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June 28, 2010

What Howard Kurtz & Lara Logan Left Out

So Michael Hastings, the guy who wrote the now-famous Rolling Stone article about Stan McChrystal, was just on Howard Kurtz's CNN show (via Glenn Greenwald). Kurtz brought up this:

KURTZ: [Y]ou wrote a piece for "GQ" magazine about a different kind of embedding, being embedded with the presidential campaign. And you said, "You pretend to be friendly and non-threatening. And over time you build trust, which everyone knows is an illusion. If the time comes, if your editors calls for it, you're supposed to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) them over."

This infuriated Lara Logan of CBS, who I understand just celebrated her sixth birthday:

LOGAN: There is an element of trust. And what I find is the most telling thing about what Michael Hastings said in your interview is that he talked about his manner as pretending to build an illusion of trust and, you know, he's laid out there what his game is. That is exactly the kind of damaging type of attitude that makes it difficult for reporters who are genuine about what they do, who don't -- I don't go around in my personal life pretending to be one thing and then being something else. I mean, I find it egregious that anyone would do that in their professional life.

But here's what Michael Hastings actually wrote in the GQ article that Howard Kurtz mentioned:

The dance with staffers is a perilous one. You’re probably not going to get much, if any, one-on-one time with the candidate, which means your sources of information are the people who work for him. So you pretend to be friendly and nonthreatening, and over time you “build trust,” which everybody involved knows is an illusion. If the time comes, if your editor calls for it, you’re supposed to fuck them over; and they’ll throw you under a bus without much thought, too. (I should say that personal friendships can actually develop, despite the odds.) For the top campaign officials and operatives, seduction and punishment of reporters is an art.

So both Kurtz and Logan left out the most obvious aspect of this (genuinely gross) relationship between reporters and politicians: they're both trying to manipulate each other. It's not the case that politicians—or generals, who are most definitely politicians—are poor babes in the woods, ruthlessly taken advantage of by the Machiavellian journalists. They're trying to screw the journalists just as hard.

It may seem amazing that Lara Logan doesn't understand this, and believes Stan McChrystal & co. are her good buddies and just spend time with her because she's so neat. But it would be cruel to tell her. She'll figure it out for herself next fall in first grade.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at June 28, 2010 10:20 PM

It's nice to see that an ill-conceived use of egregious is still a favourite among the smart set.

Posted by: Cloud at June 28, 2010 10:53 PM

Who was that said " If you want a friend in Washington DC, get a dog"?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 28, 2010 11:00 PM

jonathan schwarz gets a glitter pen. mike meyer gets a ninja sticker.

Posted by: hapa at June 28, 2010 11:44 PM

I can't bring myself to think that anyone disagreeing with Howard Kurtz about anything could be wrong. That guy is sickening. But maybe Lara Logan is too--I really don't know--even though she certainly looks a lot better than Kurtz.

Let's not get carried away thinking mutual attempts at manipulation are much of a problem, or that the journalists and the pols really are all trying to screw each other. That's naive, and Hastings seems to think he's done something bigger than he has. These guys are for the most part chummy. Maybe not Hastings, but in general they go to the same parties, along with the military brass and the pols. It's a pretty homogenous elite, much more so than this post suggests.

It's any efforts that threaten the elite that generate hostility from both the journalists and the military and the pols of both major political parties. Those who do that don't get invited to the really good parties.

Posted by: N E at June 28, 2010 11:49 PM