Friday, May 27, 2005

Guantanamo, the Koran, and giant toilets

Two weeks ago, the conservative blog world got its collective panties in a wad over Newsweek's unsubstantiated report that guards at Guantanamo flushed a copy of the Koran down the toilet. (Side note: This reminds me of Jack Palance's quip at the Oscars a few years ago that he's taken craps bigger then Billy Crystal. At the time, I had to wonder just what sort of a facility would handle a turd that big. Whatever the case, if Newsweek's story were true, then either Jack Palance and Guantanamo use the same toilet supplier, or the copies of the Koran used at Guantamo or quite small.) In any case, the usual right wring fruitcakes pulled out their bumpersticker rhetoric and went to work on Newsweek. Thus, we got tidbits like the following from the mainstream loonies:

"People died, and U.S. military and diplomatic efforts were damaged, because -- let's be clear here -- Newsweek was too anxious to get out a story that would make the Bush Administration and the military look bad." -- Glenn Reynolds, May 15

"Newsweek has blood on its hands. Blood on its desks. Isikoff should cough up his source." -- Michelle Malkin, May 15

Of course, the small fry conservatives had to jump in, too. And, being small fry conservatives and lacking even the most marginal of institutional or professional restraints, they get to blow their rhetorical loads even more spectacularly. As a result, you get these sorts of inanities:

"It's not exactly like the Muslim crazies need much of an excuse to riot, kill people, and burn the American flag, but Newsweek is still responsible for fanning the flames that led those deaths and injuries. It's particularly egregious because the magazine obviously intended to set this wildfire, and they're only apologizing because the crap they printed turned out to be false. Is it unpatriotic for an American magazine to purposefully incite hatred and violence against our country?" -- Michael Williams, May 16 (italics mine)

This is, of course, the usual tripe from the mouthbreathers: The publication of information caused riots. The publisher is culpable for deaths that occured in those riots. The publisher is driven by anti-American animus because it's part of the liberal media. Et cetera, ad nauseum. Per their modus operandi, the nattering nabobs of the right attack the news source and ignore the substance of the assertion.

Imagine my lack of surprise this morning, therefore, when I opened today's post and saw the following headline Pentagon Confirms Koran Incidents. The story, by all accounts, suggests that any mistreatment of the Koran by US service members was minor or inadvertant. Clearly, no Korans were flushed down any toilets. Nonetheless, the story makes very clear that though Newsweek erred in reporting the particular flushing incident, it would have been perfectly within the bounds of reason and standards of journalism to report more generally on Koran mistreatment. To me, this suggests, as Newsweek has repeatedly asserted, that the tidbit about Korans and toilets was due to journalistic mistep and the magazine believed the story was true.

Right-wing bloggers, of course, are not here to plumb issues of truth. Rather, and I've made this point before, there here to push the Republican version of the truth, their post-modernist narrative if you will. According to this narrative, the Administration cannot err, the armed forces cannot make mistakes, no abuse occurs in our gulags, and liberals and the liberal media are out to destroy America. Go to any conservative blog, conservative "comic strip" or other conservative outlet and I guarantee you will find variations on those four themes and not much else. (NOTE: E.J. Dionne seems to agree.)

In any case, the conservative blogs are already trying to discredit these latest reports that abuse or mistreatment of the Koran did actually occur. Note, of course, that this "rebuttal" relies on the assumption, already proven false, that everyone at Guantanamo is an Al-Qaeda member.