Achilles’ Heels, or Am I Being a Heel?


[Updated upon considering some comments. Deletions noted by strike-through; italics annotate additions.]

The conservative media space, social and otherwise, is abuzz with another woman of the left speaking truth we wish to hear to the power of Big Media. Lara Logan is a woman of immense physical courage and moral courage. She has spoken hard truths to real power. She is a real, old-fashioned reporter. Kudos to Lara Logan are warranted. And. Lara Logan is human, like all of us, and we may choose to overlook parts of her humanity that complicate our preferred narrative.

At the height of the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood drove the Egyptian military’s geriatric President Hosni Mubarak from office with massive street protests, as a prelude to parliamentary election victory for the original Islamist movement. Lara Logan led an unarmed reporting team into a large Egyptian public square to capture the people’s story. The crowd of men turned into a mob, gang-raped, and nearly tore her limb-from-limb with their bare hands.

Anyone who paid attention to the news over the past decade probably vaguely recalled this story. If you were not a hardcore leftist or Obama supporter, you likely shook your head at a woman walking uncovered, and at night, into a massive crowd of Muslim men in the Middle East. Listening to the three-hour-long Mike Drop podcast is inspiring and excruciating. It is also expletive-laced, which is why I am not embedding the podcast video.

I did learn, from the long-form interview, of her many years spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. She was very wise to the dangers of war zones. Here is a piece Logan did on Afghanistan in 2008, after spending a month in a small combat outpost. “Reflections from Afghanistan,” is her most recent report, in 2018. No illusions, real reporting with calculated risks.

I listened to the entire podcast and then watched the “60 Minutes” episode where she talked about the sexual attack by the mob. This is worth your watching or re-watching. It, too, is not comfortable viewing.

The two accounts, by the same person of the same event, are separated by seven-plus years. Listen closely, and you will find Lara Logan’s story changed an important detail.

The “60 Minutes” piece did not assign clear blame for the attack on any faction. The narrator said we may never know if the regime directed the attack or if it was just a criminal mob. Left out was the possibility that the mob did not see themselves as criminal. Yet, the report then disclosed the terrible truth that Egyptian women regularly face sexual violence. Indeed Lara Logan says: “I had no idea it was so endemic…” This was an experienced war correspondent, with many years in the region, but she and her US-based team had “no idea” of this particular threat.

Now, years later, Lara Logan either has evidence not introduced or needs to protect herself her psyche by asserting the attackers were agents of the fallen regime. No mention now of the fact that what happened to her was acceptable in the new Muslim Brotherhood regime, which the crowd was celebrating. To be an objective reporter now would mean reporting on her hopeful beliefs putting her into the position she was somehow unaware ordinary Egyptian women feared.

Or, perhaps we are seeing another instance of how our memories change over time. As another author wrote in “Renovating Memories“:

Scientists now tell us that every time we pull a memory out of long-term storage, we then re-write it, and in this rewriting, it may get changed. This may play into some instances of what has come to be known as the Mandela Effect.

It is entirely possible that Logan’s memory now is that the military regime’s internal security service was culpable. This may well be objectively true. It is also, sadly, still true that women are at great danger of sexual violence in Egypt, and other countries in the region, outside of the protection of male relatives, when those male relatives see an attack on their women as a deadly insult to their honor.

Indeed, you will hear that dynamic play out in Logan’s description of the mob’s attack. Her first moment of safety came when the mob surged with her against a group of Egyptian women, covered from head to toe. One of these women wrapped her arms around Lara Logan. A handful of men, who were standing around their women, became her temporary protectors, until the military beat their way through the mob with riot batons and extracted her and her crew.

We have all remarked, or nodded in agreement, on the dangerous naivety of white Western travelers biking or trekking through very bad places. Remember “Young, Blonde, Scandinavian Women Camp in Morocco, With Predictable Results?” What about “In a World with No Evil, You Can Do No Wrong?” We are all quite clear on the lethal self-delusion in these cases.

In the midst of our celebration, it is worth remembering we are all imperfect vessels, with tragic flaws, Achilles heels, blind spots. Lara Logan has spoken truth, or what we want to hear, about major media, so we are avoiding raising the apparent continuing blind spot. Yet, the assignment of definitive blame to the military internal security service is an attack on the legitimacy of the current Egyptian president, who has done more for real reform of Islam, to the eventual benefit of women and religious minorities, than any other majority-Muslim nation’s leader since, perhaps Ataturk.

And. It is entirely plausible that the same security forces that now keep a real reformer alive in the presidency of Egypt also directed the instigation of the attack that conservatives saw as revealing the real nature of the Arab Spring. Now, how you sort through all those cross-cutting pressures in this fallen world? Or is asking these issues terribly impolite, am I being a heel?

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