Tuesday, December 04, 2007
TNR Puts On Big Boy Pants;
Lied , Embellished, Exaggerated, Wrote Fiction
Much of the Blogosphere has been writing about the Beauchamp story for a long time. I've been following it, however, until today I haven't written about it. The whole Beauchamp thing to me, well...something about it just didn't sit right. So I followed the story waiting...waiting for an implosion, a big implosion. And it finally did implode on TNR with editor Franklin Foer publishing an unapologetic apology.
Beauchamp concocted stories about war in Iraq that TNR published as gospel. Oh, TNR made some tepid attempts at fact-checking Beauchamp, but TNR was eager and excited to publish stories that made the U.S. Military and Soldiers look bad --- really, really bad.
TNR editor Foer published Fog Of War, a lovely tome of over 6,700 words explaining how TNR was duped by Beauchamp. I did a cut and past of the printer friendly version of Foer's story. I then used MS Word for a Word Count and the result was 6,787 including his opening disclaimer:
For months, our magazine has been subject to accusations that stories we published by an American soldier then serving in Iraq were fabricated. When these accusations first arose, we promised our readers a full account of our investigation. We spent the last four-and-a-half months re-reporting his stories. These are our findings.
We published his (Beauchamp's) accounts of sensitive events while granting him the shield of anonymity--which, in the wrong hands, can become license to exaggerate, if not fabricate.
National Review Online's Peter Wehner gets it right in his reaction to Foer's screed:
As most of the blog world knows by now, TNR published “Shock Troops” on July 13 under the byline Scott Thomas, which TNR identified as a pseudonym for a soldier then serving in Iraq. He described how war “distorts moral judgments,” in Foer’s words. Scott Thomas mentioned three anecdotes to support his contention: he and his comrades cracking vulgar jokes about a woman with a scarred face while she sat in close proximity; a soldier paraded around with the fragment of an exhumed skull on his head; and a driver of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle who took pride in running over dogs.
What is most striking about TNR’s piece is its Clinton-esque quality: grudging and self-justifying in tone and still eager to lash out at its critics even when the story has been shattered into a thousand pieces. In reading Foer’s piece, you get the sense that he’s seething at The Weekly Standard, the “ideological[ly] motivated” journal which first blew the whistle on the story; at conservative bloggers, who were “fixated” on this story; and at the U.S. Army, whose behavior was “suspicious.”
It turns out, of course, that it was TNR’s critics, and not TNR, who were vindicated, and all honor is due to them.
What The New Republic didn’t understand, and still seems unable to grasp, is that they and others saw this for what it was: an effort to use Beauchamp’s story to paint an ugly portrait of those serving in Iraq. The magazine had turned against the war, and this piece would help turn people against those serving in the war. What has happened instead is that the situation in Iraq is turning around — and the TNR piece has utterly collapsed.
Since mid-July this story was a torpedo aimed directly at the hull of TNR; the torpedo has now hit its mark. The damage is enormous and Franklin Foer’s explanation — which contains no apology to TNR’s readers or, more significantly, to the people in Beauchamp’s unit — will only compound the damage.
The accuracy of the allegations was immediately challenged by other media and disputed by the Pentagon. Beauchamp admitted they were false, then recanted.
New Republic editor Franklin Foer now writes that having Beauchamp's wife serve as a fact checker was "a clear conflict of interest."
Read the full faux Mea Culpa by Foer HERE.
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