” and commentary from the wingnuts. ["The Suddenly Incurious Citizen Journalists," Balloon Juice]
Think about it: this savage swarm on Scott Thomas Beauchamp’s “Baghdad Diary” in a magazine of extremely limited circulation, just as the savagery of the persecution of the “war porn” website in 2005 can MAKE NO SENSE, unless it’s to keep a lid on any bad news coming back from Iraq. (See my Crooks and Liars featured piece, “War Porn and Silencing Soldiers” 11/5). Remember, this is an administration so PARANOID about home reactions to the war that they hide the coffins, and jigger the manner in which casualties are logged, to minimize any thought of loss.
Are you REALLY surprised that suddenly “the surge is working”? (Even though it has, by its own benchmarks, FAILED).
It is still not explained (though I’ve been asking for five months) WHY General Petraeus’ Public Affairs officer, Col. Stephen A. Boylan chose Butt Plug Bob to “confirm” that Beauchamp had retracted his story. The same Col. Boylan who has shot off cranky, subliterate screeds to Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly and Glenn Greenwald of Salon, unsolicited?
This has NEVER passed the smell test, and the stench from Baghdad only gets stronger.
Butt Plug Bob was leading an attempt to cow the advertisers of The New Republic (a venerable American political institution, now owned by a Canadian publisher) into withdrawing their advertising. To “kill” the magazine, in other words, UNLESS they repudiate their ‘ridiculous’ stance that Scott Beauchamp — a fucking soldier in a fucking combat zone in a fucking illegal war — was telling the truth.
WHY is this one soldier so important, if it isn’t to intimidate ALL soldiers?
Why was Chris Wilson saddled with 300 misdemeanor counts and one felony count of “obscenity” which were dropped (all but 5) as soon as he capitulated and removed the site … that featured actual pictures of the grisly carnage in Iraq?
Why did the Army take it upon itself to investigate the “Baghdad Diarist” after Franklin Foer– a leading member, with the Democratic leadership, of the paraphyletic group Invertebrata – foolishly “outed”Beauchamp? None of the offenses were particularly egregious, and one would think that the Army would have its hands full looking for the missing $9 billion and 200,000 weapons. Army priorities are not what we civilians would think priorities, evidently.
And why does Foer stupidly continue to answer those who never read his magazine, would never BUY his magazine, and only would like to see his magazine destroyed?
The latest inanity from this World Class dumbass (sorry, Franklin, but even pussies know when it’s time to skedaddle and hide under a rock, or, in this case, Iraq), is this (after telling the story of how Scott and Reeve married in the middle of the whole affair):
But there was one avoidable problem with our Beauchamp fact-check. His wife, Reeve, was assigned a large role in checking his third piece. While we believe she acted with good faith and integrity–not just in this instance, but throughout this whole ordeal–there was a clear conflict of interest. At the time, our logic–in hindsight, obviously flawed–was that corresponding with a soldier in Iraq is logistically difficult and Reeve was already routinely speaking with him. It was a mistake–and we’ve imposed new rules to prevent future fact-checking conflicts of interest.
So, to “prove” his great honesty, Foer releases more red meat to the carnivorous flying monkeys, and the blog swarm on this has been utterly predictable, e.g., “TNR Let Beauchamp’s Wife Fact-Check His Stories.” You’d think that the dumbass would have LEARNED the value of complete honesty from his foolish “correction” that the “disfigured woman” incident that the literary parsers of the Reich (and, trust me, “The Gospel of Judas” hasn’t received the kind of critical review that “Shock Troops” has) took place in Kuwait and not Iraq.
THIS was SCANDALOUS! It ‘PROVED’ that Beauchamp, by not telling the legal, courtroom 100% truth (he took it, as I do, as minor artistic license: he was attempting to give the “feel” of the war, he was NOT preparing a report for the Inspector General of the Army, whose Iraq reports, I can ASSURE you, are filled with far more fiction and “fabulism” than Beauchamp’s diary) was ANOTHER STEPHEN GLASS.
Foer foolishly addresses THIS, too:
I hadn’t worked with Stephen Glass, who made up stories out of whole cloth, but I knew the lessons derived from that scandal. Fabulists are often nabbed by the little lies, the asides they assume that no one will check. As we began our re-reporting of Beauchamp’s pieces, we searched for the easily verifiable bits of information that would serve as crucial benchmarks. And, on the first full day of our investigation, it didn’t look good for Beauchamp.
