Tuesday, July 11, 2006

NYT: The continued decline of Dexy

The sob-sister's back and the New York Times has him. This morning, Dexy Filkins offers up
"Stubborn Man Tries to Govern in Violent Iraq." A stubborn kind of fellow, you understand. Dexy's relating . . . if not reporting.

Which is why half-way into the article, in a single sentence, he tells you that the govenor of the Anbar province, Mamoon Sami Rashid who is the topic of Dexy's word picture, has two wives. Then he drops it. Because no one ever bothered to educate Dexy. So let's take a moment, just a brief one, to educate about the war on women and how polygamy came to Iraq which was once had a very advanced policy on women's rights. It took Gulf War I to start turning back the clocks, followed by the sanctions Mad Maddie can't live down (though she tries, though she tries). Following the first Gulf War, polygamy began resurfacing. It's apparently so accepted today that Dexy doesn't even find it strange -- or maybe it's just another sign of how little he cares?

Mamoon Sami Rashid been a subject he's been toying with for a bit now. Such as in a July 4th article that was so bad even the Times didn't want to run it so they farmed it out to The International Herald Tribune. It was one of Dexy's sob-sister pieces and they were trying to pimp him, still, as a war correspondent filing from Ramadi.

All of the sob-sister's latest quirks are on display in today's piece of "reporting" the eye-struck wonder, the take it all at face value, and his whole ahistorical approach that's been quite helpful when covering a war sold on lies. We're all used to that and have come to expect it from the non-reporting reporter.

"Sniper area -- run!" he shouted, and those leaving the meeting ran, indeed.

What's that? It's the way Dexy ends his story.

Is it an end to the story? No. It is good writing? No. Does it really convey anything? No.

But it's got 'drama' and the sob-sister really needs that. Actually, it's got melodrama and the issue's no longer just the fact that Dexy doesn't report what happens (he sometimes allows reality to slip out when he's trying to prove he can drink with the "boys" or when he's on PBS' NewsHour so he does grasp reality in some manner) it is that he's become such a bad writer.

There's a saying that after thirty, you get the face you deserve. Dexy's beginning to get the prose he deserves. It may do more to kill his career than any of the many bits of news he 'forgot' to include in his reporting. It's so laughable that my phone hasn't stopped ringing this morning as everyone rushes to share their own so-bad-you-have-to-love-it moment from the article.

The Go-Go Boy of the Green Zone Goes Camp is what one reporter dubbed it. (I'd love to claim that one as my own but fairness prevents me from doing so.) It's bad. It's really, really bad.

Someone could pan for gold if they wanted to. They won't find anything well written, not even one sentence. They will find a few details, such as the fact that the day before Dexy tagged along with US marines for this story (xenophobes take heart, the story's not really about the governor, Dexy has more quotes from various military spokespeople than usual -- just to make sure if his readers are as bored with Iraq as he is, they can hang through the end of his story) the equivalent of seven million dollars was stolen from Al Rafidain Bank ("next door to an American command post"). That money is uninsured. That's noted in passing.

It's not developed -- not the theft, not the effect it will have on the lives of people who just lost everything. It's as though the Times sent him to Houston in 2001 and he was too busy spit shining medals on various officers to manage more than a "Enron has crashed" statement.

Besides, as he puts it, Sniper Area Run!

This is really bad and you get the feeling that Thelma & Louise have gone over the cliff and Louise (Burnsie) isn't even bothering to show an interest in Dexy's copy these days. (Fortunately for Dexy, the US military doesn't need to vet his copy for bias the way they're currently doing with other embeds. They know Dexy is the ultimate embed and they can just sit back and laugh with the rest of us.)

What does the thing read like? An In Style profile. Though that might be giving it too much depth. Dexy apparently got five minutes to 'interview' his supposed subject and some travel time with the military. He tosses it out all together and the Times doesn't have the good sense to farm it out to IHT again.

On the phone, one reporter did a whole riff about how Dexy's imprisoned by the embed process and trying to send out an S.O.S. It was quite funny. What's really not funny is that he's been in Iraq over three years and he's offered such bad writing, such lousy reporting for so long.

