Rolling Stone's goofy psyops story
Image via WikipediaWashington Times Editorial:
“Rolling Stone magazine is engaging in a psychological operation trying to brainwash the American public,” says an expert in military information operations. The magazine’s Feb. 23 article, “Another runaway general: Army deploys psy-ops on U.S. senators,” by Michael Hastings, is a confused attempt to create an issue where no issue exists, and a potentially libelous smear on the record of a senior military officer. This is what passes for reporting among the antiwar left.There is much more.
Mr. Hastings asserts that Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan (NTM-A) illegally employed “ ‘psychological operations’ to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war.” From the tone of the article, an unsuspecting reader could conclude that the U.S. military has secret teams of warriors employing Jedi mind tricks, or active units of “men who stare at goats.” Senior military leaders are portrayed as being out to use government resources and martial techniques to dupe U.S. lawmakers.
The breathless introduction of the piece is disingenuous, asserting starkly that illegal acts took place when nothing of the kind has been charged, let alone proven. Even a common criminal gets the benefit of the doubt when crimes are alleged, but when the topic is the military, Rolling Stone’s apparent default position is a presumption of guilt. The general impression is of an anti-military hit job, which isn’t surprising coming from a journal that made its name in the hippie peace and love era.
Biased or not, more information is needed for the attack to stand up to the simplest scrutiny. An article accusing a high-ranking military officer of illegal activity should be based on an in-depth investigation involving multiple sources and extensive documentary evidence. However, Mr. Hastings asserts flatly that crimes took place based on a single source with an axe to grind. This is a violation of basic tenets of journalistic integrity. Sensational, yes. Honest journalism, no.
Mr. Hastings primary source is Lt. Col. Michael Holmes, the head of the information operations (IO) unit who is portrayed in the cliched role of the selfless whistleblower bucking the system. But according to information obtained by The Washington Times, Lt. Col. Holmes is better characterized as a disgruntled soldier who had been caught engaging in alleged improprieties and is using the liberal anti-war press to strike back.
When I first saw stories in the media about the Rolling Stone article, I felt it did not pass the giggle test. Gen. Caldwell has been an honorable officer with a distinguished career. He was over in Afghanistan to supervise a training mission for Afghan troops and was not in the chain of command for decisions on US troops strength or the other issues the Jedi mind tricks were supposed to accomplish. The Senators in question already supported the war effort. The thrust of the story in Rolling Stone suggest an effort by reporters and editors who know little of the military culture.
Julian Barnes reports in the Wall Street Journal that the accuser has no training in psyops.