I don’t know about you but I’ve been fascinated by the UVA/Rolling Stone “rape” debacle. And while it is clear that Rolling Stone, in general, and the author of the RS article, Sabrina Rubin Erdely specifically, broke every journalistic rule out there, there’s a deeper story here (I’ll get to RS and Erdely later).
It’s about why the story even had a chance of being published. It’s about the combination of “narrative journalism” and an ideological agenda. It was about one supporting the other without any real evidence that what had been claimed (a gang rape by fraternity members) was true or had even happened.
The story was out there before Erdely had ever inquired about it. And you have to understand that that story had largely been accepted as “the truth” by people who wanted to believe it to be so. These weren’t just students and a couple of teachers, by the way. These were very well connected people who knew exactly where to go to push their agenda. Here’s that backstory:
As the Rolling Stone article fell apart, Catherine Lhamon’s involvement has gone virtually unmentioned. But a deeper look reveals her ties to Emily Renda, a University of Virginia employee and activist who put Erdely in touch with Jackie, the student whose claim that she was brutally gang-raped by seven members of a fraternity on Sept. 28, 2012, served as the linchpin for the 9,000-word Rolling Stone article.
President Obama nominated Lhamon to become the Education Department’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in July 2013. The Senate approved her unanimously the following month.
She has served as the Education Department’s designee to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault which Obama created on Jan. 22, 2014. Renda served on the same task force.
Besides that link, both spoke at a February 2014 University of Virginia event entitled “Sexual Misconduct Among College Students.”
Lhamon has been invited to the White House nearly 60 times, according to visitor’s logs. Renda has been invited six times. Both were invited to the same White House meeting on three occasions. One, held on Feb. 21, 2014, was conducted by Lynn Rosenthal, then the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. Twenty-one people, mostly activists, were invited to that meeting. Lhamon and Renda were invited to two other larger gatherings — one on April 29 and the other on Sept. 19.
It is unclear if both attended the three meetings. Renda did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Renda and Lhamon also testified at a June 26, 2014, Senate hearing on campus sexual assault. It was at that hearing that Renda cited Jackie’s story that she was brutally gang-raped by five fraternity members — a statement that was inconsistent with Jackie’s claim to Erdely that she was raped by seven men. According to the Columbia report, Renda first told Erdely about Jackie’s allegation on July 8, nearly two weeks after her Senate testimony.
During her testimony, Lhamon claimed that “The best available research suggests that 20% of college women, and roughly 6% of college men, are victims of attempted or completed sexual assault.” That “one-in-five” claim about the prevalence of sexual assault on campus has been heavily disputed.
So when Erdely showed up wanting to do the rape story, she had Renda to encourage her to do this one, because both had the same agenda:
The reporter used Jackie’s story about a gang-rape to introduce readers to what she asserted was a systemic failure on the part of universities, police, and society to prevent and investigate sexual assault.
Rape culture. Rape crisis. How else does one advance such a story except finding the perfect “rape” to feature all of those things? Bingo. The prefect story. And who was more than willing to offer it? Renda.
Now some may ask, “why do you contend that advancing such a narrative was Erdely’s motive?” For one thing, she’d done it before on another “rape” story – this one in the military (another institution that is “misogynist”). And it followed a very similar pattern. The case involved a female Navy Petty Officer who claimed to have been sexually assaulted. Leon Wolf, doing some great research, finds that Erdley did for that case exactly what she did for the UVA case – and so did the Rolling Stone editors:
The point of this story is this: the evidence is clear all over the face of this story that Erdely – as enabled by her editors at Rolling Stone – has a serial habit of reporting rapes without conducting any more fact checking than she did of the UVA story. It is facially obvious that she did not talk to the accused rapist because there wasn’t one. There is no evidence that she talked with anyone who was present at any of the bars where Ms. Blumer drank on the night before her DUI to attempt to verify even her story about meeting the three guys. And, again: the sources who spoke to RedState were clear that Ms. Erdely made no effort to contact any member of the Naval command who was involved with the investigation to get their side of the story with respect to what manner of investigation was conducted into Ms. Blumer’s allegations or what that investigation revealed.
After an exhaustive investigation that spanned a year and a half (which Erdely and Rolling Stone ignored and/or did no research into whatsoever), no one was able to produce any evidence that a sexual assault had occurred, physical or otherwise. The alleged victim herself had no recollection of it happening, did not report it to the police who arrested her, and had a ready motive for latching on to the narrative, which is that it would have stopped or possibly prevented punishment at the hands of her military superiors and possibly prevented her from permanently losing the top secret clearance necessary to keep her job.
