Pitting the National Review over 'reporter' W. Thomas "Moving Car" Smith, Jr.

W. Thomas Smith, Jr. reports from Lebanon for the National Review Online. Apparently he’s got a bit of a reporting problem.

Here’s his September 25 post:

Here’s his recent clarification:

So he reported a tent city with 200 heavily-armed Hezbollah militiamen. On what basis? A brief view from a moving vehicle. He saw “lots” of men, “at least two” AK-47s, tents that “could have” housed 200 men, and he had it from what he considered “very reliable sources” that there were arms stored in the tents. (Of course, he’d been in Lebanon “less than two hours” at the time - plenty of time to suss out who’s reliable and who’s not, I’m sure.)

On September 29, four days after his arrival, he reported:

He’s had to backtrack on that a bit too:

All quite interesting. The National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez (“K-Lo” to her fans) has this comment:

So the National Review has a reporter who’s basically been making shit up - claiming to see stuff he barely glimpsed, and had to take the word of others about the existence of that which he gave the impression of being an eyewitness to - and this is their “due diligence.”

Shorter K-Lo: Smith is good and brave, smart and (politically) reliable, and, well, slipups like this happen, you know? We got complaints, we told Smith about them, and now we’re telling you. We’ve got a liar as a reporter. Caveat emptor. After all, he might not be the only one - it’s not like you can expect us to fire every wingnut who makes shit up and publishes it under our name. It’s not like the truth is very kind to the conservative cause these days.

It is approximately the same due diligence that the hallowed New York Times showed with Jayson Blair. Or that the Boston Globe showed with Mike Barnicle.

See above.

While I would ordinarily ignore this as trite and petty, this is yet another in the ongoing saga of RTFirefly and his continuing decline into madness. Why you spend so much time and effort tilting at windmills is beyond me.

Reality has a liberal bias and cannot be trusted.

And are those gentlemen still working for the employers you’ve named?

Yep, both institutions should have exercised greater due diligence while Blair and Barnicle were working for them. But when they realized they had fabulists and plaigarists on their hands, they at least did the one basic thing you’ve got to do in such a situation: fire their asses.

The National Review’s failure to exercise that absolute minimum of due diligence is really quite impressive. Certainly worthy of a Pitting, IMHO.

And here I thought I was just being a grouch with an axe to grind. :slight_smile:

A descent into madness is far more romantic. If I was single, I’m sure that would get me more traction with the babes than simple grouch-hood would. :wink:

To dream the impossible dream,
to fight the unbeatable foe…


I think it is worthy of pitting. The reporter’s comments will influence the thinking of people who will never know about the retractions. Any idiot in his job should know that you report what you see and not what you hear from one source as if it were what you had actually seen. His pants are on fire.

And it is so about the New York Times. Pit them again when they do it. That’s no reason to call off the dogs in this case.

The National Review is one of the few reasonably reliable conservative sources of news. At least they make an attempt to practice the principles of journalism. That’s why there is a retraction.

He would not get a third chance if he worked for me.

Arty? Look, if you’re descending into madness, could you bring some pie?

In the case of the New York Times, the due diligence included an investigation that lasted for months and resulted in many changes, including the resignations of the executive editor and managing editor (in addition to firing Jayson Blair, as mentioned by RTFirefly).

Ding ding ding! It’s our tu quoque award winner for the week!!

Careless or fabricated reporting, no matter who’s doing it, is worthy of censure.

And while being “patriotic” is a fine thing, it is far less important an adjective for a reporter than “accurate”.

It hardly needs to be said that a bad story doesn’t make a bad journalist. People get things wrong sometimes, and reporting in this part of the world isn’t easy.

NR has an obligation to report on the controversy and get other views on record. If the reporting is fundamentally flawed, it should be retracted. But sometimes the right thing is just to publish the “letter to the editor”, as it were, and let things either go from there or end there, depending.

Is there something about Lebanon that makes it more difficult for a reporter to distinguish, for his readers, between facts he can attest to personally, and things that should be preceded with “sources say that…” ?

Your sympathy for the reporter is impressive. Need I dig out the things you said about the reportorial accuracy of Scott Thomas Beauchamp?

Neither in Haiti, where something apparently is happening.

Are you kidding? The reporters job is to report what they see, not what sounds really cool. There is a big difference between “sprawling tent city with 200 heavliy armed militia men” and “a sprawling tent city containing two AK-47s and some guys with walkie talkies.” If his sources say that the tents contain weapons, then he reports that sources say the tents may contain weapons" and not some little over dramatized fantasy.

Fundamentally flawed is selling this short. The difference between story and event is large enough that there had to be intent involved. This isn’t just sloppy writing or a minor typo.

Glenn Greenwald has a post today about “Moving Car” Smith (although he doesn’t use that moniker).

About halfway down, he has a plethora of links to the National Review Online’s demands of greater accountability on the part of The New Republic in the Beauchamp affair - including posts by K-Lo and Moving Car.

Looks like they missed the log in their own eye, whilst going after the speck in TNR’s.

Looks like someone I get to add to my list of reporters to ignore. Still, though, he has a long way to go before he catches up to the idiocy that is Fisk.

Disgraceful, and the guy should be fired. His retracting tap-dance about what caveats he should, or should not, have included only make the case against him clearer.

He can explain to his next employer how he’s smart, reliable and has a great patriotic spirit and sense of service.

Certainly. I shouldn’t have given the impression that such a thing ought to be the standard. Nor should Smith’s explanations be the end of it, necessarily, especially considering that he admitted to some practices that aren’t the norm in journalism.

National Review seems to feel that Smith was spun a bit by the folks he was with, but their identities weren’t made known so that that sort of agenda could be divined. That certainly has affected lots of Middle East reporting in general, where access to not only government officials but even neighborhoods is controlled by translators and fixers who can indeed steer stories. The biggest example probably was the CNN Iraq bureau scandal.

Wrong is wrong, but I do want to know why he was wrong. If he was deliberately lying, that is inexcusable. If he was sloppy and passing along the opinions of his host as gospel - that’s wrong but excusable with a clarification. If we were to punish every journalist over there played by an Arab, we wouldn’t have a very active press corps in the whole region.

This W. Thomas Smith, Jr. is also the co-author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Intelligent Design”, along with a Episcopal chaplain from the University of Massachusetts. His book discusses physics, chemistry, biology, the history of science, the life of Charles Darwin, and “How Darwin’s theory gave rise to atheism within scientific community”, subjects on which he presents himself as an authority based on his experience in journalism and the marines. His book is also completely unmentioned on the bio to his blog at NRO.

So either this guy is the world’s most modest polymath, or else he’s a huckster who makes a living talking about whatever bullshit someone will pay him to talk about. Currently that “someone” is the “Family Security Foundation”, which is the tax-deductible arm of “Family Security Matters”, which is a front of the right-wing think tank the Center for Security Policy.

He’s no more an unbiased reporter than I am. He’s a paid shill.

As pointed out (repeatedly) above, he didn’t just fail to make their identities known. He failed to make their existence known, writing as if he were the firsthand witness who had personally ascertained the ‘facts’ his sources fed him.

This has not “certainly has affected lots of Middle East reporting in general, where access to not only government officials but even neighborhoods is controlled by translators and fixers who can indeed steer stories.”

Your sympathy for the reporter continues to be impressive.

And your presumably deliberate obtuseness is even more impressive. As I said a few posts back:

Gonna keep pretending, or are you going to join the actual discussion here?

I’d like to write a regular column reporting on news I garner through what I can see from a moving car. I’d call it “Rollin’ On.”


Well, yes. Those Arabs. Yeppers, that’s how they are, all right.