(Or how Michael Ware plus Lara Logan divided by Joe Burkett equals a neocon’s successful smear.)
So when does gossip become news? It used to be when it crossed from “scandal sheet” to “legitimate news outlet,” and that was a clearly delineated line. Ahh, for the good old days.
As we witnessed with the Drudge Debacle, the internet has now given us “if it’s repeated enough times, it MUST be true.” So a supermarket tabloid can quote the divorce lawyer for an angry spouse quoting a stale, unsubstantiated rumor originally written by someone who dislikes both parties he named; the tabloid story gets quoted by media sites that ought to know better (are you listening, HuffPo?) and then by online sites for established newspapers that ought to know better (the list is long); the story mutates and grows to laughable lengths (they argued in the Green Zone! no, punches were thrown at the Baghdad airport! no, it was fisticuffs in a frontline foxhole, as bullet whizzed by overhead!) — and by some weird alchemy each new version is granted MORE legitimacy as the tale grows stranger?
Don’t bother us with the facts, damn it; we want to be entertained!
Look, I have no idea whose marriages were already falling apart at the time the alleged affairs happened, and — here’s a concept! — it’s none of my business. Divorce proceedings are messy things, and even wholly innocent people often get splattered.
But the fact remains that all of this is predicated on an unsubstantiated rumor. Could it have happened? Sure. I don’t know anything about this Joe guy, but in my personal opinion, if Lara and Michael didn’t have a affair, they are idiots. (Okay, that was shallow; mea culpa. Still: two gorgeous people, in the midst of all that insanity, and with too few people who can even comprehend what their lives are really like… If this was a Lifetime movie, the ratings would be huge. I’m just sayin’.)
(Oh, and before anyone gets all righteous and huffy: YOU go live in a war zone for a couple years, where you could be killed — or worse — at any moment; spend day after day after day looking at death and destruction, walk through blood and splattered brains and body parts; compile a list of your friends and co-workers and contacts who have been kidnapped and tortured to death or slaughtered in their homes. Then and only then do you have the right to whip out your Puritan ethics and measure other peoples’ lives against your own snowy-white one.)
So: start with a dubious tale written by an anonymous self-described neocon and targeting two people he doesn’t like; add in a woman scorned and her win-at-any-cost lawyer; mix well and add spices as the dish is passed along from place to place. The pungent stew you end up with may have some bits of truth in there somewhere, but you’d be hard-pressed to identify what they are. Skepticism is your friend, until and unless the parties themselves decide to set the record straight, and why should they? It’s still none of our business.
And none of this — whether all lies or all truth or some twisted amalgam of both — changes the fact that Michael Ware and Lara Logan have been reporting what is really happening in Iraq. Who they may or may not be sleeping with is irrelevant.
So I guess it doesn’t equal a “successful” smear after all.