This was an important story for the “rape culture” agenda. It was to be the cherry on the top of the narrative that says, “college men are misogynists and serial abusers who need to be punished for their actions”. That’s why the fictitious “20%” number was invented. That’s why the DoE’s civil rights division is involved. As noted, this story shows the connection all the way to the top and the narrative that was being pushed. Erdley and Rolling Stone were heaven sent to these people and they used her just as she used them. The result was shoddy journalism of the worst stripe that apparently is standard operating procedure for Rolling Stone (I have another example of precisely the same problem with another author that I highlighted February of 2011.)
Of course, as we’ve seen, the narrative, as presented by Erdley, failed spectacularly. It not only couldn’t withstand even the slightest scrutiny, it had holes in it wide enough to drive a tank through. Yet, that was precisely the narrative that had survived up until that time. Why hadn’t the school investigated it more thoroughly before accepting the story?
In December, as Erdely’s article began to collapse, Julia Horowitz, a student journalist at UVA, tried to explain why the campus newspaper had been caught flat-footed by the falsity of Jackie’s tale. She conceded that “factual inconsistencies” and “discrepancies” might exist in Erdely’s tale, but, she cautioned, “To let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake.” Horowitz, exponent of this horrifying view of journalism, went on to become editor-in-chief of UVA’s student newspaper. Much of the media has been quick to pillory Rolling Stone, but Horowitz’s fear of allowing facts to overwhelm the narrative would be at home in vast swaths of our media — and government and higher education, too.
Facts shouldn’t define the narrative – got that? Now you understand why an administration, a magazine reporter and editors and a student “journalist” would let a tale like the UVA rape story exist and flourish – it fit the narrative like a glove if you didn’t look to closely. And no one did – including Rolling Stone.
As to the reputations ruined and lives tarnished by all of this? Well, that’s just collateral damage in a world where the narrative is much more important that the individual. It serves the “greater good”, you see.
I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but Al Gore is again trying to heat up the
global warming climate change debate. In a 7,000 word Rolling Stone article, Gore rails against the news media for being on the wrong side of the debate and giving the “deniers” much more coverage than Gore thinks they deserve. He’s also not particularly happy with Barack Obama’s progress on that front either. And finally, he pitches 4 ways activists can reignite the panic he was once successful in creating.
What is conspicuously missing from the rant are any facts. Other than a few of the same old assertions, and an attempt to tie weather events into his alarmism, he offers absolutely nothing new in the way of science nor does he even attempt to rebut the damning reports that have surfaced since “An Inconvenient Truth” and badly discredited his and other alarmist’s credibility.
Ironically he uses the analogy of professional wrestling as a means of attempting to shame the news media by likening them to the distracted referee in a “professional” bout who always was arguing with one corner or another while the “bad guy” took a metal chair to the “good guy”.
The irony, of course, was that is precisely what Gore, et. al. did early in their fraudulent campaign. And it was only when the skeptics were able to use actual science to raise so many points refuting key elements of Gore’s thesis that the media could no longer ignore them.
Gore’s attempt to rally the troops ends on the usual alarmist note:
What is now at risk in the climate debate is nothing less than our ability to communicate with one another according to a protocol that binds all participants to seek reason and evaluate facts honestly. The ability to perceive reality is a prerequisite for self-governance. Wishful thinking and denial lead to dead ends. When it works, the democratic process helps clear the way toward reality, by exposing false argumentation to the best available evidence. That is why the Constitution affords such unique protection to freedom of the press and of speech.
The climate crisis, in reality, is a struggle for the soul of America. It is about whether or not we are still capable — given the ill health of our democracy and the current dominance of wealth over reason — of perceiving important and complex realities clearly enough to promote and protect the sustainable well-being of the many. What hangs in the balance is the future of civilization as we know it.
His first paragraph describes precisely what happened to his climate assertions. They were destroyed by being exposed as false arguments. And I think it is telling that he doesn’t try to justify or factually support all the nonsense he presented as “fact” in his propaganda piece “An Inconvenient Truth”. Instead he just doubles down, whines about the media (that’s original) and distractions and claims nothing in the realm of science has changed primarily by simply ignoring that which has.
There is no “scientific consensus”, much of what he has presented as fact has been successfully disputed or refuted and “the democratic process [which] helps clear the way toward reality, by exposing false argumentation to the best available evidence” has worked. It is he who is in denial – and in this case, the wrestling is real, and he’s losing.
A little investigative reporting for you.
Apparently, after the article he wrote about Gen. Stanley McChrystal was instrumental in seeing McChrystal relieved of command in Afghanistan, Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone believed he had carved out a niche for himself. Going after the brass in war zones.
However his latest attempt, in which he accuses LTG William Caldwell, the general in charge of the NATO training mission in Afghanistan, of an effort to use “PsyOps” (Psychological Operations) against visiting US Senators misfired badly. For anyone who read the piece and has spent any time at all in the services the picture that formed immediately in the mind, given Hasting’s source, was “disgruntled officer”. And, as it turns out, that’s pretty much on the mark.
Hastings apparently took the word of LTC Michael Holmes as the premise and theme of his article. In fact he sets it up with a quote from Holmes:
“My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave,” says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. “I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line.”
Except LTC Holmes job wasn’t “in psy-ops” (Psychological Operations) nor is LTC Holmes trained in PsyOps. That is a very specific Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) that requires school training. The place in which PsyOps is taught is the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Ft. Bragg, NC. According to Special Operations Command, the Special Warfare School has never heard of LTC Michael Holmes.
Hastings also implies that Holmes received an official reprimand for “bucking orders” associated with the claim he was to use “psy-ops” on Senators. In fact he was instead cited for numerous violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that included ignoring orders not to go off post in civilian clothes, surrendering his weapon to civilians in civilian restaurants, conflict of interest and telling falsehoods to superiors, among others. The reprimand Holmes received had little if anything to do with the reason implied by Hastings.
When asked by his immediate supervisor, a Colonel, whether LTC Holmes had permission to leave post in civilian clothes, Holmes told his his boss that the former Chief of Staff of the US’s Afghan Training Mission had given he and MAJ Laural Levine permission to wear civilian clothes off post. However, when contacted by the officer who conducted the Command’s AR 15-6 investigation into the matter, the former Chief of Staff, in a sworn statement, denied ever giving anyone blanket permission to wear civilian clothes or dine off post. For one thing, he didn’t have the authority to do such a thing. The former Chief of Staff stated that any such permission would have to be given by a general officer as required by the two different command policies. In this case that permission would have had to come from LTG Caldwell. No such permission was ever given. By claiming that the Chief of Staff had given them permission when that wasn’t the case, Holmes and Levine were in violation of Article 107 of the UCMJ – making a false official statement.
Another officer who was invited to go out with LTC Holmes and his subordinate, MAJ Levine, gave a sworn statement that Holmes said that he and Levine routinely went off post to restaurants in civilian clothes for social purposes not official business, that they surrendered their weapons at the Afghan civilian establishments and that they drank alcohol. All of those activities are in direct contravention of standing orders and policies in Afghanistan. The officer who gave the sworn statement declined the invitation to go with them.
The conflict of interest charge came about when Holmes and Levine decided they could use their experience in strategic communications to start a civilian business. On its face, there’s nothing wrong with that if you wait until you’re in a civilian capacity to do so. But when you use duty time and DoD assets to promote your business, or misrepresent your duty as something other than it is, that raises definite ethical problems. Holmes and Levine did both of these things. And as such were in violation of numerous parts of the Joint Ethics Regulations.
For instance, they used their DoD positions for their own personal gain, namely to pass off their work in training Afghans from the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Defense as work done on behalf of their company SyzygyLogos LLC. On the company’s Facebook page, in an entry dated April 8th, 2010, you’ll see pictures of Holmes, in civilian dress, under a post title which says, “SyzygyLogos LLC, A Strategic Communications Firm – Images from our training sessions with the Afghan Government.”
That was clearly done with the intent to generate business for their private company. Additionally they listed either the US Government or the Afghan MoI and MoD as their “current clients”. All of this activity violated UCMJ article 92 (Failure to obey an order or regulation – i.e. the ethics regulation). Both the article 92 and 107 violations also lead to a third UCMJ charge for LTC Holmes, violation of article 133 (conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman).
