August 10, 2007

Cindy Beauchamp Foer's Folly -- or -- "Oh Yeah? You and What Army?"

foer.184.jpg (Left) One Too Many Lattes and a Thousand Miles Behind: "Franklin Foer, 31, is eager to "produce journalism that people read." (2006) New York Times

The very young editors ** of The New Republic want to spin but they only twist slowly in the wind. ("I think I'm going to be circumspect..." -- NR editor Michael Crowley)

Well, I've got no dog in the New Republic/Weekly Standard fight like Eli Lake or Michael Crowley, so I've no use for circumspection about this endlessly unreeling game of gotcha.

Except to say it was game over and winner The Weekly Standard from the very moment Michael Goldfarb read Scott Beauchamp's obvious fictions and felt the needle on his bullshit meter wrap several times around the pin.

The untold fact of the matter is that, when you're editing a magazine, no matter how "fair and balanced" an editor may wish to be in his or her heart, the stories with the grit and the blood and the atrocity always put out a clarion call that proves hard to resist. Printing "ripping yarns" is why you're in the business in the first place, and there just aren't a lot of those going in Foggy Bottom.

Young magazine editors -- especially those of the ostensibly male persuasion -- always have a soft-spot in their heads for the "man of action war story." This is mainly because, to tell the truth, young male magazine editors today are simply not very manly. In general, they rise out of a culture and an educational background where manliness is discouraged and put down, even as the expectation of it, within and without, remains attached like some phantom limb to the neutered body.

As a result, when you are a Franklin Foer and charged with putting out a reasonable facsimile of a magazine every two weeks, a story that comes rolling in (backed by the "very likable" staff member who is the wife of the author) telling tales of melted faces, mass graves, and the severed dogs of war, you often let your testosterone ramp up a notch and, well, just go for it. Editors are suckers for a good story. And every so often they get sucked in by something that is more story and full of tasty if fudged "facts."

Add in the fact that Scott Beaumont writes cheap (After all, he writes for you. Case closed.), and that you've got a hole to fill in the back of the book.... well, the initials on the galley that say "OK to Publish" sort of write themselves. The backbrain of your editorial mind whispers, "Of course it is true." Your forebrain asks, if it asks anything at all, "Why?" And the reptilian backbrain whispers back, "Because It's Too Good Not To Be True."

Foer, after coming to the personal realization that he's published a sheaf of fictionalized fantasies, has yet to recant. Perhaps he never will.

But that won't matter because I tell you right now that any editor who reads the Beauchamp tripe with even a smidgen of professional detachment and a questioning mind backed by a jot of military knowledge would have turned it around at the gate -- if fair was his aim. But fair was not the aim here -- getting the boot in was. Feeling "manly" at one remove played a role too. A small smear of the troops published in the form of a few harmless anecdotes really -- a burned woman mocked, a child's skull made into a plaything, a scurvy dog run down for the amusement of those battle-hardened Sgt. Fury style troops. Sort of serves them right, doesn't it? War is so cruel, isn't it.

Overall, I'm the last person to rehearse the sordid background and ultimate unraveling of Foer's Folly. That has been done and redone most ably by men who know, by men who served, and by men who are -- unlike Foer -- fully grown men.

I do note, however, that like a child unwilling to take his medicine, The New Republic under Foer, continues to whine and prevaricate in the doorway to the dentist's office. Today, they're latest squeal really starts to bring out the crying towel:

Indeed, we continue to investigate the anecdotes recounted in the Baghdad Diarist. Unfortunately, our efforts have been severely hampered by the U.S. Army. Although the Army says it has investigated Beauchamp's article and has found it to be false, it has refused our--and others'--requests to share any information or evidence from its investigation. What's more, the Army has rejected our requests to speak to Beauchamp himself, on the grounds that it wants "to protect his privacy." A Scott Beauchamp Update

What is one to say except that seldom has a statement so pathetic in tone and temper been signed "by the Editors" at The New Republic or any other magazine I can recall.

Translation: "It's.... it's..... it's the big, bad Army that's doing it. They have 'severely hampered' us. What can we do? Woe is us!" ad_a1.jpg

Well, kid, here's what you can do. You can come off of "vacation," ditch the email, get off the phones, and get your ass on a plane to Iraq with notepad, press credentials, and camera. Michael Totten does it on his own dime. You've got a corporation behind you. Matt Sanchez manages to get to the base in question within days of the issue being raised. As far as we know, you're still dicking around somewhere in the states.

You want to get to the bottom of the story, Franklin? Here's a clue. Do some real reporting. Put your boots on the ground. Be the Jimmy Olsen of your generation.

And then... take your medicine like a man, kid. It might hurt at first but in the end, you'll be the better for it. Don't worry about being canned. You've got plenty of time for new career. Maybe you can be the man who manages Scott Beauchamp's new "Cindy Sheehanesque" political career.

** Here's how New York magazine framed Foer in April of 2006:
[Foer's] the youngest of the four, at 31. And while he used to work for Slate, he's a believer in print. "The thing that sort of unites us is that we're all trying to preserve a style of journalism that flies in the face of the onslaught of the blogosphere," he says. "You get the sense that if you grow up editing blogs, you have a different cognitive framework." Foer's dad was a New Republic subscriber. "When I was a wee boy, it was on the coffee table and it connoted something really important to me -- a certain level of authority and fun." He joined the weekly as a writer in 2000, and it was partly his loudly held opinions on how to improve the magazine, which has lost 40 percent of its circulation in the past four years, that got him noticed. America's Highbrow Magazines Hand Over the Reins to a New Generation

Bob Parks outlines just how deep runneth the shite for Wee Beauchamp:

Some at The New Republic would be high-fiving if they could post Beauchamp blaming his situation, as well as the deaths of innocent Iraqis and their dogs on Bush and Cheney....

