October 22, 2007

"Stonewall" Wasn't Just the Name of a General

Franklin Foer continues to erode the credibility of The New Republic as he refuses to address the Scott Thomas Beauchamp "Shock Troops" scandal, which started out as series of questions about the veracity of anecdotes told by an anonymous soldier, but has now developed into a desperate bid by TNR's editors to stonewall their way through mounting evidence that they orchestrated an ill-conceived cover-up of their own editorial failures.

All three of the anecdotes told under the pseudonym "Scott Thomas" in "Shock Troops" have been debunked by a combination of civilian contractor testimony, military veteran testimony, subject matter experts, and a formal U.S. Army investigation that spoke to every relevant soldier in the author's unit, only to come away without so much as a single corroborating account.

There was no "burned woman" at FOB Falcon that was abused by the author as a result of the horrors of battle he'd seen, which undermined the entire premise of the article. TNR sought to spin this as a trivial matter, even as it moved the location of this dark fantasy from FOB Falcon in Iraq after the author had been in combat and seen the horrors of war, to a staging camp in Kuwait before he had ever seen battle.

Instead of posting an immediate retraction, of course, TNR continued to slog on, even though it was quickly determine that there was no burned woman at the base in Kuwait, either, which was relayed to TNR senior editor Jason Zengerle, who was told the story was a rumor or "urban legand [sic]." Zengerle was told this well in advance of the August 10 story that has become the last word from TNR on the subject. Zengerle declined to tell his readers that this story was an urban legend. No one yet has come forward to say that they have seen such a woman, probably because she does not exist.

The second claim, that soldiers discovered human remains in what was described as a Saddam Hussein-era dump during the creation of Combat Outpost (COP) Ellis, and that one soldier wore part of a child's skull, was the anecdote in "Shock Troops" that was the single greatest concern in the formal military investigation, as told by the investigating officer, Major John Cross. Veterans, active duty soldiers, and civilians alike were dubious that someone would wear rotting human flesh directly against their skin for any length of time, much less the hours-long period told in this tale. Veterans familiar with the design of the close-fitting helmet flatly denied it was possible to even put such material between the wearer's head and the helmet. In the end, the formal investigation could find not a single member of Beauchamp's unit that would corroborate this story, which the author himself apparently refuses to support.

The third and perhaps the most outlandish claim, of a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV: a kind of tracked and armed armored personnel carrier with a crew of three) driver who used his vehicle to smash infrastructure and run over dogs, was one of the easiest stories to debunk, and one that also showed just how deceptive the editors of The New Republic were willing to be in continuing with their charade.

Veteran APC and IFV crewmen, including commanders and drivers, quickly discounted the possibility that the driver in the author's fantasy could make the Bradley do what he claimed; it simply wasn't designed in a way to move as he said it moved. Every single Bradley driver and and commander in his unit was interviewed during the course of the Army investigation, and all said the account was false.

But the depths of how far The New Republic was willing to go to deceive their readers was exposed when one of the anonymous experts the magazine claimed had supported their version of events in the Bradley story was found, and told a quite different story, indeed.

This morning at Powerline, Scott John keeps the pressur eon the dishonest and deceptive editors of The New Republic with It's the coverup that kills you, part 3.

We now know that TNR editor Franklin Foer and executive editor Peter Scoblic spoke with Scott Beauchamp on September 7. Dogged blogger Bob Owens learned of the call from an Army spokesman. Why have "the editors" not disclosed the substance of their conversation with Beauchamp?

In their conversation with Beauchamp, Beauchamp must not have provided Foer and Scoblic a single fact with which to substantiate his "Shock troops" column. Six weeks after speaking with Beauchamp "the editors" have not addressed the report that Beauchamp recanted his column in the course of the Army investigation of its allegations. And commanding officer Colonel Ricky Gibbs has since confirmed that report.

In their September 7 phone call with Beauchamp, Foer and Scoblic asked their author to cancel interviews he had scheduled with the Washington Post and Newsweek. Again, they seem to think that stonewalling will allow them to ride out the scandal. They must be counting on the kindness of their friends in the MSM to cooperate. And to date their confidence has not been disappointed.

Upon taking the reins of TNR, editor Franklin Foer declared: "My priority is to put out the most intellectually provocative, intellectually honest magazine possible." Foer's aspiration for TNR now reads like a piece of black humor.

