June 30, 2010

[H/t Heather]

In the wake of the General McChrystal firing because of the article titled: Runaway General, Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings is being berated for the fact that he was "hanging around" the general and his staff and therefore somehow must have hypnotized his crew into expressing thoughts and feelings that were classified. (Kind of like the Svengali-like powers only Russian spies in espionage novels by Robert Ludlum could possess.)

And after they were duped by his super powers of persuasion by the great 'hang out,' he was somehow able to put together the type of long form journalism that has been sorely lacking in the traditional media of today. You would think he would be celebrated by the mainstream press for getting a tremendous scoop by doing real investigative journalism, but instead he's being vilified. Are they just jealous, or do they feel their access is now threatened too? The type of access that allows them to print almost propaganda type press released, but gets them invited to cocktail parties.

I didn't realize Michael Hastings 'hang out' interview technique was so easy to do. Find a destination that is remote enough because let's face it, McChrystal was the general in charge of the entire Afghanistan war. It's not like he's hanging around a Jack In The Box, sucking down a a few tacos. Buy a couple of guys a drink at an Irish pub in France and suddenly they open up and tell what they think of Vice President Biden. That was very slimy of Michael Hastings, we now learn.

Here's Howard Kurtz:

KURTZ: And he got fired rather quickly by President Obama. Do you think that McChrystal and his top aides got so used to your hanging around that they let their guard down?

Yeah, the elite team that McChrystal assembled was easily distracted by the constant appearance of Hastings, so they let their guard down. And these are the men running a war. Don't you feel confident now that it will end soon?

Hastings' response:

HASTINGS: No. I don't think that was the case, because some of the most talked-about parts of the piece happened within the first 24 hours that I was with his team.

One of the most -- I guess people have called it inflammatory passages is when I quote a top adviser saying, "Biden -- did you say 'bite me'?" That was the second morning I was with them in Paris covering an on-the-record meeting that they were having to prepare for a speech later on.

I mean, in fly-on-the-wall journalism, you're there to capture exactly those kinds of moments.

But you were hanging around, Michael. Dammit, you unprofessional hack.

KURTZ: But when you are there --

HASTINGS: That what makes fly-on-the-wall journalism so wonderful to read.

KURTZ: When you are there that much, you don't think it's likely that McChrystal and his team assume that some of their joking, that some of their banter would be treated by you as off the record?

... You got some criticism for quoting one comment by one aide while he was getting drunk, or "hammered" is the way you put it. Any second thoughts about that?

HASTINGS: Which quote are you referring to?

KURTZ: I don't have the piece in front of me, but certainly it's been widely commented upon that there was some drinking going on.

Michael, I have a big show on CNN and I ask the questions because I'm the media critic even if I don't know what I'm asking about, OK? You fill in the blanks. And really, these people were getting shitfaced. Isn't that a bad time to ask them questions?

HASTINGS: Yes. There was drinking going on.

But the only quote from that scene, if I remember, were two of the top senior military officials singing a song that they called "The Afghanistan Song." So I quoted the refrain which was, "Afghanistan!" "Afghanistan!"

And then I quoted General McChrystal observing his men, and saying, "I'd die for these men, and they'd die for me." I don't see what's so controversial about those quotes.

Bam. Take that beeatch!

KURTZ: You certainly did illuminate the human side of war. Michael Hastings, thank you very much for joining us from Afghanistan.

Now let's hear from fellow Beltway Villager CBS Lara Logan who has been pretty damn good covering Iraq.

LOGAN: Well, it really depends on the circumstances. It's hard to know -- 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, because if you look at the people around General McChrystal, if you look at his history, he was the Joint Special Operations commander. He has a history of not interacting with the media at all.

And his chief of intelligence, Mike Flynn, is the same. I mean, I know these people. They never let their guard down like that.

To me, something doesn't add up here. I just -- I don't believe it.

Interpretation: "F--k him, Howard, he beat me to the scoop so he must be full of shit."

Or maybe it was because he took the time out after meeting the general earlier and went by himself to seek out General McChrystal and his staff and ask to do a real article instead of using the all powerful EMAIL. Why travel to a hell hole like Kabul when you can email the general a few basic questions and wait for his reply in the comfort of your own home or office in D.C. or New York?

And then these people wonder why the public has such a dim view of their credibility.

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