Newsweek RETRACTS but the damage is done

I’m very glad to read that Newsweek has retracted its report of American troops at Gitmo desecrating the Muslim holy book.

Sadly, it’s way too little, way too late, and while they are retracting they are still insisting that they have been practicing exemplary journalism throughout. But I like what a commenter at Captain Ed’s has to say:

Contrast this with the media’s refusal to show pictures of our fellow citizens jumping out the the world trade center. We were told that such pictures would unneccessarily anger the American people and lead to violence against Muslim Americans.

So, either they were aware of the fact that they had something highly inflammable and didn’t care, or they did care…enough to throw it out there and see what would happen. I don’t know. I’m still so very angry about this.

I do like Glenn Reynolds calm and succinct take on the retraction, though, which reads (excluding his excellent links, which you can go get at his site)

NEWSWEEK has retracted its Koran-flushing story now, after its earlier weak apology didn’t satisfy.
Good for them. Next time, of course, maybe they’ll put some of those vaunted Big Media fact-checkers and editors to work before they publish.

As I’ve said, they know how to be exquisitely sensitive, when they care to be.

And this does kind of cut some Newsweek defenders off at the knees. (Heh. Indeed, Professor!)

I want to add that I don’t think there’s anything immoral about flushing a Koran (or a Bible) down the toilet, assuming you’ve got a toilet that’s up to that rather daunting task, and I think it’s amusing to hear people who usually worry about excessive concern for religious beliefs suddenly taking a different position. Nor do I think that doing so counts as torture, and I think that it debases the meaning of “torture” to claim otherwise. If this had happened, it might have been — indeed, would have been — impolitic or unwise. But not evil.

And anyone who thinks otherwise needs to be willing to apply the same kind of criticism to things like Piss Christ, or to explain why offending the sensibilities of one kind of religious believer is “art” while doing the same in another context is “torture.” If, that is, they want to be taken at all seriously.

Bravo. Thank you, sir.

So, the same people who told the Catholics to quit their bellyaching because a picture of Mary was done with elephant dung, or because a crucifix has been lowered into urine have now – with Newsweek’s retraction – found their credibility even more shot than before.

That’s some satisfaction, but not enough. If I were the mother or wife of a soldier who died trying to liberate Afghanistan, if I had at least the pride of knowing that my son or husband had not died “for nothing” I think I would be completely beside myself right now, to think that suddenly, his death was wrought meaningless because of the wreckless behavior of Newsweek. I think I would be inconsolable, and furious beyond expression.

Newsweek’s retraction will not satisfy. Those who WANT to believe the worst of America will now have something new over which to seeth and scheme and recruit more haters…and I’m not even talking about extremist Muslins worldwide…I’m talking about the haters at home, too. So much has been sullied here – the division between liberals and conservatives just grew much wider. The distrust of media by one side and the reactionary, goose-stepping defense of the media by the other has just become more intense. This didn’t need to happen. There was no good reason for any of it.

My son’s g/f was reading over my shoulder and read a comment from someone, that Newsweek “should not have reported the story, even if it were true.” She wondered about that. “Why not report what is true?”

I tried to explain to her that once upon a time, the press did not tell all it knew, even if they absolutely knew a story was true, they wouldn’t tell it, particularly in time of war, if it meant putting our troops in harm’s way, or further complicating a dicey situation. If the press really KNEW something, but it was not really relevant, they’d keep it under their hats. “Loose lips sink ships” was the order of the day. I explained to her that after Vietnam, that began to change. American journalists began to think of themselves as journalists first, then Americans…they began to think of themselves as part of the “International” community, and from that perspective, protecting American interests in their reportage became not only irrelevent but – to their way of thinking – “biased.”

And so now, most – not all, but most – American journalists are so busy being “International” they have perhaps lost a little bit of sensitivity as to what they perhaps should or should not report.

The fact of the matter is, when the Abu Ghraib story broke, the issue had already been investigated, and the perps arrested. The story should have been that the government was addressing these untoward acts by these soldiers, which was the right and decent thing to do.

And I do believe that had someone with a D instead of an R after their name been in the White house, that indeed, would have been the complete and full Abu Ghraib narrative.

