Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For: Afghan Dept.

Blake Hounshell offers a generally shrewd summary of the "news" (if it is that) that Afghanistan is sitting on a trillion jillion kazillion dollars worth of natural resources (and cf. link). But then Hounshell drops an ingot of radioactive cadmium on his foot:
This could be a great thing for Afghanistan, which certainly deserves a lucky break after the hell it's been through over the last three decades.
If you replace "great thing" with "disaster and tragedy," then I would agree. Otherwise, I'd say Hounshell must have slept through his class on the Congo, Angola, Iraq, the Russian Federation, Harlan County (Ky.) and all those other places where the discovery of great mineral wealth has ripped the fabric out of whatever society that preceded it while enriching nobody but a bunch of foreigners with guns. And their bankers (Norway, yes, I know, but so what?).

If Hounshell is being grotesque, I'd say that James Risen himself isn't doing a lot better with his tirade against bloggers who responded to his story. "The thing that amazes me," he is quoted as saying, " is that the blogosphere thinks they can deconstruct other people's stories." Slow down and listen, big guy: that is exactly what they can do with your story; indeed, that is exactly what anyone can do. It's called the exercise of an independent critical judgment. It hurts sometimes, but without readers who care very deeply as to whether you get it right, you wouldn't have a job at all.

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