« Taxes and Prohibition | Main | Please Don't Let This Be True »

July 26, 2007

Comments

Thou shalt not speak of soldiers in unflattering terms - it's the new PC.

It's not about "unflattering terms" -- it's about whether or not "Scott Thomas" actually witnessed the conduct that he said he witnessed and that he ascribed to fellow military personnel.

I'd say that the TNR should strive for a higher standard than "fake but accurate."

No doubt, some troops have engaged in horrific offenses. But to suggest that that justifies Thomas's allegations is to say that it's perfectly fair to call Bill Clinton a rapist -- after all, *some* people are rapists, right?

Incidentally, I'm not sure why you insist on ascribing all of the commotion to "right wing bloggers." There are plenty of veterans who have complained about this incident on their "milblogs" -- are their criticisms so easily dismissed?

I don't follow blogs too closely, so maybe there's some aspect to this that I'm missing. But to me it seems that what we have is that TNR published serious allegations against U.S. troops, and that TNR has not been able to document those allegations. Your ad hominem responses seem pretty lame to me.

hilzoy - don't try to deprive them of their Two Minutes Hate.

There are plenty of veterans who have complained about this incident on their "milblogs"

Could you link to some of these?

Thou shalt not speak of soldiers in unflattering terms
... unless the soldier in question has himself dared to speak of soldiers in unflattering terms, in which case doing whatever you can to destroy his reputation is obligatory.

In this case, I'd say the two-minute hate is the rage directed at Mike Goldfarb et al.

Here are some of the milblogs:

http://op-for.com/2007/07/scott_thomas_exposed_1.html

http://www.outsidethewire.com/blog/

http://www.blackfive.net/main/

http://www.mudvillegazette.com/archives/009075.html

Like I said, I'm not much into blogs, so these are the ones I've found merely by following links from Goldfarb.

But to me it seems that what we have is that TNR published serious allegations against U.S. troops...

No it didn't. Which serious allegations are you referring to? The clowning with a skull cap? One soldier running over dogs?

While distasteful, these are not "serious allegations" in any stretch of the imagination, and even if they were, they reference two soldiers, not "the troops".

Adam: I think that when a magazine publishes something, it has an obligation to verify what it publishes. I don't think this means establishing it beyond any conceivable doubt -- if five eyewitnesses independently testify that they saw someone they knew do something, they could all be lying -- but it means making sure that you have the confidence to stand behind it.

I do not think that they are under the same obligation to disclose their reasons for that confidence to the entire world. There are particular situations in which they might be -- for instance, when it matters enormously, not just to them but to their public, to be able to assess the veracity of the particular things they report. But to insist on making their grounds fully transparent all the time would do away with anonymous sources, and while I think anonymous sources have been overused recently, I think they're also really valuable.

I read, and linked to, a bunch of the milbloggers. And I said, above, that they were the exception to my general claim that right-wing bloggers had no reason to think this story false -- people who have been in Iraq, who have some familiarity with the base in question, the digging projects undertaken near it, who was and who was not in the dining hall (or whatever) do have grounds for contesting it. But people like Ace and Jonah Goldberg do not.

I think that most of their complaints abut the piece really don't hold up. There was a children's cemetery, apparently, and Thomas never said it was a mass grave. They question whether a dog could be run over in the specific way he claims; I think they're misreading what he said about how the dog was killed. The one thing I don't think this about is the claim that no one like the woman Thomas describes was in the dining hall.

But more to the point: there is no reason to think that we, the general reading public, have a real need to assess the credibility of TNR's sourcing of this story. Its interest, such as it is, is not as a set of allegations: Thomas doesn't name anyone, and besides, as Matt Y has said, these are by miles not the worst allegations we've seen. A woman is mocked, a piece of a skull is taken, a dog is killed. -- The interest of the story is as an account of one soldier's experiences in Iraq. If someone doesn't think he's representative, fine: no one is representative. But the only way it would be important enough to justify the amount of time and energy that some people have spent on it would be if TNR had just made it up. And there's no evidence of this at all, other than the fact that (say) Ace thinks it fits his storyline about how the left hates soldiers.

Actually, KCinDC, Mudville Gazette predicted your sort of rhetorical manuever:

"If 'Scott Thomas' actually is a soldier, you'll see an amazing example of Orwellian double-think. Any attempt by the Army to punish this douche bag for the behavior he confesses to (or for fabricating incidents, if his claims prove false) will be described by leftists in and out of the media as persecution for 'speaking out'."

Like I said, this isn't about referring to soldiers in unflattering terms. It's just about publishing unverified accusations of serious moral depravity against soldiers.

"And I said, above, that they were the exception to my general claim that right-wing bloggers had no reason to think this story false -- people who have been in Iraq, who have some familiarity with the base in question, the digging projects undertaken near it, who was and who was not in the dining hall (or whatever) do have grounds for contesting it."

Actually, Goldfarb's spent the past week linking to detailed, substantive criticisms of the facts alleged in the article, submitted by people familiar with the technology at issue (e.g., http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2007/07/more_from_fob_falcon.asp, http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2007/07/more_on_scott_thomass_mysterio.asp)

"and besides, as Matt Y has said, these are by miles not the worst allegations we've seen."

Fake but accurate? Seriously? That's your justification for publication of the essay? Yikes. That's rather disappointing.

