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July 24, 2007

They're Baaaaack! NYT Reinstates "Near Certain" Quote To TNR Piece

Check it out. First there, then gone, then back again:

The magazine granted anonymity to the writer to keep him from being punished by his military superiors and to allow him to write candidly, Mr. Foer said. He said that he had met the writer and that he knows with "near certainty" that he is, in fact, a soldier.

Awww... the kids got caught and had to put the cookies back in the jar.

It's suggested to me by an emailer that this had nothing to do with the reporter, who presumably stood by her work from the get-go, but by her editors -- and the NYT senior staff, likely, wishing to protect a very-liberal media ally possibly on its last legs.

More Coming: You'll probably want to check back with the Weekly Standard blog for additional information. Goldfarb is on the lead in this story and never fails to round-up liks about it.

What We Know. Or, rather, kinda know.

1) The reporter who wrote this piece stands by her story. This is evidenced by second-hand, unverified suggestions to me. It is more strongly evidenced by the simple fact the "near certainty" quote is back in the story -- ergo, the NYT believes it was accurate. If the reporter had much doubt about her quote, presumably the NYT would have resolved the dispute in favor of Foer.

2) Of course, the NYT seems to have always believed it was accurate; they never issued a correction, they simply stealthily deleted it from the article, sans correction, sans notice.

3) They seem to have done this -- and by "they," I mean editors and senior staff -- due to the protestations/pleadings from Franklin Foer.

4) Franklin Foer and his editors running the Plank (TNR's blog) never accused the NYT of misquoting Foer. This could be due to an honest disagreement over what was said, with both reporter and subject having good-faith belief in what was said. However, it seems to me only the reporter was actually taking notes. Notes are not infallible, God knows, but on balance, I think it's fair to say Foer said "near certainty."

5) And further, it's a fair guess that the deal worked out between the NYT and Foer was that he would not accuse them of misquoting, but they would do a quickie edit and hope no one noticed. Rhetorical question: Is this a common practice at the NYT -- protecting ideological allies from their damaging statements by omitting them from articles?

6) Foer, on the balance of evidence, then, did say he had only a "near certainty" as to his "Baghdad" Diarist's actual identity as a US soldier serving in Iraq. He insists now he is "absolutely" certain -- but what would cause him to misspeak so disastrously? Why the hedge? Why the caution? And, if Foer isn't quite certain this guy is even a soldier, Jesus! That doesn't say much about his confidence in the stories his "Baghdad" Diarist has been spitting out, does it?

7) As many have noted, it seems sort of strange for Foer to say now, after having run the pieces, he'll actually bother to do some investigating to determine if they're actually true. Shouldn't that, you know, have come before printing them? There seems little doubt, given TNR's current "investigation" of the "reports," without being to offer any evidence for their veracity right up-front, that TNR is engaged, yet again, in a Panglossian, or, should I say, Stephen Glassian faith in its "reporters" to report accurately, without making the slightest effort to verify their stories before publishing them.

8) It should also be noted that Foer speaks of having "confidence" in these stories being true -- and yet offers no tangible, factual basis for that confidence. He continually offers us only his own personal evaluation of the evidence... but, remarkably, not the evidence itself. Not even a digest of what that evidence might be. It's rather clear that Foer, at this point, really has no earthly idea if these reports are true or false. What he does seem to have, understandably, is a desperate hope these stories are accurate, and that the verification he should have secured before running them will reveal itself in the fullness of time. Whether that happens or not, TNR is guilty, yet again, of egregious journalistic malpractice.

...

And... It's possible, possible my hunch about the "Baghdad Diarist" beginning his TNR career as an (unhinged moonbat) liberal commenter may have been accurate. Not the two possibles and one may have been in there.

I'll let you know. We (me and my Google Dude) have found a guy posting at TNR who claims to be an Iraqi soldier and also, um, is the sort of person TNR would want "covering" the war for them.

Is it our man Scott Thomas? Hard to say. But I do insist that my theory -- that a commenter on TNR was contacted by an editor to do some "reporting" -- is the most likely. How else would the uber-liberal office-drones of TNR have even come across a soldier in Baghdad? The magazine does very little actual reportage (and for good reason-- see Shallitt, Ruth, and Glass, Stephen) and I doubt that any of the editors and writers know more than one or two veterans among them.

The other possibility is that they met this guy at an anti-war or pro-progressive-causes confab or rally or whatnot. Still, I like my theory more, given that if the guy is really in Baghdad (which Franklin Foer knows to a "near certainty") his opportunities to meet the DC-based TNR geeks would be rather limited.


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posted by Ace at 04:41 PM

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