by John Hawkins | August 7, 2007 6:20 am
Many of you have no doubt heard of Scott Thomas Beauchamp, a writer for the New Republic who made, anonymously, some rather outrageous accusations about the behavior of his fellow troops.
His claims didn’t smell right, conservative bloggers started looking into them, and the next thing you know, it all started falling apart for him and the New Republic.
The Weekly Standard has the latest on the story,
“THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned from a military source close to the investigation that Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp–author of the much-disputed “Shock Troops” article in the New Republic’s July 23 issue as well as two previous “Baghdad Diarist” columns–signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods–fabrications containing only “a smidgen of truth,” in the words of our source.”
This is particularly humiliating for the New Republic, not only because it’s the 2nd time they’ve been duped by one of their writers (See Stephen Glass), but because they investigated Beauchamp’s claims and declared that with one exception, what Beauchamp had said held up under scrutiny.
Now there are a lot of possible lessons that could be gleaned from this incident, but here’s the one I think is most worth taking heart: don’t trust controversial statements and claims based on anonymous sources.
Let me tell you why…
1) Whether you’re talking about the New Republic, the New York Times (Jayson Blair), CBS (Dan Rather), or Newsweek (Koran in the toilet story), it has been proven again and again that these mainstream media outlets don’t do any serious fact checking beforehand if the target is a Republican or near and dear to the hearts of conservatives.
2) Liberals almost never call other liberals on stories that are bad for Republicans and so therefore, the only people who will complain are conservatives. But, what happens if a conservative questions the veracity of a story written by a liberal? They’re written off as partisans and so the media outlet in question is not inclined to seriously investigate the issue.
3) Even if there is an investigation, it’s humiliating for a MSM outlet to admit they blew a story, particularly since they’ve already usually sneered publicly at the conservatives who dared to suggest they could be wrong. Because of that, they are extremely reluctant to ever admit that they made a mistake, which means it’s hard to put any faith in an internal investigation done by a MSM outlet.
Let me add that I’m not of the opinion that people like Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, and Scott Thomas Beauchamp are aberrations. That’s not to say that every controversial story based on anonymous sources is a pack of lies, but if there is no way for people to fact check the story, you should be very cautious about buying into it. That’s because the writer’s sources and assertions probably weren’t fact checked any closer than Scott Thomas Beauchamp’s were before he was published in the New Republic.
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