Magazine article New Criterion

New Grub Street

Magazine article New Criterion

New Grub Street

Article excerpt

Everyone now knows about Newsweek's preposterous Koran-down-the-toilet story. That little escapade, based upon the Great Source Anonymous, ignited a tinder box in Afghanistan and, at last count, had claimed seventeen lives. Honest mistake? Well, remember Newsweek's reticence when the same reporter got hold of the Monica Lewinsky story? At that time, with Bill Clinton in office, caution was the name of the game--to such an extent that Newsweek was scooped. But now George W. Bush is in office, American troops are in harm's way, and the administration's efforts in the Muslim world seem to be bearing fruit. Why not knock it? That seems to have been the motivation, though, as Mark Steyn has pointed out, one has to be pretty credulous to believe that a book the size of the Koran can be flushed down a toilet:

   In a way, both the U.S. media and those wacky
   rioters in the Afghan-Pakistani hinterlands are
   very, similar, two highly parochial and monumentally
   self-absorbed tribes living in isolation
   from the rest of the world and prone to fanatical
   irrational indestructible beliefs--not least
   the notion that you can flush a 950-page book
   down one of Al Gore's eco-crazed federally
   mandated low-flush toilets, a claim no editorial
   bigfoot thought to test for himself in Newsweek's
   executive washroom.

Newsweek formally retracted its story and apologized, if grudgingly. (What a consolation that must be to the families of those killed in the riots. …

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