As to the implication Hastings has in his article that the punitive action was taken because Holmes and Levine thought the use “psy-ops” on US Senators was illegal, it is obviously false. Neither were cited for anything to do with what the general had allegedly asked nor did they “buck orders” related to that situation other than to ask for legal clarification. Additionally, in a Wall Street Journal article by Julian Barnes, it is clear that LTG Caldwell had determined that PsyOps was inappropriate for a training command:
Several officers said that almost immediately after taking command, Gen. Caldwell determined it was inappropriate for a training command to try engage in information operations or try to influence any audiences with deception or other psychological operations techniques.
Military officers said that following that decision, Lt. Col. Holmes was reassigned to a strategic communications team that was tasked, in part, prepare the command for visits by congressional delegations.
Another officer who worked with Holmes and under Caldwell said that what Holmes was asked to do was anything but inappropriate:
Col. Holmes said he was asked to prepare background briefings on how to persuade congressional delegations on the importance of the training mission. But asking an officer trained in information operations to do the job of a public affairs officer is improper and illegal, Lt. Col. Holmes said.
“What they wanted me to do is figure out what we had to say to a congressional delegation or think tank group to get them to agree with us,” he said. “Honestly this is pretty innocuous stuff. If I was a public affairs officer, it wouldn’t be that bad.”
Lt. Col. Holmes compared the request to asking a CIA officer to investigate a criminal in the U.S. It would be illegal for the intelligence officer to do tasks that are perfectly appropriate for a regular police officer.
But a military officer who served with Lt. Col. Holmes and under Gen. Caldwell said the accusation is baseless, and that the officer was specifically told not to use information operations techniques. The officer declined to allow his name to be used because the command in Afghanistan has asked people not to discuss the case.
“I don’t know of any regulation that would say someone trained in info ops or psy-ops couldn’t put together a briefing packet,” said the officer who served with Lt. Col. Holmes. “There wasn’t any subliminal messages here. It was just look at what issues a lawmaker was championing so we can get our message out.”
Or, in other words, Holmes was asked to gather information about incoming visitors that would be useful for his commanding general in preparation for their visit. It is a task every general officer command would task subordinates to do for their boss. Apparently Holmes resisted this for reasons other than those given to Hastings.
Holmes superior stated in a sworn statement for the 15-6 investigation that he had a hard time getting either Holmes or Levine to do other duties beyond teaching STRATCOM (Strategic Communications) to Afghans. Reviewing their ethics violations, the reason becomes pretty clear. Doing what the general asked interfered with their “company” business.
Hastings either never checked out Holmes’ background and was unaware of the nature of charges against him or preferred to use Holmes version of the truth as his basis for the article because he liked what he heard. And his apparent unfamiliarity with the role of the NATO Training Command is also evident in passages like these:
According to experts on intelligence policy, asking a psy-ops team to direct its expertise against visiting dignitaries would be like the president asking the CIA to put together background dossiers on congressional opponents. Holmes was even expected to sit in on Caldwell’s meetings with the senators and take notes, without divulging his background. “Putting your propaganda people in a room with senators doesn’t look good,” says John Pike, a leading military analyst. “It doesn’t pass the smell test. Any decent propaganda operator would tell you that.”
At a minimum, the use of the IO team against U.S. senators was a misuse of vital resources designed to combat the enemy; it cost American taxpayers roughly $6 million to deploy Holmes and his team in Afghanistan for a year. But Caldwell seemed more eager to advance his own career than to defeat the Taliban. “We called it Operation Fourth Star,” says Holmes.
First, it wasn’t a “psy-ops” team, it was an Information Operations team. And they weren’t “propaganda people”, they were trainers and instructors. As the Barnes article notes, early on “Gen. Caldwell determined it was inappropriate for a training command to try engage in information operations or try to influence any audiences with deception or other psychological operations techniques.”
PsyOps are for use with operational units engaged with the enemy. Caldwell understood that wasn’t his command’s mission and changed the section’s mission to the more mundane of roles of information operations and strategic communications. Holmes was on the STRATCOM side. But none of that precludes a general officer from assigning other duties to his staff officers in addition to their primary duties. All staff officers fulfill a myriad of extra duties in addition to their primary functions on any staff. And that appears to be what happened here. Holmes, for fairly obvious reasons, resisted that.
Secondly, Caldwell’s mission was to train Afghan allies, not “defeat the Taliban”. That again is a job for operational units, not a training unit. The fact that Hastings accepted the Holmes quote above at face value and even tried to expand on it is indicative of his lack of knowledge about the role of Caldwell’s command. It is certainly a sensational quote, but to the knowledgeable, it is utter nonsense.
