Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ticket to Slide

On this a.m.'s Reliable Putzes, Howie Kurtz was working overtime to minimize the significance of the fairytales told by W. Thomas Smith in the electronic pages of National Review Online. Howie claimed that NRO was in the dark about Smith's fraud until HuffPo's Tom Edsall notified Kathyrn Lopez, when in fact other reporters had informed NRO of Smith's fraud many weeks earlier. (Lopez claims the dog ate everything that was ever sent to NRO.)

Even more laughable is NRO's purported investigation into Smith's writings, which reminds one of nothing so much as the Bush Administration's purported investigations into its own corrupt acts. Here's how Lopez describes NRO's "findings":

With regard to the post filed September 29 in which Smith claimed that 4,000-5,000 Hezbollah gunmen deployed to East Beirut in a "show of force": It appears that Smith was either confused about what he saw or misled by his sources -- probably some combination of both. Two of our independent sources agreed with Smith's critics that the event was unlikely, and one -- an editor who lives and works in Beirut -- flatly stated that it didn't happen.

Lopez, who claims to be an editor, then asserts "I don't think that Smith fabricated or falsified his reporting. But he should have been more clear about what exactly he saw with his own eyes, and he should have attributed any other information about the event to his sources (along with caveats about their credibility, if necessary.)"

"It appears," "either," "probably" and "don't think." Now that's thorough.

If Lopez was interested in the truth, she would have demanded that Smith identify his sources and would have spoken to those sources directly. In fact, Lopez claims she asked Smith to identify his sources. But she's silent on whether she attempted to contact the sources, whether the sources talked to her (or refused to talk to her) or whether the sources even exist. If Lopez was interested in the truth, she would have contacted the sources and reported exactly what they did and didn't tell her.

The story is such utter bullshit that Lopez couldn't find anyone to verify it, so she pretends that the veracity of Smith's belated cover story is irrelevant to the matter. Since there's no dispute that Smith's posts were false, the most important question is whether the blogger was a liar or the blogger was lied to. And Lopez thinks it's important too, or else she wouldn't bother to state "I don't think the Smith fabricated or falsified his reporting." But then she refuses to answer, or even investigate, that question.

Lopez's explanation is also worthless in that she refuses to identify NRO's three "independent sources." Do these people include the same source who told Lopez that all Arabs are filthy liars, or are they filthy lying Arabs themselves? Any why are they not named -- certainly the folks who revealed Smith's lies had no trouble attaching their names to verifiable facts.

In the second part of the "explanation," Lopez tries to turn a lie into the truth:

With regard to the post filed September 25 in which Smith claimed that a Hezbollah tent city near the Lebanese parliament was occupied by over 200 "heavily armed" militiamen: Smith's description falls within the bounds of what others told us about the camp, but he should have been more specific. Smith saw a few guns and, based on that and what he heard from others, he reported that the men in the camp were "heavily armed."

One of our independent sources told us that both Smith and his critics got it wrong: "In late September there were rarely more than a few dozen people in the tent city on any given day,' she said. 'It is thus unlikely that there were 200 people there when Smith passed by, let alone 200 'heavily-armed militiamen'."

But she also told us, "Mr. Smith's characterization of the tent city as a very real security threat positioned on the doorstep of both the parliament and the Serail [the prime minister's headquarters] is wholly legitimate. There may not be 200 people there now, but Hezbollah could mobilize a much larger number than that quite quickly, and... it is believed that there are weapons already on the premises.

Again, who are "others" Smith allegedly heard from -- and who are the "others" the magazine allegedly heard from? Lopez offers no evidence that Smith's sources, or NRO's sources, actually exist. The correspondents who revealed Smith's lies were happy to place their names to the facts, but Lopez refuses.

Lopez then tries to support Smith's lies by citing an anonymous source who, if she exists, may have the same credibility problems as Smith (or different ones).

NRO fired Smith to make the story go away, because they cannot honestly defend any part of Smith's writing. And it's enlisted allies like Howie Kurtz to bury the rotting corspes before any autopsy takes place.

Further, there are still lies that Lopez has not addressed. How about the one in which members of "the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (here in Lebanon) attempted to kill Sayed and his family" by planting "a delayed acid-weapon on his car's undercarriage, which ate through the chassis and caused the vehicle to basically break in half while he was driving." And how about Smith's bogus claim that he was "the first American journalist" to visit a battle site that in fact visited by "almost every American journalist living in Beirut ... several times during and after the fighting." Why don't you examine those stories, K.Lo., and then tell us that Smith isn't a deliberate liar rather than a dupe.

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