Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Giuliana Sgrena affair

Unless you've been on vacation to a distant galaxy, you know by now that:
- Giuliana Sgrena is an Italian journalist
- She was kidnapped by terrorists in Iraq
- She was 'rescued' by an Italian intelligence agent
- The agent was shot and killed by US forces outside the Baghdad airport
- Giuliana told a dramatic story of the attack, including 'handfuls of bullets,' armored vehicles, and tanks
- Giuliana has loudly accused the US of 'targeting' her

If you're a little more informed than the average joe, you may also know:
- The Italian government paid a large ransom for her release
- The coalition forces were not informed about the attempt to rescue her
- Her car has just two bullet-holes visible in photos of it
- The windows on her car are still intact

Enough review. Here's what really bothers me about this affair: why did so many people find her story credible?

My initial reaction, even before finding out that the car was relatively undamaged, was that her story just didn't add up. If she'd really been attacked with the force she claimed, she wouldn't have been in one piece, much less survived it. It's implausible on its face that American soldiers would deliberately target a journalist being rescued. My initial take, before any of the evidence started coming in, was that most likely it was a tragic accident, a friendly-fire incident. And that Giuliana was crazy.

Reading the MSM and talking with folks during the week, it quickly became clear that my reaction was not the majority reaction. The MSM was full of comments ranging from completely creduluous reporting of her story as if it were corroborated fact to outrageous commentary implying that this incident "proves" that Eason Jordan was right all along — the U.S. military is targeting journalists.

Now that Giuliana's story is unraveling, even the MSM is reporting on a little more level-headed basis. A little. But what's up with that initial reaction? Why do so many jump on such a hateful, suspicious story and embrace it as if it were a long-lost friend?

I've pondered long and hard on this one, and the only thing I can come up with isn't particularly profound...just human nature at work. I think the most likely explanation is that this story, if you're a member ofthe Bush-bashing angry left and you're willing to suspend disbelief, reinforces your own preconceived notions. In other words, this story is completely consistent with their belief about Bush, so therefore to them it seems likely to be true. It doesn't matter that the details are fishy, or that you'd have to assume evil intent by a randomly selected group of soldiers, or even that visible evidence is contradictory. The story has the "Bush team" exhibiting all the horrible evil things you believe of it, so by gosh it must be true.

I'll instantly forgive the Italians and their press for being suspicious and credulous of Giuliana's story; after all, she's one of them (Italian, I mean). The rest of the world's press, however, was similarly credulous and even more full of vitriol than the self-hating American MSM. But these are the same outlets that are non-stop Bush-bashers, so my theory is not contradicted. It's worth noting that the Italian government and most of the Italian press are amongst the first to regain sobriety. The government, through several officials, has publicly chided Giuliana for "reckless accusations" and "careless talk." Basically they've asked her to shut up. And several Italian newspapers are actively reporting on all the gaping holes in Giuliana's story. And Giuliana changes her story frequently, and it seems the changes are always in the direction of something that sounds more plausible to me.

Giuliana, please shut up. Now.

Does anyone have a better idea about why the majority's initial reaction to this story was to believe it? I'd really like to understand this, as I suspect that buried in here somewhere is an important insight into the liberal mindset...

No comments:

Post a Comment