Qualifying the Cynical Literary Kneejerkism of the Blogger
A note from Patrick Murray expressing dissatisfaction with my post about the first two parts of John Mulligan’s Providence Journal series about him led me to take another look at what I’d written. My title was certainly too strong; the use of the word “sinister” was too suggestive of conscious action. My knee-jerk reaction was unfair to Mulligan and to Murray, and for that I apologize, but I continue to think that the first piece — which, appearing on Sunday, is likely to be the most read of the five — did not help matters.
Look, how a writer begins a story sets the context for what follows. If, for example, a story about a wounded Marine begins with his continued belief in the war (which may or may not be the case, here), or a touching vignette of the improved lives of the Iraqi people, or a scene related to the “great job offer from a big national construction company” that Murray is “on the verge of accepting,” according to the teaser for part five, that would frame the injury and recovery differently than Mulligan’s choice of opening scene: the attack that resulted in Murray’s lost leg.
Of course, it’s a matter of opinion whether Mulligan chose the correct tack — and for all I know, he consulted Murray about it beforehand. At a time when our nation is suffering internal battles about whether it is worth the cost to stay in Iraq, however, it is my opinion that a different approach would have served the United States of America, its military forces, and perhaps Patrick Murray, himself, better.
These posts are just my thoughts, expressed in a rapid and somewhat informal medium, on a piece of writing and its political background. I did not intend “to drag Pat’s name through the mud,” as a commenter inexplicably accused me of attempting. Perhaps being a writer and editor gives me an unusual approach to narrative-style news stories that doesn’t translate well to those who are not so inclined. I most definitely did not wish to insult one of Rhode Island’s heroes, and I apologize to him and to anybody who might have had a similar reaction.
Justin, why don’t you share with us Patrick Murray’s note to you (with his permission of course.)
Quite frankly, I find your posting to be condescending to both Mulligan and Murray.
Perhaps you could sign on at the Providence Journal to assist their reporters in the proper framing of their reporting.
I am not upset with Mulligan’s story or when it occurred. Its necessary to read stories like this one to remember that American military personnel are risking all and that some of them pay a terrible price. Several months ago, there were on-line discussions about a sign in a Marine outpost – “The Marines are at war. America is at the mall.” The least we can do is reflect on the value and values of our military more often than one or two holidays a year.
But its not sufficient to read only accounts like this. We need the whole context that keeps Patrick Murray and all the brave soldiers/sailors/Marines like him engaged and motivated. For that, I think you also need to read this war’s Ernie Pyles; the ones who chronicle the hope and the progress as well as the sacrifice. That would be, among others, Michael Totten, Michael Yon, Bill Roggio and Bill Ardolino.
Justin, something along the lines of your second paragraph is the one you should have posted originally.