Posted by Adam @ 1:41 pm on February 29th 2008

Drudge and the troops

Drudge broke an embargo that British news organisations had imposed on themselves and revealed that Prince Harry (second son of Prince Charles and, therefore, third in line for the throne until Prince William has any children) had been deployed in Afghanistan. Consequently, for the same reasons he wasn’t deployed in Iraq — basically because he’d endanger the mission and anyone near him because of his propaganda value if captured or killed, making him a very attractive target for capture or attack — he’s been pulled out of Afghanistan.

So, my opinion is that it was bound to leak out and there’s no point whining about it. I wouldn’t cross the road to micturate on Drudge if he were ablaze atop a pile of banknotes, but there’ll always be someone like him around so any operation that depends on someone like him not finding out about it inevitably has a short shelf-life (he wasn’t the first to break the story, in any case, but his was the report that drew enough attention that Harry had to be withdrawn from Afghanistan). What interests me, however, is the attitude of some of the conservatives who have derided the American press for being disloyal or endangering troop morale or the troops themselves, through reporting on problems in Iraq, or opposition to the War, or stuff that the administration would prefer be kept secret, etc. I personally just think that, like Drudge, the media is an essential and unavoidable part of a free society and railing against them is pointless. However, for those that do think that the media have a moral responsibility to keep newsworthy items secret out of national loyalty and love of the military, how do they see Drudge publishing a story that endangers the life of troops in the service of an ally, on a mission started by the US?

I presume that some of those people have already roundly condemned Drudge — I have been on the road and didn’t do that much browsing of news and blogs — but it would be even better if they realised that there’s no pointing railing at Drudge or the rest of the media for reporting things that are clearly newsworthy, in much the same way that there’s no point whining about water’s tendency to flow downhill. The British media made a deal, for various reasons, to keep it quiet but where there’s the promise of news, there are people interested in publishing it and in this case it was Drudge. Such is life.


  1. Like most people who loathe Drudge, Adam is often tempted to remove the bookmark for his site from his browser taskbar and favorites file.

    Comment by James — 2/29/2008 @ 2:40 pm

  2. Actually, I don’t bookmark any sites whose name I can remember even if I like them (including this site, bbc news, the corner, etc) because I can type them out quickly enough anyhow. I only bookmark sites that I will otherwise forget.

    As you started this conversation, I can proudly announce that, after only 90 short minutes of work last weekend, my bookmarks are now in order, nearly arranged in folders and subfolders, rather than the previous ‘endless mess’ arrangement.

    Comment by Adam — 2/29/2008 @ 3:11 pm

  3. I am proud of my endless mess. I must have a thousand bookmarks I haven’t opened in years. However, I have a bookmark toolbar activated in firefox that I use endlessly for things like gmail, google news, cnn, and various blogs (yes, the crossed pond is there). Sadly, so is drudge. It’s an addiction I can’t break.

    Comment by Cameron — 2/29/2008 @ 3:19 pm

  4. I lost my enthusiasm for Drudge after the Kerry/intern nonsense, the fact that he used to link World Tribune articles that were clearly untrue and eventually just because I think that google news and other blogs are better sources of breaking news.

    Comment by Adam — 2/29/2008 @ 3:21 pm

  5. Do you really expect any of us to believe that, Adam?

    Comment by James — 2/29/2008 @ 3:52 pm

  6. To me Drudge is a nice news aggregate. It’s actually a very well designed website. Compared to things like CNN and even the BBC, it is superior for just getting the gist of a number of world events. I look past the crappy content and tabloid style to get a grasp on a number of stories. However, it still pains me to use it.

    Comment by Cameron — 2/29/2008 @ 4:39 pm

  7. I think I’ve visited Drudge like a half dozen times in my life.

    Comment by Brad — 2/29/2008 @ 5:18 pm

  8. I bet your NSA dossier suggests otherwise.

    Comment by James — 2/29/2008 @ 5:35 pm

  9. I am in complete agreement with Cameron. Though it pains me to support him, traffic wise, his is a very good news aggregate.

    Comment by Jack — 2/29/2008 @ 6:49 pm

  10. Incidentally, the topic our morning discussion was, basically, should Drudge have published this or not (As opposed to the entirely differant question addressed by Adam: should anyone whine about it). While the reactionary conservative and the reasonable conservative took the no way position, I took the absolutely yes position. I see no obligation for a news person of any stature to knowlingly withhold a hot story upon which he can make money (traffic) simply in order to appease and tacitly support the desires of a foreign inherited royalty. If the English with to continue funding and legitimzing a monarchy, that is their business. We are not obliged in any way to make allowances. I await your condemnation.

    Comment by Jack — 2/29/2008 @ 6:54 pm

  11. That’s basically what I said. If it’s news, it’s going to get reported by people who wish to make money from it, whether or not it endangers lives. As to whether he should have posted it, that’s a moral judgement and one that’s up to him.