Far from intellectual honesty, the senior editor staff of The New Republic have proven their intractable corruption. Editor Franklin Foer, Executive Editor J. Peter Scoblic, and Senior Editor Jason Zengerle failed to do their jobs as editors, published a false story (though there are indications that all three of the author's stories were fabricated, in whole or in part), more than likely lied when they claimed the allegations made had been fact-checked prior to publication, and then ran a false investigation that involved misrepresenting the claims of at least one expert, while attempting to bury the story and exerting influence over the author to cancel interviews with other interested publications.

As Ed Morrissey notes today of a previous TNR scandal:

Near the end of Shattered Glass, Peter Sarsgaard as editor Charles Lane (now at the Washington Post) scolds Chloe Sevigny as Caitlin Avey after she keeps making excuses for Stephen Glass. "He handed us fiction after fiction and we printed them all as fact. Just because... we found him "entertaining." It's indefensible. Don't you know that?"

TNR knew it in 1998. Unfortunately, they no longer understand it in 2007. It's just as indefensible now as it was then -- in fact, given their history, even more indefensible now. Franklin Foer has managed to do more damage to the magazine than Stephen Glass did, thanks to an inept response and continued stonewalling in the face of the truth. In their silence, TNR has acknowledged that they care more for narrative than fact.

Details will continue to trickle out revealing just how deceptive the editorial staff at The New Republic has been to its readership and critics alike, and once those details are made public, I very much doubt that Franklin Foer, Peter Scoblic, and Jason Zengerle will be able to survive the coming purge.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at October 22, 2007 09:34 AM

Hello TNR. I'm glad you're reading Bob's site to see what people are saying about your publication. When are you going to publish a wrap up on this debacle? A "What Went Wrong" piece might be the best way to go instead of further obfuscation and finger pointing.

Bob, keep up the good work!

Posted by: daleyrocks at October 22, 2007 11:22 AM

Would a sobbing confession of guilt by Foer satisfy you sadists? You remind me of a cat playing with a mouse.

Posted by: Banjo at October 22, 2007 12:47 PM

Banjo - The truth is usually a good starting point. Why is that sadistic?

Posted by: daleyrocks at October 22, 2007 01:13 PM

as much fun as I'm having reading this, remember the TNR has no interest in answering your allegations; from their perspective, you're simply some noise in the distance and your questioning the official story line has no more credibility than the (no) credibility you give those questioning 9/11. While it would be nice if their subscribers left in protest, it's far more likely that they will stay to show their support for the editors for not letting partisan hacks such as yourself keep the editors from speaking truth to power...

Posted by: steve sturm at October 22, 2007 01:17 PM

Geez, who cares now except for an obsessive few? Old news.

Posted by: nunaim at October 22, 2007 02:46 PM

Geez, who cares now except for an obsessive few? Old news.

Har! This nugget coming from the port side, which obsesses over Skull & Bones, 1930s banking relations with the 3d Reich, and the 2000 election.

Not just "har," but "har-de-har-har!" Throw in a ROFL, and we're in business.


P.S. Until TNR comes clean, their motto is Falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus.

Posted by: Rick at October 22, 2007 03:01 PM

Do not feed the trolls.

That is all.

Carry on.

Posted by: MTT at October 22, 2007 04:34 PM

Do not feed the trolls.

Pointing and laughing isn't quite feeding them, is it?


Posted by: Rick at October 22, 2007 05:09 PM
Pointing and laughing isn't quite feeding them, is it?
Depends on the troll. Some thrive on negative attention. Posted by: C-C-G at October 22, 2007 05:44 PM

I'm glad multiple sources are keeping at this.

I'm glad the internet allows those sources significant coverage. 15 years ago and the stonewalling would have been completely effective. Today, the main stream media's silence has kept it out of the minds of most people but enough is getting out to be significant.

I just can't wait for the movie version...

Shattered Glass was good, and it ended on a fairly positive, redeeming note with the decisions of the editors to come clean and do real investigations into all of Glass' stories and trot out themselves the stuff they could not verify.

The next movie should be even better, because nervous cultural elites hovering around a table laying out a cover up just makes for better screen action than seeing them do the right thing....

Posted by: usinkorea at October 22, 2007 06:54 PM

Geez, who cares now long as the TNR format is officially changed to something along the lines of the pulp Fantasy and Science Fiction.

If they continue purporting to report non-fiction, well that's another story.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at October 22, 2007 08:57 PM

After Foer and the senior management of TNR resigns (at the demand of its owners - Foer's career is done, so he won't go willingly), TNR has an opportunity to re-orient its efforts. Numerous examples of exceptional effort in the corporate world have emerged from the collapse of misaligned and misguided firms.

