Monday, June 06, 2005

Story Slippage

It's like a really bad game of telephone. It's decent people, drawing what they think are reasonable inferences to paraphrase a story, but the result is a significant distortion of the truth in just two transfers. I'll let Mr. Bray tell it himself:
So a couple of weeks ago, I talked to a reporter at the Soldiers for the Truth/DefenseWatch website about active duty call-ups for infantrymen in the Individual Ready Reserve. In passing, we discussed my last stretch of (peacetime) active duty, and I described it as having been uniquely uneventful. So little happened during those two years, I said, that the high point was the formal commendation I received for a two-week driving detail in which I carted a load of visiting colonels around Fort Benning in a van; one night I drove them to the officers club so they could have a beer or two without worrying about getting back to guest quarters on their own. In the Defense Watch story, the colonels became "inebriated"; the story was still largely the one I told, but the shading had changed a bit.

And so now the World Socialist Web Site reports that the U.S. army is so corrupt an organization that its enlisted soldiers mostly just function as servants to a decadent officer class:
Soldiers for The Truth ( reported on May 17 that now, as well as specialists, hundreds of IRR infantry are being called up.

SFTT spoke with one of them, 37-year-old Chris Bray, who had joined the Army in 1999 to get money for college*. He left in late 2001, describing his most important responsibility as being the designated driver to transport drunken officers back to their quarters at Fort Benning, Georgia.
It took a grand total of two steps. This minor event, mentioned in passing as part of a sideline story, is now my most important responsibility as a soldier. I spent two years driving drunken officers back to their quarters.

Speaking for the record is a little like building your own Frankenstein -- you just can't believe that your little creation is out there in the world, doing things that you didn't imagine it could do.


(*Also not true, by the way.)
There's all kinds of things that we can say about this slippage.
  • check your sources' sources, when possible
  • be careful that you don't let your bias distort a story through exaggeration and misemphasis
  • Don't lie on the web: people read this stuff! [Don't lie anywhere, if you can avoid it, but I'm limiting myself to specific lessons of this incident]
  • "They also serve who only stand and wait" is easier to say than to understand
I'm sure there's more, but that's all I can think of this morning.

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