For those of you just joining the news cycle, or outside the US, the general in charge of the Afghanistan war ran his mouth off about his distaste for everyone within the administration in front of a Rolling Stones journalist, and the subsequent article got him fired.
The Sexist Beatdown ladies have a pretty funny piece on just how ridiculous this Stan MacChrystal character is, and how his male machismo seems to have both advanced his career, and ended it:
OK, moving on from insulting president Obama's judgment to something everyone can get behind: the terrible mainstream media! It turns out that media people hear public figures say unflattering things all the time, but they don't publish it, because this would threaten their "access." Jon Stewart makes this point hilariously, skewering the media for lamenting that Hastings would never get that kind of access again, after running with the McChrystal piece. Stewart points out, he doesn't need to--he got the story of the year.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|McChrystal's Balls - Honorable Discharge|
Of course, I wish Stewart had gone a little bit further. Having watched several news anchors slap themselves silly in stunned befuddlement over Rolling Stone's coup, I've been wanting to ask: "Hey, you all realize that Jann Wenner didn't dispatch the kid who turned in that really great review of the new Band Of Horses album to embed himself with McChrystal, right?" The story was reeled in by Michael Hastings, who covered the Iraq War for Newsweek. To watch some of these dolts on the teevee interact with him, it's as if they've never heard of him!Linkins points to a piece on Politico, which as he puts it, "accidentally told the truth about their journalistic values":
But in a way, Hastings is an alien thing to them, the way he used his access to McChrystal to do actual reporting, instead of the more traditional "gash for ass" model where a reporter flatters a subject in order to create an opportunity for further flattery.
McChrystal, an expert on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, has long been thought to be uniquely qualified to lead in Afghanistan. But he is not known for being media savvy. Hastings, who has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for two years, according to the magazine, is not well-known within the Defense Department. And as a freelance reporter, Hastings would be considered a bigger risk to be given unfettered access, compared with a beat reporter, who would not risk burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal's remarks.That paragraph has been removed from the article, but you can read Jay Rosen's dissection of it here.
I agree with Stewart and Linkins that the whole thing leaves me with a funny feeling about the media, because media people were so genuinely shocked that a reporter earned a subject's trust, witnessed incriminating events, and then published it. On the other hand, though, I'm not sure if I can call what Hastings did good journalism. The reason is, that while I think it's incredibly important to know what McChrystal's strategy is in Afghanistan, what type of person he is, and how much we should trust him, it's also true that having that information is a moot point if the story that delivers it gets him fired. My problem with the Hastings piece, and, well, I'm not really sure if it is a problem, but it's something I feel a little weird about, is that by covering the news in the way he covered it, he made news. Hastings had to know that printing what he printed was going to get McChrystal in major trouble. And, if that's the case, then is the story Hastings wanted to tell--"this is the dude they've got running things in Afghanistan"--still relevant? I don't know what the right answer is, and I'm certainly not saying Hastings should have played the beat reporter role and offered quote approval to his subject. But I guess I find the publishing of these incendiary quotes under the purported topic of talking about McChrystal's handling of the war to be a little disingenuous. He had to know the only headline to come out of his reporting would be: McChrystal bashes administration. Was that the news he thought we needed?
But the real question is, what the eff do we do now in Afghanistan? Where do we go from here, and when does it stop?