Political Nonfictions

The Weekly Standard is reporting that Scott Thomas Beauchamp has "signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods." Earlier this afternoon, though, the New Republic issued a statement saying that Beauchamp's claims have been corroborated, and that the very military spokeman the WS people quoted in their article says that he has "no knowledge" of any such signed statement. So, basically, the point of this post is, nobody knows what's going, so I don't have an opinion.

No, actually, that's not my point. I actually want to talk about why and in what ways Scott Beauchamp's honesty (or lack thereof) matters in this case, as it relates both to my passionate love affair with creative nonfiction as well as my commitment to radical, blame-America-first liberalism.

So here's the thing-- if Scott Beauchamp lied about his experiences in Iraq in order to make himself sound more interesting, his experiences more horrifying, and his life story more profitable, he's a complete and utter scumbag. Amoral. Opportunistic. Exploitive. And I will never-- Ever!-- allow him to come to my house and drink my booze. Okay? Seriously-- I've got no use for a liar who pretends to be writing nonfiction in order to advance his own career-- as I said before, I think such frauds tend to cast suspicion upon the rest of us who genuinely do try to write about our own lives honestly, which winds up hurting our efforts to communicate with our readers (and, let's face it, make a living while doing it).

Nevertheless, even if it is proven that Scott Beauchamp was a lying little bastard who just fed the liberal blogopshere what we we wanted to hear in order to promote himself, this isn't exactly the story that the Michelle Malkins and Matt Drudges would like for it to be. Revealing Beauchamp as a fraud, they argue, proves that the anti-war crowd is wrong. The suffering he described didn't actually happen, so therefore anyone who believed that suffering could happen in Iraq is simply a partisan fool!

Um... excuse me?

Look, if you're a rightwing blogger and pundit invested in proving that everything is just lovely in Iraq right now (except for a few "assholes" who ocassionaly make everyone else look bad), I've got news for you-- discrediting Scott Beauchamp does not mark the end of the work you have to do. It's just the beginning. I didn't need Scott Beauchamp to tell me that war results in devastation and brutality-- at best, all he could ever hope to do was provide more evidence to support something that I already knew (and do it in a readable, compelling way).

[Edit-- To be clear, because there's been some confusion-- no one has actually argued that the situation in Iraq is "lovely." But I think several prominent bloggers and pundits have tried to downplay the brutality of war in general and this occupation in particular in order to make war seem more palatable to the American public. A few "assholes" are responsible for incidents of brutality, those Abu Ghraib kids were "just letting off steam." Discrediting Scott Beauchamp means only that Scott Beauchamp lied-- it doesn't defend or excuse the atrocities that have happened and-- presumably-- are still happening in Iraq. The phrase "war is hell" didn't come about because war is a pleasant place to learn about technology and earn money for college, after all]

If Scott Beauchamp is a liar-- and at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, August 7, 2007, the jury's still out-- it reflects poorly only on Scott Beauchamp. Those of us who believed him have every right to feel betrayed, but it doesn't mean that we're suckers or intellectual light-weights. And the fact that Michelle Malkin is pathologically incapable of listening to those who disagree with her is no virtue, either-- she may have been right regarding Beauchamp, but that doesn't change the fact that, on almost every other issue, she is always, consistently, ridiculously wrong.

By the way-- if anyone actually reads my posts for the reading recommendations I occasionally make-- Sherman Alexie has a really good short story called "Flight Patterns" that addresses these concerns about fiction and nonfiction, lies and truth. I don't want to give too much away, but the protagonist of the story-- William-- is put in a situation where a story he hears from someone else jars him out of his 21st century middle-class American complacency and anxiety, and awakens him to an understanding of the larger world. But he's left to wonder if the story was true or not-- and if it wasn't, did it really matter, given the profound affect it had on him? It's a great meditation on the power and meaning of Truth, and I highly recommend it.

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