Strong leadership at TNR who is capable of terminating any and all staffers who refuse to accept the highest ethical standard would provide the publication with the foundation to grow, and through a realignment of focus from today's Bushitler derangement to one of objective, investigative exposure of all political wrongs, independent of party, might just be refreshing enough to prevent the publication from probable extinction.

Contrary to the one-dimensional, nuance-lacking simplicity of the Kos crowd, I'd expect most conservatives here would read and support a publication that objectively exposes irresponsible behavior by our politicians regardless of party. I'd welcome any exposure of actual wrongdoing by Republicans. I've been openly critical of Senator Grassley's rainforest pork-fest (a reward to some of his contributors). If the left is to ever have any legitimate complaint about the spiraling budget deficit and debt, it absolutely must join the right on the condemnation of all pork.

There's no shortage of controversy, corruption or unethical behavior from politicans on both sides of the aisle. A clean-slate approach at TNR which rids the organization of most of its current inept and unethical management and enabling staffers is mandatory for it to have any chance of survival.

Posted by: redherkey at October 23, 2007 09:14 AM

TNR is thoroughly discredited. Why continue dragging the corpse through the streets?

Posted by: Banjo at October 23, 2007 10:11 AM

Foer is slowly turning into toast. He is seemingly petrified at what has happened. To admit to, and to explain what, would topple the stack of beer crates he pontificates from.

Posted by: mockinbird at October 23, 2007 10:50 AM

>Foer is slowly turning into toast

Foer reminds me of the guy with the goatee, beret and 2.1 GPA in college who used to make "profound observations" about complexities and mysteries that were actually neither complex nor unknown, but just required you actually read the homework and attend class.

For example, TNR's Walter Duranty Reed today pundits: "Why does the team with the worst skills in the league end up with so many pennants?" in reference to his musing on why "observers foreign and domestic have agreed that Americans don't do foreign policy well" yet keep winning the wars.

An objective analyst doesn't immediately proceed to set the context as follows: "Moralistic, uninformed, unsubtle, alternately isolationist and hyperactive, hamstrung by a clumsy constitutional process and a public that oscillates between fatuous idealism and ignorant bellicosity, U.S. foreign policy has been shocking the world for more than 200 years."

With such distorted context, is there any surprise Mead can't find his way out of the wet paper sack?

Instead, a careful review of the subject might reveal that the U.S. has been successful in obtaining correct outcomes precisely because it has recognized at the right times that the so-called field of international affairs is a useless, ineffective domain filled with intellectually idle trust-fund offspring, poseurs, "men of letters" and other contemplators of grand but otherwise useless thoughts.

While much of the European experience has been wasted on these amusements of the aristocracy, the grinders who represent America's real dynamo have learned when to cut off our own persons of international affairs and effect real change through action. While Mead observes the U.S. was capable of "overcoming the opposition of European powers that had larger armies and navies", he immediately confuses the the outcome with inputs, claiming Europeans had: "better-organized policy- making, a more nuanced view of the world, and a less cumbersome political structure (also known as authoritarian rule, which Mead and TNR elites idolize).

It was simply put by my grandfather who was a veteran of WW-II in Europe: The reason the US won the war was explained by the difference in fixing a broken military vehicle. When a European's vehicle broke down, their soldiers would sit passively until an authorized repair technician could arrive to perform an assessment and communicate recommendations back to the "better-organized policy-making" institution. On the other hand, when a U.S. Jeep broke down, a handful of lowly, unqualified GIs would jump out and tinker with it until it was fixed.

Indeed, Americans lack what is more correctly referred to as poseur-nuance. They're incapable of deferring action through excessive contemplation which serves as a process for deferring responsibility. They instead convert observations to actions and effect productive outcomes.

From reading Duranty-Mead's column, there's no surprise that nobody in TNR has the capacity to take any action necessary to save the failing organization. They'll hide, defer, contemplate and ultimately avoid all accountability until the organization they are responsible for fails.

Posted by: redherkey at October 23, 2007 12:17 PM

The corpse is still being dragged through the street, because the publican is still taken as a "serious" outlet in our society and those who put it out continue to refuse to rectify the situation. As noted by several in this thread, and in the post, TNR took a lot of heat for the Glass debacle, but they also received credit for having done the right thing when the lies were brought to a head.

As for TNR turning itself around, I think one part of the problem with it is the same with media coverage over all ---- they have cut the budgets so far, except for the mammoth salaries some of the very top people get in the big organizations, they have forced themselves to rely on younger and younger people in higher and higher positions.