In short Hastings was gulled by Holmes. If anyone was a victim of “psy-ops” here, it was Michael Hastings. His lack of knowledge about the command plus an apparent desire to put another general officer notch in his journalistic belt left him open to a sob story from a disgruntled officer that may have sounded good to him, but appears to have little or no basis in fact. A story from an officer who had already been reprimanded for making a false official statement.
LTG Caldwell is being investigated now on the basis of these charges by Hastings and Holmes. Most people knowledgeable of the situation expect absolutely nothing to come of it. When Holmes questioned the legality of the directive issued by the command, the command’s Staff Judge Advocate (military lawyer) was asked to look into the legality of the directive. The SJA issued an opinion finding the directive to be legal.
Holmes received a General Officer Memorandum Reprimand for his violations of orders and policy and making a false official statement. Many consider that to have been lenient given his rank and what he did. When you reach the rank of field grade officer, you’re expected to understand how the system operates and to comply with both orders and policy. Willfully ignoring such orders and policy and then making false statements about it are serious offenses to the good order and discipline of the Army. LTC Holmes, as it turns out, got off lightly.
It’s simply that they think they’re head and shoulder’s smarter than the average voter and – the “and” is critical – know what is best for them. Now certainly there are likely those on the right that feel that way too, but I’m talking about a whole movement on the left. Progressives are of the opinion, especially given their dedication to nanny-state measures, that we simply are unable to take care of ourselves. That belief, driven by their activism translates into a further belief of inferior intellect among the masses. Think about it – if you truly believe that most everyone else can’t make the proper decisions for themselves and it takes the wise progressive and a benevolent government to guide them through their life and ensure they’re looked after, are you going to actually try to argue that those people are as bright as you are?
Of course not. In fact, you may consider them to be stupid. And, if you’re really arrogant, you might let the mask slip and blurt it out every now and then as did University of Wisconsin political scientist Charles Franklin in an interview about the midterm election results (Byron York reports):
Franklin was responding to a question from Bill Lueders, news editor of Isthmus, a weekly alternative newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. In an account published Thursday (H/T Ann Althouse), Lueders says he asked Franklin why "the public seemed to vote against its own interests and stated desires, for instance by electing candidates who’ll drive up the deficit with fiscally reckless giveaways to the rich."
"Franklin, perhaps a bit too candidly, conceded the point," Lueders writes. "’I’m not endorsing the American voter,’ he answered. ‘They’re pretty damn stupid.’"
Lueders writes that he responded, "Thank you, professor. That’s the answer I was looking for." The rest of Lueders’ account explains that smart voters support things like high-speed rail and higher taxes for the rich, while dumb voters support "an obvious phony like [Republican senator-elect] Ron Johnson over Russ Feingold."
It’s instructive to note that Franklin blurted out the truth as he conceived it and Lueders got an apparent affirmation of his belief on the matter. And note how Franklin has also adopted the subtle but evident principle that the money of the rich doesn’t really belong to them. Words like “giveaways” give the clue.
Shocking? Hardly. In fact pretty main-stream for progressives. Think back about how the progressives among us tried to label the Tea Party. In fact, that’s still going on as witnessed in this exchange between progressive Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone and David Gergen and Peter Hart in the wake of the midterm election results:
Taibbi: To me, the main thing about the Tea Party is that they’re just crazy. If somebody is able to bridge the gap with those voters, it seems to me they will have to be a little bit crazy too. That’s part of the Tea Party’s litmus test: "How far will you go?"
Gergen: I flatly reject the idea that Tea Partiers are crazy. They had some eccentric candidates, there’s no question about that. But I think they represent a broad swath of the American electorate that elites dismiss to their peril.
Hart: I agree with David. When two out of five people who voted last night say they consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party, we make a huge mistake to suggest that they are some sort of small fringe group and do not represent anybody else.
Taibbi: I’m not saying that they’re small or a fringe group.
Gergen: You just think they’re all crazy.
Taibbi: I do.
Gergen: So you’re arguing, Matt, that 40 percent of those who voted last night are crazy?
Taibbi: I interview these people. They’re not basing their positions on the facts — they’re completely uninterested in the facts. They’re voting completely on what they see and hear on Fox News and afternoon talk radio, and that’s enough for them.
