I have to confess that I thought this week’s edition of pin-the-tail on Newsweek was a bit overdone (and if you have been reading me for a while- you know I have a Master’s degree in overheated rhetoric). I don’t know if anyone has flushed the Koran or not, but it seems to me completely plausible when there are confirmed reports of beatings, broken bones, and the use of nudity and menstrual blood to interrogate prisoners are out there. At any rate, Newsweek was careless, so shame on them.
In general, I find the culpability for riots and violence with those who rioted, and with those who incite the violence. Where we err is by providing them with fodder for their inexplicable rage- in fact, by providing them fodder, we make their murderous actions seem explainable (if you are sick in the head). That is precisely why we shouldn’t torture (along with the fact that it is barbaric, demeaning to both the tortured and the torturer, illegal, and, many if not most times not fruitful), and why we should do everything we can to make sure that rumors like this are squelched, and that they are just that- unfounded rumors.
Again, I recognize that at times this is a fools errand- no matter what we say or do, there will be people who distort our message and our actions for their own purposes. That is a sad reality, but we should at least try not to aid the miscreants. As much as I would like to say F— ’em, we can’t, and with our soldiers in harms way, I have no problem swallowing a little pride and acknowledging that at times we have to be sensitive to others feelings, regardless how absurd they are. Personally, I rank my pride a little bit below the lives of our soldiers.
At any rate, I am not of the belief that all conservative bloggers are at war with the media. Some may be, and some are pretty damn careless- just like Newsweek. But I don’t believe all conservatives are overtly hostile to all media. Many do rail continuously against some in the media, some our of genuine concern, many to advance their own agenda, others (myself included) out of simple disgust and a desire for people to just get the damn story right. In this case, I can understand how there is justifiable anger:
… the reason “conservative bloggers” are upset and angry about the Newsweek screwup is that it cost lives in the Middle East and it could have cost a lot more lives as well. In addition–and this is a somewhat important point, so please pay attention Political Animals and New Republic senior editors–it harmed our country’s prestige and standing on the basis of a story that was entirely false. It is the kind of story that can fan rather vicious flames, and if you want to fan flames, you damn well better make sure that you have your facts right. If you do, feel free to publish the story. If you don’t and you publish the story anyway and people die as a result and your country ends up suffering diplomatically . . . well . . . it ain’t a good day at the office, now is it?
Again, I understand the anger, but I think it is over-stated. The problem lies with the rioters, but I also recognize that no matter how wrong they are, we shouldn’t do anything to inflame their passions. One of the most despicable rumors that runs rampant through the Islamofascist community and, unfortunately, much of moderate Islam is the blood libel, described here:
The Talmud instructions, soaked in hatred and hostility towards humanity, are stamped in the Jewish soul. Throughout history, the world has known more than one Shylock, more than one Father Thomas [the alleged Christian target of the Damascus Jews in 1840], as victim of these Talmudic instructions and this hatred…. Now Shylock of New York’s time has come…. Israel’s matzo will continue to steep in blood, the spilling of which is permitted in the Talmud, in order to glorify the Jewish military.
It is absurd, anti-Semitic, and obscene, but it is also why Jews don’t run deli’s in Israel selling things like Blood Pudding or Hemaglobin Biscuits or Martyr’s Blood Matzo. As vile and offensive as the Protocols of Zion are, you have to recognize that some wingnuts believe it, so you do everything you can to avoid even the appearances of committing the offending behavior. That may seem unfair, and I agree that it is unfair that many Jews have to be extra careful to make sure that blasphemous rumors are not given any credibility, but such is life.
Fast forward to the Washington Times coverage of the Newsweek affair. Today, Helle Dale writes:
How do you put toothpaste back into the tube? If anyone has the answer, please contact Newsweek magazine immediately.
Correcting the damage done by sloppy journalism is just about as hard as getting the sticky stuff back into its container. And a correction, even a retraction, almost never has the same impact as the original news reporting.
All of which should make those of us in the news business intensely aware of the importance of accuracy. It’s not good enough to get the news first; you have to get it right. Yet, in the age of the Internet and instant communication, accuracy and speed increasingly work against each other