May
08
2011

BREAKING: ThinkProgress pig-ignorant about military.

Legal Insurrection tipped me to this one: apparently, ThinkProgress (link available via Legal Insurrection) got itself in a bit of a tizzy over a story in the Mexican press that one of the Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden was the son of Mexican immigrants, which apparently means (according to TP) that we need to pass the DREAM Act* and that the military is by the way keeping Latinos down.  Now, let’s establish something right off of the bat; I don’t know who was on that SEAL team, and it would not surprise me in the slightest to hear that one or more of them were of Latino ancestry.  Or any other ancestry, frankly.  That’s not the point: the point is that when you’re a hardcore partisan ideologue using a story for agitprop, you should probably check the story first to make sure that you don’t get burned.

ThinkProgress did not check the story first.

Quick: read this sentence (from the original Mexican newspaper article that sent TP into a tizzy) and tell me what’s wrong with it.  It’s OK if you don’t speak Spanish: neither do I, really – and I still can pick out the howler, so you should be able to, too.

El soldado Rubén Mejía, nacido en este país y de padres guanajuatenses, ha sido ascendido a sargento por el operativo en que un equipo enfrentó y dio muerte a Bin Laden.

“Sargento.”

Yes, that’s the Spanish word for ‘sergeant’ – which, as MilitaryReporter.net rather waspishly points out, is interesting… seeing as Navy SEALs use naval ranks. The equivalent naval rank would be Petty Officer – which I’m pretty sure is a fairly typical rank for Navy SEALs to have when they finish training.  I’m also pretty sure that the get-Osama mission probably didn’t have very many relative newcomers to the SEALs in its numbers.

So.  In other words, this one detail – and MilitaryReporter.net has more; much more (the title of the article was “Copy editors need more training about military affairs,” which should give you an idea) is so wrong that it is shining through the original, untranslated text.  You would have to be completely unaware of the most basic features of the United States military to not grasp that detail… and it is such a fundamental error that it beggars the mind that anyone would look it at and not have alarm bells go off in their heads.  You would have to be that special kind of dumb that comes from having to automatically believe anything – anything - that validates your existing belief structure, no matter how patently absurd.  You would have to be willfully obtuse to uncritically accept this story.

Which is, of course, why ThinkProgress took the story and ran with it.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: By the way: you can, in fact, apply to be a Navy SEAL.  Which could have been checked by a fifteen second Google search, not that the Think Progress author bothered.  Of course.

PPS: Being at least slightly smarter than TP, I ran this by colleagues who had a military background (which probably isn’t really an available resource for ThinkProgress writers, at that): one of them pointed out that the person making the call might have been involved in the mission, just not as a Navy SEAL, and the original story got that detail wrong.  Which is in fact plausible, particularly since the mission was run through the multi-service Joint Special Operations Command; alas for ThinkProgress, it does not absolve them of their essential ignorance of the American military.

*Yes, I know, I know: if you’re born in this country or already a citizen (Navy SEALs have to be the latter, by the way) the DREAM Act wouldn’t apply to you in the slightest anyway.  Remember: not just ideologues.  Dumb ideologues who won’t read.

7 Comments

  • DanB says:

    Wow. I would certainly not want to be someone named Rubén Mejía right now… Especially if I or my family lived around Dam Neck.

    How culpable will Think Progress be if a real Rubén Mejía, or his kids, get snatched up off the street & killed by some home grown islamo-wanna-be’s?

    On top of being thoughtless idiots for running an unchecked story, they are thoughtless idiots for putting a name on it. What utter pond scum.

  • Jim B says:

    Second detail: the article named a name on a team which doesn’t exist. That’s the official story on SEAL Team 6: it doesn’t exist. Yet suddenly some Mexican newspaper KNOWS not only who is on it, but his entire geneaology as well?

    I call BS.

  • Cameron says:

    Furthermore, to be a member of a group like that, you have to go through a background check and have a clearance. A non-citizen, especially an illegal immigrant, is not going to be involved.

    But again, this is Think Progress. They don’t know any better and don’t care to. And I agree with DanB’s statement. They may have put a real person’s life in danger.

  • Peter says:

    Is it possible that, since they are part of the Navy, some of the SEALs are marines. In that case the rank of sergeant
    is appropriate.

    • Moe_Lane says:

      Peter: Nope. I have been informed that Marines wishing to join the SEAL program have to transfer to the Navy first.

  • Major Kong says:

    Since the helicopters used in the raid probably came from either the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment or the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), it’s quite feasible that people with the rank of “sergeant” were involved in the operation. And, hell, for all I know, one of them could have been named Rubén Mejía.

    Now, how in the hell some random Mexican newspaper could possibly know this, or why they would think it was a good idea to publicly release the guy’s name if it was true, I have no idea.

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