New York- When I woke up this morning, as per usual, I scan the Google News headlines on my Blackberry to see what’s going on, or in the case of the Middle East and South Asia considerate of time zone discrepancies, what has already taken place by the time I get up in New York. I was a bit surprised to see that today’s top story under the Entertainment section was the very public falling out Rolling Stone journalist and author Nir Rosen had with New York University’s Karen Greenberg over some rather tasteless Twitter posts he had made regarding the attack on CBS 60 Minutes’ Lara Logan last Friday following the dethronement of Hosni Mubarak. Logan was reportedly brutally attacked after losing touch with her crew and I presume personal security detail (though the nasty details of the incident have not been completely disclosed).
Firstly I was quasi-shocked to see Rosen listed in the Entertainment section rather than hard news but that is the least important detail. Reading through Rosen’s Twitter posts, he incorrectly describes Logan as a “major war monger.” I highly doubt, though having only encountered her once in the field, that she is a war monger, a traditionally strong term. War monger may describe implacable political actors like John Yoo, Douglas Feith, and Dick Cheney, people who actually create and implement twisted policies to serve their own ends. In my judgement, Logan may at best be termed a pro-war journalist or a war booster for her consistent laudatory coverage of the Afghan war purely through the filter of the American military but that is not in the same category as a war monger whatsoever. Without the Bush wars, the part no one mentions is that many journalists who have exploited them to come up would not have the careers they have today. Logan might well being doing local news in South Africa if it weren’t for violent neoconservative interventions in the Muslim realm, and Rosen might still be bouncing at the club were he first met Bergen. Why Rosen, who one would think a highly intelligent character, would think he could say something so crass on a enormously popular social networking site and think that it would not have immediate repercussions is beyond me.
Following Rosen’s canning over at NYU’s Center on Law and Security, the Washington Post reported that he then lost a consulting gig at an unnamed NGO as an added consequence. Rosen referred to Twitter in an interview as “silly social media” which is a little ironic because he had been commenting prior the Logan incident on the veracity of North Africa’s social media-engineered revolutions in earlier Twitter posts.
The gossipy specifics of all of this aside, what the manufactured controversy leaves out, because it is not being written about by people that know, is that not only the old cliche of journalists in war zones being very competitive and under cutting ones not closely allied to them should the opportunity arise is as true as it ever was, but the macabre, often raunchy gallows humor that many journos engage in in the field which is never meant to filter back to ‘civilized’ society back home. This is a business where guys occasionally lose legs stepping on a land mine after all.
Of course I make a point of not being on either Facebook or Twitter for the sake of a modicum of privacy. The question must be asked though: is it right for someone to be fired from a job for making an unprofessional sounding statement in their private life? Though Twitter is like attaching a megaphone to people’s internal mechanisms, Rosen seems to have thought that only like-minded friends in his industry were reading his comments. But he took it to another level because Logan is a very high profile, public figure unlike himself. Whether the DC policy doyens at New America, where he is also a fellow, will also give him a swift boot out the door remains to be seen.
Another likely angle of Rosen’s anger is that someone of Ms. Logan’s fame and attractiveness (or Anderson Cooper’s for those that swing that way) suffering will immediately surpass the largely unsung brutality that many Egyptian protestors and Arab journalists went through in the last few weeks, much of which was barely reported on in the American media. I suppose there is some travesty in that and I would love to maintain a level of righteous distress about such imbalances in world affairs but it is what it is as they say. Nir Rosen has not been in the game nearly as long as me but long ago surpassed me in terms of fame, recognition and probably pay I would guess in part due to his friendship with Peter Bergen. In light of something like this, I’m happy to be toiling away in the journo underground where no one gives a damn really what I say which is almost quaint these days.