I guess fake-but-accurate is enough to justify your two-minute hate toward the folks who are debnuking Scott Thomas's disgusting allegations. I look forward to the "third minute," when you're better able to control your emotions.

Adam, you're confusing conservative bloggers (KCinDC's subject) with the Army. You're also confused about the gravity of the alleged misconduct.

"Fake but accurate? Seriously? That's your justification for publication of the essay?"

You're entirely confused about what the post says.

Incidentally, is it your position that no soldier in Iraq has done anything wrong?

Fake but accurate? Seriously? That's your justification for publication of the essay?

I think the point is that these are not the type of allegations, true or not, that is worth the time and energy of the massive right-wing hissy fit that's taken place.

And KCinDC is referring to the hissy fit, not any attempt by the military for punishing the soldier for his behavior and/or fabrications (which would, assuming they are violations, be fine with me).

There is a great deal of binary thinking on this issue, and it may be seen repeated in the initial reaction in some quarters to Abu Ghraib, the murder of Zeyad's cousin, and several other incidents. As near as I can tell, it assumes that if some US troops are involved in questionable actions, then the implication is that they are all this way.

Which is ridiculous. I think that the US military is one of the most humane and well-trained on Earth, but there are still going to be circumstances in which atrocities occur, or even plain nasty behavior, like shooting at civilian vehicles for fun, running over dogs, or making Iraqis kids run for blocks after vehicles in the hopes of getting a bottle of water or pop.

These kinds of things are bound to increase as morale decreases. But mentioning them doesn't mean that the behavior is being extrapolated to all of the troops.

Adam: fake but accurate is not my standard for publication. True is my standard for publication.

I have a different standard for when it is necessary for a media outlet to disclose its sources. That depends in part on things like: what promises of confidentiality has anyone made to those sources, but also on how important it is for the public to be able to assess those sources independently. In this specific case, I do not think that it is that important, and one reason is: that the allegations are not as serious as they would need to be for (not publication of the story in the first place but) disclosure of the sources to be warranted.

Consider a different case: what if some anonymous writer in TNR wrote that it was in fact the US who blew up the mosque at Karbala? What would turn on that was not just TNR's reputation, but people's lives. (I am assuming that people in Iraq would react, um, badly to this disclosure.) In a case like that, it might be really, really important to ascertain exactly who the anonymous writer was, and what basis he had for what he said. Nothing like that is true here.

But please don't put words in my mouth and say that my standard for publication is "fake but accurate".

"you're confusing conservative bloggers (KCinDC's subject) with the Army."

Only one of my comments responded to KCinDC (5:54). The rest responded to hilzoy and spartikus.

"Incidentally, is it your position that no soldier in Iraq has done anything wrong?"

Hardly. As I noted above, "No doubt, some troops have engaged in horrific offenses."

"[the allegations] reference two soldiers, not 'the troops'."

I didn't say that they slurred all U.S. troops *collectively.* I only said that they slurred "U.S. troops." Are you suggesting that the two soldiers are not U.S. troops? Which nation were they from?

OK, back to your two-minute hate. Right-wing bloggers are obsessed ... right, right. Goldfarb's a jerk ... right, right. I'm claiming that no U.S. troops have ever done anything wrong ... check.

Next, you'll argue that I'm questioning your patriotism, right?

I didn't say that they slurred all U.S. troops *collectively.* I only said that they slurred "U.S. troops."

Yes, I know. So does this mean that anyone reporting something negative about one or two US soldiers is now surring US troops?

surring == slurring

Next, you'll argue that I'm questioning your patriotism, right?

Mindreading, minus ten point. Biased and incorrect mindreading, minus 100 points.

You'll be more effective in debate if you wait for the stupid remarks to be spoken instead of anticipating them and acting as though they were actually expressed.

"there is no reason to think that we, the general reading public, have a real need to assess the credibility of TNR's sourcing of this story. Its interest, such as it is, is not as a set of allegations: Thomas doesn't name anyone, and besides, as Matt Y has said, these are by miles not the worst allegations we've seen."

Sorry, Hilzoy, but the quoted statement is a flat-out acceptance of fake-but-accurate: You said that there's no need to for any of us to care about whether or not the accusations are true, because Thomas didn't name names and, in any event, soldiers have done worse.

If Scott Thomas wants to write about things that actually happened, then more power to him. If he wants to write fictional tales about soldiers' misconduct and suggest that it actually happened, and if the plausibility of those tales is called into serious question by knowledgable persons, then I'd say that it would be horrific to let this go.

And here's why: We've all seen that stories of U.S. troop misconduct ultimately puts troops in yet greater danger, given the possibility of revenge attacks. (Isn't that one of the central arguments against the use of torture -- if we do it, then they'll do it to our troops?) Scott Thomas has published, in a reputable magazine, allegations that U.S. soldiers desecrated Iraqi remains and engage in reckless, wanton violence in the streets. Do you seriously suggest that such allegations can be published without placing U.S. troops in yet greater risk of reprisal?

Your eager defense of Scott Thomas and TNR boggles the mind. Please, I know you aren't a big fan of conservatives, but let's not race to defend a serious error in TNR's judgment just because, as they say, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Scott Thomas has published, in a reputable magazine, allegations that U.S. soldiers desecrated Iraqi remains and engage in reckless, wanton violence in the streets. Do you seriously suggest that such allegations can be published without placing U.S. troops in yet greater risk of reprisal?

And if the allegations are true? Should they still be kept a state secret to avoid a bad PR situation?

