The brouhaha in the blogosphere on post-Carroll release commentary

It was probably a good thing that I didn’t have time to blog this past weekend as things got pretty nasty in certain circles over comments made by certain bloggers in the aftermath of Jill Carroll’s release (see Joe Gandelman’s post here for an extensive write-up on what happened and what was said – click here for the initial reactions from a cross-section of the blogosphere).

Simply put, there were some in the blogosphere who took Carroll at her word over statements she made under duress. It wasn’t clear to me Thursday when she was released that she was still under duress during an interview that was aired on Baghdad TV where she talked about how “well” her captors treated her – in fact, the article I referenced did not make clear at all that was was under duress in the interview in which she said that (and in fairness to them they probably didn’t know, either) so I don’t think I was the only one who thought she made that particular statement of her own free will. Since that time, Carroll has issued a statement in which she pointed out that the statements she made in that interview as well as interviews prior were not made of her own free will, and that in fact she was threatened – many times:

Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not. The people who kidnapped me and murdered Allan Enwiya are criminals, at best. They robbed Allan of his life and devastated his family. They put me, my family and my friends–and all those around the world, who have prayed so fervently for my release–through a horrific experience. I was, and remain, deeply angry with the people who did this.

I also gave a TV interview to the Iraqi Islamic Party shortly after my release. The party had promised me the interview would never be aired on television, and broke their word. At any rate, fearing retribution from my captors, I did not speak freely. Out of fear I said I wasn’t threatened. In fact, I was threatened many times.

Also, at least two false statements about me have been widely aired: That I refused to travel and cooperate with the US military and that I refused to discuss my captivity with US officials. Again, neither is true.

I want to be judged as a journalist, not as a hostage. I remain as committed as ever to fairness and accuracy–to discovering the truth–and so I will not engage in polemics. But let me be clear: I abhor all who kidnap and murder civilians, and my captors are clearly guilty of both crimes.

Once you read those two posts at Moderate Voice and then Carroll’s full statement, you’ll realize why things erupted as they did this past weekend. The best two responses to the criticism of Carroll’s comments she made while under duress that I’ve seen since trying to catch up on my reading this morning come from Rick Moran and Gina Cobb. Cobb wrote:

For now though, let Carroll enjoy her freedom again and save your anger for the terrorists who committed the barbaric crime of kidnapping Jill Carroll, killing another person in the ambush, and threatening for three months to kill Jill Carroll.

It was easy enough to be fooled into thinking that Carroll’s statements made after her release on Baghdad TV were made without coercion, but once Carroll made it clear they weren’t her real beliefs, some bloggers still insisted on ramping up the totally unncessary and unwarranted criticism of her, calling her things like a ‘terrorist sympathizer’ and calling the whole kidnapping a ‘stunt’ (paraphrasing both), etc. This was a low point for the blogosphere in terms of showing how truly knee-jerk reactionary some people could be even in the face of the facts.

The blogosphere came to prominence in September 2004 during Rathergate, where several bloggers (most notably Power Line) relentlessly pursued the possibility that a memo used to impugn President Bush’s National Guard service by CBS’ Dan Rather was not authentic. That was a high note for political/current events bloggers who make noting bias in the media part of their writings almost daily. The reason for doing so is because there’s so much bias in the media today, mostly on the liberal end. That said, I’ll acknowledge for the record that most bloggers do have a bias one way or the other which they will freely admit. However, even with that said, the blogosphere risks unwittingly becoming just like those in the media they criticize with stunts like what we saw this past weekend with the hostile-in-some-quarters-reaction to Jill Carroll’s statements made under duress. It’s almost as though some of the comments made about her even after her clarification were made just to be controversial. I can’t figure out any other reason why those who believed everything she said in the videos didn’t issue a correction/apology after it became clear why she said what she did other than the ‘just to be controversial’ angle.

I know some will make a comparison of the reaction to Carroll’s statments to those made on the Christian Peacemaker Teams website after the rescue (not release) of three CPT hostages back on the March 23rd. I don’t think the comparison is a valid one, though, because there was just cause to criticize those who wrote the statement for the CPT website – people who clearly weren’t under any duress when they posted their statements about the ‘occupiers’ in Iraq, as well as the “release” of the three CPT hostages (which we know didn’t happen – they were rescued by the ‘occupiers’).

It’s great Carroll is safe and back on US soil today. Regardless of what her beliefs may or may not have be on whether or not we should be in Iraq, she’s made it clear that the statements she made while in captivity and at the Islamic Party of Iraq’s headquarters were made under duress and has also strongly condemned her captors – now that she’s safe to do so. I respect that and urge others to as well – and I frown on anyone on either side of the aisle who used the statements she made while in captivity to bolster their case that she was terrorist sympathizer with the implication being that she wasn’t worth rescuing. Some things take time to sort through before all the facts are clear – and this was one of those times when some people jumped the gun and maintained their positions even after it became clear why she said what she initially did.

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