Eason Jordan’s Ignorance

Howard Kurtz’s report (via Instapundit) on Eason Jordan’s comments on the killing of journalists by the U.S. military in Iraq reveals what I think is Jordan’s real problem: he is ignorant of, or careless with, the nomenclature of the field he is supposed to be reporting on.

Kurtz quotes Jordan as saying:

“I was trying to make a distinction between ‘collateral damage’ and people who got killed in other ways,” Jordan said last night. “I have never once in my life thought anyone from the U.S. military tried to kill a journalist.”

BBC World Services Director Richard Sambrook explains Jordan as meaning:

They had been deliberately killed as individuals — perhaps because they were mistaken for insurgents, we don’t know. However the distinction he was seeking to make is that being shot by a sniper, or fired at directly is very different from being, for example, accidentally killed by an explosion.

First, of course, the phrase “collateral damage” refers only to inanimate objects. People who are injured or killed are “collateral casualties.”

More important, Jordan and Sambrook seem not to understand that the entire concept of “collateral” concerns the question of intent, not the question of means. In this context, “collateral” is functionally a synonym for “unintended.” It has nothing to do with the type of weapons used or whether a person harmed was targeted as an individual or not.

Intention itself is judged by the information available to a soldier at the time he pulls the trigger. If a sniper carefully aims at an individual and kills him because he believes the individual is a combatant, but later information reveals that the individual was a noncombatant, that individual’s death is unintended and therefore a “collateral casualty.”

So what cognoscenti heard Jordan say was:

I was trying to make a distinction between unintentional killings and people who got killed in other ways,

Since the the only way of getting killed other than unintentionally is to get killed intentionally, Jordan’s statement clearly implies that members of the US military killed the journalists knowing that they were journalists at the time.

What Jordan really needs is a vocabulary lesson. This entire contretemps could have been avoided if Jordan would educate himself on the area he is nominally responsible for reporting on.

5 thoughts on “Eason Jordan’s Ignorance”

  1. I’ve been involved in many debates about the role of firearms in US society. Those that are opposed to private gun ownership usually base their views on emotions instead of facts. So, since the don’t know the facts of the issue and are uninterested in educating themselves, they eventaully get around to saying something outrageous and patently, obviously untrue.

    Call them on this, though, and they’ll fall back on a game of semantics. “You just don’t understand what I was trying to say!” Point out that what they said was very clear and they’ll usually say that they might (just might) have been unclear in their speech, but their meaning is clear enough if you were smart enough to listen!!!

    Jordan’s not going to admit that he was an idiot. He won’t admit that he’s said some outrageous and volatile things. He’ll just keep insisting that we’d figure it out if we were smart enough, and wait for people to lose interest.


  2. Perhaps this is a sign I’m moving toward the aluminum beanie side. Nonetheless, I suspect that Eason Jordan meant exactly what he was taken to mean. True, he might not have the correct vocabulary, but I can’t imagine what other intent he had nor what intent others in that room thought other than that American soldiers were purposely shooting American newsmen. The bizarre quantities he cites indicates not the fact that his vocabulary was not up to his charges but that the facts were not up to them.

    The problem is that this plays into the audience he can now address, the audience that sees such statements as telling the truth to power. I am quite uncomfortable with the thought of a powerful anti-American propaganda machine coming out of America. But that’s the deal; we learned to accept it a long time ago and we’re better off with it than without it. I wonder how long it will take other countries in the great marketplace of ideas to find them a fraud and a sham?

  3. Jordan is a sophist, and a particularly clumsy one at that. So what is his role at CNN? Senior News Executive. This makes him the model newser at CNN. Small wonder the network is converging on the point of no viewership.

  4. Does anyone get the feeling that Jordan made the remarks expecting to get a positive response and is flailing about in surprise because someone actually challenged his claims?

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