Journalist Nir Rosen has become the latest target of a right-wing feeding frenzy, losing his fellowship at NYU after tweeting a tasteless comment about the sexual assault of CBS reporter Lara Logan in Egypt. The usual suspects have moved in, led by Jeffrey Goldberg (who rather disingenuously pretended not even to know who Rosen was).
Unlike some of the previous smear campaigns by the neocon right, in this case it’s hard to dispute that Rosen did wrong. His tweet was genuinely offensive, and he’s rightly (and repeatedly) apologized for it. It was also an unforced error, giving an opening to those critics who for a long time had clearly despised Rosen for his politics but were hesitant to criticize him because of his reporting chops.
For all that, though, it would be a shame if Rosen’s attackers succeeded in driving him out of the conversation. Whatever his flaws, it’s hard to think of an American war reporter of his generation who could replace him. Rosen has been virtually unique among American journalists in reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan unembedded — or embedded with insurgents — giving his reporting a depth and perspective that is virtually impossible to find elsewhere in the US media. (For more, see Ali Gharib’s excellent profile of Rosen from last year.) The contrast with most of his critics — whose idea of reporting consists mostly of relaying anonymous quotes from White House officials and working the crowd at Herzliya — is striking.
So I, at least, will be hoping that Rosen makes it through the current firestorm. (And learns to exercise a bit more self-censorship!) Our understanding of America’s wars would be much poorer without him.