But, in an election year, with the press determined (as Evan Thomas admitted in Newsweek) to give the Democrat candidate a “ten to fifteen percent boost” with their relentlessly positive coverage of their candidate and their relentlessly negative coverage of President Bush, Abu Ghraib was a hot and potentially destructive scandal narrative that was too good to let go of. It is a narrative that is still keeping impeachment hopes alive for many on the left who have simply stopped thinking clearly.

Just so, THIS story, this “maybe there was a desecration of the Koran” story, was a story that, true or not, didn’t REALLY have to be reported, not REALLY. Reporting it served what? To put Americans off? Most Americans, if they’re not worrying too much about Torah’s and Bible’s being abused, are not going to worry too much about a “maybe a Koran was desecrated” story.

Did reporting the story present a compelling narrative about the US’s insensitivity to Islam as a whole…well no, because the policies and procedures about the freedom of worship of Muslim prisoners at Gitmo is a matter of record, and some former prisoners from there have reported no disrespect in that aspect.

All putting that “short” story out into the public did was potentially wreck an American foreign policy that – whether the press and the Democrats like it or not, whether they want to admit it or not, was actually making America safer by bringing some portions of the Middle East into the 21st century, in terms of how the people lived, voted, treated the women, were educated, etc. The people of Afghanistan and elsewhere were beginning to trust “The Great Satan” and looking forward to perhaps entering the marketplace of goods and ideas, etc…there was so much hope. All of that may now be lost or seriously set back.

And for what? I just don’t know.

As I told my son’s g/f, I don’t want to think, or to believe that the whole motiviation behind Newsweek’s mistake was the equivalent of: “oooohhhh….MAYBE something happened that might make the troops – and by extention their CIC and his administration – look pre-tty bad to at least one segment of the world.”

But for the life of me I can’t figure out WHY it was something that was important to report, even “if it were true!”

If something is not true, or if it cannot be completely verified as true, it should not be reported.

And perhaps, sometimes, when something IS true, and reporting it serves no constructive purpose, only a destructive one, perhaps it should not be reported, either, without a compelling motivation to do so. Newsweek, once upon a time, knew that, back when it spiked the Monica Lewinsky story because reporting it had “nothing to do with how the president governed.” Just as stories of Jack Kennedy’s and FDR’s extra-marital exploits were “protected.”

It seems when a president is not a Democrat, though…nothing is protected, not even the valorous sacrifices of our troops, or the future of American foreign policy.

I have to think that Newsweek – complicating everything as they have – have not only made President Bush’s job more difficult, they have made the job of a future Democrat president who had not anticipated Afghanistan to be anything but a “positive and easy” part of her presidency, much more difficult, as well.

UPDATE: Captain Ed and I seem to be thinking along similar lines:

This story was just as pointless; what possible news value did a flushed Qu’ran have for the American reader? First, no one bothered to even ask themselves if the story sounded plausible. How would a flushed Qu’ran promote cooperation from a Muslim terrorist? Perhaps threatening to do so would get some positive reaction, but as we’ve seen in reaction to the story, actually flushing one in front of an Islamist is much more likely to steel themselves against any kind of cooperation. Second, even it did happen, all toilet physics to the contrary, what of it? Does that constitute some sort of Geneva Convention violation? In view of the hand-chopping and rape rooms of Saddam Hussein, maintaining that argument borders on the macabre.

Not only was this a gossipy, ludicrous, and irrelevant piece of trivia, its power to inflame Islamists could easily have been guessed by people who have followed the war on terror, or at least its propaganda value. That’s the ultimate issue with Newsweek. Its editors have proven themselves absolutely clueless, with journalistic judgment related to that of the Weekly World News. The executive management should consider that when they review the catastrophic failure of Mark Whitaker, Michael Isikoff, and John Barry that led to the deaths of sixteen people and the enormous damage to American interests in a vitally strategic area in the war on terror.


And finally, interesting remarks from Sigmund, in the post below:

…the hypocrisy of the Islamic world must be addressed.

Churches-filled with worshippers- are shot up, blown and torched in Palistan, with nary a voice of concern from any Muslim authority. The remnants of the Jewsih community in the middle east has been virtually eradicated, with nary a word…The real outrage wasn’t the Newsweek story or what may or may not have happened at Gitmo. The real outrage is the silence of the Muslim clergy and the Muslim world as they watch these riots.

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