Friday, August 03, 2007

The New Republic: Fake But Accurate, Round 2

Looks like those objective journalist types at the New Republic have joined Dan Rather's heretofore private "fake-but-accurate" club, running what was apparently a false story penned by a GI in Iraq who fancied himself a creative writer. Which, we'd guess, he actually is.

To make a long story short, it seems that TNR's "anonymous" soldier-writer witnessed terrible things involving our rotten troops in Iraq. But being a GI himself, he didn't want to expose himself as a rat. So he persuaded TNR to publish his trash-talking under the pseudonym.

He got outed anyway by the vigilant blogosphere, the same cadre that exposed Dan Rather and CBS as they supported a charlatan who was trying to defeat George Bush in the 2004 election via forged documents. The current TNR fabricator's real name is Scott Thomas Beauchamp. And his "nonfiction" reportage turned out to be more creative than TNR's lackadaisical editors/fact checkers had imagined. Compounding the error, they ran the story as if they'd completely vetted it. After all, it did roughly follow their standard leftist mantra "GeorgeBushDidIt." So it musta been true, right?

The story's most outrageous anecdote involved the writer and a fellow soldier in Iraq mocking a woman contractor who'd had her face horribly disfigured. Here's the excerpt that TNR does offer online before looking for subscription $$:
I saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq. She wore an unrecognizable tan uniform, so I couldn't really tell whether she was a soldier or a civilian contractor. The thing that stood out about her, though, wasn't her strange uniform but the fact that nearly half her face was severely scarred. Or, rather, it had more or less melted, along with all the hair on that side of her head. She was always alone, and I never saw her talk to anyone. Members of my platoon had seen her before but had never really acknowledged her. Then, on one especially crowded day in the chow hall, she sat down next to us....
Sorry, looks like you gotta subscribe. But we already told you what allegedly happened next.

Turns out this was a fabrication, as revealed by the good folks at Power Line:
Norman Mailer wannabe Scott Thomas Beauchamp admits he erred (i.e. lied) about a key part of his New Republic report about Iraq. He says that the incident in which he and his buddy mocked a disfigured woman took place not in Iraq but in Kuwait, prior to his departure for Iraq. The New Republic "sincerely regret[s] this mistake."

Beauchamp's misstatement amounts to much more than getting a detail wrong. The point of this incident was to show how war "degrades every part of you, and your sense of humor is no exception."
It kind of damages your argument when readers find out you're a liar and that the cited incident did not take place in the heat of battle. The real truth was revealed by the Armed Forces themselves, according to Matt Sanchez:
After a thorough investigation that lasted nearly a week the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division has concluded that the allegations made by Private Thomas Scott Beauchamp, the "Baghdad Diarist", have been

"refuted by members of his platoon and proven to be false"

The official investigation the 4th IBCT Public Affairs Office qualified as "thorough and professional" concluded late August 1st. Officials would not speculate on the possibility of further action against Private Beauchamp, nor would they confirm his current whereabouts or status.
But wait, there's more. Remember, the writer supposedly goofed only in terms of misstating the actual locale of the alleged encounter. I.e., the anecdote is still true, but it happened in Kuwait. But, according to Confederate Yankee:
I've been trying to run down some of the claims TNR has made by contacting experts for on-the-record discussions of Beauchamp's allegations... a level of transparency that [editor] Franklin Foer and The New Republic doesn't seem to want to provide.

One of the revisions to the Beauchamp story was the new claim that Beauchamp's verbal assault of a badly-burned female contractor for wounds he claimed were caused by an IED happened not in Forward Operating Base (FOB) Falcon in Iraq after Beauchamp's psyche had been scarred by the horrors of war, but instead occurred in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, before Alpha Company, 1/18 Infantry, Second Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division had even deployed into combat.

This, of course, completely undermines the narrative Beauchamp was seeking to establish, and that Franklin Foer claimed to have fact-checked.

But beyond those tiny inaccuracies--you know, that the incident happened in the wrong country, and before he experienced the horrors of war, and not after--we are left to ask the obvious question: did Foer put any effort into checking to see if this new claim was any more accurate than Beauchamp's previous one?

I did.

