"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Friday, August 12, 2005

More on Bochco-ed Iraq War Story

Michael Fumento, at my request, sent me the following email exchange that took place today, initiated by a message to Mr. Fumento from a PR executive at FX. (Many thanks, Mike!) I reprint the message and Mr. Fumento's response here, verbatim:

Dear Mr. Fumento,

I'm writing in response to your column in the New York Post this morning.

In the future, feel free to call me if you have any questions about any programs on FX or need production notes on any of our programs. I would be happy to provide you with materials you need to write a more informed column.

It's obvious to me that you have no knowledge about the background of the military technical advisor for Over There. I think if you would have asked, you would know that he is, to use your word, a "true" military technical advisor. He is a former U.S.M.C. Staff Sergeant and his ten years of service included an 11-month tour in Iraq where he was a Fire Power Control Team leader with an ANGLICO unit.

While there have been some complaints with regard to the authenticity of the pilot (first) episode, the majority response from soldiers and military personnel was much more positive/favorable with regard to episodes two and three. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of reviews written about Over There were good to outstanding. The only negative reviews the show received were written by critics who believed that the series should have taken a political position but did not.

To buttress your opinion of Over There based on one posting from an antiwar blog is pretty weak. Yes, I know, you could have found plenty more postings to support that antiwar premise. That said, I assure you that I can provide you with as many, if not more, emails/blog postings/letters/etc. from soldiers/veterans of OIF that have a favorable opinion of Over There.

I respect the fact that you were an embed and have personal knowledge of what it is like in Iraq. I know other journalists who were embedded in Iraq who have seen the show and happen to believe it is an accurate depiction of what soldiers face in Iraq. They recognize that the series takes dramatic license at times but they clearly understand it is not a documentary. I screened the first three episodes individually for several soldiers who had served in Iraq and they had a few criticisms, but overall they believed the show got it right. Tony Perry, the military staff writer for the Los Angeles Times who was also embedded in Iraq, screened it for a dozen Marines who had served at least one tour in Iraq, most of them had served two tours. You should read his article published in the Los Angeles Times (July 27) to see those soldiers' comments.

Finally, I respect the fact that you're entitled to your opinion and it's fine if you don't like the show. However, for you to write that the military technical advisor on Over There deserves the firing squad is reprehensible. He has served our country honorably, fought to protect our freedom and has first-hand experience of service in
Iraq. If you had bothered to pick up the phone and ask a question, I can only assume that you probably would not have written such an insulting and irresponsible comment.

Please feel free to call because I really would like to discuss this with you.

John Solberg
Senior Vice President, Public Relations
FX Networks
[pnone number omitted]

Right. That's why a unit couldn't get air support for 36 hours, instead of the usual less-than-30 minutes. That's why the squad had no reinforcements, no artillery, no armor, and even the heavy machine guns on the two Humvees present weren't used. That’s why the enemy marks its IEDs with white flags, to make sure to warn off Americans. That's why the Humvee gunners (yes including episodes two and three, the “more accurate” ones) have no shielding? It's why a missile or bomb would be used to take out 20 Stingers in episode three, making it virtually impossible for forensics to determine all could be accounted for. (Yes, I know that was necessary to the plotline to make the intelligence officer a liar and make the Americans ruthless killers of civilians.) It's why even though some members of the squad carry grenade launchers only one grenade was fired during episode one with none during those oh-so-accurate episodes two and three; you know, the “more accurate” episodes.

In episode three, the GIs question why an airstrike would be used against two terrorists, without wondering why they won’t fire grenades or a mortar and wipe them out within minutes. Oh, but wait, even though they’re an infantry unit they have no mortar! It's why EOD simply fails to show up to disarm or detonate a car bomb in episode two, even though the incredibly-professional EOD makes it a point to be on-scene in 30 minutes. And sure, legs can keep moving forward even [when] everything above the waist has been blown clean off with that one fired grenade. After all, Washington Irving’s horseman rode without a head! Does a former Marine really not know all this? Even the water bottles are wrong! Evian in
Iraq? No, Mr. Solberg; Iraq is not LA. Americans in Iraq get their water from a Kuwaiti company, not the French. I could go on and on, but to what avail. You either haven't got a clue or you do have a clue and don’t care. All you care about is making money and slamming the military and the war effort generally.

