“It was the kind of crowd that would have made the Fool Killer lower his club and shake his head and walk away, frustrated by the magnitude of the opportunity.”— Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff
Where to begin with this one? Well, with the facts, I suppose.
- Newsweek publishes a small sidebar item alleging that interrogators at Guantanamo flushed a copy of the Qur’an down a toilet.
- The faithful in Afghanistan, incensed by this, stage riots in which several persons are killed.
- Newsweek determines that it cannot substantiate the allegation, and retracts it.
- The White House, scrupulous and unwavering adherent to the absolute truth that it is, comes down with the righteous indignation of injured virtue on Newsweek for running with something it wasn’t absolutely certain about, insinuating in the process that the blood of the dead Afghans is solely on Newsweek‘s hands. (Because this is, after all, a sentence in the exalted Periscope section, by all that’s holy, not something trivial like the decision to invade and ineptly occupy a fractious country in one of the most volatile regions in the world.)
Stepping in to assist with the arduous and thankless task of pillorying Newsweek is the full force of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders and the rest of the Jingosphere, who are never so indignant about the death of Muslims as when liberals or the mainstream media might somehow be implicated.
- A Pentagon investigation prompted by the furor over the Newsweek report determines that while it cannot be substantiated that the Qur’an was ever flushed down a toilet, it was definitely stepped on, kicked, and splashed — inadvertently, it would seem — with urine. In the proud tradition of righteous vindication and unblemished consciences since time immemorial, these findings are released late on a Friday afternoon, ensuring that they would quickly be plowed under by the weekend news cycle.
There is so much scorn and contempt to be dished out here that it’s hard to decide who gets the first helping.
The administration gets its usual generous serving, of course — this time for having the gall and effrontery to accuse Newsweek of insufficient regard for the truth. This from the people with such a long record of distortions, half-truths, and outright lies that we’ll need to devise a new numbering scheme just to catalog them all. It takes a certain kind of genius to straight-facedly accuse others of playing fast and loose with the facts when you yourself have swept so much dirt under the rug that the resulting bulge is making it hard to keep the lamps standing. It’s a kind of genius I don’t understand, and hope I never will.
Let’s save a healthy portion of the aforementioned scorn and contempt for the rioters, though. You need to be in possession of a highly-refined grade of dumbshit to let yourself, or fifteen of your countrymen, get killed over a book. I don’t care if it’s a holy book. If your God is so small and weak that treating a copy of His words with disrespect actually diminshes Him, then He and you both have more pressing problems.
Lest you think that I’m being cavalier because it’s not my holy book, let me disabuse you. You can damage or destroy as many copies of things I hold dear as you have the energy for. Shred them. Burn them. Piss on them. Wipe your ass with them. I don’t care. Because they are merely symbols, representations of things that cannot be destroyed unless you manage to kill every last person who knows and loves them. If you can’t understand the distinction, then you probably get a lot of weird looks in restaurants, too, because you must wind up forgetting yourself and taking a bite out of the pictures in the menu from time to time.
About the only people who don’t wind up looking bad in this entire pathetic shitstorm are the folks at Newsweek. They got the essence of the story right, if not its details. The fact that other people were stupid enough to kill or die over it is not Newsweek‘s fault. When it was revealed that they’d made a factual mistake, they went into a veritable frenzy of excruciatingly public self-examination, vowing to amend their processes in ways that would prevent a recurrence. If I’m worried about anything as regards them, it’s not that they’ll make a similar mistake again, but that this whole sorry affair has left them so cautious as to be ineffective. The people running the clown show need more scrutiny, not less, and Newsweek needs to keep its part to provide it.