Black Five is none too happy with Beauchamp, but he is not suggesting that someone from his company should frag him, not in so many words, anyway.

"So does this mean that anyone reporting something negative about one or two US soldiers is now slurring US troops?"

Well, if was only one soldier, then it would be "a U.S. troop." But two soldiers would be "U.S. troops." Are you suggesting that two soldiers would not be "U.S. troops"? What sort of troops would they be? Or are they not troops at all?

While he didn't use the expression "mass grave", Beauchamp did refer to the children's cemetery as a "Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort". So it isn't surprising that people assumed he meant a mass grave.

Well, if was only one soldier...

Aside from the tap dance, would that be confirmation that anyone reporting any negative actions by more than one US soldier is "slurring US troops?"

"Incidentally, is it your position that no soldier in Iraq has done anything wrong?"

'Hardly. As I noted above, "No doubt, some troops have engaged in horrific offenses."'


Ok, then you ought to countenance a discussion of the article's veracity without resorting to your "two-minute hate" nonsense. Ditto the significance of the article's claims if true - which, if you'll take a moment to reflect, are argued above to be relatively minor.


Some useful commentary from conservative mil-blogger John Cole, e.g.

Not to get facts in the way of your spin, but I actually have driven a Bradley, and probably have a thousand hours in the driver’s seat of an M1 A1 Abrams.

In the M1, you sit in a reclined position in the center of the hull of the tank, equi-distant between both tracks, neither of which you can see. Additionally, most of the time driving, my hatch was closed, and I was navigating using a series of thick glass periscopes that were about 9-10” wide and 2-3” tall.

And guess what- I could run over a dog.

Also from that thread, a commenter claims,

I know that my unit keeps an informal running tally of PEOPLE that we’ve killed be they enemy, civilian, or unknown status. They also keep track of how they died. Some of the more colorful categories include, crispy critter (burned to death), road kill (run over), and kranged (a Ninja Turtles reference that has to do with the fact that when a high power round strikes the human head alot of times the brain is ejected mostly intact). I also know that guys in my company hit animals on purpose. Guys also (I’d be a liar if I didn’t count my self among them) ensure the zero on long range rifles by firing at the wild dogs and cats that roam around the city. This practice also trains you to hit small, fast moving targets at pretty long distances. It’s sick but then again so is this war.

So what though?

Maybe we need to take this same standard to these poor idiot shills who still support their 2002 position on this dumb war as we take to the soldiers. War does terrible things to a person's psyche. So does: being disastrously wrong and having brought a country to the brink of civil war, genocide, and anarchy; having failed; and having lost the very conflict that you puffed your chest up about and barked that you were the only one tough enough to win.

The cognitive dissonance in Goldberg's skull, were he to accept reality, would be brain-splitting. We just can't expect people to eviscerate themselves psychologically like that. Not everyone is or needs to be that brave. We're being too demanding.

So what do people in this pitiable predicament do? They refuse absolutely to let any piece of information in that would falsify their world view. They take the see-no-evil hear-no-evil approach to Iraq. It's only human.

And they've dug themselves so deep that if the house of glass shatters now, they'll be left doddering in a psychiatric ward somewhere. I mean, they haven't just stuck to a position about the war. They've spent the last five years attacking the honesty of anyone who disagrees with them. They've rewritten the rules of argument to accommodate their conclusions. They'd have to begin the wrenching process of revising their opinions about everything. They'd have to find new friends, learn to trust people they hated, and disavow the people they loved.

Imagine if Oedipus ended not with the king blinding himself in admission of what he had done, but having spent a whole 'nother play insisting that Jocasta wasn't really his mum, and believing any scrap that suggested the man he met wasn't his father. Imagine Oedipus prattling on for years about this secret evidence he had and how history would judge him a great king.

Adam: not having enough of an interest in being able to assess TNR's sources independently to warrant their exposing those sources is not the same as not caring whether or not their stories are true.

Consider a different case, where we had a much larger interest in knowing who the source was in order to assess his credibility: Deep Throat and Watergate. In that case, I think that the Post was right to maintain his confidentiality. For that reason, had I been blogging at the time, I would not have asked them to disclose it. This is in no way an indication that the truth of what Deep Throat was saying didn't matter to me.

In addition to the priceless Hugh Hewitt quote that I put in the update -- oh, heck, I'll put it here too, it's too good not to:

"I note that the second post on a blog believed to be Beauchamp's, the soldier notes "I'm reading On The Road again." Amazon.com notes that this book "is not only the soul of the Beat movement and literature, but one of the most important novels of the century. Like nearly all of Kerouac's writing, On The Road is thinly fictionalized autobiography, filled with a cast made of Kerouac's real life friends, lovers, and fellow travelers.""

Tee hee hee! I've read On The Road too! Just thought I'd warn you.

Anyways, in addition to that, our man Ace continues his investigations:

"I have to ask at this point: At precisely what time did the Reeve-Beauchamp relationship begin? As he seems to have had a fiancee or near-fiancee in Germany, presumably there was a period when there was no relationship.

But I am wondering if it's one of those on-again, off-again type deals. And why Elspeth Reeve keeps covering former-college-classmate-future-fiancee Scott Thomas Beauchamp."

Ace: Wrong. You did not have to ask when that relationship began. There is no reason for you to keep wondering whether Beauchamp had an on-again, off-again relationship. No reason at all.