Gergen: The great unwashed are uneducated, so therefore their views are really beneath serious conversation?
Taibbi: I’m not saying they’re beneath serious conversation. I’m saying that these people vote without acting on the evidence.
Gergen: I find it stunning that the conversation has taken this turn. I disagree with the Tea Party on a number of issues, but it misreads who they are to dismiss them as some kind of uneducated know-nothings who have somehow seized power in the American electorate. It is elitist to its core. We would all be better off if we spent more time listening to each other rather than simply writing them off.
Booman at the BooMan Tribune says of the exchange:
What’s ironic is that Gergen is dismissing the Tea Partiers by taking them seriously. People like Matt Taibbi take them much more seriously, as they should, but they don’t ascribe any merit to their views. They take them seriously because they are .going to do grave damage to the nation.
I have no idea what he means by his first sentence, however it is irrelevant whether or not Matt Taibbi ascribes any “merit” their views, their views are the views, as David Gergen points out, of “40% of those who voted”. So you can throw all the pissy little elitist hissy fits you want, call Tea Partiers every name in the book, but that fact remains true and is obviously incredibly relevant to the electoral future. And the progressive answer to that truth isn’t to attempt to engage and persuade, it’s to call them crazy and dismiss them.
That is arrogance. That is elitism. It’s also not very smart. But, at the moment, that is the progressive movement in a nutshell. Naturally they’re unable to see that, as demonstrated by Booman as he concludes his post (and joins the new progressive narrative I pointed too the other day):
The GOP may not want to help the economy while a Democrat is in the White House, but they don’t know how to help the economy regardless. We saw this during Bush’s two terms in office. And when Bush finally faced reality and took the obvious steps to save the economy, the Republicans went Full Metal Teabagger in response.
David Gergen thinks it is elitist to dismiss the threat presented by this rise in Know-Nothing foolish ideology. What he forgets is that our government will no longer work starting in January. If elites like Gergen are good for anything, they should be good at protecting our institutions. They didn’t. And now we have a really big problem.
Those two paragraphs are a case study in progressive elitism and filled with enough logical fallacies for a semester’s worth of work in a logic class, not to mention classic projection. But you have to hope this incredible cluelessness continues if you’re at all interested in returning fiscal sanity to this country. As long as the Taibbis, Boomans, Franklins and Lueders of the progressive world believe that everyone who votes for the other side is “crazy” and/or “stupid”, they’ll make no attempt to engage and persuade. And that leaves a pretty open field for their opposition.
You’d think, as smart as they claim to be, they’d have picked up on how, well, stupid that approach is in electoral politics. They used that approach frequently and vocally prior to the midterms and 60 seats plus went to the opposition. A smart person would analyze that outcome and modify their approach. But not progressives. Those smart guys are doubling down instead.
But remember you’re the dumb one.
First recognize that we’re talking about "Rolling Stone" here, so in reality, the cluelessness should come as no real surprise. Well, apparently it shouldn’t come as any real surprise when associated with "political strategists" and "political commentators" on the left either, but I’ve already covered that today.
"Rolling Stone", however, is more of a cultural zine. Or was. But recently it put a scalp under its belt with the story it did on Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Never mind the general was an Obama pick, voted for Obama and was of a liberal mindset, a general is a general to the left. One down many to go.
But hey, in a world where the dead tree media is withering on the vine, it was a scalp that promised survival for a while. Ever ambitious, "Rolling Stone" has since decided to go after bigger game – the Tea Party. The new bête noire of the left, the Tea Party was an irresistible target.
And so off to Kentucky galloped "Rolling Stone’s" pick to handle this important
assassination journalism project – Matt Taibbi. Three whole times Taibbi made the trip. And at its conclusion, based on what he’d observed there, felt qualified to tar the entire movement as a bunch of hypocrites and welfare recipients. And as you might imagine, it isn’t a flattering picture.
Taibbi then "validates" his entire premise in this excerpt that David Freddoso has helpfully clipped:
A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can’t imagine it.
After Palin wraps up, I race to the parking lot in search of departing Medicare-motor-scooter conservatives. I come upon an elderly couple, Janice and David Wheelock, who are fairly itching to share their views.
“I’m anti-spending and anti-government,” crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. “The welfare state is out of control.”
“OK,” I say. “And what do you do for a living?”
“Me?” he says proudly. “Oh, I’m a property appraiser. Have been my whole life.”
