Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Apples Aren't Ripe

Balloon Juice jumps back to defending Newsweek's erroneous Periscope Koran flushing news ditty. He suggests Newsweek has been somehow vindicated thinking Newsweek is "ordering a big glass of STFU for their critics."

To be fair, I am not sure he is actually defending the substance of it so much as he is defending the general concept that talk of issues/incidents of this type ought not to be squashed entirely just because they are mistakes, or damaging, or whatever. On that I might agree. Anyway, the basis for Mr. Cole's post is this Reuter's article reporting on an FBI memo which was declassified and released by some government agency or department, that Reuters failed to report.

I haven't jumped into this much, but I'll take issue with his post on what I see as the central issues of this Newsweek brouhaha. Here's the first paragraph of Newsweek's Periscope ditty:

"Investigators probing interrogation abuses at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay have confirmed some infractions alleged in internal FBI e-mails that surfaced late last year. Among the previously unreported cases, sources tell NEWSWEEK: interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur'an down a toilet and led a detainee around with a collar and dog leash. An Army spokesman confirms that 10 Gitmo interrogators have already been disciplined for mistreating prisoners, including one woman who took off her top, rubbed her finger through a detainee's hair and sat on the detainee's lap. (New details of sexual abuse—including an instance in which a female interrogator allegedly wiped her red-stained hand on a detainee's face, telling him it was her menstrual blood—are also in a new book to be published this week by a former Gitmo translator.)"

I bolded some key words and phrases to make this point. Isikoff and Barry wrote this with the express intention of asserting that allegation(s) by detainees of Koran flushing have been determined to be true and that there is a specific case file for this incident. Isikoff and Barry are careful to not assert someone has been disciplined but do lead the reader to infer that by surrounding this assertion with other allegations that have been found to have some merit and cases where some discipline has been meted out. Isikoff and Barry skated back and forth across the line between assertion with substantiated backup and not so vague implication of equal status for allegations without it.

That Reuter's article in no way vindicates the Koran flushing part of the Periscope ditty, or Newsweek's actions vis-a-vis their ethicial standards/code of conduct, and I'll include their retraction in that. We already knew of this Koran flushing allegation. It was not new. Confirmation by investigators that it did occur, as the Periscope ditty asserts/implies, would have been new, and news. But their only basis was an unnamed government source that has since retracted that basis. Newsweek, while not entirely apologetic, has admitted they did not follow their own rules for reporting news. Reuters has neither reported or uncovered information that should make Newsweek feel relieved. In my opinion, the Reuters article has only substantiated the fact that, so far, Newsweek is still wrong.

And, since Newsweek did fail to follow their own rules, they will always be wrong, even if the story turns out to be true.

Update: I hate forgeting some coding. Excerpt is quoted now.

So The Apples Are Sour (10:49): Per this Media Slander post, the detainee who made the original allegation of Koran flushing by guard(s) has now retracted it. But that hasn't stopped the ACLU and their pocket hankie media buddies from trumping up documents that only record the original allegations while ignoring contrary information.

And let me be clear. When you report news you are suppose to report facts, not plausibilities, probabilities, or possibilities. That stuff is reserved for people who write analysis articles, opinion columns, and, unfortunately, the all too common substitute for newswriting by media hacks -- the 'I'm making a difference stories' and 'snatch and catch' trolling, like Isikoff and Barry's cute little ditty.

As for the ACLU, well, when have inconvenient facts gotten in the way when they're trying cases in the media.

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