Jun 10

Opinions on McChrystal and the media

Barrack Obama’s sacking of General Stanley McChrystal after the General had been quoted bitching about the President and his aides in a magazine article has unleashed a tide of  American reflection on the right relationship of news people to power. (The debate has been given extra life by the sudden departure of a Washington Post blogger, Dave Weigel.) There’s a good introduction to the McChrystal inquest here by New York Times columnist Frank Rich.

Here are links to three pieces which give you a flavour of the discussion, which blends an old one (how close should a reporter get to a source and what compromises, if any, should be made to keep the source helpful?) with a new one: how much privacy does either party have in the linked world of instantaneous publication?

Jeff Jarvis is keen to recruit McChrystal’s story to his argument for the virtues of “publicness”, linked transparency for everyone as often as possible. The shock caused by the McChrystal profile in Rolling Stone, Jarvis argues, was the demolition of the myth that the General was an “opinionless man”. If we abolished the idea that generals didn’t have opinions, we wouldn’t have so much of a problem.

This is a stretch too far. McChrystal’s problem with Obama wasn’t that he had opinions but that he was airing them. McChrystal’s pithy contempt contradicted the Administration’s policy and carried more than a whiff of distaste for the doctrine that the military obey political decisions.

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