08. November 2005 · Comments Off on Memo: Military Fact Checking · Categories: General, GWOT, Iraq, Media Matters Not, Military

To: Major Media Orgs
From: Sgt Mom
Re: The Wonderful World of the Military

1. It looks like a number of otherwise reputable and professionally skeptical reporters and media outlets have been shown up… yet AGAIN as a bunch of gullible rubes, by a military veteran telling horrible stories of American-committed wartime atrocities. Well, at least, it was a real veteran this time, somewhat of an improvement as far as these things go. And this person was actually in the country, and in the neighborhood of the incidents which formed the initial inspiration of the atrocities to which he claimed to bear witness. But there were scads of other people there at the same time, none of whom seem to back up his soul-searing accounts of atrocities against Iraqi nationals.

2. This is an improvement, of a dubious sort, as far as telling improbable tales is concerned. In the immortal words of Pooh Bah, being at least verifiably in the right country, and at the right time can constitute “…corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”

3. However, it seems you have not properly assimilated the point of my previous memo, on the subject of military fantasists. Your loss more than mine, I daresay. (And you have obviously not taken to heart the saying about “that, which is too good to be true, probably isn’t.”)

4. To reiterate my main point from my earlier memo: The life military is lived, perforce, cheek by jowl with others. Very little happens in the military world that is not witnessed by others, supported by others, planned by others, reported upon afterwards by others. Practically every significant event to which a military unit is party, amounts to a public forum. Given a specific unit, a specific location, and a specific date, there should rightfully be clouds of other witnesses, to such astonishing and horrific events. That no one else in SSgt. Massey’s unit, or reporters and photographers present at the time, will back his accounts of events speaks volumes. That it took a year for a news story concluding that such substantiation is conspicuously lacking speaks a whole library of them.

5. It would seem that there are indeed two classes of news story in this sad and wicked world. One sort of story is gone over exhaustively, researched extensively, picked apart down to the sub-atomic level, and every participant grilled slowly over an open fire and basted with a skeptical sauce. The other sort is a delicate and precious pearl, gently handled and buffed with flannel, lest it’s luster be dimmed. Frankly, I’d leave the second sort to the celebrity pages, and have the first sort applied equally across the board. At least then, journalism would stand a chance in recovering a portion of the respect in which it was formerly held.

6. Finally I would also be wary of any informant who claims to be a veteran… but says that his DD214 is either classified, or that the military authorities faked it to cover up what he was really doing. Really people— in the news business, skepticism is a virtue when applied across the board.

Sgt Mom

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