Oh-oh. Looks bad for the Marxist home team. Let's keep going and find out what the Yankee discovered:
This morning, I contact Major Renee D. Russo, Third Army USARCENT PAO in Kuwait, to ask her if she knew of "a female civilian contractor at Camp Buehring with severe facial burns, and if so, when" she was there.
What did she reply?
We have received other media queries on the alleged incident, but have not been able to find anyone to back it up. There is not a police report or complaint filed on this incident during that timeframe. Right now it is considered to be a Urban Legend or Myth.
Further corroboration has been appearing on other Conservative blogs. Like the Rather incident, it doesn't seem to take a huge amount of effort to run leftist liars to the ground. The MSM, however, only expends such efforts when the writer/commentator is conservative. Journalistic skepticism seems to disappear entirely when a leftie is writing the piece. Vetted fellow travelers always get a free pass.

Now, you'd think the MSM would have learned a lesson from Dan Rather's disgrace. But then, you'd be misunderestimating the level of bovine stupidity that afflicts this crowd of knee-jerk left-wing apologists. Don't believe HazZzMat? Check out TNR's feeble defense:
Scott Thomas Beauchamp is a U.S. Army private serving in Iraq. He came to THE NEW REPUBLIC's attention through Elspeth Reeve, a TNR reporter-researcher, whom he later married. Over the course of the war, we have tried to provide our readers with a sense of Iraq as it is seen by the troops. Usually, these stories have been written by journalists who have traveled to Iraq and interviewed soldiers there, but last January Beauchamp sent us a first-person vignette that seemed a powerful contribution to the genre.
Okay, if the dude is the husband of one of your trusty left-wing staffers, he must therefore be a truth-teller. And of course, you'd want to protect him from his fellow troops so he could continue to commit treason and sell you (TNR) comfortable lies to buttress your anti-war meme. So?
All of Beauchamp's essays were fact-checked before publication. We checked the plausibility of details with experts, contacted a corroborating witness, and pressed the author for further details. But publishing a first-person essay from a war zone requires a measure of faith in the writer. Given what we knew of Beauchamp, personally and professionally, we credited his report. After questions were raised about the veracity of his essay, TNR extensively re-reported Beauchamp's account.
I.e., if he'd been a Republican, TNR would have sicced an entire platoon of rabid fact-checkers on him. But since, as the husband of an already-vetted leftist staffer (shades of "Plame-gate"), Beauchamp must therefore be a fellow-traveler and thus completely truthful, why bother to subject him to much scrutiny? At least one perspicatious blogger seems to agree with Wonker on this:

It's all so Plame-ish. As Gracie wrote to me, of all the embeds and milbloggers and real journalists they could have picked for the job, they instead chose to go with a very partisan, very inexperienced blogger just out of "laziness." Just because they knew him. Just because it was easy.

I actually think part of the reason was that they knew Beauchamp's politics -- he having put them on display on his goofy blog -- and so, just like with Valerie Plame, they knew the report was going to come back the way they wanted it when they sent him. But Gracie says it's just Occam's razor: Laziness.

But oops, there was that little error that came back to bite them, causing them to "fact-check" ex post facto, if you'll excuse the pun:
TNR contacted dozens of people. Editors and staffers spoke numerous times with Beauchamp. We also spoke with current and former soldiers, forensic experts, and other journalists who have covered the war extensively. And we sought assistance from Army Public Affairs officers. Most important, we spoke with five other members of Beauchamp's company, and all corroborated Beauchamp's anecdotes, which they witnessed or, in the case of one solider, heard about contemporaneously.
Really? Beauchamp and TNR's editors have already lied to us once. So now they expect us to believe this flapdoodle? "Dozens" of people? Who? Nonpartisan commentators at the Daily Kos? TNR doesn't say. "Current and former soldiers, forensic experts, and other journalists?" Who, Wesley Clark, the cast of CSI Miami, and Frank Rich? And where are the names of the five soldiers so we can corroborate their alleged veracity? Are they prepared to refute Major Russo's account above, which she provided in writing?

What we are dealing with here, in point of fact, is an instant replay of CBS' conclusions concerning Dan Rather's phony story about George W. Bush's allegedly disgraceful military career—irrefutible conclusions based upon a phony, forged document. In the immortal words of the blogosphere, CBS decided that the forged document was "fake but accurate."

Guess that, rather than admitting their own sloppiness and stupidity, the publishers and editors of TNR are gonna stick to Beauchamp's refuted story as well. Since TNR printed it, even though it was fake, it was accurate.

Being a Marxist is never having to say you're sorry. Is it any wonder today that no one except the Marxist Faithful believes a word these clowns write anymore?

Incidents like this are fast laying to rest the left-liberal fiction that all journalists are unbiased and seek only the truth, even though over 90% of them vote for Democrats in each and every election.

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