By lex, on May 11th, 2011
Last week the NYT published a hit piece in its Sunday magazine entitled “A Beast in the Heart of Every Fighting Man” whose thesis was that the war crimes committed by one platoon in Afghanistan were not the results of a charismatic psychopath leading impressionable young soldiers against an isolated backdrop of weak officership, but rather the desired result of a military training regime expressly intended to dehumanizing soldiers. From a specific case of already punished criminality, the military as a whole was generalized to sociopathy.
In support of his argument, writer Luke Mogelson trotted out S.L.A. Marshall’s contention that, over the years, the willingness of the American fighting man to pull the trigger in combat has gone from 15-20 percent in World War II to 90% in Vietnam.
Had the New York Times writer done some research on Marshall’s claim, he would have discovered that it had already been debunked – by the New York Times:
(What) Mogelson fails to disclose in his article is that, more than 20 years ago, the New York Times itself published an article debunking the numbers upon which his entire argument rests.
On February 19, 1989, the Times published a front-page story by Richard Halloran detailing the findings of historians who had probed Marshall’s research and discovered it was completely fabricated. Even his defenders were forced to admit that Marshall’s “argument is not very important, in a historical sense. . . .”
The problem for Mogelson and the Times is that if you take away the pseudo-historical research he cites, all you have is a lengthy exposé of a crime that had already been prosecuted by the army. The conceit of the article—namely, that the crimes in Kandahar are indicative of the spirit of the U.S. military—is predicated on fake research that the Times itself discredited many years ago.
Sadly, for every poet-journalist like Will Hylton, there appears to be another like Luke Mogelson. The one artfully crafts the language to educate and enlighten, the other twists it to indoctrinate and deceive.