More Beauchamp! (sorry…)

Why do conservatives hate the troops?

This is great. The conservative blogosphere and it’s kissin’ cousin, the milblog community—who always criticize the left for not supporting the troops—is engaging in some troop hating of its own. Their target, of course, is Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp, of TNR fame, and he’s taking a beating by critics who apparently have nothing better to do than furiously Google his name all night long and troll his MySpace page.

This childish game of name-calling, mostly led by the know-nothing Michelle Malkin’s of the world—anyone remember the Jamil Hussein embarassment—has been going on for the better part of a week. Now the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb dug up some particularly damning evidence against the young soldier:

We do know that Beauchamp worked on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, that he edited a liberal student magazine in college, and that he marched with pro-choice demonstrators in 2004. Further, we know that he enlisted in the military “just to write a book” about his experience—not the noblest of reasons, but neither does it discredit his work. Writing under a pseudonym, though, did prevent readers from understanding that his perspective was not merely that of a soldier on the ground, but of a political activist.

How dare a college grad and engaged citizen volunteer to join the Army to fight for his country! (Which is something that most of the brave souls who inhabit the milblog community prefers to leave to others.) While there are some very legitimate questions about what Beauchamp wrote, nothing, it’s worthy of note, has been proved false yet. But that hasn’t stopped the sharp knives of a slew of bloggers from coming out. Andrew Sullivan
captures the mood nicely:

[T]he conservative blogosphere has taken such an almighty empirical beating this last year that they have an overwhelming psychic need to lash out at those still clinging to sanity on the war. This Scott Thomas story is a godsend for these people, a beautiful distraction from the reality they refuse to face.

It combines all the usual Weimar themes out there: treasonous MSM journalists, treasonous soldiers, stories of atrocities that undermine morale (regardless of whether they’re true or not), and blanket ideological denial. We have to understand that some people still do not believe that the U.S. is torturing or has tortured detainees, still do not believe that torture or murder or rape occurred at Abu Ghraib, still believe that everyone at Gitmo is a dangerous terrorist captured by US forces, and still believe we’re winning in Iraq. If you believe all this and face the mountains of evidence against you, you have to act ever more decisively and emphatically to refute any evidence that might undermine this worldview.

Matt Yglesias follows up with this:

What the right is trying to do is establish a precedent where if you say things the right doesn’t want to hear anonymously then you’ll be treated with a presumption of guilt. No matter how vindicated the article may be, it’s still the case that TNR expended a lot of person-hours on re-verifying things even though nobody on the right raised any serious reason to doubt the story other than that it wasn’t something they wanted to believe. It’s extremely difficult to operate that way, and people won’t want to. But suppose you do identify yourself. Then you get the full Michelle Malkin treatment — character slimed, all kinds of personal details splayed across the internet, don’t say you weren’t warned. Thus, we’ll have all our information coming from official sources, just as the right likes it (until, of course, there’s a Democratic administration).

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.