Date: October 25, 2015

How Mary Mapes’ East Coast bias caused her downfall

Mary Mapes was the producer for CBS News when “60 Minutes” ran a piece on President George W. Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service in 2004 based on fraudulent documents that resulted in her firing. She wrote a book standing by the disproven documents, blaming the whole thing on conservatives, and now her book has been turned into the widely panned film “Truth” (Bloomberg View, The Atlantic, Powerline, Little Green Footballs).

The details of the scandal can be explored at the external links. The short version is that typography experts found the documents were mostly likely typed on a computer that existed after their purported date of creation and the source lied and changed his story multiple times. Powerline and Little Green Footballs were among the leading blogs in first exposing the documents.

Even Mapes, according to her own account, thought Bill Burkett’s bullshit story about where he acquired the documents sounded implausible. Conservatives like to talk about how the “elites” in big cities like New York City disrespect the “fly-over states” and especially the South. Sarah Palin–in an exaggerated example of this sentiment–talks about “the Real America” as if New York isn’t America and only small towns are. I think this sense of victimization gets to be a little bit too much at times, but in the case of Mapes, she wrote in her book that she seems to have an elitist attitude towards the “crazy” state of Texas that resulted in her downfall (quoted from her book via Bloomberg View):

As I sat listening to Burkett’s scenario spill out, I realized how truly ridiculous this sounded from our vantage in New York. But in Texas, one of the world capitals of ‘shit happens,’ a place where bull semen is worth its weight in gold (and the bizarre long ago became the mundane), I believed it was quite possible that Bill Burkett was finally telling the truth, the whole weird truth, and nothing but the truth. By God, in Texas, anything could happen.

Interestingly, Mary Mapes worked at CBS in Dallas, Tex. early in her career. She couldn’t have really thought Texas was unconstrained by the laws of journalism and of factual coherence, could she? Maybe she was just trying to contrive an after-the-fact excuse based on a romantic, poetic view of Texas that would work in a fictional novel or travel article.

But speaking of New York, what exactly is it about the city that makes her think everyone there is an upstanding gentleman who would never get involved in a conspiracy of politics and corruption? Were there never any mobsters in New York who made “shit happen”? What about the current presidential candidate from New York, Donald Trump? There’s a guy who shit talks about every journalist and fellow candidate on his side within 10 points of him in the polls. If wild conspiracy theories–that are just as plausible as Burkett’s story–are to be believed, he got into race at the urging of Bill Clinton. If Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee are emblematic of the worst stereotypes of small town America, then Trump is emblematic of the stereotype that New Yorkers are angry, conceited bastards with a chip on their shoulder who always want to pick a fight.

If her own explanation is to be believed, then she could have hung onto her job if she didn’t hold such geographically-biased views that tainted her judgment.

Obama’s Syria legacy

I have written on the idea of Obama being a Political Realist before. I said, even if he pays lip service to Realism, most notably in his speeches and interviews, and tries to portray himself as a a cold, calculating genius…he is not, infact a Realist. His biggest flaw is not being cold and calculating, but being half-hearted and uninterested and dithering in his approach. Also, he is naive and idealistic in some ways when it comes to his early optimism about Arab Spring, or a Reset with Medvedev’s Russia, which fundamentally misunderstood the nature of Russia’s ruling elite and hierarchy.

In my latest column, I analyse, that Obama maybe is also, to some extent unable to say openly, what he wants, due to structural American domestic politics, and the upcoming elections. Have a read, and let me know if I have missed something!



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