Adam: The troops are much safer if the US military has a reputation for being open and honest about problems and if it has a reputation for promptly attending to them. Keeping hush about abuse or scandals creates a liability that they'll be exposed later, and then you'll have a cover-up. Once it's shown that you are willing to cover things up, people will believe nearly anything they want to about you.

People everywhere are mature enough to see the difference between a few bad apples and a pervasive structure of corruption. Why build that structure of corruption when you don't need to? Why build a campaign of silence around something that discredits the integrity of the entire military rather than dealing with the bad apples in an open and diligent way?

I think the most serious criticisms of the piece are from people who served on the same base without seeing anyone that fit the description of the injured woman. If she was there, surely someone saw her and can verify that she was there. If it were the case that no one there fit the description, then we would know that at least one section of the article was completely fictionalized.

"Ok, then you ought to countenance a discussion of the article's veracity without resorting to your 'two-minute hate' nonsense."

I used the term "two-minute hate" at 5:50, using the term in response to a suggestion by "Ugh" that this was a right-wing two-minute-hate against "Thomas". I think my interest in the veracity of the "Thomas" claims is quite evident. Indeed, I've shown much greater interest in that veracity than have those who have continued to protest that the subject matter of the Thomas essay represents, at best, small potatoes.

In any event, I think I've said what I care to say. Like I said, I'm not much into blogs, and I'm just not that interested in, say, a psychoanalysis of Goldfarb or, say, Hilzoy's continued protestation that he doesn't care enough about the subject to really critique the allegations (while he continues to write on the meta-story). No thanks.

I'm quite pleased that, with "Scott Thomas" having revealed his own identity, the military can go about the task of checking his allegations. If he told the truth, then I hope that the military justice system deals with Scott Thomas's targets. And if he lied, I hope he catches hell.

"Nor does the fact that I once read Paradise Lost mean that my blog posts are actually an epic in very, very well-disguised blank verse."

Two weeks ago, the centrist TNR
Published a piece by their 'Baghdad Diarist',
Who writes under the pseudonym "Scott Thomas".
It tells three stories of soldiers doing vile
Things in Iraq; in one, the person who does
The vile thing is the writer. The point of the piece,
As best as I could tell, was that war
Does strange things to your sense of what's appropriate,
And to try to clearly describe these changes.

OK, maybe just onme more comment:

"The troops are much safer if the US military has a reputation for being open and honest about problems and if it has a reputation for promptly attending to them. Keeping hush about abuse or scandals creates a liability that they'll be exposed later, and then you'll have a cover-up."

That's a false dichotomy, of course. The point I raised, and to which you purported to respond, was the question of whether or not false allegations put troops at heightened risk.

Adam: "Hilzoy's continued protestation that he doesn't care enough about the subject to really critique the allegations"

That is not what I said.

But then, since you were referring to some unknown masculine hilzoy, perhaps I shouldn't take offense.

I bet Mr Hilzoy smells like Aqua Velva and hazelnut pipe tobacco.

Resembles a young CS Lewis.

Adam: "he doesn't care enough about the subject to really critique the allegations"

More complete confusion.

"If he told the truth, then I hope that the military justice system deals with Scott Thomas's targets."

The military has better things to do than to investigate rudeness, reckless driving, and finding evidence of Saddam's atrocities. Judging from the Cole thread I sent you to, that stuff is just how it is over there, and nobody who is informed is sincerely concerned about it.

whether or not false allegations put troops at heightened risk

False allegations of cruel comments about a disfigured U.S. contractor? Nope.

False allegations of crushing a dog with an armored vehicle? Nope. (It might do so, in an Iraq where U.S. troops hadn't already killed so many Iraqis in checkpoint shootings or by spraying the area with gunfire in the aftermath of attacks or by massive jumpiness about vehicles coming anywhere near convoys.)

False allegations of desecrating the bodies of Iraqis? Could well be. I didn't read the article, and don't plan to, and don't have a sense of how public this was. But given the photographic evidence that already exists of other soldiers doing this kind of thing, people reading the article might be forgiven for assuming that it's true. That's not 'fake but accurate'; it's 'unproven but credible'.

Hilzoy's a guy now?

Congratulations, Hilzoy. Hope you like the new plumbing.

I revise my answer to the third case as 'Nope' if the "desecrating of Iraqi remains" turns out to be a reference to merely excavating the bones of the child.

Hilzoy's continued protestation that he doesn't care enough about the subject to really critique the allegations.

It's so much easier to argue with people when you make up both sides of the argument.

Wonder if the people upset about Scott Thomas will turn out to be upset about allegations of serious problems at the US embassy. And if so, why they're upset...

Y'know, I don't think Adam's really into blogs. Strawmen, on the other hand, seem to interest him a great deal.

The thing you don't seem to be grasping, Adam, is the the allegations in question are not, in fact, serious ones. At best, they're politically inconvenient, but even then only in terms of domestic politics. If substantiated they would have no serious repercussions. Revelations that US soldiers have been killing dogs are unlikely to have Iraqis rioting in the streets. So why are you, even though you don't follow blogs, all worked up about an entirely manufactured blogosphere non-scandal?

Y'know, I don't think Adam's really into blogs. Strawmen, on the other hand, seem to interest him a great deal.