Those at The New Republic wouldn't be in trouble, but today Pvt. Beauchamp is. Serious trouble.

Those at The New Republic can sit protected by the 1st Amendment while leaving Beauchamp exposed to a military that has no obligation to let him speak to anyone. The Army doesn't have to let Beauchamp talk to his mother, let alone The New Republic. Also, the Army has no obligation to say one damn word to anyone in the press about what color the drapes in the chow hall is, let alone speak to someone who has enabled one of their soldiers to violate the UCMJ. Black & Right: The New Republic Just Doesn't Get It

Youth Meme Continues: "The most benign explanation for this credulity is that none of the youngsters running TNR knew a blessed thing about a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and were too arrogant, lazy or stupid to check into the matter." Dean Barnett

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Posted by Vanderleun at August 10, 2007 5:15 PM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Anyone who can use "wee boy" and "connoted" in the same sentence has more than proven his manliness.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at August 10, 2007 10:10 PM

Funny, you call 'game over,' when there are serious questions about the credibility of the alleged investigation by the Army. Where is the intense parsing, the extreme skepticism, the "truth" bar raised into the stratosphere? Or are YOUR partisan blinders colored a deeper shade of rose than you accuse Foer of?

And, if you're RIGHT, there ought to be plenty of time to dissect your victim, when the issue is settled, rather than this craven rush to judgment that you seem so enamored of.

Worse, there is something of the latent sadist in joining a concerted attempt to deprive a man of his job, his reputation and his career.

For someone who harps so excessively on "manliness" a la "by men who are -- unlike Foer -- fully grown men," it would seem that you know little about the manly virtues of moderation, of temperance, of mercy and of kindness.

Rather, your post is cruel, filled with girlish backbiting and the schoolyard sadism of the bully of questionable masculinity.

Of course, the hallmark of the coward is the craven swagger of the bully. Would you care to rephrase your vitriol? Or will this stand in your historical record?

Posted by: Hart Williams at August 10, 2007 10:57 PM

No I wouldn't care to. For all your carping you are, I regret to say, quite simply wrong.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at August 11, 2007 1:19 AM

First, the picture of Foer had me smiling. It screams "Smarty pants", and epitomizes the urban, passive-aggressive, creative class twits of a certain age that I see lounging about all over my SF bay area city during regular work hours...just so many of them...
Second, it goes back to "The facts didn't fit the narrative" thing that we are seeing increasingly.
The dudes just got caught.

Posted by: AJ at August 11, 2007 8:00 AM

This Lovely Cabal

The game of gotcha has been going on in American politics since our Revolutionary War. Washington was betrayed not only by Arnold, but also by other generals and congressman who attempted to make him look bad for their own advancement. This has gone on and on and now here we are. The Socialists rotate all things and ponder how they can make maximum use of each issue. Mrs. Clinton can be quoted on all sides of just about everything.

Bush is the Socialist's enemy, not those who kill innocent civilians for political purposes. And our military is becoming the enemy, just like in Vietnam, merely because they do what their Commander-in-Chief tells them to do.

Socialists believe FDR was a great world leader. Under his administration over 400,000 Americans were killed during World War 2 in about four years of fighting. My question is this: would he not have been a better leader had he lead the free nations in taking pre-emptive action in the 1930's to remove Hitler from power and lost many less American lives?

And should the Republicans have played gotcha with each American, German, and Japanese death? Perhaps the America First crowd could have dragged out a mother of some serviceman killed at Pearl Harbor, taking FDR and his administration to task for allowing her beloved son to be needlessly killed. Truth is FDR sucked as Commander-in-Chief until mid 1942. He put us on a collision course with Japan (some say on purpose-read: Day of Defeat) and lost at Pearl Harbor and the First Battle for the Philippines. He got 3336 Navy and Marine personnel alone killed in those two battles. Way to prepare for the war Mr. President!


Perhaps when the Socialists retake the White House they will want to battle terrorists and the countries that support them.

Will gotcha be played as well as it is now?

Posted by: JD at August 11, 2007 9:31 AM


For the sake of argument, let's grant that the Army has engaged in a massive conspiracy to slander Private Beauchamp. Beauchamp's diaries would still be BS. It doesn't take an official Army investigation to prove it. It only takes a little common sense and objectivity.

Start with a simple question. Could an incredibly noisy 50,000 pound tracked vehicle with 30 inch tracks sneak up on a sleeping feral dog, swerve, and cut it in half. Of course not--not ever.

Set aside that experienced Bradley drivers and the OEM say that it's impossible.

Posted by: Olld Dad at August 11, 2007 10:03 AM
That has been done and redone most ably by men who know, by men who served, and by men who are -- unlike Foer -- fully grown men.

Yeah, I know. It would have ruined the flow. :-)

Posted by: baldilocks at August 11, 2007 5:20 PM

Yes, For someone who harps so excessively on "manliness" a la "by men who are -- unlike Foer -- fully grown men," it would seem that you know little about the manly virtues of moderation, of temperance, of mercy and of kindness.

Posted by: Wire at August 14, 2007 1:52 AM

It is neither temperate, nor merciful, nor kind to let children continue in their errors of behavior. The result is always a spoiled group of children -- much as we see today playing in the fields of The New Republic.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at August 14, 2007 10:19 AM
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