His reporting, along with that of several colleagues, left little doubt that a corrupt South Vietnamese government supported by the United States was no match for Communist guerrillas and their North Vietnamese allies. His dispatches infuriated American military commanders and policy makers in Washington, but they accurately reflected the realities on the ground.Obviously, Halberstam's story resonates in these times, though it's clear the forces who question the patriotism of the messenger bearing the bad news now have the upper hand. Such bold reportage as Halberstam's is all too lacking today, enabling a submoronic president and his utterly corrupt administration to fight a war on false pretenses while blanketing a complicit and deferential press with lies that go largely unchallenged in the mainstream media. As Salon's Glenn Greenwald put it:
For that work, Mr. Halberstam shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1964. Eight years later, after leaving The Times, he chronicled what went wrong in Vietnam — how able and dedicated men propelled the United States into a war later deemed unwinnable — in a book whose title entered the language: “The Best and the Brightest.”
...President John F. Kennedy was so incensed by Mr. Halberstam’s war coverage that he strongly suggested to The Times’s publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, that the reporter be replaced. Mr. Sulzberger replied that Mr. Halberstam would stay where he was. He even had the reporter cancel a scheduled vacation so that no one would get the wrong idea.
David Halberstam's death yesterday is certain to prompt all sorts of homage from our media stars describing Halberstam as a superior journalist, someone who embodied what journalism ought to be. And it is true that he was exactly that.Halberstam generally alternated his books on heavy topics like wars, politics and industry with books on sports. While the latter were anything but puff pieces, Halberstam understood the limits of sport's power in the current age.
But modern American journalists -- as Halberstam himself repeatedly emphasized -- have become the precise antithesis of those values. The functions Halberstam and the best journalists of his generation fulfilled are exactly those that have been so fundamentally abandoned, repudiated and scorned by our nation's most prominent and influential media stars. And most legitimate media criticisms today are grounded in exactly that gaping discrepancy.
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