As one nonprofit executive and former magazine editor put it the next day when asked to describe her speech: “Shoot ’em, bomb ’em, fuck ’em. They will kill your children.”
CBS News and 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan was invited to deliver a speech at the Chicago-based Better Government Association last week. The 1,100 in attendance were surprised and even taken aback at how brutally honest the South African native journalist was regarding her words on American foreign policy.
As James Warren of The Daily Beast describes it, “The foreign correspondent and 60 Minutes star skewered American policy in Afghanistan and Libya, called for a ramped-up military campaign against terrorists, and criticized the Obama administration and others for both underestimating the Taliban’s strength in Afghanistan and for tolerating Pakistan’s obvious coddling of terrorists killing American soldiers.
The Taliban and al Qaeda, she made clear, ‘want to destroy the West and us,’ and we must fight fire with fire. She appeared to leave the assembled alternatively riveted and just a bit troubled by a critique with interventionist implications clearly drawn from her reporting.”
Logan, if you remember, was beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob in Cairo’s Tahrir Square while she covered the demonstrations prompted by President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation in 2011. No doubt that horrible experience left a negative impression on her while covering these international events.
As Warren goes on to report, “While discussing what she believes to be the knowingly understated claim of the Taliban presence in Afghanistan, she said it is absurd to compare Afghanistan to Vietnam. In the latter war, the Viet Cong constituted an insurgency willing to live and let live as long as the U.S. got out of their country. Al Qaeda is not an insurgency, is driven by ideology and wants to kill us all, on our own soil if they must and even if we pull all our troops out of Afghanistan, Logan said.”
As you can imagine, Warren also quotes several people in attendance that were “disturbed” by her blunt terms and harsh criticisms of those responsible for fighting the war on terror. You can also find several other critiques of her speech online from other commentators.
But I, for one, soundly applaud her actions last week. Not necessarily because I support her conclusions, but because I can appreciate her honesty and courage to speak her mind as a journalist.
While I haven’t covered nearly the same type of stories or risen through the ranks she has throughout her career, I can understand the risk she takes in speaking so strongly about a certain subject that she’s so passionate about. Naturally, she will have accusations of being a warmonger and of arriving at the wrong conclusions despite her experience in reporting on the field. Some will even say her traumatic experience in Egypt will understandably make her “biased.”
But as Warren mentioned, “She lauded her 60 Minutes boss, executive producer Jeff Fager, for providing the admonition that she seek the facts on the story and let them lead her to a conclusion, rather than go out to prove a preordained thesis.”
Of course, many of her peers in the journalistic community still dismissed her findings. Said one former reporter and editor in the crowd: “Clearly one tough reporter, but seemingly scarred by all of this. It was totally depressing. Worrying, too. And a call for an amped war on terror.”
That particular reporter, however, is simply doing the same thing Logan is guilty of – expressing an opinion. And that doesn’t disqualify any reporter’s experience in the field nor professionalism of his/her product.
This story especially caught my attention since I recently lost one of the best journalistic jobs I ever had after the new manager discovered I was an out of the closet Republican (something I never made a secret of to begin with). Despite that fact that I’ve written countless pieces criticizing and supporting office holders and policies of both parties, the new manager said that wasn’t the issue. I went public about having an (R) next to my name, so that automatically makes me “biased.” End of story.
Perhaps the mistake I made wasn’t that fact that I’m opinionated, but that I’ve openly admitted how I’ve voted. Either way, I’ve moved on.
What Logan spoke of, however, is certainly a way bigger and more important issue. And I can’t even imagine the horrible experience she personally went through. But it’s something that she’s genuinely passionate about and has the proper experience to comment on. There’s no doubt many people will disagree with her opinion, but is that not what journalism does? No matter how objective you may be in your reporting, there will always be detractors who don’t like what they see or hear and will label you as biased. Your job as the journalist is to do your research and provide your evidence.
In Logan’s case, she has. Kudos to her for being willing to speak so publicly and honestly about it. I certainly hope more will follow her example, and more importantly, will be allowed to follow her example without fear of losing their job, regardless of whether they are liberal, conservative, libertarian, or other. A lot of credit goes to 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager as well.