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June 18, 2010
"Revealed!" (Revisited!)By Greyhawk
One Sunday in March this year, MaryAnn Phillips was nearing the end of a typically busy weekend. Like most other days off, she'd spent these at the US military's Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany, supporting wounded coalition troops as a representative of the group Soldiers' Angels. Before starting her five-hour drive home, she stopped to check her email.
Among countless other messages was one from proud reporter Peter Almond, pointing her to his newly-published story about her in the London Daily Mail.
He had portrayed her as heroic - and in truth, she is - but unfortunately the example he used was not true - and the error was far from a minor one. She responded swiftly with a request for a correction: "Love the graphic," she began. "Makes it easy to understand a very complex series of events."
But yes, there are a couple of errors... including the fact that SA had nothing to do with getting the Lung Team into action! That all happens automatically, no matter what the nationality of the patient - which is the point of the whole story! We have nowhere near that type of influence...MaryAnn thought correcting the story was no big deal, and a simple thing to do. But shortly afterward she received this reply from Almond:
(And PS - if she felt it necessary to correct the record, "the comments under the story were open.")
Michael Yon was also a "hero" in the story. In fact, it was reprinted in full on his website, too. "I never even considered at that point that Mike Yon may have republished at his site," recalls MaryAnn. "Peter Almond emailed him separately and then pulled him in to our discussion."
While they were discussing it, the story was going viral. Even though it described events that had occurred months previously, at first read it had all the elements of a great story - a British soldier who would have been left to die on the battlefield had not Mike Yon quickly contacted MaryAnn from Afghanistan. Upon his notification, we are led to believe, she then alerted a medical team with a state-of-the-art rescue aircraft in Germany, who in turn launched a heroic effort involving hundreds of people to save one life that otherwise would have ended on that remote battlefield. But if the idea of two concerned civilians getting it done where the military couldn't (or wouldn't) seems too good to be true, it's because it was.
And for organizations that rely on charity, that sort of falsehood is dangerous. "I received an email from a retired AF Captain asking about making a donation because he read about "what I did" on Michael Yon's site," MaryAnn says. She took the time to respond to him and explain the truth.
But comments were flowing in to the story on Mike Yon's site, too.
Nice work Michael. Without your involvement, the solider surely would have died. When you are done with all of your travels, you will look back on your life and know you truly made a difference. That's what is important. To all the hundreds of participants who helped make this happen. Thank you.
This soldier would likely have died without the Michael Yon-Soldiers' Angels connection.The story at Mike's site had been linked by several major blogs, was spreading through chat rooms and via a flurry of emails praising the heroic duo. But in spite of MaryAnn's efforts, there was no correction appended to the story there - only this:
What she first thought would be a "no problem" fix was going to make for a very long couple of days...
I discovered the story when one of those countless emails landed in my inbox, I was one of several who received it from someone who knew it was the sort of story I'd like to share. And I would have - but fortunately it was addressed to MaryAnn, too.
At that point I didn't realize she'd already spent considerable time trying to set the record straight - the time difference between Europe and the States had allowed her a significant head start. Again, she responded quickly - warning us the story was bogus - and introduced another concern beyond potential donations from those deceived. "Making it look like the LRMC Lung Team, the US medical people downrange, and the hundreds of US airmen involved wouldn't have saved "Soldier X's" life unless SA intervened is a slap in the face to each and every one of them," she wrote us (she had sent that same message to the author, too). "Hopefully the Brits and LRMC PAO will just laugh, but I kinda doubt it." She told us she was working with Almond and Yon to fix the problem - all she asked of them was a simple correction appended to the stories.
However, they were dragging their feet. Thinking it might help speed things along, I told her if she'd send me her correction, I'd post it. Time was passing, the falsehood was spreading, and neither individual was inclined to make any effort to stop it. As thousands more readers were deceived by the story each hour, Yon and Almond were arguing about "fault" and "blame."
"My understanding is that you contacted US medical officials at the Landstuhl center, which then set other wheels turning with the Lung Team," Almond emailed MaryAnn.
"I don't know where that idea came from. I'm very sorry, but it's just not the case," she replied. "The patient had already been medevaced by the US team before I even knew anything about him or the incident."
