Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek Jumps the Shark

Newsweek investigative reporter Michael Isikoff pursued the story he wanted, wrote the facts he wanted to be true, failed to meet whatever journalistic standards currently exist to ensure that his report was accurate, and caused people's deaths.

Isikoff reported that US military officers at Guantanamo Bay, as part of interrogation technique, literally flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet and left other Korans in bathrooms. Note that this copy of an English translation of the Koran is 467 pages. You try flushing that down a commode.

From the AP report used by the LA Times: "Reaction across the Islamic world has been strong, with daily demonstrations since the May 9 story came out. At least 15 people died in Afghanistan after protests broke out Tuesday following the report that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, placed Qurans in washrooms to unsettle suspects, and in one case 'flushed a holy book down the toilet.'"

One problem: the report is COMPLETELY FALSE. Isikoff sourced it with the ubiquitous "unnamed source" and only one such source, who claimed he read the allegation in a report on conditions at Gitmo. It's too easy to find someone with an axe to grind in this political climate and Isikoff found him. No one confirmed the allegation BECAUSE IT WAS NOT TRUE. And the source reneged after Newsweek raced out to publish the claim: "However, on checking with the source since publication, Newsweek said that the official no longer could be sure that they had remembered correctly." Worse yet, Newsweek now has the audacity to blame the Pentagon for not denying Newsweek's BS story when asked for confirmation (the DoD said it knew nothing about the allegation).

Huh? You mean the Pentagon is supposed to say it's BS without investigating whether the report is accurate or not? What do you think the Department of Defense is, a news outlet?

Some day reporters are going to smarten up and realize that incendiary things they write relating to Islam have consequences. That day has not arrived. Here's the fallout from Isikoff's BS report, from the AP story above: "Reaction across the Islamic world has been strong, with daily demonstrations since the May 9 story came out. At least 15 people died in Afghanistan after protests broke out [last] Tuesday." And from the London Times report: "The Pentagon has been under mounting pressure to get to the bottom of the allegations as anti-American riots spread from Gaza to Kabul to Jakarta. The allegations also drew an official protest from Saudi Arabia, one of America’s most crucial allies in the Islamic world."

Get it yet? Muslims take desecration of their holy books as personal insults and their imams view such desecration as killing offenses. It doesn't matter if you, the ivory tower liberal or newsie leftie sitting in your plush office comfortable with your own secularism and the worldview of the echo chamber around you believe that this reaction is rational. It's not; but it is certainly foreseeable.

Roger L. Simon sums this up pretty sharply: "there is a strong argument to be made that this is more serious than Rathergate. This is journalism at its most insidious and dangerous."

But, again from the London Times' report, the Pentagon deserves the last word: "When told of Newsweek’s new stance, Lawrence DiRita, the Pentagon spokesman, raged: 'People are dead because of what this son of a bitch said.'"

And now he and his editors must be sacked. Period.

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