There are clear and simple ways to establish and maintain credibility: base your story on facts, don’t exaggerate, don’t deliberately insert items which you know are not true – and if you inadvertently misinterpreted information, or that information turns out to be incorrect, then face up and correct your mistakes.
Sadly, following the death of Osama bin Laden, these rules have been blatantly disregarded by established and wannabe commentators in the right leaning part of both MSM and blogosphere. Today’s shining lights, the loathsome Toby Young (blogging in the Maily Telegraph) and the bigoted windbag Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail, stand as superb examples of those prepared, unashamedly and unapologetically, to spray their credibility up the wall.
Both Tobe and Dick repeated the line that bin Laden had used his wife as a “human shield”. But that angle has now been retracted by the US. Sadly, Young and Littlejohn are not interested in correcting their pieces, despite the erosion of credibility. And in Fat Dick’s case, there is plenty of exaggeration and dishonesty too.
Littlejohn, clearly wanting to smear the Pakistani military as unsubtly as he can, asserts that the bin Laden compound was “100 yards away from a Pakistani army garrison”. It wasn’t: the distance is 800 yards, and the army training unit is not a garrison. But Dick’s not through yet: al-Qaeda, he tells his readers, “send their ... children to Swiss finishing schools”. Made that one up.
Then we come to the intelligence that led the US to bin Laden. Both Tobe and Dick are sure this came from one or more inmates at Guantánamo. Moreover, Young asserts that the information was obtained by the use of water-boarding, thus justifying the technique. There’s only one problem with this analysis: it’s crap.
How can I be so sure? Because Donald Rumsfeld, former Bush Secretary of Defense, says so: the information, Rummy tells, came through “normal interrogation approaches”. Note also that he says “some information ... was beneficial”, which is somewhat short of saying that Gitmo was the sole source. Young is not, as far as is known, rushing to retract.With today’s technology available to so many, fact checking is that much easier, and therefore telling whoppers more difficult to get away with. And those who cannot, or will not, face up and admit they exaggerated, were factually incorrect, and called it wrong will, as sure as night follows day, be found out, called out, and discredited.