A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the possibility that The New Republic, a venerable center-left magazine of news and commentary, had published as news stories that weren’t true. These were three "diaries" by an American soldier in Iraq, "Scott Thomas" (later revealed to be a pseudonym for Scott Thomas Beauchamp) relating tales of atrocious behavior: US soldiers cruelly teasing a woman disfigured by burns; desecrating remains found at a Saddam-era mass grave; and driving a Bradley Fighting Vehicle in a deliberately reckless manner with intent to inflict harm.
Almost immediately, bloggers on the Center-Right, especially military and ex-military bloggers, questioned the veracity of the TNR stories to the extent of saying that some were physically impossible. When The Weekly Standard, a conservative cousin to TNR, became involved, the liberal magazine found itself on the defensive. Over the next two weeks, they published editorials on their site to the effect that, except for one rather egregious error, they had checked their facts and found the articles plausible.
Guess what? Beauchamp’s stories were a pack of lies. He admitted it to Army investigators.
Beauchamp’s tale ends at this point, as far as I’m concerned. The Army has said he won’t face criminal proceedings, though he will likely face administrative punishment. And I (almost) hate to think what his platoon mates will do to him….
More importantly, however, is what this says about The New Republic. As I stated before, this has long been one of the few liberal magazines I respected. Even when I disagreed with their positions, I felt their arguments were usually intelligent and always sincere. In an age when public discourse has become so coarse and heated, I looked to TNR as one of the havens of reasonableness and civility.
No more. It’s evident now that they never really checked those articles beforehand, taking Beauchamp at his word. Then, when they supposedly checked them in the wake of public doubts, editor Franklin Foer relied on single anonymous sources to "confirm" each story, save one. Now that Beauchamp has recanted, we can see that TNR was either lying or incompetent.
But why? Why were they apparently so anxious to believe Beauchamp’s tales of barbarism that they ran with them with the slightest (if any) fact-checking?
I can only assume it was because they wanted to believe them. According to received wisdom among the post-Vietnam Left, war makes savages of us all, turning soldiers into victims of misguided (conservative) policy. Beauchamp’s fictional diaries fit that narrative, as they were supposed to show the horrible effects of war on the souls of young soldiers. It was yet another thread in the Left’s anti-war tableau, something to use as ammunition to attack the legitimacy of Bush Administration’s decision to invade Iraq. "Look what your criminal war has done to these boys," they could cry. Like the faked documents that CBS touted showing Bush had received favorable treatment in the Texas Air National Guard to avoid service in Vietnam, TNR believed Beauchamp’s lies because they fit their preconceived notions.
And now The New Republic stands disgraced, no better than those rags, The Nation and The Progressive. Since the revelation of Beauchamp’s admission of guilt, TNR has been silent on the issue. That silence speaks volumes. I wonder if their reputation can ever recover from this.
Shame on them.
LINKS: More at Instapundit, Confederate Yankee (and here), Little Green Footballs, Patterico’s Pontifications, Captain’s Quarters, and Power Line. Roger L. Simon wonders why anyone would bother to pay TNR’s subscription fees.
UPDATE: Welcome readers of The Captain’s Quarters!