Sunday, November 18, 2012

Michael Hastings ruining journalism... again

By Frank Moraes

I really like Michael Hastings. Like most people, I learned about him when he published his explosive "The Runaway General" in Rolling Stone. I didn't give the article itself that much thought. A reporter had a good scoop. It was the reaction to the article that made me take notice of him. It seemed you couldn't turn the page of a magazine without being confronted with another journalist explaining why Hastings' article was a bad thing. Never again would the disgraced Stanley McChrystal trust him.

My opinion of Hastings went even higher when he appeared on Up with Chris Hayes in August and dismantled Josh Barro's fascist argument against Julian Assange. Even more than Jeremy Scahill, Hastings seems determined to get at the truth regardless (or perhaps because) of powerful interests.

Earlier this week, Hastings wrote an article for BuzzFeed, "The Sins Of General David Petraeus." He doesn't talk much about the sex scandal. In fact, he writes, "For the record: Who really cares whom P4 is sleeping with? The idea that the FBI was investigating his sex life says more about the FBI and our absurd surveillance and national security state than it does about King David's morality." Overall, he is understanding of both Petraeus' and Broadwell's dalliances.

The problem is not Petraeus' affair with Broadwell; it is Petraeus' affair with the media. Hastings then goes through the last ten years of his career and shows that it has been a sham. He managed to trick the Washington establishment into thinking that the Surge in Iraq was successful and then managed to get the Obama administration to repeat the Surge in Afghanistan -- with tragic results. All while the media cheered along.

Of course, just as after the Rolling Stone article, there were journalists who had to snipe. Dylan Byers at Politico wrote a hatchet piece. It is particularly offensive because it tries to psychoanalyze Hastings. Hastings lost his girlfriend in Iraq? He went after someone who worked at Little, Brown because they decided not to publish his book? Hastings considers himself a Gonzo journalist? What any of this has to do with anything is unclear.

A commenter, Tr Randolph, wrote what I thought was a very good reply to this bit of journalistic nonsense:

Reading this warning makes me like Michael Hastings even more. The idea that journalists aren't already advocates is hogwash. The cheerleading from media up to and in to the Iraq War was disgusting, but that wasn't deemed as advocating at the time. Embedded journalists were easily the biggest military advocates and Wikileaks proved they were either unable or unwilling to report horrific crimes carried out by the U.S. military...

When journalists at Politico and other places can actually start speaking to power (you know, that whole military industrial complex that you seem to gloss over) you can put Hastings out of work. Until you develop some substance yourselves, save your warnings.

Other commenters focused on one bit of Byers article that is worth repeating here:

If you believe that journalists are supposed to call bull when they see it, then Hastings is your man. But to those who believe journalists shouldn't be advocates -- either out of ethical concerns or practical ones (it's not always effective) -- Hastings is muddying sacred waters.

This is exactly the argument we heard against the Rolling Stone article: you shouldn't tell the truth about powerful people! If you do, you will lose access. And if you lose access, you won't be able to... continue not to tell the truth about them?

Afterword

This is a great bit of TV with Hastings at his best: 


(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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