News you can use . . . to start a riot

Newsweek is in full retreat amid the fallout from its Qur'an shredding story. In the current issue, editor Mark Whitaker admitted that there were some problems with the sourcing and signed off with this:

[W]e regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst.

In the same issue Evan Thomas gives the controversy a more extended treatment. He asked, point blank,

How did Newsweek get its facts wrong? And how did the story feed into serious international unrest? While continuing to report events on the ground, Newsweek interviewed government officials, diplomats and its own staffers, and reconstructed [a] narrative of events

FOB Paul Marshall -- that is, friend of the blog Paul Marshall of Freedom House -- is incredulous about why Newsweek ran with this story that its own reporters and editors though might be shaky. In an article for National Review Online, he charges:

The shakily sourced May 9 Newsweek report that interrogators had desecrated a Koran at Guantanamo Bay is likely to do more damage to the U.S. than the Abu Ghraib prison scandals. What is also deeply disturbing is that the journalists who put the report out seem somewhat clueless about this reality.

Marshall recounts some of the riots and deaths that have followed allegations that U.S. interrogators desecrated, destroyed, and flushed copies of the Koran to intimidate prisoners. Then he takes a few shots at Thomas' "What have we learned from this?" treatment:

While noting that, to Muslims, desecrating the Koran "is especially heinous," Thomas looks for explanations, including "extremist agitators," of why protest and rioting spread throughout the world, and maintains that it was at [Pakistani politician] Imram Khan's press conference that "the spark was apparently lit." He confesses that after "so many gruesome reports of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, the vehemence of feeling around this case came as something of a surprise."

What planet do these people live on that they are surprised by something so entirely predictable? Anybody with a little knowledge could have told them it was likely that people would die as a result of the article. Remember Salman Rushdie?

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