Slime & defend hits Joseph Darby

The New York Post decides to make the life of the one hero of Abu Ghraib miserable.

The one indisputable hero of the Abu Ghraib story is Specialist Joseph Darby, who informed the CID of what was taking place. Even among those who argue that it wasn’t much of a scandal, or that the press should have suppressed the photographs, no one has offered any criticism of Darby’s actions. (Even Rumsfeld has kind words for him.)

The Washington Post reports that Darby did hasn’t made him very popular back home. No real surprise, I suppose. As Kevin Drum points out, the fact that Darby must have known he was courting unpopularity adds to the honor he has earned.

But of course what Darby did damaged the Bush Administration. And to some pseudo-journalistic enterprises, such as those owned by Rupert Murdoch, that’s reason enough to damage him in any way possible. At least, I can’t think of another reason for the New York Post to have run this little bit of slime.

Assuming, for the moment, that the story is true, what conceivable news value does it have? Darby’s credibility isn’t at issue; the pictures tell their own story, and as far as I know he’s not even a witness at the upcoming trial.

No, the point of the Post story was to personally damage someone who had inconvenienced the right wing. If there were an anti-Pulitzer prize for most unconscionable news story, this would have to be in the running. I hope Matthew Sweeney, Dan Kadison, and Andy Geller look forward to spending their next incarnations as castrated wharf rats.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: