February 6, 2005
Rebecca MacKinnon Weighs In
Power Line offers another first-hand account of the Davos remarks from Rebecca MacKinnon, who organized the Kennedy School Conference on Bloggers and Journalism. Here's the Powerline version of her comments, "with numerous disclaimers and qualifiers omitted:"
Q: First, was Rony's account "accurate" in the sense that it would have been a responsible filing from any journalist working for, say, a big paper?For the full exchange, with disclaimers and qualifiers included, see here. This is her full response to the final question:
A: ... So to answer your question: yes, Rony's initial blog post was "accurate" in the sense that several of us in the room have corroborated his account.
Q: Did Mr. Jordan offer the idea that American military forces had "targeted" journalists before Representative Frank entered the conversation?
A: My recollection is that he did.
Q: Q: Rony believes that David Gergen was distressed by Mr. Jordan's remarks. Do you agree with that characterization?
A: Yes I agree with that characterization.
Q: Do you recall Mr. Jordan receiving praise from members of the audience for his candor, and if so, were those audience members American? European? Arab?
A: There were definitely some people in the audience who liked what he said, and others who didn't. I don't remember specifically.
Q: Is the blogopshere being "fair" to Mr. Jordan? Ought he to give an interview to one or more bloggers who are pursuing this story?
A: ... Jordan said something in a public on-the-record forum that he clearly regretted saying. There are really two questions here: First, what did he really say? That's going to get cleared up soon enough. The second more interesting question is: what does he really believe? Clearly he is frustrated and angry at the way in which the U.S. military deals with (or fails to protect) non-embedded journalists in Iraq. Why? Does his anger and frustration have any justification?
A: We can't deny that there is a lot of herd and mob behavior in the blogosphere. Having been attacked in the past by real-life mobs as well as by blog-mobs, I feel pretty confident in saying this (and I say this as someone who is proud to be a blogger). I think there are definitely some mob dynamics going on with this story. That said, there are also many bloggers who are trying to get to the bottom of this in a fair and rational manner. It would make sense for Jordan to speak to those bloggers.I think there is a disctinction to be made between a story that gathers some attention, and a blog-mob. For the record, we're out to lynch no one here. We want to know what Mr. Jordan said, verbatim. If it is as reported, we want to know if he has evidence.
Hugh Hewitt describes a blog-storm: "When many blogs pick up a theme or begin to pursue a story, a blog swarm forms. A blog storm is an early indicator or an opinion storm brewing, which, when it breaks, will fundamentally alter the general public's understanding of a person, place, product, or phenomenon." This is probably a better descriptor than "mob."
More from McKinnon:
Jordan said something in a public on-the-record forum that he clearly regretted saying. There are really two questions here: First, what did he really say? That's going to get cleared up soon enough. The second more interesting question is: what does he really believe? Clearly he is frustrated and angry at the way in which the U.S. military deals with (or fails to protect) non-embedded journalists in Iraq. Why? Does his anger and frustration have any justification? Is the source of his problem the behavior of individual soldiers on the ground who happen to hate MSM because they think it's anti-military? Or is the source of his problem more systemic and part of a policy - spoken or unspoken - coming from the top?MacKinnon is jumping way ahead of herself here. Thoughts: How is the military supposed to offer protection to un-embedded journalists? Where is that written? Journalists operating on their own are on their own. This is a separate issue altogether from that of military forces intentionally targeting journalists, anyway. It would take a great deal to convince me that any perceived act of injustice or unfairness against a journalist in Iraq by a member of the military is a direct result of that military member feeling that the MSM is anti-military. If there was one thing I was lacking in Iraq, it was access to information of the news variety (and being a blogger, I devour news -- in Iraq I used to count the minutes until the Early Bird was updated). And I rarely saw or spoke to journalists ever. When I did, I told them to go talk to the enlisted Marines instead of a boring staff officer like me. Perhaps it's much easier to get news in Iraq now -- there are a number of milbloggers who blog from Iraq. But I'd have trouble believing that journalists were mistreated because military personnel thought they hadn't gotten a story right. Doesn't jive. As far as MacKinnon's question about "is the source of his problem more systemic and part of a policy - spoken or unspoken - coming from the top . . ." We don't even know what the problem is. All we know is that Eason Jordan thinks one exists. Hard to prosecute an investigation into the highest reaches of the government without specific and detailed charges. We await those from Mr. Jordan. Finally, MacKinnon asks all these questions readily, but doesn't ask the most obvious one: why did Mr. Jordan appear to regret what he had said, as she notes in her description of the event? If there is a scandal, if Rummy has ordered death to reporters, Mr. Jordan should break this story wide open, not be ashamed about it. We're all ears here at Easongate.
More from MacKinnon:
At the Davos panel Jordan talked about one U.S. soldier manning a checkpoint to get into the "green zone" in Baghdad. The line was about an hour long, and is, apparently, a favorite target of suicide bombers and other attacks. A journalist comes to the front of the line whose reports the soldier doesn't like. The soldier sends the journalist back to the end of the line. This is not exactly "deliberately targeting" journalists, but it does show the extent of ill-will and hostility that exists between some soldiers and some journalists - an ill-will which can sometimes have lethal results, in some people's opinion. I can see why this situation might keep news execs up at night worrying about their people, and why it might also lead to a feeling amongst non-embedded journalists in Iraq that some servicepeople dislike them and are "out to get them," whether or not that's really the case. I can also see how that feeling might color journalists' reporting about the U.S. military in Iraq. The journalists are only human and they're working in a dangerous environment. It's not a great situation, and I think it warrants a lot of further investigation and discussion - on all sides of the political spectrum. I've never set foot in Iraq and have no authority to describe the situation on the ground there. I'd like to hear from a lot more people who have spent time in Iraq as un-embedded journalists and as soldiers.More than exposing " the extent of ill-will and hostility that exists between some soldiers and some journalists," this just shows that journalists aren't used to being handled in the manner which anyone in the military has been at some point or another. In officer candidate school and basic training, recruits and officer candidates can't even refer to themselves in the first person. Getting sent to the back of whatever line for whatever reason is the norm. It is not abuse. It serves a purpose. It teaches situational awareness and a desire for perfection. The guard who shooed a journalist to the back of the line, whether he knew it was a journalist or not, was doing his job. If he didn't do his job, there would be more suicide bombings in the Green Zone -- which would be some other scandal for Mr. Jordan and his ilk to wax poetic about -- though possibly not at Davos, unless a journalist was among the victims.
Having said all of that, I applaud MacKinnon for stepping forward with her version of what took place. With luck we'll soon know more.