Take the Scott Thomas Beauchamp debacle at the New Republic, in which the magazine ran an atrocity-a-go-go Baghdad diary piece by a serving soldier about dehumanized troops desecrating graves, abusing disfigured women, etc. It smelled phony from the get-go – except to the professional media class from whose ranks the New Republic’s editors are drawn: To them, it smelled great, because it aligned reality with the movie looping endlessly through the windmills of their mind, a nonstop Coppola-Stone retrospective in which ill-educated conscripts are the dupes of a nutso officer class. . . .
Life is not a movie, especially when your enemies don’t watch the same movies, and don’t buy into the same tired narratives. To return to that 1996 presidential race, Bob Dole, apropos Pat Buchanan’s experience hosting a CNN talk-show, muttered testily at one point, “I was in the real crossfire. It wasn’t on television. It was over in Italy somewhere, a long time ago.” Happy the land for whom crossfire is purely televisual and metaphorical. But, when it turns real, it’s important to know the difference.