Alex Massie

Department of missing the point completely

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Good grief. Jonah Goldberg makes this argument:

I think, even if broadly accurate, Frank made a mistake in running these pieces because they aren’t up to the standards of his magazine and they advance an argument I don’t think the New Republic should be making. Liberals don’t want to beat up on the troops anymore, they want to enlist them as victims.  The subtext of the pieces is that the war has made American soldiers evil or at least put holes in their souls. But, at this point at least (and I would argue always), I think it’s pretty clear that even if true, Beauchamp’s experience is not representative. But, lacking editorial rebuttal of any kind, the editors of the New Republic seemed to want people to think it is. That’s a bad argument for the New Republic, liberalism and everybody else. Regardless, whatever point-scoring opportunities there may be here, I’m saddened by the whole thing. I certainly won’t be jumping for joy if Beauchamp turns out to be another fabulist.  Nor will I think his diarists are an indictment of anybody but Beauchamp himself if they are corroborated.

Brilliant. But let's remember, please, that Pvt Beauchamp's piece appeared as a "Baghdad Diarist". You need a head full of sawdust to interpret a piece that was clearly one individual's story and perspective as an indictment of the entire US military. Quite the opposite and, lo, Beauchamp himself explicitly rejects that claim:

My pieces were always intended to provide my discrete view of the war; they were never intended as a reflection of the entire U.S. Military. I wanted Americans to have one soldier's view of events in Iraq.

The fact that TNR didn't run an editorial distancing the magazine from Pvt Beauchamp's piece proves precisely nothing. It is certainly not an implicit assent to the proposition that Us soldiers are "evil" and it requires either considerable stupidity or a remarkable dose of bad faith to argue or pretend that it does.

Sometimes, you know, magazines or newspapers publish articles simply because they find them interesting. Not every piece comes laden with ideological baggage. Heck, TNR* is regularly criticised by liberals progressives for daring to publish pieces by conservatives - including employees of National Review. Apparently doing so justifies and lends legitimacy to conservative arguments and thus must be a betrayal of liberalism. This too is poppycock.

Sometimes an article is just an article.

*Standard TNR disclosure: I've written for the magazine in the past and count several TNR staffers as friends. On the other hand I've also written for National Review Online.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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