If you pay attention to the goings-on of the world, you know that President Obama had to fire General Stanley McChrystal, the head of war operations in Afghanistan, after McChrystal said some irresponsibly stupid things in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. But before McChrystal lost his job, there was one person who was the fall guy for the whole mess, and he’s one of our own.
Duncan Boothby is an old friend and housemate of mine; he was at Carolina in the early ’90s with the rest of us, and continued to participate in our social and artistic endeavors in NYC long afterwards. He’s also been pilloried as the press consultant who brought down a general during a war. If you want a pile of shit masquerading as journalism, look no farther than this story, which is a clinic on duct-taping quotes in order to make somebody look like an assclown.
How about these for code phrases from journalists: “[Boothby] was slick, about 5-foot-8, well tailored, and you knew he could never run 20 miles.” “He was very glib, had a British accent… it was clear he wasn’t military.” Well-tailored? Glib? It’d be much more honest if they’d just skip the winking and nudging.
All these anonymous quotes from reporters in the field speaks to a larger culture – the curious frat of war correspondents. I feel like I’ve spent half my adult life with these folks, and while I have a long history with that world and respect their passion, they can be unfathomably annoying. I’ve known many of them as ticking testosterone time bombs, instant believers in the worst of human nature, cocksure blowhards addicted to the heroin of bad news. If you don’t believe the apocalypse is nigh, they don’t think you’re trying hard enough.
All of which aids their survival in the wild, but makes for awesome nights in New York that inevitably end face down on Gansevoort Street in a puddle of absinthe. I’ve never met Michael Hastings, the author of the Rolling Stone piece, but he seemed vaguely dickish during his NPR interview, and since I’m a over-generalizing prick with naught but a broad brush, I’ll lump him in with the rest.
Point being this: it’s a scrotum culture, and I don’t like the portrayal of Duncan as some effete twit mincing about Afghanistan messing up people’s careers. If anything, Duncan was too good at his job, securing the general a huge Rolling Stone piece, giving him just the kind of “media weapon” the general wanted. The rest was up to McChrystal, and he chose to use that platform to get himself fired.
You can’t have it both ways; slow-galumphing monoliths like the military and brick & mortar corporations can’t glom onto “New Media™!” and then be shocked when it bites them in the ass. You don’t give your car keys to a 10-year-old, and you don’t give a guy with Tourette’s a Twitter account. Likewise, you don’t denigrate both the President and the Vice President to a Rolling Stone reporter.
Of course, the Fox article patronizingly labels Duncan as a shifty “new media type” (in an article on the Web, it should be noted) and mentions “the only credit that could be found for him was as an actor in North Carolina.” Well, I’ll provide another credit for him right here: Duncan Boothby is a great guy. He is the kind of wonderful, weird, inscrutable, brilliant, un-self-aware person I’m honored to have in my cast of characters. I’ll speak for many of my friends here, and say that our time at UNC – and beyond – would be the lesser without his personality. Here’s to failing upwards!