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  • Tuesday, December 12, 2006


    Adventures in Truthiness
    "Verdict first...truth later"

    This is a tough one.

    How do we approach a blogger who makes up his own "facts" as he goes along and yet expects to be considered "deeply serious"? If the post was written by just another rec-room variety blogger we would either ignore him, or there would be a call for one of those "bloggers ethics panels" that they have every few months because it keeps Jeff Jarvis off of the street and out of gangs. But what if the blogger is a journalist, and I use the term loosely since I don't know if being a columnist for a third-tier newspaper qualifies; particularly when the paper has a history of exposing plagiarists at other papers...and then hiring the plagiarist for themselves I speak, of course of the Boston Herald and neophyte blogger Jules Crittenden.
    This is tragic and horrible. An AP cameraman executed by insurgents in Iraq while doing his job.

    Aswan Ahmed Lutfallah, father of two small children, died because he was doing something the insurgents didn't want him to do. He could have stayed in the garage, where he was getting his car fixed. He died running toward action, which is what good newsmen do. He died for a paycheck, and maybe, if he was lucky, for something he believed in.

    This should not be confused with the AP's other problems in Iraq. Photographer Bilal Hussein, who operated with insurgents freely because he did what they wanted him to. Numerous other AP stringers and staffers who are complicit in reporting war crimes the U.S. military and Iraqi police say never happened, citing a source they say does not exist.
    Of course, Crittenden provides no facts or evidence that Bilal Hussein "operated with insurgents freely because he did what they wanted him to." because, well, there isn't any such evidence. And nobody knows for sure, because the Pentagon has decided that they don't want to talk about him:
    The Pentagon has brushed off a request from a journalist organization seeking more information and a decision on Bilal Hussein, an Associated Press photographer held for six months in Iraq without formal charges.

    Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, in a letter to the Committee to Protect Journalists, did not provide details about why Iraqi photographer Bilal Hussein continues to be held without charges at a U.S.-run prison camp. He instead repeated the military's longstanding assertion that it detained Hussein under authority of U.N. resolutions and in accord with the Geneva Conventions.


    Whitman, in his response, said Hussein has been notified and given an opportunity to provide information for consideration in at least two of three military reviews of his detention.

    But an AP executive said that was true only for one of the three hearings — and the notice came after the hearing took place.

    "Bilal Hussein was not aware that any of these took place," said Dave Tomlin, AP's associate general counsel. "So he obviously wasn't present for any of them, nor was he represented at any of them."

    "We regard all these so-called due process events as legally meaningless, and in fact consider it laughable that the term 'due process' would even be applied to them," Tomlin said.


    Hussein is one of an estimated 14,000 people detained as suspected security threats by the U.S. military worldwide; some 13,000 of them are in Iraq. Few are charged with a specific crime or given a chance before any court or tribunal to argue for their freedom.
    But that doesn't keep Crittenden from getting all gussied up as the Red Queen of Hearts and deciding that Hussein did what the insurgents wanted him to do, so off with his head! After all Crittenden was there, man, he walked the walk, he embedded with the, um, embedded-ed. Well, he wasn't actually there when all of the Hussein stuff was going on and doesn't have any first-hand knowledge but what does that matter when you have a nifty khaki safari jacket with lots of pockets and epaulets and shit. Check it out! Hem-ing-way!

    Sadly that was then and this is now, and these days Crittenden does his reporting from a lovely cubicle with tips coming in from Star Wars nerds, self-loathing racists with anger management issues, and losers. If that's not empirical truth or something that rhymes with truth, I don't know what is. Because, you see, these people just know deep down in their guts that Bilal Hussein is guilty guilty guilty because...well he's brown... and his name is Hussein...and, um, the government says so, and "no" you can't talk to him, now go away...

    So what cab we say about Jules Crittenden, or all journalistic Crittendens for that matter? Well, one could say, after reading both Jules and Danielle Crittenden that to be a Crittenden is to be a self-promoting hack of marginal talents getting by on familial connections.

    I can't prove it of course, but it has the ring of truthiness...


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