Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘taliban

Fer it before he wuz agin it

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Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush told Megyn Kelly on Fox News that he, along with many people in the Senate in 2001, would’ve done exactly what his brother, former President Bush did when confronted with 911; pursue a course of war.  That was certainly a clear answer.  But later, Mr. Bush, while being interviewed by Sean Hannity, said he didn’t understand the question as it was posed by Ms. Kelly, called it a” hypothetical” and said he didn’t know what he would’ve done.

Perhaps supporters of the war who are also Bush’s supporters put pressure on him to recant.  But his follow up is one of those things that make you go, hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm …

But before it looks like this is bagging on Jeb Bush, consider:
– said Rand Paul was against the Drug War before he was for it
– The New American says General Norman Schwartzkopf was against the 1991 Gulf War before he was for it
– says John Kerry was for the Iraq war before he was against it
– Fox News says former Senator and Presidential candidate John Edwards was for the war in Iraq before he was against it.
– The Daily Kos says Mitt Romney was for the Vietnam War before he was against it.
– Outside the Beltway says Senator John McCain was for trading taliban prisoners for Army Sgt. Beau Bergdahl before he was against it
– Wizbangblog says former President Bill Clinton was for the war in Iraq before he was against it.
– says Paul Ryan was for the war in Syria before he was against it
– Foreign Policy magazine says President Obama says he was against the authorization for the war before he was for it
– says former Vice President Dick Cheney was against the Iraq was before he was for it …

… and on and on.

Clearly, Mr. Bush doesn’t want to throw his brother under the bus for the 12-year Iraq War.  But you don’t hear Republicans speaking of George W. with the same reverence of Ronald Reagan.  That says something about how party faithful on the right see the Bush Doctrine.

The larger point is politicians change their minds for their own reasons like all of the rest of us.  Except when we do it, it isn’t necessarily a judgement on our character or mental faculties.  It won’t necessarily destroy our lives or give people license to judge us for the rest of our lives because we were human.

Interviewers need to bring up inconsistencies like this during subsequent interviews.  To not is to deny constituents, whether they’re listening to business leaders or politicians, the opportunity to truly understand their thought process.  And once recants like this are being discussed, the interviewer needs to press the question to the edge of journalistic decorum.

Splitting the Baby

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This is about how reportage and interviewing connect. And this reference to King Solomon points to one of storytelling’s ancient problems.

I’ve just listened to Malala Yousafzai speak boldly against the Taliban attack on her last October. Their shooting of her may have been in line with their religious and political priorities to keep women subjugated according to their interpretation of Islam. But it backfired severely in a world that is becoming more intolerant of any culture that suppresses any part of its population that could be helping to lift it instead. As I listened to BBC reporters interview three ten year old girls; two in a Pakistani school for girls, and one making mud bricks at a family home though, I thought about the responsibility of journalism.

Journalism says the truth must be visible for all to see and verify, even if that means exposing the people with the most to lose to the people who want most to insure they lose it. Those two girls, identified by their real names, are in danger now, as far as I can tell. The third, making mud bricks, far from a school and other girls, is no threat to religious fundamentalism.

Should the girls in school be afraid for their lives? That’s a lot to ask of ten year olds. But the adults should certainly be. The world has rallied around Malala Yousafzai and has made her into a symbol of the emancipation of girls and women from radical sects and muslim extremists. Take note however, that on Pakistani social media, Ms. Yousafzai is being criticized for being a “Drama Queen” and reflecting unfavorably upon Islam. These things said about an innocent women who took a bullet to her head after she dared to speak out about the right of girls to go to school. So even if these groups don’t dominate Pakistan – the country with the highest percentage of girls not in school – their views certainly seem to.

Does that make Pakistan a pyrrah? It’s a debatable questions, especially if its citizens are looking at Octomom, or Girls Gone Wild videos and asking themselves, “Is this what Western freedom does to women?” But it doesn’t justify murder or torture. It doesn’t mean that they then have the right to rape and kill and mutilate females who refuse the polar opposite mold.  And an equally important question for this post; does that mean Western media should point out girls trying to attain both personal freedom and national pride despite these practitioners of tribalism only to be raped or killed or mutilated into subjugation? The amazing thing about political freedom is the right of choice. As stupid and demeaning as a behavior may be, a free society allows it as long as it isn’t doing harm to yourself or someone else, and as long as it isn’t so revolting that people eventually can’t stand it anymore. But the threshold for revulsion can be high in free societies.

I will forever be torn over journalism’s ironic necessity to tell the story with full attribution and disclosure of someone who, more than anything, needs anonymity to survive. I understand without it, anyone can claim any set of circumstances is true, and thus, manipulate an audience without proper facts. I understand a cause celeb can bring many people out of the shadows and give their own experience voice. And I understand that some people tell their stories while accepting their fate that they may become martyrs for their causes. But in many cases, our need to be exactly sure of who these people are only puts huge fluorescent targets on their backs, with their only comfort being that the fickle West might remember their cause even if it doesn’t remember the life they lost because of it.

Written by Interviewer

July 13, 2013 at 21:54