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May 27, 2010

McChrystal and Marjah: If It Bleeds, It Leads!

I was disturbed the other day to hear that Gen. McChrystal had supposedly said that Marjah was a "bleeding ulcer". I wondered at the time whether he had been quoted accurately as the remark seemed impolitic, to say the least.

Interestingly, according to ISAF the "ulcer" quote was taken out of context:

The NATO International Security Assistance Force has criticized the headline on McClatchy's report Monday from Marjah, Afghanistan, "McChrystal calls Marjah a 'bleeding ulcer’ in Afghan campaign," as mischaracterizing the remarks of Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of ISAF forces in Afghanistan.

Here's the full text of its e-mail Tuesday, addressed to Mark Seibel, McClatchy managing editor, online, and the response by Roy Gutman, McClatchy foreign editor:

Dear Mr. Seibel,

I am writing to you today so that we might come to some agreement about what this command views as a mischaracterization in Dion Nissenbaum's article entitled "McChrystal calls Marjah a 'bleeding ulcer' in Afghan campaign" and other variations on that theme.

The key part of that dialogue that Dion witnessed was "You don't feel it here, but I'll tell you, it's a bleeding ulcer outside." That would have been further clarified by the quote Dion asked to use (which did not appear in the final edited copy) about Gen. McChrystal being asked in Europe and the U.S. whether we are failing. The essence of the comment is not that Marjah itself is going badly: as he said to Dion in a follow on interview on the plane ride back to Kabul — it's largely on track. It's that it's misperceived to be going badly. It's a distinction, but one I'm sure you grasp and one that could have been better conveyed, even accounting for the motive of wanting to generate interest in the story using the sensational quote: "McChrystal calls for action against perceptions of 'bleeding ulcer' in Marjah," etc.

While the "bleeding ulcer" quote was in the discussion that Dion said he'd summarize (and ended up quoting extensively), it's intellectually dishonest for The McClatchy Company to use that quote as a headline that summarizes his position. We need strongly request that the headline be changed in the on-line versions.

Based on the exchange between Dion and Gen. McChrystal's personal PAO, Lt Col Tadd Sholtis, we had every reason to expect a story about mixed progress throughout Central Helmand and an effort to keep operations moving at as rapid a pace as possible against the various challenges. Instead, post-editing, one must read some 14 paragraphs into the story in order to get anything that suggests the picture is mixed, and you need to go 40 paragraphs into the story in order to get anything that explains Gen. McChrystal's actual intent in the dialogues quoted. The elements of a balanced story are there, but with the way it's organized we didn't get one.

Finally, Dion's version of this story that appears on his blog is a much more balanced representation of what actually took place that day.

Respectfully,

Gregory J. Smith, Rear Admiral, USN
DCOS Communication
NATO International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan

All of which only confirms the old adage, "If it bleeds, it leads"!

Posted by Cassandra at May 27, 2010 11:00 AM

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Comments

That's not the right way to look at it. It isn't, if it bleeds, it leads. It is, if it makes Marja look like a leading wreck such that it hurts America, then it leads.

If it made the Left look like a bunch of bleeding traitors that McChrystal was trying to bleed out, then No, it does not lead.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 27, 2010 11:17 AM

Thus the information campaign part of this is to make McChrystal's comment about why the Left should stop making Americans bleed, into support for Americans bleeding in Marjah.

Disinformation works. That's why it is a weapon in the propaganda war.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 27, 2010 11:19 AM

Poor choice of words, perhaps.

Posted by: camojack at May 28, 2010 01:18 AM

it's largely on track. It's that it's misperceived to be going badly. It's a distinction, but one I'm sure you grasp and one that could have been better conveyed, even accounting for the motive of wanting to generate interest in the story using the sensational quote:"

See, that's the problem. In the original dialogue and this request for correction, the reporter didn't like hearing that things are largely on track. NO!! Can't have that! Reporters can never ever publish success stories. Never mind the fact that publishing success stories about Afghanistan or Iraq generates just as much comment these days, or more, than the stories about all the failure in both places . . . And the comments on the success stories usually are from those who believe that someone is lying about what is really going on over there.

Posted by: Nina at May 28, 2010 08:41 AM

It doesn't have to be the reporter. The editor often times decides what the head line is and the reporter can go suck sand. Reporters work for editors, not the other way around in the MSM.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 28, 2010 09:52 AM

The Main Sewer Media, in all intents and purposes, is much like a death cult. It has and needs members, yes, but they don't get much of a say in anything.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 28, 2010 09:53 AM

At many papers, the headlines are written by the junior, least paid, person on staff. I would hope that is not the case for the major nationals.

Posted by: Rex at May 30, 2010 11:24 PM

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