You cover a war commander, he's got to be able to trust that you're not going to embarrass him.Otherwise, how can he possibly feel confident that the right message will get out?True, the Pentagon does have perhaps the single largest public relations apparatus on earth –spending $4.7 billion on P.R. in 2009 alone and employing 27,000 people, a staff nearly as largeas the 30,000-person State Department – but is that really enough to ensure positive coverage ina society armed with a constitutionally-guaranteed free press? And true, most of the major TV outlets are completely in the bag for the Pentagon, with two of them (NBC/GE and Logan's own CBS, until recently owned by Westinghouse, one of the world'slargest nuclear weapons manufacturers) having operated for years as leaders in both the broadcast media and weapons-making businesses.But is that enough to guarantee a level playing field? Can a general really feel safe that Americans will get the right message when the only tools he has at his disposal are a $5 billion P.R. budgetand the near-total acquiescence of all the major media companies, some of whom happen to bethe Pentagon's biggest contractors?Does the fact that the country is basically barred from seeing dead bodies on TV, or the fact thatan embedded reporter in a war zone literally cannot take a shit without a military attaché at hisside (I'm not joking: while embedded at Camp Liberty in Iraq, I had to be escorted from my bunk to the latrine) really provide the working general with the security and peace of mind he needs todo his job effectively? Apparently not, according to Lara Logan. Apparently in addition to all of this, reporters must alsohelp out these poor public relations underdogs in the Pentagon by adhering to an "unspokenagreement" not to embarrass the brass, should they tilt back a few and jam their feet into theirown mouths in front of a reporter holding a microphone in front of their faces.Then there's the part that made me really furious: Logan hinting that Hastings lied about thedamaging material being on the record:"Michael Hastings, if you believe him, says that there were no ground rules laid out. And, I mean,that just doesn't really make a lot of sense to me… I mean, I know these people. They never lettheir guard down like that. To me, something doesn't add up here. I just — I don't believe it."I think the real meaning of that above quote is made clear in conjunction with this one: "Thereare very good beat reporters who have been covering these wars for years, year after year. MichaelHastings appeared in Baghdad fairly late on the scene, and he was there for a significant period of time. He has his credentials, but he's not the only one. There are a lot of very good reporters outthere. And to be fair to the military, if they believe that a piece is balanced, they will let you back."Let me just say one thing quickly: I don't know Michael Hastings. I've never met him and he's nota friend of mine. If he cut me off in a line in an airport, I'd probably claw his eyes out like I would with anyone else. And if you think I'm being loyal to him because he works for
, well – let's just say my co-workers at the
would laugh pretty hard at that idea.But when I read this diatribe from Logan, I felt like I'd known Hastings my whole life. Because brother, I have been there, when some would-be "reputable" journalist who's just been severely ass-whipped by a relative no-name freelancer on an enormous story fights back by going ontelevision and, without any evidence at all, accusing the guy who beat him of cheating. That'shappened to me so often, I've come to expect it. If there's a lower form of life on the planet earththan a "reputable" journalist protecting his territory, I haven't seen it. As to this whole "unspoken agreement" business: the reason Lara Logan thinks this is becauseshe's like pretty much every other "reputable" journalist in this country, in that she suffers froma profound confusion about who she's supposed to be working for. I know this from my yearscovering presidential campaigns, where the same dynamic applies. Hey, assholes:
you do not work for the people you're covering!
Jesus, is this concept that fucking hard? On the campaigntrail, I watch reporters nod solemnly as they hear about the hundreds of millions of dollarscandidates X and Y and Z collect from the likes of Citigroup and Raytheon and Archer DanielsMidland, and it blows my mind that they never seem to connect the dots and grasp where all thatmoney is going. The answer, you idiots, is that it's buying advertising! People like George Bush,John McCain, Barack Obama, and General McChrystal for that matter, they can afford to buy their own P.R. — and they do, in ways both honest and dishonest, visible and invisible.They don't need your help, and you're giving it to them anyway, because you just want to be partof the club so so badly. Disgustingly, that's really what it comes down to. Most of these reporters just want to be inside the ropeline so badly, they want to be able to say they had that beer withHillary Clinton in a bowling alley in Scranton or whatever, that it colors their whole worldview.God forbid some important person think you're not playing for the right team!Meanwhile, the people who don't have the resources to find out the truth and get it out in front of the public's eyes, your readers/viewers, you're supposed to be working for them — and they're notgetting your help. What the hell are we doing in Afghanistan? Is it worth all the bloodshed andthe hatred? Who are the people running this thing, what is their agenda, and is that agenda thesame thing we voted for? By the severely unlikely virtue of a drunken accident we get a tiny glimpse of an answer to some of these vital questions, but instead of cheering this as a great break for our profession, a waytago moment, one so-called reputable journalist after anotherlines up to protest the leak and attack the reporter for doing his job. God, do you all suck!