For those unfamiliar with the controversy, a young man (married to a fact cheker at The New Republic) sent a series of supposedly true reports on the American Army in Iraq. Most of the stories showed the soldiers acting like 13 year olds or worse, and were quite slickly written.
But because Beauchamp and TNR published them as reporting, not fiction, some angry Milblogs started fact checking, and the facts didn’t add up. However, TNR, still infamous for the Glass controversy, tried to stonewall the stories. That’s where the story rested until Drudge posted some PDF files, including the transcript of a phone call between Beauchamp and Foer, Editor at TNR. Part of the conversation includes Foer instructing the writer, who would not confirm their accuracy, not to tallk to the press about the stories.
Foer complains that the Army must have leaked the transcripts, and complains that he has been asking for the information unsuccessfully…
Huh? One of the conversations was between him and Beauchamp, and Foer doesn’t deny that the conversation took place or that the transcript was accurate. He only complains he himself didn’t release them.
By Federal Law, the private conversation could only have been recorded by either Foer or Beauchamp. If the Army had it, they would have needed authorization to tape the phone call. If there had been such an authorization, it is possible that the papers would have been in Foer’s personnel record.
Legally they could only be released with that person’s permission….so unless Beauchamp sent them to Drudge, someone will probably be prosecuted for the leak.
Believe me, I worked for the Federal Government, and these things are taken seriously by the Federal Government.
The real question remains: why did not Foer or others who reviewed the stories recognize them as fiction.
Anyone who spent time in the military would recognize that much of what he reports would have been exaggerated or pure fiction.
Anyone who is familiar with war novels would have instantly recognized Beauchamp’s work for what it was: an addition to a large and popular “anti war” war satire. The Beauchamp stories themselves follow a type of war fiction that dates back to Mr. Roberts, M*A*S*H*, and Catch 22.
One can only shake one’s head in dismay at Mr. Foer’s failure to recognize the stories were part of this genre, and not actual reporting….
Beauchamp’s problem was twofold.
One: like the druggie who burned the Oprah book club with a fake autobiography, he posted fiction as fact.
Two: His stories were the last straw for those who actually know someone in the military or have been in the military who are tired of being kicked around.
After all, Joseph Heller may have written an anti war novel, but one doubts that he would have done so at a time when the Nazis were gassing his relatives. One doubts Heller would have released Catch 22 in 1943, when American morale was at it’s low point, would have been a powerful propaganda coup that could easily have been used by the Nazis to demonize America’s fight against a murderous enemy.
But back then, the press would play down mistakes for fear of damaging morale. Yet today America has a press that is more likely to stress American misdeeds than mention heroes, a press, who blithely prints any accusation of murder by those who are connected on the “other side” as if they had equal veracity as the military report. And to make things worse, there is a Hollywood that is spending billions to promote anti war films that pain America as evil, while ignoring stories of heroism such as that of Michael Murphy, who lost his life saving his men, and who allowed innocent shepherds to go free rather than to kill them, knowing that they might betray them (as indeed they ended up doing).
Such a one sided press is giving America a bad name through out the world, and there is an angry blogosphere out there who knows that part of the story is being ignored.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.