The thing you don't seem to be grasping, Adam, is the the allegations in question are not, in fact, serious ones. At best, they're politically inconvenient, but even then only in terms of domestic politics. If substantiated they would have no serious repercussions. Revelations that US soldiers have been killing dogs are unlikely to have Iraqis rioting in the streets. So why are you, even though you don't follow blogs, all worked up about an entirely manufactured blogosphere non-scandal?

I revise my answer to the third case as 'Nope' if the "desecrating of Iraqi remains" turns out to be a reference to merely excavating the bones of the child.

The incident was stealing an intact portion of a skull and wearing it for a day.

It's not about "unflattering terms" -- it's about whether or not "Scott Thomas" actually witnessed the conduct that he said he witnessed and that he ascribed to fellow military personnel.

no, it's not. really.

you see, for some bloggers, truth is not an absolute good. there are different kinds of truth - some which help their cause, and some which don't. and the time they spend investigating, and what they're looking for, depends on what kind of truth it is.

plentiful are the examples of righty blogs greedily swallowing anonymously-sourced info the supports the war (starting way back in 2002 with the whole WMD thing and continuing all the way to the "baked child" of last week). that stuff, they take as gospel and berate anyone who challenges their faith.

yet, when things come out which paint any aspect of the war in a bad light, they all put on their sweaters and make like Wikipedia Brown, intrepidly searching out The Truth no matter how many cheetos it takes.

is this exclusively a righty failing? of course not. but, let's not pretend that's not what's going on here.

if this was a story about an al-Queda team playing with skulls and killing dogs, sourced from one person, there's no chance any of them would be questioning it.

Hilzoy's a guy now?

Congratulations, Hilzoy. Hope you like the new plumbing.

Don't forget to get a PSA test.

Adam, what crimes exactly are you talking about here?

Running over a stray dog? This is some giant crime for the military justice system to deal with?

Playing with some bones? Whee.

Ribbing another soldier? Oh, the horror. It wasn't even sexual harrassment, was it?

What has got your goat here? Why are you making such a big deal about this?

i suppose i should add...

the only time i've ever heard lefty blogs talking about this has been in stories like this one (though usually a little more... cutting): look at the asses the righties are making of themselves over this non-issue of a story. i haven't seen a lefty blog try to use this as anything other than a way to laugh at the freak-out some-truth seekers on the right. the lefty blogs (that i've seen) aren't trying to use this to prove anything about the war - the right is.

A couple things:

(i) Obviously I brought up two minutes of hate. I was thinking of the viciousness of the hissy-fit, not those who might have thoughtfully critiqued the veracity of Scott Thomas' stories, though obviously I didn't say so.

(ii) I haven't re-read hilzoy's post so this may be completely wrong if there is a gender reference, but I think taking Adam to task for not knowing whether hilzoy is a he/she is a bit unfair.

What has got your goat here? Why are you making such a big deal about this?

This from Andrew Sullivan:

But mainly, it seems to me, the conservative blogosphere has taken such an almighty empirical beating this last year that they have an overwhelming psychic need to lash out at those still clinging to sanity on the war. This Scott Thomas story is a godsend for these people, a beautiful distraction from the reality they refuse to face.
What's especially weird is that almost all the blogs participating in the dogpile say "Of course there are bad apples among the US military," or words to that effect. But they're outraged at the mention of them, or something.

Deeply odd.

Drum's">http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2007_07/011753.php">Drum's good, too:

    Like a Kabuki story, though, you can already see how this is going to play out. Not only will Thomas's character be dragged savagely through the mud (Michelle Malkin is leading the charge over at her site), but eventually some small part of Thomas's account will turn out to be slightly exaggerated and the right will erupt in righteous fervor. They were right all along! Thomas did make up his stories! The left does hate the troops! The war is going swimmingly! At least, it would be if the MSM weren't undermining it at every turn.

I'd like to pause and admire the phrase "Wikipedia Brown".

I feel guilty about it, but this whole affair is absolutely fascinating to me. It's not even the bad side of the political blogosphere -- it's the bright overbelly. It's the fifth estate, compulsorily expressing its phenotype. It's a treasure trove of internet sociology.

Well cleek, the lefty blogs wouldn't use this story since it only confirms, in a small way, what the lefty blogs think they already know. And its from TNR, which, to the left blog sense of smell, still stinks a little from its support of the war in the first place.

To your larger point -- I don't think the right is trying to prove anything about the war with this story. Scott Thomas' veracity doesn't tell us much about that. Instead, they're trying to prove something about the liberal media (even the liberal hawk media) and liberals in general.

Yes, I'd like to also praise cleek's "Wikipedia Brown."

the lefty blogs wouldn't use this story since it only confirms, in a small way, what the lefty blogs think they already know.

and what's that? i can't read their minds...

Instead, they're trying to prove something about the liberal media (even the liberal hawk media

fair enough. do you think that justifies their hilarious and unhinged hysteria ?

Yes, I'd like to also praise cleek's "Wikipedia Brown."

thank you. thank you all. *bows. throws roses*

I can hardly believe that no blogger I've seen -- and only one commenter above -- has pointed out the deepest inanity of this tempest in a teapot. Namely: now that it is clear that Scott Thomas is a real soldier serving in Iraq, it follows that it is the right-wing bloggers who are the ones casting aspersions on our troops. After all, what they're now claiming (or strongly suggesting) is that one of our men in uniform deliberately fabricated a story aimed at slurring his fellow soldiers by accusing them of brutality and baseness. That seems at least as serious a charge as anything in Thomas's piece. Now I wouldn't deny (for the reasons hilzoy gives) that a soldier might do such a thing, nor has much of anyone on the left. But then, we're not the ones claiming that every soldier is a perpetual paragon of virtue.

and what's that? i can't read their minds...