Almond responded with a detailed explanation of how he felt he'd been misled by an earlier account of the story written by Mike Yon. After listing his reasons point by point, he summarized:
"I'll talk to the deputy editor on Tuesday..." he explained, "but I don't think the Mail does corrections identified as such." He suggested she write a letter to the editor.
"I'll make your concerns clear to Michael," he concluded before signing off.
For his part, Mike was in full denial. "Since after I emailed to you last year about the injured soldier," he wrote MaryAnn, "I didn't know what happened on the back end."
That may be true - but MaryAnn had actually written the true story at the time it happened - in July, 2009, with more details in a follow-up here. And with her permission Mike had reproduced her story in full (with his own added introduction) not only on his site, but at Breitbart's Big Hollywood as well. In fact, the "new" Daily Mail story was basically a re-write of that one, with the added (and wrong) embellishment that Yon's notification of MaryAnn was the critical first step in saving the soldier's life.
But regardless of who knew what and when, clearly both parties acknowledged the falsehood in the story early on. For her part, MaryAnn wasn't interested in blame or fault - stories get 'mixed up' all the time, that's hardly earth-shattering - she just wanted a simple correction added to the stories telling the truth about what she had actually done.
MaryAnn reports that ultimately the two authors ceased their squabbling (at least in emails that included her). "I'm assuming they took it outside, so to speak, and lastly came the "Correction" email I sent you."
She sent me the text of the correction she wanted them to run, and expressed her frustration over the pissing match between the two individuals clearly responsible for the published uncorrected versions. She had to start that (now-delayed) long drive home, the stories were still spreading through the internet, and time was of the essence. I published the correction, and notified as many of the major bloggers I could identify who had linked the false story that her statement was available, and obviously shouldn't be ignored.
Meanwhile, the Soldiers' Angels organization acted quickly to reject the false story. Founder Patti Patton-Bader sent messages via Facebook and email alerting the thousands of members of the group. They, in turn, began adding comments to the stories setting the record straight. Bloggers, once made aware of the problem, updated their posts diligently. Here's a version of the story at Hot Air, where Ed Morrissey promptly included Patti's statement, and another at Jawa Report, updated with a link to MaryAnn's otherwise unpublished correction here.
Before hitting the road home MaryAnn asked Michael one last time to correct his post, too: "Michael, on behalf of all of our medical warriors, I'd be most grateful if you could run this..." and she got a positive reply: "Will do right now."
At any point, of course, MaryAnn could have told the whole story of what she was putting up with behind the scenes. She didn't - her goal wasn't to damage the reputations of anyone involved, it was merely to get the true story out there before more people were deceived. Even I didn't know then the full details I've shared above - just that she had a correction, asked them to post it, they were delaying and bickering, and (obviously) at least on their sites there was no correction to be seen. Almond, it should be noted, can't control what appears on the Daily Mail's pages. But after Mike's "right now" pledge, more hours passed, and more readers were duped. Before I called it a night, I checked to see if any corrections had been added to the original stories - they hadn't. So I added a parenthetical line following this one in my own post: "MaryAnn assures me that as of 2PM ET both Mike and the Daily Mail reporter have agreed to add that correction to their stories. (Although as of five hours later, they haven't done it.)"
In fact, that evening (unknown to MaryAnn or me at the time) Michael Yon posted the uncorrected (and then known to be untrue) story at Breitbart's Big Journalism site, too.
The next morning I checked to see if the story on Mike's site had been corrected yet - it hadn't. But I had an email from MaryAnn, she'd sent it the night before.
Neither of us wanted the story to be a big deal - we just wanted it fixed. But also in my inbox was a newer, shorter email from her that arrived that morning: "I wake up to find I've drug you into this, I'm so sorry."
I had no idea what she was talking about - then I found I also had an email from Mike:
Frankly, I wasn't sure what he was talking about, since the story on his site was still uncorrected and mine consisted of quotes from MaryAnn. As I was to discover, rather than take a minute to simply append MaryAnn's correction to the story on his site, Mike had launched some sort of Facebook jihad. This was my first introduction to his Facebook page (I'm just not much of a "Facebooker") but whatever was going on over there (apparently he had started some sort of "the Mudville Gazette is a big fat liar out to get me" thread...), I didn't much care. This wasn't a matter of differing opinions, and like MaryAnn I wasn't concerned at all with fault, blame, who knew what and when did they know it, or anything else other than correcting a known falsehood (however 'positive' that falsehood may seem).