I frown. “Are either of you on Medicare?”
Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!
“Let me get this straight,” I say to David. “You’ve been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?”
…Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it’s going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of sh–. All of them.
Frankly, I can’t imagine a more clueless argument. And it sends Freddoso into rant mode:
Of all the arguments liberals bring up against the Tea Party, this has to be the stupidest. Not only have millions of seniors and their employers paid billions of dollars into the Medicare system — 2.9 percent on every dime they’ve worked for in their entire life — but the program’s very existence has dried up whatever market there once was for old-age medical insurance. Our Medicare system, as President Obama never fails to point out, is unsustainable, and yet thanks to the government, very few senior citizens have any alternative.
Exactly so – you don’t pay into "welfare", nor are you in the Medicare system because you want to be. You’re there because at age 65, for the vast majority of Americans, you are given no choice! That’s a part that the left always forgets. If given a choice, would they be as "happy" with Medicare as the left likes to claim they are? Is their reticence to change in Medicare because they like it or because there is nothing else available to them? Those questions go unanswered because government has ensured there’s no viable option to its program.
Secondly, I don’t find most of what I read and hear from the Tea Party as "anti-government" as it appears Taibbi defines it (i.e. "no government"). I understand the Tea Party to represent those who want the return to Constitutional government in the strictest sense. That necessarily means a smaller, less intrusive and less costly government. But I’ve never understood it to mean "no government". Freddoso also rifts on the supposed hypocrisy Taibbi implies:
Taibbi also implies that conservatives have no place working for the government. (Hypocrisy! You believe government shouldn’t exist!) That’s basically all you need to know about the tone of his way, way longer than it’s worth reading piece, which is at various points just a stream of profanity. (He also predicts the inevitable co-opting of Rand Paul by the establishment GOP — he’ll sell out, just like his dad, right?)
If you’re still wondering if you ought to read Taibbi’s piece, Freddoso drops this last nugget to consider at your feet: [I]t isn’t young [libertarian] intellectuals like Koch who will usher Paul into the U.S. Senate in the general election; it’s those huge crowds of pissed-off old people who dig Sarah Palin and Fox News and call themselves Tea Partiers. And those people really don’t pay attention to specifics too much. Like dogs, they listen to tone of voice and emotional attitude.
Why is it every time I see a lefty say something like this my first thought is the almost Pavlovian reaction most of the left had to the "hope and change" mantra? As Palin would say, "how’s that hopey-changy thing working out", hmmm Mr. Taibbi?
Freddoso answers with a wicked jab at Taibbi’s cluelessness:
Oh, I see. So who does Taibbi think votes for Democrats? Do they win on the back of the college professor vote? Or is it on the back of ominous, threatening and false rumors that Republicans will take away Social Security, let old people die in the streets, then bury them in segregated cemeteries so that their bodies can be covered in toxic sludge until the oil companies decide they want to drill there?
Love it. Every lefty canard wrapped up in a single sentence. Read Taibbi’s piece if you must (unlinked here), but trust me, you’ve seen its thrust above and, unsurprisingly, it misses pretty badly. Freddoso concludes:
Perhaps next time Taibbi writes he can apply a few more facts and less uninformed, vulgar liberal smugness.
Yeah, I doubt it – that would require actual journalism.
Actually, Gen. McChrystal should have quit. The big news today will be about his and his staff’s insolent interview with Rolling Stone Magazine (pdf) wherein they lay waste to the current administration:
The top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has been summoned to the White House to explain biting and unflattering remarks he made to a freelance writer about President Barack Obama and others in the Obama administration.
The face-to-face comes as pundits are already calling for McChrystal to resign for insubordination.
McChrystal and his top aides appeared to let their guard down during a series of interviews and visits with Michael Hastings, a freelance writer for the magazine Rolling Stone.
The article, titled “The Runaway General,” appears in the magazine later this week. It contains a number of jabs by McChrystal and his staff aimed not only at the President but at Vice President Biden, special envoy Richard Holbrooke, Karl Eikenberry, the ambassador to Afghanistan, and others.
McChrystal described his first meeting with Obama as disappointing and said that Obama was unprepared for the meeting.
National Security Advisor Jim Jones is described by a McChrystal aide as a “clown” stuck in 1985.
Others aides joked about Biden’s last name as sounding like “Bite me” since Biden opposed the surge.
McChrystal issued an immediate apology for the profile, advance copies of which were sent to news organizations last night.
