November 9, 2005
The Media and the Unhinged Marine
Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey was the liberal media's dream come true:
An anti-war Iraq veteran who came forward to publicly lambaste
the Bush administration and accuse American troops of murdering
was Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan and John Kerry all wrapped up
into one tidy, soundbite-friendly package -- a poster boy for
peace topped off by a military uniform and tattoos to boot. But
like a lot of the agitators who pose as well-meaning, good-faith
peace activists, Jimmy Massey was something else:
who was discharged from the Marines after being diagnosed with
post-traumatic stress syndrome, told harrowing, graphic tales
of American troops committing "genocide" against Iraqis.
In an interview published in the Sacramento Bee last
year, Massey claimed he and his fellow Marines used "M-16s
[and] 50-cal. machine guns" to shoot at children and peaceful
demonstrators. The Washington Post reported (in the loosest
sense of the word) on Massey's December 2004 sworn testimony at
a Canadian asylum hearing for U.S. Army deserter Jeremy Hinzman:
one 48-hour period, Massey said under oath, his platoon set
up roadblocks and killed "30-plus" civilians . . .
don't know if the Iraqi people thought we were celebrating their
newfound freedom. But I do know we killed innocent civilians,"
Massey said. In one case, the driver of a car leaped out with
his hands up. "But we kept firing. We killed him,"
Massey said. In another case, he and other Marines shot and
killed four protesters near a checkpoint after a single incoming
gunshot from an unknown source, he said. None of the protesters
was found with arms.
month, the Associated Press published an article on Massey's new
book, "Kill, Kill, Kill," published in France, which
recycled these anti-American smears. The sympathetic AP piece
included a perfunctory denial of Massey's charges by the Pentagon
and no independent corroboration:
who heard a gunshot fired upon 10 Iraqi demonstrators shouting
anti-U.S. slogans and wielding banners saying 'Go Home' near
the sprawling Al-Rashid military complex southeast of the city
center. All but one of the demonstrators were killed, said Massey,
who estimated he himself fired about 12 shots . . . "
skeptical bloggers first questioned Massey's hyperbolic, Winter
Soldier-esque tales. Justin Katz, a Rhode Island writer and publisher
of Dust in the Light,
wrote in May 2004 after examining Massey's incredulous claims
of being ordered to massacre children and use "ICBMs"
(sic): "This is how the anti-war forces seek to defeat the
U.S. military. Seeping from conspiratorial Web sites and foreign
anti-American rags into the mainstream consciousness like leech-filled
swamp water rising through the floor boards, the level of conceivability
for accusations notches up as time goes on. . . . [T]hose who
enable, promote, and lend credibility to this propaganda assault
must be faced and stared down this time around the historical
a lone member of the mainstream media answered the call. Last
weekend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Ron Harris,
who was embedded with Massey's unit in Iraq, published a devastating
debunking of the crackpot legends of Jimmy Massey. Harris detailed
how Massey misled reporters, backtracked from allegations about
witnessing a tractor-trailer filled with dead Iraqi civilians
he claimed were killed by American artillery, and habitually embellished
and altered his uncorroborated accounts of alleged military atrocities
in the press and in public speeches.
of Harris's colleagues who were duped by Massey? Mostly, a collective
shrug. I e-mailed a reporter from The Washington Post
asking if he would follow up. No response. A USA Today
reporter told me he had no plans to do so. And I spoke with David
Holwerk, editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee,
which ran a lengthy freelance interview of Massey by an anti-war
activist. "I don't know what we're planning to do,"
in a television interview that Massey continues to sell books
and DVDs that smear our troops. "[I]t's been profitable for
Jimmy Massey to keep telling this lie," he said.
despite the newspaper industry's plunging circulation figures
and credibility, Massey's media enablers believe the same thing.
2005 Creators Syndicate