Category Archive 'Michael Hastings'

20 Jun 2013

Ain’t That a Shame?

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Slightly used motor and transmission of C250 Mercedes Benz

Jack Baruth, at The Truth About Cars, seemed just as broken-hearted as I am, but is just a trifle more tastefully discreet at concealing his feelings.

The writing-about-writing crowd is abuzz with discussion about the rather unusual death of Buzzfeed/RollingStone/Gawker writer Michael Hastings. Mr. Hastings, whose name is never mentioned in the press without the immediate mention that he was “the fearless journalist whose reporting brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal”, died in a single-car accident in Los Angeles yesterday morning. This in and of itself is not unusual, but the circumstances of the crash and its aftermath won’t do anything to quiet the conspiracy theorists who are already claiming that the military-industrial complex found a way to cap the guy. …

Mercedes-Benz USA is no doubt sweating bullets over this one. An eyewitness report says that Mr. Hastings was driving at an excessive rate of speed down a suburban street when his car “suddenly jackknifed” and hit a tree “with the force of a bomb”. The Benzo, which by the wheels and quarter-panel appears to be the relatively prosaic but cheerfully stylish C250 four-cylinder turbo coupe, proceeded to throw its powertrain out of the engine bay, immediately catch fire in a manner typically reserved for episodes of “Miami Vice”, and burn its driver until said driver was charred beyond recognition. …

Mr. Hastings’ aggressively Democrat-friendly storytelling has the Internet already considering the idea that his death was engineered somehow. I can’t say it’s totally unlikely. As noted above, the reported (and videotaped) behavior of the C250 was not in line with what we’d expect. On the other hand, surely it’s expected that a respected, mature writer on non-automotive topics won’t be barreling through a suburb so fast that any tree he hits will cause his car to burst into flames, right? We’ll keep an eye on this to see what, if anything, develops.

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Michael Yon adds:

Michael Hastings was killed in a car crash in Los Angeles. The single car accident happened at about 0425. He crashed into a tree and was burned beyond recognition. He was 33.

Mr. Hastings was the war correspondent whose Rolling Stone article led to the firing of General Stanley McChrystal, who at the time was the top General in Afghanistan.

Although Hastings was widely read, no serious war correspondents took him seriously, or at least not the ones I know. … Hastings was like an undisciplined hitman with a pen and license to kill. One of his gonzo articles damaged the career and reputation of Lieutenant General Bill Caldwell, for no cause. My sense was that he picked fights with key people mostly to draw attention. Though Hastings was not respected among war correspondents, it is sad to see a man die so young so horribly. Just why he crashed into a tree at 0425 remains unknown. No doubt the conspiracies will begin to fly.

New Joke: What do you call a metrosexual Rolling Stone attack dog journalist’s explosive collision with an LA palm tree? A good start.

25 Jun 2010

Beware: Journalists at Work

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David Brooks writes General Stanley McChrystal’s epitaph.

Who could possibly imagine that a military commander’s staff had unkind things to say about members of the president’s staff?

Rolling Stone sold a lot of copies, reporter Michael Hastings made a big splash, and General McChrystal had his career ruined, it was all just a day’s work for the news business.

Most people in government, I find, are there because they sincerely want to do good. But they’re also exhausted and frustrated much of the time. And at these moments they can’t help letting you know that things would be much better if only there weren’t so many morons all around.

So every few weeks I find myself on the receiving end of little burst of off-the-record trash talk. Senators privately moan about other senators. Administration officials gripe about other administration officials. People in the White House complain about the idiots in Congress, and the idiots in Congress complain about the idiots in the White House — especially if they’re in the same party. Washington floats on a river of aspersion.

The system is basically set up to maximize kvetching. Government is filled with superconfident, highly competitive people who are grouped into small bands. These bands usually have one queen bee at the center — a president, senator, cabinet secretary or general — and a squad of advisers all around. These bands are perpetually jostling, elbowing and shoving each other to get control over policy.

Amid all this friction, the members of each band develop their own private language. These people often spend 16 hours a day together, and they bond by moaning and about the idiots on the outside.

It feels good to vent in this way. You demonstrate your own importance by showing your buddies that you are un-awed by the majority leader, the vice president or some other big name. You get to take a break from the formal pressures of the job by playing the blasphemous bad-boy rebel over a beer at night.

Military people are especially prone to these sorts of outbursts. In public, they pay lavish deference to civilian masters who issue orders from the comfort of home. Among themselves, they blow off steam, sometimes in the crudest possible terms. …

McChrystal, like everyone else, kvetched. And having apparently missed the last 50 years of cultural history, he did so on the record, in front of a reporter. And this reporter, being a product of the culture of exposure, made the kvetching the center of his magazine profile.

By putting the kvetching in the magazine, the reporter essentially took run-of-the-mill complaining and turned it into a direct challenge to presidential authority. He took a successful general and made it impossible for President Obama to retain him.

The reticent ethos had its flaws. But the exposure ethos, with its relentless emphasis on destroying privacy and exposing impurities, has chased good people from public life, undermined public faith in institutions and elevated the trivial over the important.

Another scalp is on the wall. Government officials will erect even higher walls between themselves and the outside world. The honest and freewheeling will continue to flee public life, and the cautious and calculating will remain.

The culture of exposure has triumphed, with results for all to see.


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