L’affair Scott Thomas Beauchamp continues to be maximally confusing (I’m writing this because it took me far too long to figure out what was going on yesterday). Beauchamp published stories of army men acting a bit crazy under the stresses of war in The New Republic and was generally met with a yawn. He only became a big issue once a group of bloggers on the right decided that his account had to be false, and leaped at the chance for a new Rathergate. On the whole, their arguments were unconvincing: that Beauchamp’s stories involved troops violating standard operating procedure (duh?), that a Bradley fighting vehicle couldn’t run over a dog, and that Beauchamp was lying about discovering children’s bones, because the pile of human remains which he found wasn’t a mass grave. Now the army is reporting that Beauchamp faked it. On the other hand, the editor of TNR still says he talked to members of Beauchamp’s troop who confirmed the stories. I’m inclined to believe that the conflicting details add up to Beauchamp faked it, though I won’t swear on that. For more gory details, try here.
What’s weird about the whole thing is how much of a non-story it ought to have been. In the Rathergate case, where many people on the left were excited by the false documents, conservative bloggers did something very important by exposing the forgery and embarrassing the hell out of CBS.† The documents included seriously incriminating allegations about the incumbent president two months before a close election–whether they were true was a major story, if not the most important story at that time. More than that, it was conservative bloggers who exposed the story, using reasonable and verifiable arguments. If not for them, it might’ve taken a lot longer for a major deception to be uncovered. Here, not so much. As far as I can tell, people didn’t care about Beauchamp that much until he came under attack. No one became anti-war because of him, and the misdeeds he described were much less serious than the well-known Abu-Ghraib case. So to me, the case looks much more like the conservative bloggers looking for another shot at their old glory, and another chance to attack the media over something trivial.
†It galls me to write this, but it’s the truth.