I can't either, and so probably should have stayed away from the oblique generalization. I think most left bloggers (and probably most right bloggers) would agree that soldiers at war are capable of a variety disturbing actions across a continuum of vileness, from driving aggressively when in a hurry to extra-judicial killings. In that context, Scott Thomas' revelations are not very revealing.

do you think that justifies their hilarious and unhinged hysteria

I don't know that it needs justification from without. There is a complicated identity formation and defense process at play that I don't understand*, but it provides its own justification. That said, if the pro-war side spent as much effort fighting** the war for which they agitated as they spend fighting the anti-war side, the situation might not be so hideous. Couldn't all the time and effort spent exposing Scott Thomas be put to better use?

-------------------
*Probably because I can't see outside of my own identity formation and defense processes.

**Not in the chickenhawk sense. In the holding-the-leadership-accountable-for-screwing-it-up sense. In the reevaluating-means-and-ends sense.

Speaking of better things to do -- where has John Thullen been?

No. If TNR is publishing the lies of a fabulist as factual accounts, that time cannot be better spent. And if that is the case, nobody owes anyone an apology but TNR, for permitting this moron to turn his Munchausen's into a profession.

I can hardly believe that no blogger I've seen -- and only one commenter above -- has pointed out the deepest inanity of this tempest in a teapot. Namely: now that it is clear that Scott Thomas is a real soldier serving in Iraq, it follows that it is the right-wing bloggers who are the ones casting aspersions on our troops.

John Cole:

Check the “fact-checking zeal” of the right-wing blogosphere regarding Beauchamp, and compare it to their intrepid coverage regarding Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman.

Discuss.

*** Update ***

Uncle Jimbo at Black Five hoping Beauchamp is physically assaulted: ... We’ll file this under supporting the troops.

Also, his answer to Blackfive's response is childish, immature, cruel, and made me laugh.

And thank God there are more and more conservative bloggers like John who, while completely wrong about everything political, have proven themselves intelligent and decent people. This gives us something to compare and contrast those with, well, let's say some mental issues.

And if that is the case, nobody owes anyone an apology but TNR, for permitting this moron to turn his Munchausen's into a profession.

good to see you're withholding judgment! hooray for objectivity!

I too must praise cleek's bon mot.

If TNR is publishing the lies of a fabulist as factual accounts, that time cannot be better spent.

Really? To take down TNR? It's such a tiny cog in the machinery of idea generation and distribution. Nobody outside the center-left wonkisphere (and now the right pro war blogs) has ever heard of it.

I suppose one could argue that, like invading Saddam's Iraq, it's "doable," and that discrediting it will send a message to the bigger, tougher cogs, a message they didn't get when Dan Rather got popped.

It's unconvincing. TNR is still too small to matter, and sending messages is too indirect to affect any change. As John Cole points out, there is more important work to be done.

What John Cole means is-- move along, there's nothing to see here.

What John Cole means is-- move along, there's nothing to see here.

What John Cole means is -- compare the complete lack of skepticism among certain bloggers when presented with a false story that meets and reinforces an internal mental framework with the ferocity of those same bloggers when confronted with something that challenges that framework.

I agree with Dan Collins that "If TNR is publishing the lies of a fabulist as factual accounts, that time cannot be better spent. And if that is the case, nobody owes anyone an apology but TNR, for permitting this moron to turn his Munchausen's into a profession."

OK, maybe not "could not be better spent -- I mean, if I had the option of curing AIDS, I'd prefer that -- but still.

But before I would invest any actual time in trying to disprove this story, let alone speculating about its author's love life, I would want to see more evidence that there was some reason to think that this guy was a "fabulist". -- I mean, it's also true that IF Walter Pincus of the Washington Post is a serial liar, it would be very much worth proving that. Likewise, IF Ben Bernanke is actually a hologram whose utterances are all written for him by the International Conspiracy of Esperanto Speakers, that would really be worth demonstrating too. It's just that one needs to establish the credibility of the antecedent before actually investing any time in it.

And that's leaving out my real reason for not trying to prove or disprove the TNR story, namely: I am not in a position to do so. In this respect I am in exactly the same position as, say, Ace or Michelle Malkin.

I don't get it. What we have here is a soldier who presents some of his own experiences in Iraq. There are lots of soldiers who publish their accounts of activity in Iraq. This guy has the guts to admit that he and his buddies did some things that, while not criminal, are not nice.

So why is there an outcry about this? Why are some people (who weren't there) claiming that this soldier is lying? Why are they claiming that he's doing a bad thing for the US Army? The man is telling the truth as he sees it. What's wrong with that?

"What I never really understood was why the various right-wing blogs, with the possible exception of military bloggers who had some knowledge of e.g. the actual bases in question, didn't take a pass as well."

Oh come on, Hilzoy, it's not that hard. I'm loath to psychologise, but in this case it just screams at you. As Ara says, it's all about the cognitive dissonance. Anything that threatens to burst the bubble, no matter how trivial, has to be discredited or otherwise rationalised. Indeed, as the dissonance gets stronger and the bubble gets more elaborate, the more essential it becomes to account for the most trivial of details, even to the point of absurdity (witness Malkin's insistence that a clearly destroyed mosque hadn't actually been bombed).