Nor do I care about the favorable reviews you’ve gotten; that’s just the blind and biased following the Bochco. I would recommend to you the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article of
July 26, 2005. I believe the title speaks for itself: “These soldiers say 'Over There' is 'bogus.'”

If your military advisor does give accurate advice, then you're overriding him at every turn and he should have resigned in disgust. Since apparently he hasn’t, he sold out the uniform I and so many others have proudly worn. But maybe a firing squad would be too harsh; he should just suit up and have a real soldier rip every patch off his uniform.

Michael Fumento


James Elliott said...

Wow. Mr. Fumento comes across as quite the ass in his reply, considering how polite the FX exec was to him.

I haven't seen the show, don't get FX, don't intend to, and I couldn't really give a flying poop over the authenticity of the show. Just pointing out that his reply was way over the top in vitriol. He sounds like that idiot Hinderocket or my old anthropology professor who quashed dissenting opinion with the speed and ruthlessness of a Borgia.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm a Fumento fan, because he unearths facts that nobody else will, as opposed to spouting opinions, which everyone else will. (One would have to be familiar with his career to evaluate the validity of my opinion on this.) He is no pundit; he's an investigative journalist.

Still, I would agree with Mr. Elliott that the tone of Fumento's reply was brusque. On the other hand, he brought many concrete objections to bear. And, when confronted with the rudeness of

"However, for you to write that the military technical advisor on Over There deserves the firing squad is reprehensible. He has served our country honorably, fought to protect our freedom and has first-hand experience of service in Iraq."


"Reprehensible" may be an acceptable term in the Kososphere, but it's unacceptable in civil disagreement. "Firing squad" is metaphorical, poetic license, and admittedly hyperbolic, but "reprehensible" is none of those three. It is the nuclear option.

Neither does "Over There's" technical advisor's military service in Iraq entitle him to a Get Out of Jail Free Card when he's employed in another capacity, especially when in Mr. Fumento's view, the latter service betrays the primary one.

If I were Fumento's PR man, yeah, I would have advised him to suffer these fools a bit more gladly. We're talkin' showbiz here. Mike, have your people give my people a call.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Upon further review, I'd like to footnote and append my above remarks.

A more accurate term, I think, for Michael Fumento's career is he's more a forensic journalist, much like the blogosphere, except Fumento was there first. He takes the information that is dispensed by "reliable" sources, and crosschecks and fisks the hell out of it. He was a blogger before there were bloggers.

You could look it up.

Next, the closing sentence of the FX executive's note said

"If you had bothered to pick up the phone and ask a question, I can only assume that you probably would not have written such an insulting and irresponsible comment."

Well, perhaps Mr. Fumento should have bothered to pick up a phone, to call this FX channel functionary who he had no idea even existed. Fair enough.

But after the functionary characterized Mr. Fumento's remarks as "insulting and irresponsible," what did he expect, flowers?

Interesting to me is the functionary's labored locution, referring to "Over There's" military/technical advisor:

"(h)e has served our country honorably, fought to protect our freedom and has first-hand experience of service in Iraq."

What the hell does that mean? Hey, I could be wrong, but that also fits an ex-GI who washed dishes for Halliburton in Mosul.

Could use a forensic journalist about now...

xScottAllen said...

Looks like I'll pick on James Elliott again. Sure, Mr. Fumento uses very insulting language, but he backs it up with facts about the broadcast. You, on the other hand, don't seem to care about the facts and only want people to be nice and polite (like when you call Mr. Fumento an "ass")? Fumento is right, hiring an "expert" means nothing when the product shows a lack of expertise. I served 21 years in the Corps, including Iraq. Every single one of Fumento's factual arguments are dead-on correct. Also, Fumento's "firing squad" comment was extreme (because firing squads are for traitors) but perhaps the good Staff Sergeant should have answered Fumento's entire critique and explained how the presentation was accurate and honorable? Instead, we get a polite but vague response from a PR guy.