Truthfully, it was only a matter of time. I stumbled into being a reader of Newsweek by purchasing it from a niece or nephew for a school fundraiser. I’ve kept the subscription for the past couple of years because I felt it was (at least) a good alternate source of information. But after being a consistent reader for some time, I began to find myself talking back to the damn thing more and more. I’d read stories that were either obviously slanted toward a particular view or espousing facts and figures that were so easily countered that I began to question the integrity of the entire publication.
And then this story about the Koran comes out. I’m sure you’ve heard by now, but here’s the synopsis:
Newsweek ran a story citing one annonymous source that soldiers at Guantanamo Bay flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet as a means of coercing prisoners into talking. (The logic of this escapes me, by the way.) The story has widely been blamed for riots in the Middle East, the results of which were at least 17 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Newsweek has since retracted the story, citing that the source “can’t remember” where he saw the allegations and, in fact, can’t vouch for the validity.
I have several problems with this entire episode, not the least of which include:
- What kind of mindset do you have to have to kill someone over the desecration of a book? Seriously, I have no problem with Islam and I believe that people should be able to believe anything they like. But the physical book the pages and the ink are not the same as the message of the words. Even if you hold the words and message to be sacred, isn’t the book (which was made by man), just a book?
- Even if the story was true (and it might yet be), what was Newsweek hoping to accomplish? Is something like this newsworthy, or just inflammatory? Couldn’t they have guessed how this might be received around the world? Couldn’t they have anticipated the likely response?
I believe they probably had both guessed and anticipated correctly, but decided it was better to sell more copies of their magazine that to examine the authenticity of the story, the veracity of the source, or the responsibility associated with printing it.
Now seventeen people are dead, hundreds are wounded, and our efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq have been seriously undermined… all due to a story that, in the end, may not be true.