(All agreed that many more like this morning and he'll find himself state side again. Which made the S.O.S. jokes even funnier.)

So what we find out, if we must pan for gold, is that the governor can't get al-Maliki (the puppet of the occupation with the designated title "prime minister until he really pisses off the American government") to send the promised money, construction's stopped on an elementary school and Rashid can't even get his lackeys to show up for meetings .

Dexy writes: "Only 6 of 39 senior officials showed up -- and those largely because Mr. Rashid threatened to fire anyone who did not. When the meeting finally began at the Government Center marines far outnumbered Iraqis. " So you know the paper's own Adela Quested felt much more at home and comfortable -- stay out of the caves, Dexy, stay out of the caves!

Sometimes, when we're dissecting Dexy, we wonder how a real reporter could have written the story? As one said this morning, "Forget real, even a bad reporter could have done better." It was thought that, having spent so much time covering Americans and America (while reporting from Iraq), Dexy might have seen this as his first attempt at a 'Meet the new face of Iraq' report. If so, he still gives more time to what US 'officials' say and think then he does to Rashid or any other Iraqi. What emerges, unintentionally, is the story of US forces propping up a government and Dexy still propping up the occupation.

Martha notes Ellen Knickmeyer and Joshua Partlow's "Capital Charges Filed In Rape-Slaying Case: U.S. Details Allegations Against GIs in Iraq" (Washington Post):

Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spec. James P. Barker and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman are charged with rape, murder, housebreaking, arson and drinking alcohol against military rules, the U.S. military said in a statement. Another soldier, Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, was charged with premeditated murder, rape and obstruction of justice. The four soldiers could face the death penalty if convicted.
The fifth active-duty soldier, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, is charged with dereliction of duty and making a false statement for allegedly failing to report the incident. Yribe was not directly involved in the attack, U.S. military spokesmen in Baghdad said.
The incident is one of the gravest of a series being investigated by the U.S. military in which Americans are accused of killing Iraqi civilians.
"Again, these are alleged offenses," Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters. "They're presumed innocent until proven guilty."
A sixth man, Steven D. Green, a former private, was discharged from the military for a "personality disorder" after the Mahmudiyah killings but before fellow soldiers identified American soldiers as the alleged culprits, sparking the criminal investigation. Green pleaded not guilty last week in Louisville to federal charges of rape and murder.
A federal affidavit in Green's case and accounts given to The Washington Post by neighbors, an uncle of the 15-year-old, the local mayor and medical authorities allege that at least four of the soldiers came to the home of Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi after noticing her from their post at a U.S. Army checkpoint near her home.
The assailants allegedly shot and killed Abeer's father, mother and 7-year-old sister, then raped and killed Abeer in another room. Abeer's body and part of the room were set on fire, apparently in an attempt to conceal the crime, U.S. investigators and Iraqi officials said.

The Post calls the incident "one of the gravest" -- we'll note the Times' version in the next entry.

Randy notes Liza Featherstone weighing in on Bono, the war 'gamer' in "Bono's Anti-Chavez Video Game" (The Notion, The Nation):

Bono gets much humanitarian cred for campaigning for Third World debt relief. But it is disgusting to make a game out of the Bush Administration's effort to undermine Hugo Chavez, a democratically elected leader, and one of the few living politicians today who are actually working to improve the lot of the world's poor -- the poor, whom the sanctimonious Bono claims to care so much about. If Bono is serious in his commitment, and not, as one frequently suspects, a vapid celebrity poser, he should immediately use his financial muscle to deep-six this horrible video game.

For more on that, see Kat's "Bono, he makes even Sonny look cool" (we're not providing a link to the New York Post).

Rod passes on these scheduled topics for today's Democracy Now!:

* An Iraqi journalist reports on the rape and killing of an Iraqi teenage girl and her family by US soldiers
* Sara Rich tells the in-depth story of her daughter Suzanne Swift, a 21-year-old Army Specialist who went AWOL after serving in Iraq for a year. Not only did she feel the war lacked purpose, Swift said her superiors repeatedly sexually harassed her while serving in Iraq.

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