Friday, August 03, 2007

 

Towards "Truthiness"

The Editors of The New Republic issued a statement yesterday presenting their assessment of the results of their “re-reporting” on Beauchamp’s accounts as contained in his “Shock Troops” diary. Count on it to resolve nothing in this affair, other than that the TNR refuses to learn anything from their many forays into subjective “truthiness.”

Defenders of TNR will play the angry mob, raising each point of deflection and dissembling in the statement like pitchforks, intent on skewering MILBLOGS, The Weekly Standard, and the many military sources who called BS on Beauchamp. (Curiously, MILBLOG libelist Juan Cole posts an update to his What About Beauchamp? Post from yesterday, linking to the latest TNR statement but without further comment.)

Critics of TNR and Beauchamp note that what TNR describes as an “error” and “mistake” “in detail effectively refutes the entire premise of Beauchamp’s diary. By Beauchamp confirming that the alleged evidence of his “degraded” humor in mocking a disfigured woman happened in Kuwait, he destroys the possibility that his experiences in the war (which he hadn’t yet experienced in reality, only his imagination) had somehow dehumanized him to this degree. It’s a phony anecdote, and intentionally conveys a falsehood. (You can’t even describe it as “truthy,” rather as representative of something that could have “truthiness.”)

There will be no reconciliation between these two positions. TNR supporters never needed confirmation of their prejudices, but certainly will consider conclusive the “facts” that:

·        TNR personally vouches for Beauchamp (“he’s so swell, one of us married him”); and

·        TNR spoke with a soldier or two over the telephone anonymously, who confirmed some details but not the whole.

One third untrue, details for the other two thirds likely embellished, exaggerated, or supplemented with falsehood. Sounds like a winning combination for their self-proclaimed mission to provide their readers “with a sense of Iraq as it is seen by the troops.” (Or imagined by them, at any rate.)

Dean Barnett has been all over this story. Posting at Townhall, Barnett responded to the TNR statement, which he described as “a maddening piece of work – evasive, misleading, self-pitying and deliberately distortive.”

Barnett picks up on the genesis of Beauchamp’s diaries at TNR, and what it clearly reveals about TNR’s attitudes towards the troops it purports to want to have share their stories:

TNR by its own admission hired Scott Beauchamp “to provide our readers with a sense of Iraq as it is seen by the troops.” As I’ve written several times, this is The New Republic’s original sin in this matter. Scott Beauchamp didn’t give TNR’s readers a sense of Iraq as it is seen by the troops but rather a sense of Iraq as seen by a spouse of a TNR writer with an ideological axe to grind. His purported experiences, and his attitude, are far from typical. The fact that at this late date, TNR is insisting that he was a fitting tour guide of Iraq for TNR’s readership is appalling, and continues TNR’s ongoing slander of the 160,000 men and women who are serving nobly in Iraq.

The absence of credible military experience and knowledge has been the fundamental problem of mainstream media (MSM) reporting, and TNR’s woes with Beauchamp present a case study of MSM ignorance (and likely prejudice).

Barnett also mocks TNR’s use of the word “error,” in describing Beauchamp’s admission that one of his anecdotes took place in Kuwait, before he saw any combat.

TNR’s usage of the word “error” is charmingly precious. For those of you with short memories, Beauchamp wrote, “I saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq.” Sounds more like a lie than an error, no? I guess for TNR it’s a to-may-to/to-mah-to thing.

Besides, I thought Beauchamp was supposed to communicate to TNR’s audience of urban sophisticates what things are like in Iraq, not Kuwait.

Barnett laments that TNR uses their latest statement to keep digging their hole deeper:

TNR’s deliberately vague and obfuscating editorial begs the inescapable conclusion that Scott Beauchamp is a fabulist, one that the editors of TNR have inexplicably decided to stand by. TNR has clambered into its hole, and bizarrely kept digging.

Barnett’s piece courtesy of Mark Steyn at The Corner, who wins this round in the Shlock Troops bout:

War is hell, but, if you beat up a bloke in a pub in southern England a year before D-Day, that may not be the best anecdote to prove your point.

If a “diarist” makes up stories, invents details, embellishes events, and creates impressions that are contradicted by actual events and refuted by the majority of others who have experienced the same environment, why on earth would anyone think they gain any insight from the diarist’s accounts?




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