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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Klosterman on That Letter to 'NYT' Allegedly Outing Petraeus

UPDATE:  This had not occurred to me, but now NYT public editor Margaret Sullivan has raised this issue:  The letter in question was published with understanding that the writer's name would be withheld.  When the Times declared that the writer was NOT Broadwell's husband it did not disclosed the name of the actual writer, so no big deal, right?  Not quite.  Critics have claimed that the paper might have been in the position to confirm the rumor--and therefore break its agreement.  Sullivan says it's a close call but okays the Times' decision in this fairly unique case. 

Earlier:  You may recall--though it now seems weeks ago--that one-day fervor over a letter to Ethicist columnist Chuck Klosterman at the NYT last summer that seemed like it could have been from Paula Broadwell's husband, wondering if he should blow the whistle on an affair.  The Times fairly shot it down, claiming that "fact-checking" proved it could not have been re: Petraeus.  Now Klosterman himself is out with a piece at Grantland explaining how he got involved in this "conspiracy" theory. 

He writes in an entertaining about how he found out about the rumor, then dealt or did not deal with it.  He poses and answers questions about what he know about the letter writer (not much).  He discusses media and Web reaction.  And concludes:
Q: What can be learned from all of this? We've now reached the part of the essay where I'm supposed to write something clever and insightful and at least 51 percent true. I'm supposed to express a sentiment like "Information is only as credible as the source that reports it" or "Reality continues to remain imaginary" or "All I know is what I read in the papers." I suppose I could theoretically turn this into some dark commentary about the Internet, or about how every thought in a mediated culture becomes equal, or how nothing is ever as interesting as the sex lives of strangers, or that this situation reminded me of Karl Rove's reaction on election night, or that this situation reminded me of something that happened to me in eighth grade, or that nothing reminds me of anything (and that this realization is very, very existential).
But you know what I learned from this? Nothing. I learned nothing. It's just something that happened (and it just so happens that it happened to me). Life is crazy. But I already knew that last Thursday, and so did you.

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