News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Rant: watching the C-Span debate between Charles Hanley and Robert Bateman, I had the fortune, or misfortune, of again witnessing a left liberal being found out committing historical fraud: yet another ideologue willingly misrepresenting history and earnestly attempting to jam round pegs into square holes, never letting the facts get in the way the truth, all in a hoggish desire to make the chaotic sprawl of history fit into the tight confines of an ideology. Hanley was not, in my view, caught out in an attempt to subvert America (the cliche of the right), but to Mother it; to use the expression of the left, to oppress it. After all, the nanny state, the Nirvana fought for by fair means or foul by the left requires nannies: an band of constables to police the animals, an echelon of equals more equal than the rest, primus inter pares. But this is hardly a surprise for the reductio ad absurdum, i.e. the inevitable climax, of socialism is National Socialism, which was extremely popular until the inevitable climax of National Socialism made itself know: War.

Charles Hanley professes the No Gun Ri incident was "a story no one [in power] wanted to hear," which immediately made me suspicious as this is one of the more flourishing conspiracy theories of the left: the pretence that a nation policed by innumerable watchdogs, political action committtees, and whistle-blowers, and whose media is given over precisely to the provision of stories that no one in power wants to hear, is actually, all evidence to the contrary, the great repressor of truth.

What also made me dubious about Hanley was his uppity air, something I've had to put up with listening to National Public Radio guest academics, or when watching the Pacifica Radio Network crew of pious ideologues. Again, in the great left-wing Utopia to come, somebody has to make the decisions, somebody has to sacrifice equality with the masses for the despised leadership roles, somebody however unfortunate has to populate the elite. Volunteers? The entire left is volunteering. In other words, the Utopia is simply a reproduction of the present but with a new set of political animals at the top of the food chain: ex: the prehensile academic who, lacking talent but not ambition, fails to shine amongst his peers and instead opts for a more credulous and supple audience, i.e. the public; the advocate reporter with little time for research but a flair for inflammatory rhetoric, a knowledge of how to lead the public by the nose via a professional acquaintance with how far the truth can be stretched in one's favor.

But perhaps I should start from the beginning. The No Gun Ri incident blew up in 1999 when Hanley and a fellow member of the Associated Press broke the news that at the beginning of the 1950's Korean War, American soldiers committed atrocities. Hanley et al. published a book, won a Pulitzer Prize, and became celebrated for their journalistic acumen. However, that acumen turns out to have been of a more cynical leaning as a certain professor Bateman, an officer with the United States military, reviewed the material and things began to unravel. Hanley's key source turned out to be a complete fraud, having claimed that he was not only on-site during the atrocity but was actually one of the principle offenders, machine-gunning civilians. Well, he wasn't even there; he was in hospital, his foot having been shot the previous day. But not willing to let the facts get in the way of higher truths, this individual proceeded to lift himself up by the bootstraps and wrote two histories of his regiment and became a self-taught expert on No Gun Ri. He even fooled those who were there into believing that he was there with them. No flies on this boy. He even convinced the US military that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of massacring civilians and squeezed more than 400,000 US dollars in benefits. Even now, he resides in a new home courtesy of Uncle Sam: jail.

Is it a coincidence that this shyster linked up with another shyster to whip up a great story and launch their careers and finances into orbit? I bet, like one drunk spotting another in a crowd, he saw his analogue in truth-stretching and proceeded to warm up to Hanley right natural. Partners in crime, honor amongst thieves? But good things don't last forever. And who broke the news that this source was fraudulent? The US News and Bateman. And did Hanley return his Pulitzer? Nope. Not after all that investment of time and hustle.

During the debate, Hanley excuses the fraud's various scholarly monkeyshines as yesterday's news and fobs off being suckered and snookered as "irrelevant for over four years now." But, once the ball gets rolling and the show gets going, an endless set of suspicious issues turns up such as: the failure of the cadavers or burials to show up in overhead photographs taken by military intelligence; the identical descriptions given by survivors of the opening chapter to the atrocity (and the survivors are not disinterested observers as there's an abundance of plaintiffs now trying to cash in via a huge class-action lawsuit against the United States government). Recall, if you will, how unreliable and disparate the eyewitness accounts of the same event tend to be and then wonder why, after 50 years, given the wandering that memory generally engages in, how several dozen eyewitness accounts of several events is identical. Furthermore, Hanley's book includes no footnotes, no endnotes, and he refuses to release his research findings to a public institution where they can be reviewed by other scholars. The whole thing smells.

When asked why the atrocity took place, Hanley says 'racism'. Lefties love their race cards. But this goes counter to statements Hanley makes both prior and following this statement. Hanley and Bateman both outline several situations where US officers and foot soldiers complained about the attacking of civilians.
Furthermore, six reporters, five from the United Kingdom and one from the US, were on hand when this atrocity took place. Why didn't they report it? Since when don't reporters report news?

Hanley starts out by saying this is the worst atrocity of the war. Fair enough: the buzzards of journalism always overstate their gore and cadavers by claiming 'up to X number were killed' based upon the highest legally-defendable nutball figure. Iris Chang claims the Nanking Massacre is the worst civilian atrocity of WWII by engaging in the verbal gymnastics necessary to redefine the word 'massacre' and by starting WWII in 1937 instead of 1939. Yet another valiant squeezing of round pegs into the required square hole.

