Saturday, July 28, 2007

Going Off the Reservation: Beauchamp and Tillman

One thing that I've learned about blogging, even in a community of like minded bloggers, you are likely to find something that you disagree about. Sometimes rather vehemently.

Recently, both the Mudville Gazette and Blackfive indicated that they were backing off the Beauchamp story, virtually suggesting that their readers do so as well. Though, the end of Blackfive indicated that the TNR part of this story might still be of interest. While I understand their concerns, I disagree that it should just disappear. Not because we need to investigate and find out every truth or fiction involved in his stories, but because The New Republic represents what is wrong with the media today. Not simply the question of ideology or political narrative guiding editorial decisions, but the extremely poor editorial decisions that are leading to the loss of readers and revenue. In short: the media in decline.

Where I really leave the reservation is Blackfive's Uncle Jimbo and Kev speculating about how and who possibly killed Pat Tillman. I think that this was completely wrong and really below the caliber of Blackfive's milblog.

When you understand the hierarchy of blogging you understand the true damage that can result from such speculations. Particularly based on the very limited information available. Blackfive is one of the top Milblogs because it has a past reputation of being straight forward, providing definitive information on things military and continually bringing the story that is the US military at war to the public. They get linked by hundreds, if not thousands of blogs, including other high traffic sites like Instapundit and Michelle Malkin, amongst others.

It is by this linkage, by word of mouth or, more likely, email, that Blackfive's authority and legitimacy is established. Thus, when Blackfive speaks about things military, people listen. And that is why this unfortunate attempt to discover who the shooter was in this tragic event is a terrible mistake by Uncle Jimbo and for Blackfive. When he indicates that he believes he knows who the shooter is and why, people are bound to believe him and spread this information to others. Worse than the speculation is naming the alleged person. Even if this is retracted, the damage is already done. It may put undue attention on this man who was part of the tragedy, but may actually have no culpability beyond being there. It may influence ideas, the investigation and even worse add to the conspiracy that is already attached to this terrible event.

Finally, Uncle Jimbo and Blackfive have just done what they routinely accuse the media of: printing speculation as fact. Even if they retract it, it is already too late. The damage has already been done.

I think that is a lesson they've forgotten.

PS...I took down my piece on Beauchamp and the Blaze of Glory speculation. I have decided that I should live by what I preach. That piece was pure speculation. I did leave up the discussion regarding TNR and how they determined to use his writing. That part of the story is not over yet.

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