There you go: mention Beauchamp and Glass in the same paragraph as a … DEFENSE of TNR? Seldom has the victim of the auto-da-fé so aided and abetted his inquisitors.
Yes, Franklin Foer is a dumbass. Should he be fired, as the yowling baboons of the Blogosmear™ demand?
I don’t give a shit. The personnel issues of The New Republic are a matter of complete indifference to me, in contradistinction to the Reich Wingers, who gibber and caper* at every little nuance of the Masthead. Witness (er, witLESS) Butt Plug Bob:
… Looking at the masthead, the Assistant Editor that TNR is replacing seems to be Keelin McDonell, who was the longest-serving of TNR’s most recent crop of assistant editors.
If she was indeed the “responsible for guiding the magazine’s fact-checking department” during the period Scott Beauchamp published three articles with glaring fact errors in them, it would seem just cause for the magazine to find a replacement.
It would in no way, however, excuse the multiple, high level ethical breaches of more senior editors who seem intent on swearing to the veracity of this proven false fabulist to their very last breath. (the redundancy is sic)
[*Butt Plug Bob on Glenn Greenwald on Halloween, appropriately enough:
I would gently ask the noted First Amendment scholar Greenwald to note where it states that soldiers give up all their constitutional rights to free speech once they put on a uniform.
Is it only when they disagree with liberals?
I ask because while the questionable email that started this particular conflagration was no doubt scathing, and emails apparently from Col.Boylan to other bloggers also disputed some of their content and fact-finding efforts, I fail to see how these private emails to bloggers were somehow inappropriate, unless Greenwald thinks that he and his compatriots should be able to attack the military—even to the point of fabrication—without any response.
Greenwald has a long and mercilessly well-documented history of being unable to take criticism. Somehow, I think that has as much to do with his focus on this topic than any real concern over a military email server may have been compromised.
Somehow Butt Plug Bob, in addition to his well known "expertise" on journalistic integrity and practices, has the time to mindlessly backtrack on his own complicity in getting ONE soldier silenced.* Oy. Don't even think of playing the 'hypocrisy' card on them, they are as impervious as they are oblivious.]
[* Let's pass over just how creepy it is that Butt Plug Bob even cyberstalked Beauchamp's wife, and announced her pregnancy on his blog. (Sept. 18), the first Rightie act of smearing a proto-human in utero, in memory! Seems it's never too early to begin with the ad hominems -- one wonders if he's "pro-life"?]
Oh yeah, there’s fabulists out there, all right.
There’s Steyn and Malkin, and Goldfarb, and Lopez, there’s Ham and Ace of Spades, and Blackfive, and Atlas Shrugs, and … oh yeah, George and Dick and Donnie and Condi.
And you, if you believe this horseshit.
The surge is a failure, the war is a failure, our national press is an UTTER failure (the SAME bastards, I will note, who mercilessly attacked the Clintons for eight long years over bullshit “scandals” like Travelgate and Whitewater, and then failed to publicize that — after millions of dollars, slimy Ken Starr and the whole Linda Tripp*/Lucianne Goldberg setup of Monica Lewinsky — there was NOTHING to the allegations); the Republican Party is guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes, and the most egregious crimes against the Constitution (to the point that the term “ethical Republican” is a meaningless oxymoron, like “liberal Republican”); worst of all, WE are failures for not strangling this enfant terrible of a Constitutional horror in its bassinet.
[*Linda Tripp received $595,000 as a settlement from YOU, the taxpayer, in 2003 instead of being tossed in jail, which she richly deserves ... in a nation that believes in "justice," that is. Here's what became of her. Remember, kiddies, crime DOES pay.]
Meantime, there are two young writers, a newly married couple, who are alone, seemingly friendless, left to twist in the wind so that Franklin Foer can try to save his job from the flying monkeys, like Butt Plug Bob, who “changed the game” in late October, in this sleazy posting, which belies its own title:
A Point of Honor
Scott Beauchamp doesn’t matter.
He’s a twice-AWOL serial liar with a pending mental health evaluation who can’t write believable military fiction EVEN WHILE IN THE MILITARY. He’s powerless, has been tried, found guilty and punished, and at this point, a distraction. (sic) We’ve been focusing on the wrong things.
What matters is the New Republic’s advertisers. No, not their editors, their advertisers.
… Foer will win the current game we’re playing because he can stonewall his way though it. It is obvious his bosses don’t care as long as it doesn’t cost them money. So we change the game.
Below are a list of recent advertisers that have placed ads with either the print edition of The New Republic or the web site tnr.com.
Not content with “winning,” the increasingly cyber-stalky, increasingly obsessive, seemingly deranged Butt Plug Bob insists that Beauchamp, for having had the temerity to write, isn’t just a “liar,” but “a twice-AWOL serial liar with a pending mental health evaluation who can’t write.” Gee, Bob. (Read the October Confederate Yanker blog archive for a more exhaustive cataloging of one man’s obsession over three pages in a small magazine.)
This seems a tad mean-spirited, considering that Butt Plug Bob’s favorite milblogger, Michael Yon, “forgave” Beauchamp on October 25 (as valuable as an absolution from Judas Iscariot, I can assure you) and begged the Flying Monkeys to give him another chance to redeem himself by shooting more innocent Iraqis.*
[* Bob DOES sort of forgive Beauchamp by claiming he's irrelevant in the same day:
My latest on the Beauchamp/TNR is up at Pajamas Media.
I'd also advise reading the latest from Michael Yon and Laughing Wolf at Blackfive. For all of his issues with the creative writing , Scott Beauchamp isn't the focus of this story any more, and more importantly, seems to be trying to earn back the trust of his fellow soldiers.
The New Republic, however, long ago ran out of second chances.
So if we are to beleive (sic) "The Editors," Scott Beauchamp called Franklin Foer at home two weeks after the transcribed call and claimed that he "continued to stand by every aspect of his story, except for the one inaccuracy he had previously admitted." That "inaccuracy," of course, being the placement of a woman that nobody else has ever seen in a different country (Kuwait) and time (pre-combat) than the country in which she had not been seen in previously (Iraq). (I can't parse this sentence either. HW)
Sadly, this claimed conversation comes at a time when Beauchamp seemed to have rededicated himself to his fellow soldiers and has been making a concerted effort to re-earn their trust. If true, it would certainly damage the hopes his superior officers had of rehabilitating an already problematic Army career.
Who died and appointed Butt Plug Bob "little tin god" isn't explained, however. But, if you hang out with soldiers, then you ARE a soldier, right? Bush has proven that.]
Let me summarize it for you: Having mousetrapped the publisher, she promises a response. Foer’s epic narrative of yesterday (“Fog of War”) fulfilled that promise, and left Beauchamp to swing in the breeze for the likes of eminently rational, reasonable, not-at-all obsessive, cyerstalky or borderline psychotic Butt Plug Bob:
Please be assured that we share your interest in transparency and in clarifying TNR’s position as soon as possible.
Once we publish the final findings of our investigation, we hope that your confidence in The New Republic will be fully restored. [Elizabeth Sheldon, TNR Publisher -- PLEASE note, we ONLY have Bob's word for it that this letter was authentic. I think it deserves the same degree of skepticism that Bob has shown Beauchamp, don't you?]
So, let’s put this in perspective, by quoting yet another carpet-chewing blog posting by Butt Plug Bob, who emailed TNR’s publisher. Her response makes the typical egregious TNR mistake of attempting to be rational:
From a business perspective, the Baghdad Diarist represented 3 pages of over 1,100 editorial pages published during the past year. Yet, it has accounted for a hugely disproportioned amount of time in trying to deal with the response. [Elizabeth Sheldon, TNR Publisher see above]
After all this time and all this screaming, how fucking DUMB do you have to be to expect that rationality or facts are going to have any effect on this crowd? Somehow, I don’t notice that Butt Plug Bob’s “confidence in The New Republic” was at all “fully restored.” Do you?
Probably not a wise idea to apply Bob’s own April 2007 dictum to Butt Plug Bob himself:
We’ve come to expect our media to be biased. We shouldn’t have to deal with them blatantly, recklessly, and repeatedly lying to further their private policy beliefs.
After all, that would be hypocrisy, right? And “hypocrisy,” like “dishonor” is a disease that Bob is inoculated against.
Rightly, (or, in this case, leftly) bloggers like Greenwald and Cole go after NRO’s “fabulist” — whose journalistic sins, proven, are far more egregious than Beauchamp’s (unproven) “sins.” Meantime, Scott Thomas Beauchamp stands by his story and I stand by Scott Thomas Beauchamp.
Unlike TNR, or most of the milquetoast liberal blogosphere (they can snoot, but they can’t snark), I’m not afraid of flying monkeys.
Broiled and served with a marmalade and mint sauce, they’re actually quite tasty.