"I should have never sent him your link," she wrote me.
I responded: "Being in the right I'm not worried about being dragged into anything." I had my own suspicions of Mike's motives, but I wasn't going to let him turn this into some sort of petty "blog fight" - so I ignored whatever else he was doing. Like MaryAnn I appreciated that he had publicly acknowledged on Facebook that he knew the story wasn't true, but all I wanted was what MaryAnn wanted - the truth actually appended to the story. "I don't want a "Greyhawk vs Yon" story. Or a "Yon vs Soldiers Angels" story for that matter," I wrote MaryAnn. "A "Yon vs anybody" story is not helpful, but a "You can't trust what you read at Mike Yon's" story might be called for if he refuses to correct it."
By then the story had been out for a full day at Mike's site and the Daily Mail, and half a day at Big Journalism - and the initial flood of readers was probably tapering off. MaryAnn was offering to drop the whole effort to spare me from whatever additional assaults might come from Mike Yon. But without knowing that she had already expressed the following concerns herself in her various email discussions (only much later, in preparation of this story, did she share the full emails from Almond and Yon with me) I advised her why halting her efforts was a bad idea - and it wasn't about Mike Yon:
She wrote an awesome post of her own - like me, MaryAnn doesn't like to write about herself. Her Soldiers' Angels Germany site is a tribute to warriors and healers - many of whom she knows, and her post on this topic was a forced response to that regrettable 'slap in their face' delivered from elsewhere - but in her name. I linked her account in my own second post on the topic here. Others who read her message began responding, too.
Old Blue, a soldier in Afghanistan, wrote his own incredible account of how he spent his all-too-brief time off while on a trip to Germany from there - a day with MaryAnn at Landstuhl.
"She may actually kill me for writing this," he noted. "Personally, I am awed. MaryAnn and the Angels of Landstuhl do things that I could never do on an ongoing basis. To me, they are legend. Truly amazing. Volunteers all. You do not need to embellish their amazing work..."
And blogger extraordinaire "Some Soldiers Mom" - who once spent some time with her own wounded soldier son at Landstuhl - spoke up, too. "MaryAnn is as selfless and as caring an individual anywhere on God's Earth, and our soldiers -- especially our wounded -- and their families have no greater an ally and friend than she." Given the behind-the-scenes circumstances, all the posts seem rather polite and measured to me.
But on that Monday afternoon (US time), though he credited it to "Soldiers Angels" instead of MaryAnn, Mike finally posted her correction. She and I added an acknowledgment of that to our own posts on the topic. Although I knew he'd spent well over a day in petty defiance of MaryAnn's wishes to tell the truth (coincidentally, until the rush of visits to his site had subsided), I then replied to Mike's "irresponsible" email to me - with a note I'd hoped he'd understand was both encouragement and caution.
Mike replied the next day - by continuing to argue against accusations no one was making:
To MaryAnn he added: "It's important to note that I didn't write that article and had nothing to do with it. In fact, I did not know his article was inaccurate until you pointed it out. For some reason, it was coming across like I was part of the authorship of that article. I only reprinted it as is."
But MaryAnn, who had been cc'd on all that correspondence, had already sent me her own reply.
For her the experience was a first. For me, it was just the (then) latest example of someone turning to me with behind-the-scenes trouble with Mike Yon.
It wouldn't be the last.
Postscript: The Daily Mail version of the story, and the version posted by Mike Yon at Big Journalism (long after he had acknowledged its inaccuracies and pledged to correct it on his own site), remain uncorrected to this day.
Posted by Greyhawk / June 18, 2010 1:35 PM | Permalink
A few of the people on the banned list puzzled me. This is a part of the story on how Mary Ann of Soldiers' Angels - Germany got banned, along with the Greyhawks of Mudville Gazette: "Like MaryAnn I appreciated that he had publicly acknowledged on Face... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
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