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Works and Days

The Washington Post publishes a long list of fact check requests sent to Gen. McChrystal before the Michael Hastings’ interview occurred. One could draw some legitimate inferences from them, in no particular order of importance:

1) Rolling Stone did not ask for confirmation of the most damaging slurs against superiors like Obama, Biden, Holbrooke, etc., which might suggest (you think?) that all along they were going to publish a very different narrative than the one implied by their rather tame queries for confirmation.

2) The reporter, Michael Hastings, has recently offered, postfacto, a few interviews, perhaps summed up by his suggestions that he is a very principled reporter who usually does not do “puff pieces” in order to gain access — unlike lesser others to whom he mock apologizes in advance should his more honest hard-hitting exposes have now endangered their genres. Not quite. It is clear that Hastings ingratiated himself to McChrystal’s staff as a kindred unconventional spirit — and for some bizarre reason, the latter actually believed that this newfound embedded pal with whom they joshed around with was going to write a sort of inside encomium on their hipster commander, hence their strange, almost slavish cooperation. If anything, I find the obsequious sort of reporter who gains intimate access with the implicit understanding that he will be largely complimentary more intellectually honest than a disingenuous Hastings, who burrows in under false impressions, and masquerades his ego-driven desire for fame and status by a sort of pseudo-”sh-t happens” bohemianism. It is just a question of how one chooses to sell his soul — or as my grandfather used to say about fruit packers (and who could have advised McChrystal), “it’s always better dealing with an upfront crook.”

3) There are a lot of errors in Hastings’ draft that are corrected by McChrystal’s staff — and these are all, except in one instance, the non-controversial ones, suggesting (you think?) Rolling Stone did not want the staff to know of the disaster that was coming. Note again how sneaky Rolling Stone was — asking for matter-of-fact confirmations of mostly mundane things that are intended to cement the picture of McChrystal as a gifted warrior of the sort that might even appeal to Rolling Stone‘s audience: a misunderstood Obamian that likes martial arts and wars with stuffy DC superiors. (I imagine that the staff wanted Hastings to know — off the record rather than to publish — that McChrystal voted for Obama as a sort of added incentive to deify their boss.)

4) So in just one case, Rolling Stone tips its hand by asking for confirmation of the fact that McChrystal voted for Obama; they are told explicitly by the staff that such information is inappropriate for publication (but apparently not for background information), and why — and so asked that it not  be printed, suggesting their growing worry (you think?) that a mildly controversial fact would be published (which turned out to be tame in comparison to what they did not dream was about to be unleashed). Again, note the stupidity: a military officer is at the 11th hour asking Rolling Stone not to publish an embarrassing fact about Gen. McChrystal’s political affiliation — and they seem to assume that good old Rolling Stone would not! (Sort of like asking the Taliban not to bury too many IEDs.)

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