War co-respondents

By Michael J. Smith on Thursday February 23, 2012 09:14 AM

Go, tell Lord Beaverbrook, thou passer-by,
That here, obedient to his law -- we lie.
This rather neat little parody of Simonides was the work of some grizzled old war correspondent back in the day: I can't remember the source. We might update it nowadays by rewriting the first line: "Go tell the Murdochs, thou who passest by."

De mortuis nil nisi bonum. Nobody that I ever heard of ever accused Marie Colvin of lying. She seems to have been a ballsy, sharp-elbowed, determined person, and all the people who have praised her courage are undoubtedly telling the truth too. She sounds like a person it would have been fun to know.

Still, as always, the torrent of mawkish self-adulation from her colleagues in the Propaganda Sector -- excuse me, the news media -- has been exceptionally nauseating in this case. The quest for justice! Truth at all costs! And this is not just from the right-wing yellow press; the liberal media are if possible even more over the top.

I seldom saw much of Colvin's work, since she worked for one of the premier Murdoch sewer-outlets, the (London) Sunday Times. Clearly however she was very parti-pris and a strong advocate of intervention. A laudatory piece about her, from colleague Christiane Amanpour (of the unspeakable CNN) makes it quite clear that both of them regarded persuasion -- not mere reportage -- to be part of their remit:

... we and the BBC's Jeremy Bowen got an exclusive interview with Moammar Gadhafi, which was the last interview he did. It set the tone for future international involvement....

I believe the no-fly zone in Benghazi was put up because of the reporting there, and the urgent need to protect tens or hundreds of thousands of Libyan civilians.

And in Bosnia, it took a long time, but without the urgent reporting on the siege of towns and cities like Sarajevo and Srebrenica and Mostar, there would have been no intervention.

She goes on in this jingo vein at quite some length.

There is, it seems, a near-universal agreement to regard Colvin as a martyr, and use her memory to effect a sforzando in the baying of the war-hounds.

Perhaps it will seem cold-hearted of me to respond so unemotionally to a death -- any death. But long experience has taught me that orgies of public grief nearly always eventuate in some great crime.

Comments (8)


Whether cold-hearted or not, I had the very same sentiment this morning.

The worst was when that war-mongering fatuous douchebag Mike Kelly was killed in I-raq.... Sorry, but if anyone on this earth had it coming....

Plus, I really, really don't see how these people are "informing" us any more than I can get "information" from some guy in Syria or whereever taking video on his cellphone and posting it on youtube.


It's a dangerous job that requires good luck and more than foolhardiness to come through with any integrity.

"long experience has taught me that orgies of public grief nearly always eventuate in some great crime."

How true.

Lots of lynchings in the old south started out in such a manner. I rather dislike people who use emotional manipulation to achieve their ends.

You don't wanna die in a war zone? Don't go to one.

The Creator:

This is sadly true.

One thing which has struck me about the reportage from Homs has been the absolute absence of any useful information. "EVIL REGIME KILLS OWN PEOPLE AGAIN" appears to be the norm.

Why have people in Homs taken up arms against their government?
What proportion of the people of Homs support this rebellion?
What would they like to see replacing their government?
What motivates them to risk their lives towards this goal?

These are the questions which could presumably be asked -- even if extremely subtly -- by reporters on the spot. Colvin was on the spot. For the life of me I can't see any sign that she asked any of those questions. Therefore she wasn't really doing the job of a journalist. She was doing some thing else.

chomskyzinn sez on 02.23.12 @12:08:
Whether cold-hearted or not, I had the very same sentiment this morning.

The worst was when that war-mongering fatuous douchebag Mike Kelly was killed in I-raq.... Sorry, but if anyone on this earth had it coming....

I have a slightly personal connection to Mike Kelly, via my DW.

When the DW was married to her first husband, and her daughter a young girl attending Capitol Hill Day School, one of the DW's best friends was Marguerite Kelly, noted author (in DC at least) of several Liberal-ish books on motherhood and "how-to"-type books on child-rearing, Washington Post columnist and husband of Tom Kelly, the "Mayor Of Capitol Hill" and a columnist for the old Washington Daily News. They were also neighbors, living three houses down from us on Capitol Hill. As it turns out, Mike Kelly and my DW's daughter attended Capitol Hill Day School at about the same time in the late '70s or thereabouts. (The Kellys daughter, btw, went on to a career writing quirky childrens' books.)

As the DW and I weren't married until '91, all I knew about the Kellys was that Marguerite wrote the parental advice column for the Post and that Tom wrote for the Daily News, and that the DW's daughter and the Kellys' kids went to Capitol Hill Day School together.

My sole knowledge of Mike Kelly was as that ranting, loathsome little imperialist mouthpiece who seemed to be in the Post every other day during the run-up to Iraq War v2.0, bitching about the anti-war movement, calling us "insane" and accusing us of treason and telling us to sit down, shut up and support the troops. So, when I got the news that he'd been killed in Iraq -- he was in a humvee that crashed, iirc -- I immediately scored myself a first-class ticket aboard the ol' Schadenfreude Special.

Almost immediately afterward, I noticed the DW getting all mournful, and it was then that I found out that Mike Kelly was the son of our neighbors Tom and Marguerite. I can't begin to describe how much effort it took to conceal my massive glee around the DW as she got all misty-eyed and wistful about the good old days when her daughter and young Mike Kelly went to Capitol Hill Day School together and she and Marguerite Kelly were BFFs and they were all good, proper Liberals on Capitol Hill.


If you ask me, the only war correspondent who really got the story straight was Bill Mauldin.


Mike, sometimes when there's a personal connection --- like in cases where you get to see the loathsome bastard up close --- the schadenfreude is almost unbearable.

I file it under "There is a God" when the likes of Kelly and that war mongering fool Hitchens meet an untimely demise, but ole Noam Chomsky is still alive, kicking --- and kicking pretty hard --- well into his 80s.

Somehow I think if the Good Lord is anything like the vengeful, capricious old SOB of the Old Testament, He agrees with me on this point, at least.


I suspect a lot of the outpouring has to do with the fact, that it was a member of PLU ("People Like Us") who came to an untimely demise, as opposed to someone from the vast group of NOKDs ("not of our kind, dear") such as Filipino journalists who die by the dozen on a single day. Hitchens had been anointed a member of the "in-group" after his Marxist forays and his passing elicited similar reaction among most shapers of responsible opinion. It was left to someone with nothing to lose to give vent to pungent feelings:

When I first learned that Hitchens was diagnosed with an excruciating and terminal cancer, it caused me to doubt my atheism.

Could it be merely chance?

The news came just as Hitchens was about to go on a book tour for his long-awaited memoir.

It was as if he was setting out on his victory lap when the adulating crowds were supposed to fawn over him and—wham!—his legs were lopped off at the kneecaps.

Could it be the hidden hand of a Jehovah?

If I still had doubts, the events of the past week dispelled them.
I cannot help but see in this otherwise improbable sequence a divine intelligence at play.

Fisk and Pilger have managed to avoid the what-for. May not always agree with them, but there's a good chance, at any given filing, that they aren't selling the Company line. And I think the US was just plain out to get Fisk dead in Afghanistan. He got hurt bad, but succeeding in escaping with his life.

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