Searching for Dani/Dany – Or, Will the New Yorker Investigate Its Filkin’s Story?
Re-reading Dexter Filkins piece on Hezbollah, it only gets richer… If the holes and errors in this piece don’t become a study piece for journalism students, like a latter day Jayson Blair, or at least a line of inquiry for the New Yorker, then, well, what can one do?
Thankfully – a few US journos are now digging into the case. We shall see where this goes, if there is interest in the public interest.
There is a lot still to examine in the piece, but I remember now how much I enjoyed the idea that Filkins seems to suggest his “Dany” gave him the fake name in order to protect his identity from Hezbollah. The implication was Dexter really hit pay dirt with his source who was telling him things “no one was permitted to discuss” – in Dexter’s sweeping words. This is real Pulitzer territory, that Dexter, newly arrived from a short stint in Iraq and New Dehli bureau chief, could score such a big truthtelling few days tour (although McClatchy the next day has their Dani saying virtually the same damaging things about their own party).
A few more strands –
— Dexter says confidently that in the late 1980’s “everyone” was captivated by Nasrallah’s charm etc – whereas the truth is that he was NOT widely regarded and admired until AFTER his elevation as SG. He was regarded as quiet, in general, we know from public hezbollah documents, statements etc.
— WHERE IS THIS CAFE AL BAS – please someone has to go there and find this “hezbollah” manouche dude with a flag in his desk to prove his membership as a “fighter” – please email me!
— I like that filkins first describes nasrallah as “roundfaced” when young then later – as if not to care about ANY consistency – he says “when he was younger, Nasrallah gave off the hard stare of a soldier.’ So which is it – a wimpy dweeb or murdering maniac? I am confused by your own descriptions in the same piece.
— Filkins piece in general says that Hezbollah is poised to strike US targets in the event of an attack on iran.. and that all they care about is defeating sunnis – basically they hate everyone, fear everyone and will strike out at anyone.
But Dexter, I dont get it: if Hizbullah is so freaked out and so primed for striking out wildly at everyone – US, israel, sunnis, tourists etc., then why are they still so evidently the steadiest party in Lebanese politics and managing to maintain position and advantage when most of the greatest powers IN THE WORLD are against them. Compare them regionally and the picture you put forth is not compelling.
I of course believe Hizbullah is dangerous and should be disarmed, like a number of states and actors in the middle east – but that the best way is for the US to pursue a peaceful negotiating strategy rather than a policy which promotes war and conflict OR which turns a blind eye to reactionary “allies” doing the dirty work. I wrote about this strategy here for [oops! new link here] New American Foundation and the NY Times.
— Oh and a final aside – I dont know when Filkins actually dined with jumblatt, but he has NOT beeen drinking sake or any liquor for at least a year and a half (last time dinner for me was this summer, but he had told me at that time he wasn’t drinking anymore…) because of his health. Which leads me to wonder… was it Filkins who drank too much of Jumblatt’s sake? Can he be exaggerating even these little color details? Could he be that over confident?
Lets see where this goes – but the bottom line is Dexter has to go and a public accounting needs to happen about how these critical subjects get treated so cavalierly.