Monday, November 15, 2004
Hockenberry Comes Clean
OK, this was a first for me. Just try to follow along. I was surprised- no SHOCKED- to look in my inbox today and find an email from John Hockenberry entitled "white flags."
We have certainly gotten off on the wrong foot. I certainly didn't wish to insult you or offend your military service by missing your rank and mistakenly calling you an enlistee. I just receive so much hate mail from so many quarters being a member of the media. (we are reviled you know) I was, frankly, surprised by the tone of your remarks about Senator Kerry's war record (I ultimately think it was a bad campaign issue and had nothing to do with what kind of a president he might have been). That issues is quite moot after November 2nd. I was also taken aback by the way you lumped me in to scandals at CBS and some conspiracy to bring down George W. Bush. I have opinions like anyone else and like anyone else hate being told I'm part of a conspiracy, or ignorant, or unpatriotic or part of some profit motive for getting Kerry elected. But hey I'm a big boy. I can take it.
I just replied, perhaps stupidly, in the same tone as your original blog. I've spent lots of time on the internet. I think the internet is often not the best forum for dialogue. I can't imagine why you would want to start some campaign against me personally. I am closely following and am horrified by the tough campaign in Falluja. The discoveries of weapons and chambers of horror certainly suggest the challenges ahead for the military in Iraq. I certainly want you to stay safe and hope that you and your family can be as secure as me and mine in the future. Can we have a peace treaty? I am interested in your views and your experiences if you really want to talk. I have no interest in cutting off a source of information or perspective. If you really want to open a channel of communication I'm game. Internet road rage serves no one. I think the idea that journalists are against the military is a myth that neither of us should perpetuate. I'm deeply sorry if I have made an enemy of you. Please accept my apology.
Hey!! I really mean it. I left my real email because despite the tone of our little exchange I still respect and trust you.
Talk to you soon... maybe.
one other thing.... you should see the hatemail I get from people who think the media is actually part of the Bush administration. I've even been accused of actually helping to cause 9/11. It's a wearying blitz. You nailed me in a bad moment... but you nailed me.
Yeah no kidding, right? How often does something like THAT happen? So of course I thought about it, and he sounded sincere enough. And here's the thing- a lot of people think I'm some kind of mean-spirited hack because of the way I felt about John Kerry. Well, Kerry was a very unique case for me. I'm normally just a happy-go-lucky guy who just wants everyone to get along. So this may upset some of you out there, but here's what I wrote back:
OK, I accept your apology, and I apologize if I jumped the gun with that posting. I'd be happy to post your apology on my site. Along with some kind of endorsement for a "peace treaty." I'm not into politics of hate or grudges (John Kerry doesn't count- that's a very rare thing for me). I understand that your job must come with a significant blitz. I'd just be careful about "venting" at people like that. Being in your profession and all. I mean, I didn't mind the "sparring" really- it was just surprising to see that stuff coming from a man who is supposed to be "objective" in his reporting about war issues. Just let me know what you'd prefer. I'm always willing to bury hatchets...
To which he replied...
post away... you are a good guy... and I'm man enough to say you taught me a lesson about the downsides of venting. In the middle of a political campaign where all rhetoric and discourse seems ignited with toxic venom it sometimes gets to be too much. I'll be candid and tell you that I have reservations about U.S. long-term strategy in the Middle East. None of that bears on my respect for you or my ability to be objective about what's going on in the field. As long as we're digging to bury hatchets let's find the treasure of newfound communication. Again, stay out of harm's way and you have my prayers for a swift end to the conflicts in Iraq. Thanks for being so... human. You can tell that I certainly am... human enough to have to ask: Now how do I get this combat boot out of my own mouth?
And since this is my blog, I get the last word...
No sweat. I'll post it all. If you're a better reporter because of this and I'm a better (or at least more thoughtful) soldier/blogger, then that works for me. I do admire your willingness to come forward and admit your mistake. I think a lot of people in your profession could learn a bit from you. There would certainly be fewer credibility concerns if this sort of thing happened more often in the media. I hope there was no irrepairable harm done. I'll "bury the hatchet" as best I can but I trust there may be those who will still be upset. I certainly trust you'll do your best to be as objective as possible with any future reporting (we'll be watching you!). In the meantime, do you have Jennifer Loven's email address? That's a joke...
Best to you and good luck,
So that's how it all went down (during the past 40 minutes or so). I'm sure there will be some pretty upset people out there who don't agree with how I handled this, but it's just not everyday that an award-winning Dateline guy comes at you with an olive branch. I hope most of you agree that I did the right thing. I think we both did the right thing here, but that's just me.