When pushed by Bateman and the debate host, Hanley admits that he himself is aware of at least another 19 atrocity incidents and that he is in fact preparing an news release on the US shelling of Korean civilians on a beach: an atrocity of similar scale! The only conspiracy to suppress the truth is one of the scoundrel's own making, with himself front and center as conspirator-in-chief.
It goes on and on and on. It's worth pointing out that Bateman does not disagree with the fact that civilians were killed: he disagrees with the manner, the logic, and the number. He doubts refugees at No Gun Ri were strafed, is dubious that the rationale was racism in favor of the widespread fear (which he says was typically unfounded) of communist infiltration into fleeing refugees, and he figures the number of civilian deaths to be around 30. He proposes that the incident took place when two communist agents fired from within a crowd of refugees, resulting in indiscriminate fire from US troops, which in turn led to the deaths of refugees. Hanley initially refuses to come up with a final figure for the number of deaths claiming that he's a journalist and thus not given to forming opinions about facts, only presenting them impartially!! I just wanted to choke him... He was finally pressed by Bateman to state a figure of 300 to 400 deaths.

What annoyed me the most in all of this were the ad hominem attacks and holier-than-thou arrogance of Hanley. The notion that he, and he alone, had knowledge of the events. The ghost of Bill O'Reilly's infamous Shaddup!! was ever present. Plus, Hanley's refusal to share interviews and evidence gathered in Korea and his smugness suggesting that Bateman go to Korea and perform a set of redundant interviews. (Bateman's defense was that he wrote this book out of his own pocket and didn't have a million-dollar budget like Hanley.)

Needless to say, Hanley struck me as unprofessional, defensive, mean-spirited and bullying. Bateman never rose to the bait (perhaps military code forbade him to do so when interacting with civilians?) and never (if I remember correctly) returned tit for tat. And this bullying turns out to be in character for Hanley as he wrote a nine page letter to Bateman's publishers accusing Hanley of committing a 'rape of the truth' and he also wrote a letter to Bateman's superior accusing Hanley of being unprofessional and sponsoring rumors and so forth and suggesting that he shut down Bateman's research. As was pointed out by one pundit, it was quite ironic that a reporter was trying to stop a member of military from expressing an opinion.

And Hanley played the society party 'offended card', describing Bateman's questioning of the evidence as being a profanation and offense to the dignity of the ghosts in train. This pretense to speak on behalf of others who are allegedly offended is just another one of these insincere dim-witted rhetorical tricks devoted to shutting down inconvenient discussion and one which I took great pleasure exploding during my aggressive years.

And, needless to say, Hanley has the typically angry persona of the left liberal (who yet gabble endlessly about angry white men on the right) who is eternally perplexed that the masses don't listen to his gospel and who is perforce required to invent a corporate media conspiracy to suppress the truth. But the truth is that this ploy is a side show designed to distract attention from his embarrassing lack of persuasion, the blank in his cranium where the gift of gab ought to be located, his inability to move beyond a sneer and blossom into a smile and perhaps deign to entertain his audience, his dunderheaded refusal to rework the message, to reengineer the spiel, to reinvent the choreography of the shuck and jive and accept the fact that infotainment is the only viable delivery vehicle for his message. He struck me as one of a long line of moneygrubbing, fame-cadging left liberals professing bona fides and good works in the pipeline to the audience, while generating a monkeyshine to divert the customers and give himself time to get into the coat rack to rifle pockets for spare change.

A fellow example of this species of grasping, ambitious, half-educated, and fundamentally talentless reporter with the badge of compassion affitted conspicuously to sleeve is Iris Chang, whose Rape of Nanking is a welter of conspiracy theory, wholehearted swallowing of Chinese Communist Party propaganda, and vivid summaries of incredible atrocities. Again, by design, not accident nor coincidence, she strives to stoke up the animals via working up horror, fear, and indignation in the left-wing herd. This, of course, is an old, olde newspaper trick: as they say in newspaper-land, if it bleeds it leads.

Both Ms. Chang and Mr. Hanley impress me as being ambitious ladder-climbing reporters with an impulse to be partial, to spin, to inject whatever it takes to push the buttons of their target consumer: the 9-to-5 wage slave with little energy or interest in cross-referencing claims made by the anointed Free Press. But contrary to the received wisdom, at least my country-style received wisdoms, newspapers are not only fully capable of spin and fabrication but are, in fact constantly engaging in such for it is this which constitutes the nuts and bolts of their business model.
I have spoken with reporters at length about this. Newspapers are for-profit businesses. This should never be forgotten. All the temptations of any other for-profit business affect them to a greater or lesser degree depending upon the newspaper, the editors, the reporters, the credulity of their customers.

And when it comes to those journalists marked with a particularly strong brand of ambition, they often become victims of the age-old Messianic itch to leave behind a urine stain on the scenery or a vandalized etching of their names on the property. If I sound pissed off, that's because I am. I'm sick and tired of my anemic trust being betrayed by imbecile academics, moronic reporters, and an apathetic reading public that doesn't demand higher standards of conduct.

On the other hand, I suppose it could be much worse. I'm far from being unflawed or untainted myself. Perhaps that's one of the few positives of hypocrisy: there are few things more irritating than seeing some other shyster -- and why is it always an inferior edition? -- trot out the same grab bag of slippery tricks that you yourself once used. At least my heart was in the right place, wherever that was or is.

Biff Cappuccino - tilting at windmills, yet again...
P.S. For a second opinion, check out this story and this one too. The US Army's official report is here.

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