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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lara Logan in her own words 10/12/2012

by digby

Here are her comments on Benghazi from that speech to the Better Government Association's annual luncheon October 12, 2012, one month after the Benghazi attack:

When I look at what's happening in Libya, there's a big song and dance about whether this was a terrorist attack or a protest. And you just want to scream, for God's sake, are you kidding me? The last time we were attacked like this was the USS Cole which was a prelude to 9/11. And you're sending in the FBI to investigate? I hope to God that you are sending in your best clandestine warriors to exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil, its ambassadors will not be murdered and the United States will not stand by and do nothing about it.
Here's the whole speech which is mostly about journalism and her recent report from Afghanistan in which she asserted that al Qaeda and the Taliban were stronger than ever, the US was "surrendering" and that "our way of life is under attack" among many other very interesting observations. You really must watch the whole thing to get a sense of where she's coming from.

Considering the current situation, this comment stands out:
There is a distinction between investigating something to find out what the real situation is and trying to prove something that you believe is true. And those are two very different things. The second one is the enemy of great journalism. And it's a trap that is very easy to fall into. In fact it was my boss Jeff Fager who kindly reminded me of that fact at a certain point in the process and he was absolutely right about that.
I think it's fine that Logan  truly believes that Islamic terrorism is an existential threat to the US and that we are all in mortal danger because of it.  She's clearly got a strong point of view and that's her privilege.In my view, she sounds like a right wing warblogger circa 2002 and therefore has very little credibility, but nonetheless, I'm not going to criticize her for believing what she believes and doing journalism based on those beliefs.

What isn't acceptable is that her employers present her as a neutral observer, which she clearly is not. In fact, by her own admission, her bosses had to rein her in on that earlier story and remind her that she had an obligation to follow the evidence where it led. And yet they continued to show her as an unbiased journalist following the evidence in this Benghazi story even though she publicly made these very aggressive comments back in October of 2012.

Needless to say, the fact that she fell for such a clearly ridiculous hoax was due to her biases. She shows in that speech that she had already made up her mind about what happened. And 60 Minutes should have been professionally skeptical of her story because of that. Logan's agenda blinded her to the fact that she was being played.

It's a cautionary tale for any advocacy journalists. But that's why putting your worldview on the table and having your editors and others around you know up front where you're coming from is essential.  They can then openly challenge your biases and make sure you aren't looking for proof where none exists. I think they were all trapped by the pretense that Lara Logan is an objective beat journalist. Had they properly categorized her as an aggressive military hawk who only one month after the event was already saying that the United States should "exact revenge" for the attack on Benghazi, they might have known that they needed to go to extra lengths to verify her "blockbuster" story on the subject.

I also think there's something very odd about this speech.  Logan is talking to the "Better Government Association" not CPAC.  And her affect suggests that she thinks her views are commonly held conventional wisdom, which might have been true in 2003, but seems weirdly out of time ten years on.

It's an odd speech and it was noted at the time as an odd speech:
[T]he foreign correspondent and 60 Minutes star skewered American policy in Afghanistan and Libya, called for a ramped-up military campaign against terrorists, and criticized the Obama administration and others for both underestimating the Taliban’s strength in Afghanistan and for tolerating Pakistan’s obvious coddling of terrorists killing American soldiers.

The Taliban and al Qaeda, she made clear, “want to destroy the West and us,” and we must fight fire with fire, She appeared to leave the assembled alternatively riveted and just a bit troubled by a critique with interventionist implications clearly drawn from her reporting.

As one nonprofit executive, a former magazine editor, put it the next day when asked to describe her speech: “Shoot ’em, bomb ’em, fuck ’em. They will kill your children.”

There is a rich history of foreign correspondents being outspoken and passionate in offering political commentary, especially those who have been caught in harm’s way. Logan herself was a victim of brutality; in 2011 the South Africa native was beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob in Cairo’s Tahrir Square while she covered the demonstrations prompted by President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. Such a harrowing experience would surely impact even the most politically cautious of journalists. Still, the sharp advocacy from such a prominent network reporter caught some in the Chicago crowd by surprise.
I have no idea if any of this was prompted by her horrible attack. But I do recall that even before that awful event, she was very critical of Michael Hastings' "betrayal" of General McChrystal. She has revered the military for a long time and even her critical reporting on Iraq earlier in the decade was criticism for failing to unleash the military in order to "win." I think she has always held these beliefs.

Update: Here's Fox News' Howard Kurtz on the story.

His guest James Pinkerton says this is not as big a deal as the Dan Rather national guard hoax because Dan Rather was obsessed with the Bush family.("It will be a blip not a shipwreck.") Because a hoax about an old story about the president's youth is so much more important than one that is ongoing, has relevance to current foreign policy and national security and is even spilling over into domestic affairs since Lindsay Graham has put a hold on all presidential nominations in the wake of this bogus story.

It looks as if the Village is circling the wagons.