I hereby officially declare John Hockenberry a friend and fellow seeker of the truth. No hard feelings, John. Just treat my buddies on the battlefield fairly, OK?
Back to today's original post...
What Hath Blogs Wrought?
Sorry if the headline is trite or oft-used (I haven't seen it yet), but it really is the first thing that came to mind when I saw my Hockenberry posting start zipping through the blogosphere yesterday. Whoa. I posted an alarming email from some journalist, and all of sudden thousands and thousands of people knew all about it. The power of the blogosphere amazes me. In case you were out windsurfing this weekend, let me get you up to speed.
I was ranting about Jennifer Loven last Saturday night (a little cranky, a little tired), and I decided (as an afterthought) to support the premise of my rant with an email snippet from my new "friend"- NBC's John Hockenberry. When I came back the next morning, I saw that my site had crashed from taking thousands of hits. RW Sparkle, The Commisar, Right on Red, Outside the Beltway, Black Five, Flopping Aces, and a myriad of other sites picked up on my post. You can check my Technorati "thing" to find many more. I searched far and wide, and I only found one blog site that took a "dissenting" approach- I was more than happy to jump into a thoughtful debate. Check it out at In Search of Utopia- I really think we all made some solid points and delved further into that lingering question- whose side are these people on? I'd encourage anyone to go finish up the debate with them (they are nice people- they don't bite), but I'm just too busy with other stuff right now. The whole thing just completely reinforced my faith in the blogosphere and it's ability to foster healthy debate, generate truth, and crush the spin- and it's often extremely entertaining. Definitely a great diversion after a long day in the desert. Sorry, but TV is overrated.
The Lingering Question
I guess the whole point of the Hockenberry post was to generate a new look into an old issue- the line between biased reporting (to further a political agenda) and treason (spreading propaganda that supports our enemy). I believe there is a line there somewhere- I'm not going to pretend that I know where it is. That's for all of us to figure out. Specifically, I pointed out Jennifer Loven's obvious conflict of interest and habitually biased reporting (and how it undermines our mission). If it were one or the other, I'd let it slide. But those are two separate and unique aspects of her that just can't be coincidental. At least not from where I'm standing. Finally, I shared an email that I received from John Hockenberry that looked- well...just looked bad. Needless to say, there were some strong feelings on the subject.
My personal feeling is that the MSM is using some old "means justify the ends" tactics that worked effectively during Vietnam. I don't think those tactics are working very effectively this time around. The fact that Kerry's actions during the Vietnam era were a liability to his campaign (as opposed to an asset) tells me that America learned a valuable lesson from that time in our history (although Wizbang correctly points out that not everyone has learned). In my humble opinion, this lesson is one more thing that we can all thank our Vietnam Vets for. They stood up to some pretty unfair treatment and lived their lives honorably during the past 3 decades. They quietly showed the angry mobs that they were not cold-blooded baby-killers, but rather upstanding and courageous warriors who would continue to honor their country no matter what. They paved the way for Iraq Vets (like me) to be treated with the sort of dignity that most of us now realize they themselves deserved 30+ years ago. Their wounds may "never heal," but I'm inclined to think that most of them probably feel like they've been "vindicated," at least to some extent- especially after the recent election. John O'Neill recently said something like (heard it on a post-election Hannity show) "no group of Americans will ever be accused of being war criminals by the American people ever again," and I believe him. In any case, I greatly appreciate their service- just wanted to say that again.
I never meant for my last post to be some kind of "push for solidarity," but I've been absolutely overwhelmed by the reaction from you great Americans out there. Just look at the comments from my last post. I wish I could show you all the emails I received. People actually sent me pictures of their children holding up signs that said "We love you- come home safe!" I'm serious! If any of you could have been in my combat boots yesterday, I assure you- you would have been moved to tears. I shared some of the emails with my comrades, and I'm telling you they were genuinely affected by them. And truth be told- we get stuff like this ALL THE TIME. Thousands of drawings, cards, and packages. Not just from friends and family members- but also from strangers (thanks again to the "Angels" in Florida), school children, even some news reporters! Make no mistake- we live in an amazing country. There will never be another like it. Each and every day I'm out here, I'm reminded of how much our great nation is worth fighting for...
Thanks all- your unbelievable support does not go unappreciated. This is a team effort, and you are all certainly doing your part...