Frankly, there is probably much in McChrystal’s criticisms to agree with, but this just isn’t the way you do it, especially during a war. What’s especially disturbing is that his staff also appears to feel free to take potshots at the Commander in Chief (a violation of the UCMJ as I understand it), and one can only wonder how far down into the ranks that sort of behavior exists. When the highest officer in theater is openly dismissing the chain of command, things can not be good.
In fact, just two months ago, Michael Yon was reporting on the lack of trust in McChrystal to handle the job and how his orders were being ignored:
McChrystal’s actions have underlined what I was starting to tell officers and NCOs, who mostly agreed with me that McChrystal can’t handle this war. Experienced people have contacted me and asked me to keep the fire on McChrystal. (Menard is already dead in the water.) I can say with certainty that some of McChrystal’s orders are being disregarded. McChrystal controls embeds. Embeds and access are separate matters. McChrystal has zero control over access. My access is extreme and wide. And with that, it can be said that units in various provinces are disregarding McChrystal’s ROE and believe he is not acting in the best interest of our troops. Officers are disregarding orders from McChrystal. (I am not a journalist and will not provide evidence. Am not asking anyone to take it on faith. It is simply a fact and has been stated.)
Speculation: Weeks before the disembed, I told a person close to McChrystal (intelligence type) that McChrystal isn’t the man for this job. Was it related to that? Simply don’t know, but I do know that officers are disregarding some of McChrystal’s orders and this is happening in various places. McChrystal is not in full control of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
I really can’t comment on McChrystal’s ability to handle the war in Afghanistan, but his Rolling Stone comments would seem to underscore Yon’s reporting. If he’s so willing to disrespect his superiors, then it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the rank and file operate the same way.
Substantively, McChrystal has much to complain about. The Obama administration’s lack of interest in Afghanistan is rather apparent (despite making some laudable decisions), and we are definitely in danger of losing there altogether. Perhaps he thought that simply resigning and reporting his complaints to Congress (or the media) would not have the same effect in drawing attention to the problems he’s encountering. By sounding off loudly in Rolling Stone, McChrystal may be accomplishing what he thought he could not do if he had followed the correct course of action.
Even so, the general should still be fired. If his gambit works, and greater attention is given to actually winning in Afghanistan, then he will receive much deserved praise. Considering the fact that the big story right now is all about his insubordination, however, that’s not likely to happen.
I’m not sure what was going through Gen. Stanley McChrystal or his staff’s minds when they were interviewed for an article in Rolling Stone, but if the quotes are accurate and in context, they stepped over the “no-no line”. While it all may be entirely true, you don’t ever – ever – air this sort of crap in pubic. And if you do, as a military person – regardless of rank – you are wrong:
The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.
“I found that time painful,” McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. “I was selling an unsellable position.”
It quoted an adviser to McChrystal dismissing the early meeting with Obama as a “10-minute photo op.”
“Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. The boss was pretty disappointed,” the adviser told the magazine.
The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war “by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”
Asked by the Rolling Stone reporter about what he now feels of the war strategy advocated by Biden last fall – fewer troops, more drone attacks – McChrystal and his aides reportedly attempted to come up with a good one-liner to dismiss the question. “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal reportedly joked. “Who’s that?”
Biden initially opposed McChrystal’s proposal for additional forces last year. He favored a narrower focus on hunting terrorists.
“Biden?” one aide was quoted as saying. “Did you say: Bite me?”
Another aide reportedly called White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones, a retired four star general, a “clown” who was “stuck in 1985.”
Some of the strongest criticism, however, was reserved for Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“The boss says he’s like a wounded animal,” one of the general’s aides was quoted as saying. “Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.”
McChrystal’s comments are simply inexcusable and demonstrate either an arrogance or lack of understanding of his place in all of this (or both). Regardless, he’s put himself in a stupid place by his own doing.
And his staff has certainly done him no favors either. I can’t imagine how anyone would think they could say things like they’ve been reported to have said in front of a reporter from the magazine Rolling Stone, and think it was appropriate, acceptable and wouldn’t end up being quoted.
Even I know better than that.
Dumb, self-inflicted wound. And regardless of how any officer or member of the military feels about Obama or the rest of the civilian leadership, or how true they feel the sentiments expressed are, they have no business airing them for public consumption. That is how the military works … period. If you can’t live with that, don’t join the military.