GY: Well, yeah, but ...

Also, an addendum to my last comment: the point I was trying to make was that I can accept "if X is true, then it would be worth demonstrating it" without concluding "I should get to work on demonstrating it right now!" I didn't mean to imply that the likelihood that Scott Thomas is making anything up is as small as the likelihood that Ben Bernanke is a hologram, etc. I think we're in the position we'd be in if Bernanke had made an oddly pro-Esperanto speech, or something.

I'd like to add another tidbit: first-person accounts of combat are replete with tales of soldiers committing crimes. The Stephen Ambrose best-seller, Band of Brothers, which was made into a television miniseries, described how one American paratrooper machine-gunned a bunch of German POWs out of pure viciousness. You read this kind of thing in all the first-person accounts from all the wars: the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. What is so surprising about somebody reporting something much more innocent in Iraq?

To pug it simply.

If these right wing bloggers (excepting such as Cole or Sullivan) hear a story of a soldier saving an Iraqi child, then that is noble and requires no dispute.

If the story is from a soldier and states something negative (even if minor as in this case) then that soldier is lieing, smearing the troops and is a traitor to his partners.

After all Kerry lied to Congress and then made the major mistake of saying he was somewhere on a specific date when it may actually have been a few days later.

What Adam doesn't realize, as many have stated, the story is not what was written by a soldier in Iraq, but the overreaction by a defensive, going down the drain group of bloggers to something that had little importance and even less circulation.

What is so surprising about somebody reporting something much more innocent in Iraq?

Because it messes with their internalized American superiority meme.

Really ridiculous and stupid. Idiots all.

Anything that threatens to burst the bubble, no matter how trivial, has to be discredited or otherwise rationalised.

right.

there's also the apparent constant urge to come up with another Rather affair. everyone wants to be the next guy to crack another Perfidious MSM story. so, they take everything that looks like it isn't solidly sourced and pick at it till they find a chink. and by the time the real story dribbles out, they're already too invested in their theories to walk away. and so things spiral and bifurcate, and then we get Malkin saying the mosque isn't blown-up, it's only pining for the fjords.

aieee!

italiexo!

john miller sez--

"To pug it simply."
You go, dawg!

In reading cleek's last comment, I managed to read "spiral and bifurcate" as "spinal bifidate", which tells me it's time to go home.

I find that personally I would be relieved if the mess-hall story wasn't true, because it is so miserable. I found myself feeling sorry for the woman in the story for several days after reading it.

I should say that for me, there are two maddening things. (1) Both the "soldiers are all monsters" and the "soldiers are all heroes" myths are direct impediments to our trying to figure out what we need to do to support the soldiers, who are, after all, human beings. Any false view of them, but especially a false view that people cling to for reasons other than the truth, is harmful.

The second is more of a surmise, but: I think that for some of the people participating in the frenzy, it really is all about taking down the media, not about the actual people in the actual story. I never like that.

Here's a hypothetical for anyone who feels like it: what would we think if it turned out that there was a disabled woman in the cafeteria, but Scott Thomas Beauchamp either exaggerated her disability or (for instance) made it a different, more colorful disability, but otherwise everything was accurate? I mean, suppose he was making fun of someone who had not a melted face, but (say) a visible plate in her skull, or an amputated arm, or something.

It would be a deep journalistic sin, but it would also not be the sin that people are exercised about -- making stuff up to fit an ideological agenda. (Since in my hypothetical STB is still making fun of a person who was handicapped, presumably in war, and all the other stories are true, so it's just as bad; it's just that he changed a crucial detail.) It would be interesting to see how people reacted to that.

(Me: I would think he should not have changed stuff, that he should have understood journalism a lot better than that, and that it's wrong; but I would also think: the guy is presently having his entire life torn apart, and this particular sin, while it should ensure that he never ever gets a job in journalism again, doesn't really merit that.)

Needless to say, that's a hypothetical, not what I expect to happen (I have no expectations, since I don't know the story.) It just struck me as interesting.

But shouldn't it be "Conservapedia Brown"?

cleek was showing Liberal Bias!! by calling him Wikipedia ;)

by the time the real story dribbles out, they're already too invested in their theories to walk away. and so things spiral and bifurcate, and then we get Malkin saying the mosque isn't blown-up, it's only pining for the fjords.

cleek, you're on fire today. You're not taking any performance-enhancing substances, I hope? ;>

I take it none of these outraged bloggers have ever read any notable memoirs or autobiographical fiction by American soldiers from any other wars, have never read any studies on the social or psychological effects of combat and have never hung out with any soldiers, marines or other troops for any extended period of time. If The Greatest Generation could end up collecting severed ears and suffering from PTSD, then why is one person's account of being shaken by war and becoming more caloused as a result, fictional or not, worth any outrage? I've read worse from every major American war in books that are considered classics and recommended to the troops by our own military.

Hi hilzoy,

Whining is a trait that is very much denigrated among those who serve, as it has a deleterious effect on morale--a factor that is highly prized wrt to mission accomplishment. Not to mention that the practice is annoying.

And why should Beauchamp whine when the veracity of his stories are called into question? Surely he knew that at least a few military persons might read his missive(s) and say "hey, WTF is this."

