October 25, 2007

Shock Troops update: Foer (unintelligible) vs "the next Hemingway"

Well, the truth is out in the Shock Troops story, covered previously here, here, and here.

As I said before, the real story here wasn't the accuracy of the claims of writer soldier Scott Beauchamp, it was the truly shoddy irresponsibility of his magazine, The New Republic, under editor Franklin Foer. I encourage you to read the linked transcripts, which are a highly entertaining comeuppance.

That said, saying that Beauchamp still didn't recant, as Foer does here, and Publius at Obsidian Wings repeats here (as does Kevin Drum here) is pretty much the equivalent of that scene Homer Simpson running down the hill after the roast pig, shouting "It's still good, it's still good!"

Look, I'm sympathetic with the larger cause, really, but sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you. Just as with the Rathergate memos, it's time to walk away now, people. Once again, a major media outlet screwed up on some basic journalistic integrity issues, and they got caught by bloggers. It happens. Defending Beauchamp's claims, or his editors' integrity in this matter any further now, will only diminish the defenders.

As for Beauchamp, it's really hard to destroy two careers at one stroke, but he seems to have done it. More shame on TNR, which was the only agency that could have prevented the young man's self-immolation here.

One last thing: anyone who thinks Beauchamp has been intimidated by the army really should read the transcript, which shows pretty graphically that Foer wasn't above doing a fair bit of intimidating himself. Choice quotes (and the U.S. army's highly credible final verdict on the issue) below the fold:

From the Sept. 6 telephone transcript:

TNR executive editor Peter Scoblic: Ah... you're not going to be able to write anymore after this... you know that, right?

Beauchamp: I...I mean, I don't really care at this point. That's not... that's not... basically what I'm saying is that's not what is important to me...

Franklin Foer: (unintelligible)

Beauchamp: What's important to me...

Foer: (Unintelligible). You could have told us this a month ago and ah... you know -- saved us... basically a lot of heartache and pain.


Foer: Okay, I (unintelligible). Basically we need some sort of sign in good faith on your part and that would be the bare minimum at this point to prevent us from fully retracting.

Scoblic: I mean, let me ask you Scott -- do you care if we fully retract not only this piece, but the previous ones?

Beauchamp: Right now, like I said before all I really care about is the job I'm doing here. I really don't care about the media at all at this point. I'm sorry...


Foer: Okay, I don't think we have anything else to say. But if you could get us the sworn statements, that would be the one thing that could ah... delay us passing any judgment, but otherwise I think we have to publish that we can't stand by your story.

Beauchamp: As long as you include that, um... I mean - I'm not, I don't want... Basically I'm not saying anything about the stories to anyone anymore.


Foer: Ellie (Beauchamp's wife, a TNR employee) sent me an email to tell you that it's the most important thing in the world for her that you say that you didn't recant.

Beauchamp: To say what?


Beauchamp: I'm sorry if it's personally... if it hurts you or hurts my wife, which I know it will, then I'm really sorry. But, if I've learned anything from this, it's that this is her area and I'll stick to my area and things will be a lot better for both of us.


From findings of the investigation conducted by battalion executive officer (2nd-in-command) Maj. John D. Cross:

b. That the incident of blatant disrespect for a disfigured woman in the FOB Falcon DFAC is a tale completely fabricated by Private Beauchamp. See Exhibits T-Y....

e. That Private Beauchamp desired to use his experiences to enhance his writing and provide legitimacy to his work possibly becoming the next Hemingway (Exhibits C-4 & D)...

h. That Private Beauchamp is not a credible source for making the allegations he wrote about in "Shock Troops" (Exhibit A). He admitted that he was not an eyewitness to the targeting of dogs and only saw animal bones during the contruction of Combat Outpost Ellis (Exhibit E). Combined with the piece of fiction that he wrote on 8 May 2006 on his Blog (Exhibit EC-4), I find that Private Beauchamp takes small bits of truth and twists and exaggerates them into fictional accounts that he puts forth as the whole truth for public consumption.

(At which point, he takes a nice packet of money from TNR for them, they having been of course, first "rigorously edited and fact checked", as Foer put it. -ed)

UPDATES: Nice zinger from John McCain.

James Robbins is spot on on this one, too. What was really striking to me about the transcript was the complete self-interest Foer and Scoblic show in talking with a Private in an austere combat zone. Can he fax his signature to his lawyer right away? Can he call his U.S. based lawyer within the hour? Look, I have trouble doing those sorts of things on demand from my office HERE IN TORONTO. To blithely assume that a private at a combat outpost in a warzone can easily do those things for them (instead of, you know, his job with the fighting and the shooting and the glavin) and that the infrastructure that would be needed to support that, assuming it exists, exists purely for their benefit, just typifies the whole TNR mindset during this whole episode to me.

Posted by BruceR at 11:31 AM