Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mything Afghanistan, part two

Here is a great post on the mistakes folks make when writing about Afghanistan (linked via Tom Ricks).  Let's see which ones I am probably/certainly guilty of (although I am only considered an expert by the local media here):

1.  Offer simple explanations for everything, no matter how complex. Nobody wants to hear that there is no sound answer or that “it’s extremely complicated.”
Occasionally guilty.
11.  Power Point is a great way to cover up for your inability to communicate effectively. Use it.
Always guilty.  
3.  Use moral outrage or righteous indignation. It shows you to be an empathetic person. If someone disagrees with what you write then you can call them insensitive and callous.
Rarely guilty.  I am outraged more by stupidity than moral failures (Bush/Rumsfeld/Feith bothered me more than Tiger).
14  Name drop. When I was having tea with General McChrystal and Minister Atmar they told me to name drop early and often.
I frequently mention my Pentagon experience and meeting some of the players (Abizaid, Casey, one phone call with Petraeus!).

19.  Insert a photo of yourself into your article/presentation, or better yet make yourself a major part of the video reportage. John D McHugh doesn’t insert himself, but he will never become the next Anderson Cooper with an old-school pro attitude like that, will he?
Frequently guilty.

21. Use charm, wit, humor, counter-accusation, whataboutism and deflection or provide a question as a reply to a question in order to avoid answering hard questions that will harm your argument.
What do you think?

22 Report from a one week embed that consists of a trip by Blackhawk helicopter to a secure FOB and then talk about what it’s “really like” in a combat zone.
Sort of.  I don't talk about what it is really like, but I do generalize from my ten day trip in December 2007.
26. And finally, use bullet points. But not too many bullet points. Switch to numbered points.
Well, if I am guilty of 11, then I am guilty of 26 as well.

Most intriguing crime of which I am not guilty:
17.  Selectively quote an expert. You could (and this is totally, totally fictional) interview a professor who specializes in some aspect of Afghanistan for 45 minutes and then use a sub-10 second clip that confirms your pre-set agenda even though they said about a dozen other things in the same interview that contradict your agenda. Don’t worry, professors are not media- or internet-savvy enough to find a way to publicly shame you in justified retaliation.
Check out the list and see how well you do, if not on Afghanistan, then on your area of expertise.

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