Category Archive 'Shady Jounalism'

29 Jul 2010

Comparing Battle Log Reports To Reality

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Noah Shachtman was present, as an embedded reporter for Wired, at one of the incidents whose update report was leaked by Wikileaks. Reading these kind of compressed battle logs is not going to convey anything like the reality of the war to the Western public, he argues.

Echo company got into a gunfight in August 2009 in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. You’ll learn that by reading the report found in WikiLeaks’ database. You’ll learn that, after a chase, the marines killed one insurgent. You’ll learn that the insurgents supposedly fled and that the troops — part of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines — decided to stay the night in the area, in case the militants returned.

What you won’t learn is that a marine sniper team sparked the shoot-out with a surprise assault on the insurgents; that every member of that team was nearly killed in the battle; that the incident would kick off a three-day siege in which the Taliban nearly had the Echo company squad surrounded; that this spot eventually became an Echo company base; or that, while this extended gun fight was going on, British and Afghan troops were nearby, waging a more gentle form of counterinsurgency as they sat cross-legged under shady patches of farmland and talked with village elders.

I happen to know this because I was there with Echo company, reporting for Wired magazine. And the wide difference between what actually happened at the Moba Khan compound and what the report says happened there should give caution to those who think they can discover the capital-T truth about the Afghanistan conflict solely through the WikiLeaks war logs.

A different version of this posting appeared as an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

27 Jul 2010

Agitprop, Not News

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Herschel Smith points out that the recent Wikileaks documents dump and associated coverage by The Guardian and others are not journalism at all.

There is no news here. So Pakistan’s ISI is complicit in assistance to the Taliban and even supportive of incidents within Afghanistan itself. Who doesn’t already know this? Again, there are unintended casualties in counterinsurgency campaigns. Is this really a surprise to anyone? War is messy. Did the British think otherwise?

The Guardian knows better, as does Julian Assange who defends his work by noting the “real nature of this war” and the need to hold those in power accountable. To anyone with a computer, some time and a little interest, none of this is news. The folks at the Guardian are either stupid (believing that war is bloodless) or they are lying (having followed the body count just like I have). Furthermore, they are either poor countrymen, holding that counterinsurgency is worth it as long as they sacrifice their own and no Afghans are killed, or ignorant, knowing nothing about the necessity to fight and kill the enemy.

The editors of the Guardian are not stupid or ignorant. They are ideologically motivated, just like Julian Assange. The embarrassing part for both of them is that, having admitted that “despite the opportunities provided by new technology, media groups with a global reach still cannot offer their public more than sporadic accounts of the most visible and controversial incidents, and glimpses of the background,” the literate among us know better. The media is preening and polishing their moral credentials. They shouldn’t be. More than anything else, this is a story about letting ideology get in the way of reporting, and about the failure of that same media to do the basic job of compiling information and analyzing it.

25 Jul 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

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Texas ranches invasion story is a hoax. (Confederate Yankee).

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Get your free Rod Blagojevich ringtone.

Top favorites:

“I’ve got this thing and it’s (expletive) golden.”

“I’m stuck in this (expletive) job as governor now.”

“Only thirteen percent of you all out there think I’m doing a good job. So (expletive) all of you.”

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Unmarried ladies with attitude: Jane Austen’s Fight Club 3:22 video

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

23 Jul 2010

Top Secret America Graded By A Professional

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Thomas G. Mahnken, Professor of Strategy, U.S. Naval War College and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning, harshly criticizes the Washington Post’s “Top Secret America” in Foreign Policy.

I’ve just finished Dana Priest and William Arkin’s “Top Secret America,” The Washington Post’s two-year, three-part “investigation” into U.S. classified activities. If one of my graduate students handed this in as a term paper, I’d have a hard time giving it a passing grade. …

[T]he authors have, at best, a weak thesis. That’s actually giving them the benefit of the doubt, because the series as a whole doesn’t really have a thesis. Instead, it is a series of strung-together facts and assertions. Many of these facts are misleading. For example, the authors point to the fact that large numbers of Americans hold top-secret security clearances, but fail to distinguish between those who are genuinely involved in intelligence work and those who require the clearances for other reasons — such as maintaining classified computer equipment or, for that matter, serving as janitors or food service workers in organizations that do classified work. Similarly, they point to the large number of contractors involved in top-secret work without differentiating those who actually perform analysis and those who develop hardware and software.

Second, the authors fail to provide context. They make much of the fact that the U.S. intelligence community consists of many organizations with overlapping jurisdiction. True enough. But what they fail to point out is that this has been a key design feature of the U.S. intelligence community since its founding in the wake of World War II. The architects of the U.S. intelligence system wanted different eyes to look at the same data from diverse perspectives because they wanted to avoid another surprise attack like Pearl Harbor. …

In emphasizing the growth of the intelligence community since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the authors are at the same time accurate and misleading. They accurately note that the size of intelligence agencies grew rapidly after 9/11, but that’s like saying that the scale of U.S. warship construction ballooned in the months after Pearl Harbor. It’s true but misses the larger point. …

During the 1990s the size of the U.S. intelligence community declined significantly because both the Clinton administration and leaders in Congress believed that we were headed for a more peaceful world. Indeed, the Clinton administration made trimming the size of the intelligence community a priority through its Reinventing Government initiative. Many intelligence analysts took offers of early retirement and became contractors — contractors that the U.S. government hired back after 9/11. A good deal of the post-9/11 intelligence buildup thus involved trying to buy back capacity and capability that had been eliminated during the 1990s.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

21 Jul 2010

Ezra Klein Is No Dorothy Parker

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Roger Simon reads the Journolist emails and is appalled at the mediocrity of it all.