    Comment by Adam — 2/29/2008 @ 7:04 pm

  12. Endangering lives to make money is part of the New Your Times’ business plan isn’t it?

    Comment by James — 2/29/2008 @ 9:12 pm

  13. See, thats exactly what I am arguing against James: Drudge or whomever is not endangering anyones lives. If the grand poobah royal family, in concert with the high muckety mucks in the UK militia wish to endager lives by sending his third-in-line highness Prince bullet magnet, then that is their business: They should neither ask nor expect the world’s free press to remain silent in some sort of throwback nod towards this iligitmate military deployment practice. Drudge did not choose to have a monarchy, enlist its members in the military, satisfy said member’s apparent need for service credibility, but also protect said member. Guess who made all those decision? Not Drudge. Not New York Times.

    Comment by Jack — 2/29/2008 @ 11:28 pm

  14. Was I being serious?

    Comment by James — 3/1/2008 @ 3:03 am

  15. Jack, Drudge clearly endangers people’s lives; that’s pretty clearly there in cause-and-effect. However, someone would have printed it, sooner or later.

    I don’t see how you don’t see the cause-and-effect; my point is that someone was bound to do it and so reliance on it not happening was never going to work. However, it’s not a disaster, I don’t think; it’s excellent PR for the Royal Family, for a start.

    Incidentally, the idea about ‘funding a monarchy’ is a bit of a Red Herring; every Head of State position is expensive and, although the Royals may cost more (although they also have their own incomes through their holdings) they arguably bring in far more than that to the Exchequer through tourism (unlike nearly every other Head of State).

    Comment by Adam — 3/1/2008 @ 8:53 am

  16. OK, good point on the funding. We are playing a logic/semantic game, but Drudge did not endanger lives, those who chose to put Prince H in country did.

    Comment by Jack — 3/1/2008 @ 10:19 am

  17. Cause and effect. Drudge was the cause of the later effect. My point is that someone was bound to do it, but that doesn’t remove individual responsibility from Drudge any more than mugging an obvious mark would (someone else would get him if you didn’t, but it’s still you that did it).

    When newspapers publish information about the identities and locations of individuals that are likely to come to harm as a result (which has been a big issue in the UK in the past regarding convicted paedophiles) then they are putting those people in danger. Whether or not that’s a bad thing, of course, is a different matter. If you’re part of the causal chain, though, you can’t deny that (although you can justify your actions nevertheless, of course).

    Comment by Adam — 3/1/2008 @ 10:50 am

  18. Incidentally, outcomes obviously tend to have multiple causes.

    Comment by Adam — 3/1/2008 @ 3:03 pm

  19. What has monarchy to do with this?

    Comment by scineram — 3/1/2008 @ 4:15 pm

  20. Only that his propaganda importance (to both sides) is increased by the fact that he is a royal.

    Comment by Adam — 3/1/2008 @ 6:10 pm

  21. I’d think that the focus of all this dicussion would be harry’s comment that he has enjoyed Afghanistan because he doesn’t really like England that much…

    Comment by Leotie — 3/1/2008 @ 7:49 pm

  22. Adam, did you seriously make the comparison of the reporting in the free press as equivalent to armed robbery? Get real.
    “doesnít remove individual responsibility from Drudge any more than mugging an obvious mark would (someone else would get him if you didnít, but itís still you that did it).”

    Comment by Jack — 3/1/2008 @ 10:44 pm

  23. It’s not a comparison of the severity of the actions, but of the logical fallacy.

    Comment by Adam — 3/1/2008 @ 10:58 pm

  24. Well it is certainly imaginative. I wonder whose judgement of proper media-state relationship should be used by the consciencious journalist.

    Comment by Jack — 3/1/2008 @ 11:12 pm

  25. Unrelated, but what is Harry’s last name?

    Comment by Jerrod — 3/2/2008 @ 1:28 am

  26. Windsor, presumably.

    Comment by Rojas — 3/2/2008 @ 1:53 am

  27. It’s Windsor now, since the unfortunate Great War embarassment. In the military, however, his surname is Wales.

    As for the right judgement, Jack, it seems to me that it’s a personal judgement. Because there will inevitably be someone that publishes that sort of stuff, in the end, the question of whether or not to be that person should the opportunity arise is one about how you feel. Other people, of course, are free to feel that you made the slimebag decision, but such is the price of making decisions.

    For an actual comparison, I would say that journalists are in a similar situation to lawyers, or at least some journalists are in a similar situation to some lawyers. In both cases, someone will do the deed (break the story or represent the client) if you don’t and in both cases there is clearly a greater good to be served at the wider level through that fact; the question of whether one person, however, cares to be that journalist or that lawyer is one to be made by that journalist or lawyer. I guess that the professions, therefore, are well-suited to individuals who are prepared to adopt a ‘cog in the beneficial machine’ approach and act accordingly; of course, both professions will also suit amoral scumbags, too.

    Comment by Adam — 3/2/2008 @ 8:49 am

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