The Military/Media Attacks on the Hastings Article
Last June, when Rolling Stone published Michael Hastings' article which ended the career of Obama's Afghanistan commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- an article which was just awarded the prestigious Polk Award -- the attacks on Hastings were led not by military officials but by some of Hastings' most celebrated journalistic colleagues. The New York Times' John Burns fretted that the article "has impacted, and will impact so adversely, on what had been pretty good military/media relations" and accused Hastings of violating "a kind of trust" which war reporters "build up" with war Generals; Politico observed that a "beat reporter" -- unlike the freelancing Hastings -- "would not risk burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks"; and an obviously angry Lara Logan of CBS News strongly insinuated (with no evidence) that Hastings had lied about whether the comments were on-the-record and then infamously sneered: "Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has." Here's Jon Stewart last year mocking the revealing media disdain for Rolling Stone and Hastings in the wake of their McChrystal story.
Hastings has now written another Rolling Stone article that reflects poorly on a U.S. General in Afghanistan. The new article details how Lt. Gen. William Caldwell "illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in 'psychological operations' to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war" and then railroaded the whistle-blowing officer who objected to the program. Now, the same type of smear campaign is being launched at Hastings as well as at his primary source, Lt. Col. Michael Holmes: from military officials and their dutiful media-servants. Ever since publication of this new article, military-subservient "reporters" have disseminated personal attacks on Hastings and his journalism as well as on Holmes and his claims, all while inexcusably granting anonymity to the military leaders launching those attacks and uncritically repeating them. As usual, anyone who makes powerful government or military leaders look bad -- by reporting the truth -- becomes the target of character assassination, and the weapon of choice are the loyal, vapid media stars who will uncritically repeat whatever powerful officials say all while shielding them from accountability through the use of anonymity.
Here, for instance, is what Norah O'Donnell said on MSNBC when reporting on the controversy with Tamron Hall:
O'DONNELL: I have been talking to a number of sources today who have said one, that any report coming from The Rolling Stone and this author Michael Hastings, who also "went after" another general, Stanley McCrystal, should be met with a healthy dose of skepticism. The title of this, Tamron, is "Another Runaway General": remember that Michael Hastings already brought down another General, Stanley McCrystal. . . . I can tell you that there are a number of people in the military and the Defense Department who are not happy with The Rolling Stone because of what happened earlier with General Stanley McCrystal.
HALL: They can't be happy with it, but if it's what happened, the person is reporting it and it's factual, then that's what they have to deal with. You're not always happy with the truth.
O'DONNELL: That's true, but remember that they, they still question a lot of the previous article even though that brought down General Stanley McCrystal.
Who is it who says that "any report coming from The Rolling Stone and this author Michael Hastings . . . should be met with a healthy dose of skepticism," and what's the basis for that accusation? Who knows? O'Donnell just mindlessly passes on the smear, protecting the identity of the accusers while failing to identify a single specific reason why Hastings' journalism should be called into question. She's simply acting as dutiful, protective spokesperson-stenographer for military leaders (O'Donnell also emphasized: "this general in question, General Michael Caldwell, he is the head of training the Afghan security forces. This is the linchpin, Tamron! The linchpin of the war . . . This is how we get out . . . and make sure Afghan security forces are trained" -- as though Caldwell is such an Important General that Hastings should be ashamed of himself for reporting negatively on him, just as Logan suggested about Gen. McChrystal).
Read the full article at Salon...
© 2011 Salon