These quotes from a private list of soi-disant liberal journalists read like outtakes from some notebook stolen from a proto-Trotskyite home for the aged — and not one of them is faintly clever. What a bunch of fuddy-duddys. Yes, I know Strong was being selective for his own purposes, but still … these guys are writers? Hunter Thompson not. For that matter, Roger Kimball not.

But forget the paucity of imagination and style, what about the group think? These are the independent minds that seek to mold our culture and political lives? Nowhere to be found is an original thought – unless you count accusing Karl Rove of racism as a brainstorm.

Well, we have had the generation gap and tons of other gaps. Now Journolist reveals we have an “elitism gap.” Gone are the days of the Algonquin Round Table to be replaced by a cabal of humdrum mediocrities on a listservr plotting how to justify the racist ravings of a reactionary theocrat.

21 Jul 2010

Conservative Bloggers Are More Critical And Fair-Minded

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When a tasty news item confirming one’s own prejudices and assumptions and wreaking injury upon one’s political adversaries comes along, it is only natural that the partisan blogger will seize upon it with a certain glee and give it prominent coverage in a major posting.

I almost simply referenced Andrew Breitbart’s video published yesterday of Shirley Sherrod apparently giving a tutorial on successful discrimination in federal program administration in a simple sarcastic posting, but it was short and I happened to watch it a second time, and then I began wondering about its editing.

A day later, everyone knows that all the wheels have come off of Andrew Breitbart’s discrimination story. (the Politico)

Breitbart was doing damage control, telling Talking Points Memo that he didn’t do the editing and was not even in possession of the full video when he launched the story. (sigh)

But the silver-lining in this unfortunate episode is that NYM was not alone in noticing the tricky editing. It was only to be expected that many blogs would be fooled. The truth is that everyone sometimes posts hastily without deep consideration of the material being passed along.

But the right-side of the blogosphere really does differ from the left with respect to honesty and responsibility.

The Anchoress was also paying attention yesterday, and her reservations received major attention because they were linked by Instapundit.

[Here’s] what is troubling me.

Doesn’t it seem like, after all of that sort of winking, “you and I know how they really are” racist crap wherein Sherrod–intentionally or not–indicts her own narrow focus, she was heading to a more edifying message? What did it open her eyes about? Was she about to say “I took him to one of his own, but it shouldn’t have mattered about that; my job was to serve all the farmers who needed help.”

Was she about to say, “I learned about myself and about how far we still have to go?”

Was she about to say “it’s not poor vs those who have, because we are not at war, we are just in the same human reality that ever was?”

Was she about to say, “poor is poor, hungry is hungry and the past is the past when a family can’t eat?”

I want to know. Because it seemed like Sherrod was heading somewhere with that story, and the edit does not let us get there. I want the rest of the story before I start passing judgment on it. …

I want to see the rest of the tape. I cannot believe Sherrod ended on “I took him to one of his own.” Either she said something much worse after that (which we would have seen) or she said something much better.

If it was something “better” then we should have seen that, too.

Before long, her skepticism was being echoed throughout the right side of the blogosphere. So much for Andrew Sullivan‘s “virulence of the far right.”

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UPDATE

James Taranto, on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, also noticed that editing and he had no doubts.

It seems to us that Sherrod got a bum deal in all this. While her description of her attitude toward the white farmer is indeed appalling, even in Breitbart’s video it is clear by the end that the story was one of having learned the error of her ways.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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Congratulations to Shirley Sherrod on her vindication.

20 Jul 2010

Reporting Racism

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Shirley Sherrod

Andrew Breitbart seemingly catches the black audience at the NAACP nodding approvingly as Shirley Sherrod describes discriminating against a white farmer, deliberately doing as little as possible for him while avoiding getting into trouble and shuffling him along to be assisted by “one of his own kind.”

The 2:36 video seems shocking evidence of cynical, calculating racism and discrimination, until one watches it again and notices how craftily it is edited.

Watching it the second time, it seemed clear to me that Sherrod was not, in fact, presenting a tutorial to black NAACP members, advising them to take federal jobs and then covertly take out racial resentments on white applicants for federal services. She was telling a story, I think, of personal repentance and enlightenment, in which she was ultimately going to describe how, in the course of grudgingly providing the minimum help she could get away with to a white farmer, she suddenly realized that racial divisions didn’t matter, and it was helping people in economic distress that mattered.

Sherrod is cut off very abruptly. I don’t think she had reached her punch line, but I suspect I can guess where she must have been going.

If I’m right, Andrew Breitbart manipulatively edited her morally uplifting and inspirational speech and turned it around 180 degrees into a boastful account of successful discrimination. If I’m correct about this, I fear that it demonstrates that Breitbart is unethical and is an unreliable source.

Fox News reports that Sherrod was forced to resign as the result of the Breitbart video.

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One of (now leftwing) Little Green Football’s commenters argues that the Chapter 12 bankruptcy reference can be taken to establish the time of the incident as 1986, at which time Sherrod was managing a black farm cooperative in Georgia. If so, she would not have been a government employee at all, and her discriminatory impulses would have been perfectly reasonable. This theory is, of course, unproven.


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