If they gave out an award for journalistic malpractice, I would bet my left foot that Robert Johnson of Business Insider would be nominated for what is probably the worst article ever written about the detainee hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay.
Entitled “THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GITMO STRIKE: Detainees Are Treated Absurdly Well,” Johnson’s March 27 piece [ht Glenn Greenwald] ignores reams of torture allegations to fete the side of the prison he saw during the Potemkin Village style tour he was treated to by the military.
Military spokesman Navy Capt. Robert Durand tells a different story, however, maintaining that the strike is an “orchestrated event intended to garner media attention,” according to the New York Times.
So which is the real story? When I visited Guantanamo earlier this month, it was hard not to see things from the military’s point of view.
Fantastic use of your critical faculties, Bobby. What sort of propaganda tour did you expect?
“Here’s the sleep deprivation chamber. And this is the memo instructing us to threaten prisoners with rape and murder. And here is where we drugged detainees. Here’s an example of a stress position. Hey! Are you taking notes? I want you to fully document my having taken part in these horrendous crimes.”
Even if the allegations aren’t true (and that’s a massive “if”), it is an affront to human decency to describe indefinite detention without trial (false imprisonment, for all intents and purposes) under any circumstances, as consisting of “resort treatment.” At least Johnson says indefinite detention without trial “may be morally offensive” (note, however, that he has his doubts).
So why did the latest hunger strike occur according to military spokespeople?
When they saw Obama failed to mention the camp in his inaugural address, they noticed. The last bit of hope maintained by many began to fade. They needed control and attention to get back in the news.
What drama queens, right? Who wouldn’t want their own personal Nintendo DS and “Playstation 3 access with a library full of video games”? It sure beats living in a sandy ol’ cave, or something. Right, Bobbo?
Johnson didn’t even bother trying to get the detainees side of the story — something he could have done by contacting their lawyers.
And if the following excerpt is any indication, it might be because Johnson views the detainees as being subhuman:
Suicide is another effective way of getting media attention, and there remains a rumor among detainees that three simultaneous suicides would force the Pentagon to close Guantanamo — despite three suicides already happening in 2006.
Yeah. That must be why Gitmo detainees have offed themselves and others might follow suit. Seventy-two virgins and a photo above the centerfold. Every PR expert knows the best way to create buzz for your career is to end your own life.
Pathetic excuse for journalism. Judge for yourself.
Update: Here is Greenwald’s take. Written shortly after Johnson’s article first came out, it goes into significant detail about the Pentagon’s PR machine — something that was almost certainly at work on Johnson. Despite the fact that the article itself is yesterday’s news, I found myself compelled to write about it after seeing Glenn tweet it this evening. It was just that bad.