Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Sherman's Flight to the Sea

They may be looking for another owner up there on New York Avenue Northeast, but things seem to be business-as-usual in the afternoon news meeting. Else how would an investigative masterpiece by a reporter rented for the occasion from Fox News end up across the top of the front page?

If, to borrow again from Liebling, you're pleased to find out that the South won the war after Sherman's Flight to the Sea, read on a little and see how well the deck hed is supported:

Previously undisclosed FBI documents suggest that the Kent State antiwar protests were more meticulously planned than originally thought and that one or more gunshots may have been fired at embattled Ohio National Guardsmen before their killings of four students and woundings of at least nine others on that searing day in May 1970.

Hmm. "Undisclosed." "One or more shots may have been fired."

As the nation marks the 40th anniversary of the Kent State antiwar protests Tuesday, a review of hundreds of previously unpublished investigative reports sheds a new — and very different — light on the tragic episode.

Really? ("Unpublished" -- we're waiting!)

We do, in the 16th graf, call the documents "declassified," though with no indication of how recently, in what sequence, or in response to what. In the shirttail identifying the author, it's back to "previously undisclosed FBI files." Which puts this question-begging bank shot into a bit better perspective:

Absent the declassification of the FBI's entire investigative file, many questions remain unanswered — including why the documents quoted here were overlooked, or discounted, in the Justice Department's official findings.

Helps to leave the exact sequencing of horse and cart unspecified, because when you look back at the "documents quoted here" --

Rumors of a sniper had circulated for at least a day before the fatal confrontation, the documents show. And a memorandum sent to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover on May 19, 1970, referred to bullet holes found in a tree and a statue — evidence, the report stated, that "indicated that at least two shots had been fired at the National Guard."

Another interviewee told agents that a guardsman had spoken of "a confirmed report of a sniper."

-- you can quite fairly wonder whether rumors and second-hand accounts of confirmed reports were ignored or considered and "discounted" in light of better evidence. But the Times (courtesy of its eager guest artist) is on the trail of bigger game:

At a minimum, the FBI documents strongly challenge the received narrative that the rioting in downtown Kent was spontaneous and unplanned, that the burning of the ROTC headquarters was similarly impulsive and that the guardsmen's fatal shootings were explicable only as unprovoked acts.

Ah, the received wisdom of the dominant media culture! Still the highest and best target of WaTms journalism!

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