Dexter Filkins Decieves Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC
While the search is on – including now in Lebanon – for the “Two Dany/Danis” which both the new Yorker’s Dexter Filkins and McClatchy’s Ender’s used as their anonymous source on their February 18/19 pieces (it seems) – saying the same damaging things nearly about their own party, Dexter Filkins goes on MSNBC last night and is asked this by Andrea Mitchell here at around 1:48:
“When you talk to people, to officials with their close connections to Hizbullah, how do you see this playing out for them?”
Dexter at this point faces a crucial choice: He was apparently not granted access to Hizbullah “officials” for his New Yorker piece and instead relied on ONE anonymous source (first described as an “officer” then later a “commander”) “Dany” for the entire several thousand word part about Hizbullah and its own thinking (Dani, of course, also seems to turn up with similar quotes in a McClatchy piece a day later, strangely enough).
This Dany, as detailed below on the blog, has numerous, sometimes hilarious, holes in his story which anyone who has been in Lebanon for more than a year or two will spot – Dany seems to have been a child soldier for hizbullah at the age of nine; he forgets to tell the unknowing Filkins that Israel actually would have invaded his border village in 1978 and not 1982 since Israel established its “security zone” in 1978 – filkins apparently does not know this basic history – and Dany says he literally fought the IDF in 2006 at the Hizbullah disneyland museum in mleeta…etc etc)
Instead of coming clean, Filkins goes with Mitchell’s lead in question:
“It’s really dangerous for them, they dont want any one to know about it [fighting for Assad]”
Filkins essentially deceives Mitchell who may have thought that he met with Hizbullah “officials” for his big piece… but actually, he only met an anonymous Dany in their officialdom – also described as a mere fighter – who does not pass the smell test for much of anything – and who is NOT an “official” in any case.
And please, leave out the hope that Filkins could be on OK journalistic grounds with his confident answer of WHAT HIZBULLAH is thinking, deeply, since he talked to two of the most anti-hizbullah “officials” in town – Jumblatt and Shattah (ex-official). Plus, either way, Jumblatt being in government with hizbullah, as any of his dinner party guests know and as all of my students know, has ZERO to do with an objective analysis of course!
Filkins then demonstrates why he was so badly equipped to do a story on a country or two that he has little experience in: he says this: “they [Hizbullah] are helping a largely shiite regime in syria.”
– This may make good copy but it is highly inaccurate – the Alawites are regarded by some large pockets of shiite thinking as unbelievers (especially in Iran)…. they are NOT AT ALL LIKE THE SHIITES OF HIZBULLAH… period. And lets leave aside the Baath party anti-religious side and the Hizbullah-Baath conflict etc.
Filkins may never have met an allawite (especially an allawite man), but celebrating easter, drinking on occasion and having “churches” is NOT a Hizbullah pasttime. So leave out the religous side which you dont understand.
At 3:32 – the purpose of Dexter’s piece – despite the occasional piety towards avoiding the unknown ahead, becomes clear: His piece and his “Dany” (or Ender’s “Dani”) showed that Hizbullah deeply fears the sunnis…. they should be taken down…. they think that the fall of assad means they are on their death bed… so ARM THE REBELS. Or at least that is the emotion he evokes here at 3:32.
A final conclusion on Filkins: I think I am most upset by this story because of the immense resources which few of our good journalist friends EVER have access to -I mean I can think of a number of great reporters in lebanon who could use that cash and do a great story – and which Filkens benefits from. As many friends and former colleagues at the New Yorker have mentioned to me now, if this was Blanford writing this story (despite his own critics) I would not be questioning the sourcing. He put in his 17 years, he has good sources and – he would not make such obvious errors in any case. Anthony Shadid, of course, god rest his soul, and the piece would have actually had interesting insights, but either way there would be ZERO question.
Filkins strolled into a country he DOES NOT understand (clearly) and only creates a basis for more violence in the future instead of well considered public opinion.
It is a great disservice to journalism and, more sadly, comes at a point where violence is likely to expand to far greater lengths.
In this regard, Filkins and the New Yorker really need to think to themselves how his contribution to this mess is only making things worse and where to go from here…