Matt Welch alludes to it below, but Newsweek has now announced that its "Periscope" item about U.S. interrogators in Gitmo flushing pages from the Koran down the toilet is…well, maybe not so true, and uh, well, we're really sorry, if it is false, then we categorically are sorry, but just to cover our sorry little asses, "We're not saying it absolutely happened but we can't say that it absolutely didn't happen either" ….because you know in this topsy-turvy, post-9/11 world even the Red Sox have won the World Series, so you can never say never…
Newsweek's weasely non-admission is spectacular in its bad timing, almost seemingly calculated to maximize rotten effects. If the original piece was thinner than the skin stretched over Ann Coulter's bones, then what the hell did they run it for, even in "Periscope," a section that rivals the "Dog Gone Funny" panel of Marmaduke comics for credibility and laffs quotient? The single source was an unidentified "knowledgeable government source" who later admitted he couldn't verify the story.
And now, in the wake of widespread violence after the factoid became public, Newsweek retracts the piece, which makes the mag look like it's just trying to pour oil on troubled waters, thereby diminishing press credibility in general while in no clear way exonerating the U.S. military.
The final insult? It makes those of us who are critical of government sources, largely because they are quicker to lie than they are to tell the truth, agree with the Pentagon (!) spokesman who said of the mystery source, "People are dead because of what this son of a bitch said. How could he be credible now?"
But don't delay: Over at Newsweek's site, they've got a rip-roarin', straight from the headlines article about "rediscovering George Washington" on display. (If you're hankering for another expose of whether Jesus wore socks or whether the dinosaurs had cholesterol, etc., just wait for the next week's issue.)
And here's the editor's note about the Gitmo fuckup.
Side bets welcome: How long will it take before some sagacious media critic blames the problem on the unhealthy marketplace competition that degrades the journalistic standards once upheld by even classified writers of the days of yore and/or the Internet?