I'm not trying to be age-ist here, but the higher percentage of 20-somethings you have running the show, the more likely you are going to get people who are too green or too immature or too loose with rules, and the more you trust them in key positions and in key roles, the more you're going to get burned.

Posted by: usinkorea at October 23, 2007 05:20 PM

Banjo, mind telling us all why you object to keeping the pressure on TNR?

Posted by: C-C-G at October 23, 2007 08:42 PM

> but the higher percentage of 20-somethings you have running the show...

I'd suggest its more generalized than that; the higher the percentage of persons in positions of authority that don't understand there are other references -- standards, best practices, case studies of miserable failures, etc. -- the more likely failure is as an outcome.

I'm consistently amazed at how progressives refuse to reference other sources for guidance. In business, they're usually the most likely to re-invent wheels. Like my previous comment about the goatee beret-wearing slacker, their refusal to actually do the homework causes them to suffer avoidable consequences. Unfortunately, their disregard for crisis response standards compounds their disregard for corporate ethics, the failing of their organizational controls, and numerous other meltdowns which indicate a brand likely to be soon discontinued per catastrophic, irrecoverable failure.

It's unfortunate; TNR is increasingly a consultant's dream. I'd walk in with parent ownership on day one, explaining the classic crisis management case studies (e.g. the classic Tylenol quick-response strategy - see here for details: ). All the basics are there - defuse the crisis, stop digging holes, acknowledge the harm, clearly communicate a response, and by all means, MEAN WHAT YOU DO by showing it with clear action. Fire Foer tomorrow and terminate all of the staff, run the brand from another publication in transition, and re-seed the brand with qualified, ethical professionals and you have a chance at recovering the CanWest investment. Otherwise, it's a terminally wounded dog destined to irrecoverable losses.

Apparently, the TNR disaster suggests that parent management at CanWest is in serious jeopardy. That Foer would trash a single brand is unsurprising; that CanWest can't seem to integrate and control the brand is an indication of serious troubles overall. Perhaps CanWest will serve as a definitive case study of the dangers of mixing politics and media ownership.

Posted by: redherkey at October 23, 2007 09:26 PM

Bob, it is only through your hard work, persistence and drive that this story exists where it is today. Having Drudge get the hits on the final nail will NEVER change the fact that you made this story! You did us all proud: without your well written, well researched, and well documented work I would never have had a chance to learn how far TNR would fall.
You have done this in the past, your reports are a must read, and your efforts are noticed.

Thank you.

Posted by: Diane at October 24, 2007 01:48 PM

most interested in banjos concern about dragging the corpse around the walls of troy--has TNR said anything that would suggest mercy should be considered? Until TNR and their idiot editors acknowledge they lied like rugs and debased journalism, the corpse should be dragged around until it disappears in tatters. Go achilles!

Posted by: Roger at October 24, 2007 02:16 PM

"My priority is to put out the most intellectually provocative, intellectually honest magazine possible."

He said honest, not factual. Those are different terms on the left wing. I'd say in his mind he's upheld his promise.

Posted by: shimrod at October 24, 2007 03:22 PM

This was so well said it's worth repeating:

"Far from intellectual honesty, the senior editor staff of The New Republic have proven their intractable corruption. Editor Franklin Foer, Executive Editor J. Peter Scoblic, and Senior Editor Jason Zengerle failed to do their jobs as editors, published a false story (though there are indications that all three of the author's stories were fabricated, in whole or in part), more than likely lied when they claimed the allegations made had been fact-checked prior to publication, and then ran a false investigation that involved misrepresenting the claims of at least one expert, while attempting to bury the story and exerting influence over the author to cancel interviews with other interested publications."

Unfortunately, TNR as well as the rest of the mainstream "news" media know that they can get away with it. Who will hold them accountable? Certainly not a member of their cozy little club.

Posted by: Mike's America at October 24, 2007 11:05 PM

This continues to have a disproportionate impact on women and minorities.

Posted by: Ardmoor Oakes at October 25, 2007 12:47 PM

Kinda curious abour a point from the transcript, when TNR (not the Army) is pressuring PV1 Beauchamp. The editors tell the Private that he will never be able to go back to writing.

If he has been telling the truth the whole time AND TNR was not Fairbanksing-up his dispatches, then what is keeping him from writing in the future?

Robert Fisk still has a job, and he is still writing phony stories. Eve Fairbanks still has a job with TNR, as an Editor no less, and she still has a job. Maureen Dowd too, for that matter.

Posted by: Guy Montag at October 27, 2007 08:13 AM