DCIA_David_Petraeus.jpg
With the reign of King David coming to a fast and tawdry end, a few writers have asked a great question: How did the media

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Correcting the Petraeus Myth

DCIA_David_Petraeus.jpg
With the reign of King David coming to a fast and tawdry end, a few writers have asked a great question: How did the media get so duped by the myth of David Petraeus?

*See Also: Dead on the 4th of July

PTSD on Trial

On Buzzfeed, Michael Hastings - whose Rolling Stone profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal led to the commander's resignation in Afghanistan - put it best.

Most of the stories written about him fall under what we hacks in the media like to call "a blow job."Vanity Fair. The New Yorker. The New York Times. The Washington Post. Time. Newsweek. In total, all the profiles, stage-managed and controlled by the Pentagon's multimillion dollar public relations apparatus, built up an unrealistic and superhuman myth around the general that, in the end, did not do Petraeus or the public any favors.

As luck would have it, two of the writers Hastings puts on trial, Mark Bowden and Tom Ricks, will be speaking at the Seattle Central Library this week (Bowden, Wednesday at 7; Ricks, Friday at 7), and I'll be interested to see if they volunteer any amendments or corrections to the profile of Petraeus they've presented to the American public.

Ricks draws Hastings' strongest ire:

Ricks is the ringleader of what I like to call "the media-military industrial complex," setting the standard for its incestuous everyday corruption. He not only built Dave up, he facilitated the disastrous liaison between Broadwell and Petraeus. Ricks helped get Broadwell a literary agent, a six-figure book deal, and a publisher.

Hastings doesn't mention Bowden by name, but refers to his Vanity Fair piece, which drew some immediate ridicule for its over-the-top prose for Petraeus.

Writing for Mother Jones, Nick Baumann suggested that some of the line's in Bowden's piece could start a new Internet meme, much in the vein of Chuck Norris facts, "which parodied the ridiculous badassness/kickassery of Chuck Norris."

Here are some of Baumann's favorite lines from the Bowden piece:

Beyond his four-star rank, he possesses a stature so matchless it deserves its own adjective--call it "Petraean," perhaps.

He is all gristle and bone. You sense that, if he ever were to overindulge, the fat cells would not know where to check in.

The sheer velocity of his career has created aftershocks, and those who stood too close have sometimes been bruised.

Bowden and Ricks are no slouches, and neither's career or respect as writers and thinkers really hinge on which way the Petreaus story breaks. (Full disclosure: My brother has occasionally published posts to Ricks' blog).

But they serve as a microcosm of a story that is bigger than who was sleeping with who: How did Petraeus so successfully groom his image, to the point that most Americans believed he'd won a war he didn't win and many pundits put him on the top of their 2016 presidential watch list?

Let's just hope there are Q&A sessions at the talks.

 
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