The things that got to me the most about the anecdotes that Beauchamp related, however, was the fact that the was no mention of a commissioned officer/NCO who put a stop to the incidents and no mention of Beauchamp himself taking action to stop them. I know how the US Armed Forces are trained--and we got just as much policy training as job training--and specific policy/cultural training before being stationed outside the US. For us NCOs--first-line supervisors-- leadership classes (eight weeks for E-5) are required for promotion or to retain rank. The military doesn't just throw a person in charge and say that he/she is the boss.

What I want to know is this: if Beauchamp's stories are true, what did he or anyone else do to stop the incidents and/or assist in making sure similar incidents did not repeat? The absence of *correction* in the story is the part that seems to be the most implausible, to me anyway.

BTW, this is a great post.

"People everywhere are mature enough to see the difference between a few bad apples and a pervasive structure of corruption. Why build that structure of corruption when you don't need to? Why build a campaign of silence around something that discredits the integrity of the entire military rather than dealing with the bad apples in an open and diligent way?"

Jesus Ara you could substitute "Republican Party" for "military" and have their whole modus operandi since 1968. Guys like Adam are circling the wagons around their favorite war just as the old Nixon hands in the WH are circling the wagons to hide their crimes. They do it because it's what they do. It's little wonder they're obsessing about this miniscule tempest in a teapot on a day when there is a call for special counsel, the Director of the FBI directly contradicted Gonzales and Rove and Co. have been slapped with subpoenas.

baldilocks: thanks.

There was a thread on RedState this evening that I think perfectly sums up how absolutely bizarre this has become. Erick does a post, basically going through Beauchamp's statement sentence by sentence and making sarcastic replies. Some user responds to the post as follows:

"Another Chickenhawk Attacking Our Troops. What will you tell your children about the Battle of Baghdad? That you bravely manned the keyboard, attacking our soldiers in uniform?"

Erick responds to the guy with:

"Are you asking me, the guy defending the troops, or Scott Thomas, the guy attacking the troops?"

Dang good question.

Tee hee hee.

cleek - You stole your own thunder with "Wikipedia Brown" (which, by the way, was brilliant), but I think the rest of what you said was insightful. The internet puts vast amounts of information at our fingertips, and we mostly use it to support what we want to believe. Well, some of us. ObWi seems to be much more earnestly inquisitive than most blogs.

hilzoy - Okay, I was wrong -- maybe that sums it up better.

A good friend of mine came back from his third tour in Iraq a few months back. He did well, in the tangible measurable ways that translate into medals and commendations and letters to his family and so on.

But you know what? He shot dogs to kill time. He made jokes about corpses. He saved children and he shot snipers and he watched people bleed out in front of him. He was in hell.

I find it strange that the same crowd that cries, "Liberals are too frail and sensitive to do the tough, ugly man's work of winning a war!" is shocked and incensed when someone suggests that war is ugly and horrific and that it changes and scars the people who participate, no matter how noble the cause.

cleek, you're on fire today. You're not taking any performance-enhancing substances, I hope?

does scotch count?

I hate to rain on cleek's parade (I like cleek's posts, a lot), but Google the phrase "Wikipedia Brown" and learn that it's been done before. Not to say that cleek was aware of it, but still.

oh well. i can say i did come up with it on my own, even if i wasn't the first to do it...

One of the odd aspects of this is how TNR gets characterized as some kind of lefty publication, whe in fact it was one of the strongest pro-war voices and has a long history of support for rightist postiions on other issues (see, e. g., The Bell Curve) . . .

Ha! "Conservapedia Brown" is new.

Also, the comic "This Modern World" has several times featured "Conservative Jones, Boy Detective".

oh well. i can say i did come up with it on my own, even if i wasn't the first to do it...

Does that make you like Newton or Leibniz?

I don’t know hilzoy… I see where you are coming from. OTOH I do see a problem with this guy.

Most of the criticism I saw on the milblogs focused around the fact that any NCOs and officers who would have had to have been witness to these incidents would simply not tolerate the behavior. And if they did then that represented a huge breakdown in leadership that needed to be investigated and rectified.

In the chow hall incident there certainly would have been leaders within earshot. Every Bradley has a vehicle commander (an NCO in most cases) responsible for not just the crew and their actions but the vehicle itself. He is not going to allow his driver to go careening around the streets like that. If he did then he needs to be investigated. The graveyard incident as well – no leader is going to allow that.

So that is what got things going IMO. That if these accounts were true it represented a grave failure in leadership that had to be set right. That is a perfectly fair position IMO.

And to those who are saying that this is minor stuff, we know that certain troops have done much worse so who cares – well, everyone should. It’s this exact type of breakdown in leadership that leads to much worse behavior.

Since they started digging a lot more has come to light. IMO the most damning is that it looks like he may have recently been busted a rank in an Article 15 proceeding. That could most certainly make him want to make his chain of command look bad. Everything points to a less than happy soldier, who wants to be a writer, who has indicated he’s there only to be able to claim that legitimacy later in life. Then he gets a chance to be published. The day to day stuff he has to deal with is probably mind-numbingly boring and wouldn’t make very good copy. So he seems to be taking incidents that have a basis in reality but embellishing them a bit. That is how an unmarked children’s cemetery becomes a "Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort". But if this is true, in the process he is calling into question the reputations of the NCOs and officers above him.

And certainly TNR needs to do more fact checking on such pieces and not just publish them because they come from the spouse of a staffer.

OCSteve: That is how an unmarked children’s cemetery becomes a "Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort".

Of all the things you might have picked to criticize in that article, that's a weird thing to pick out.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad