This week’s installment of Dymphna’s Greatest Hits from July 2007 discusses the manufacture of fake news by a “journalist” at The New Republic. Reading it through made me realize how little has changed — the behavior of the legacy media hasn’t improved in the intervening years, and it may even have gotten worse.
Most of the embedded links in the original are now defunct, and have been removed.
Bon Appétit, TNR
Originally published July 21, 2007
The New Republic is being either naive or cynical. This one is a tough call if you want to believe the best about a person, or group of people — in this case a magazine that’s been around since the First World War.
By now you’ve probably read about what Sgt. Mom calls “the latest milblog kerfuffle-du-jour.”
The dust-up concerns a series of essays The New Republic has published by a supposed soldier in Iraq who describes anecdotes about his fellow soldiers that are (a) horrific and disgusting, and (b) inaccurate in their details. Of course, (b) simply means another “fake-but-accurate” strand in the MSM tapestry of careless lies and half-truths woven to serve their purposes. With the MSM, f-b-a is a standard sufficient to allow them to print what the rest of us consider slanderous, but which gives them license to put their agenda into the public sphere for consumption by the willing or the unwary.
OPFOR blog and The Weekly Standard magazine both question the veracity of the pseudonymous Scott Thomas’ stories about his service in Iraq, and then ask their readers to pass judgment based on their own experience of military life.
The commenters on both sites take the stories apart; they do so on the basis of small, telling details. For example, it’s not called a “chow hall” in Iraq, and the things on soldiers’ heads are no longer “helmets.” Nor do enlisted men ever operate as free of the oversight of their NCOs as TNR’s “correspondent” would have you believe. In real life, any sergeant or junior officer would take these fellows down based on the ghoulish, sick stories this writer tells. Not to mention what their peers might do to them for such depraved behavior…
Here we are again, right back at Dan Rather’s fonts from a 1970’s IBM Selectric. We’re back in WWII movies where the reality behind the bad guy (usually German) is revealed by his ignorance of, say, American baseball players. In other words, liars get outed by the little things they don’t know but couldn’t possibly be ignorant about if they came from the milieu they are claiming as their own.
Back during Rathergate, James Lileks was quoted by the Standard:
“The whole ‘fake but accurate’ line shows how tone-deaf these people are; it’s like saying a body in a pine box is ‘dead but lifelike.’ It boggles, it really does: the story is true, the evidence is faked, but the evidence reflects the evidence we have not yet presented that proves our conclusion — ergo, we’re telling the truth…
Both OPFOR and the Standard did what The New Republic should have done to begin with: fact check with those who do know the details because they can prove they were there in Iraq when these brutal incidents supposedly took place. For example, TNR’s essayist describes a soldier who deliberately makes a U-turn in his Bradley in order to run over a dog.
Even to this un-military blogger, the story smells like… like a dead dog lying in the sun. I mean, how do you make a swift U-turn in a tracked vehicle like a Bradley, hmm? And we are supposed to believe that the dog is going to stand and wait for you to return and run him over just for fun? Heck, even the lazy hounds given to sleeping on our country road get up well before my speeding bullet of a car reaches their noses.
Here’s how a commenter from the Standard sees it: