Nir Rosen Lara Logan Twitter Controversy
Tweeting feels like IM'ing but it's more like blogging.
Nir Rosen, a prolific journalist and activist, made a series of outrageous comments on his Twitter stream about the brutal assault on CBS reporter Lara Logan during the Egypt protests. NRO’s Jim Geraghty was among many to preserve them for posterity before they went down the memory hole:
Karen J. Greenberg, executive director of NYU’s Center on Law and Security, one of Rosen’s many employers, issued this statement:
Nir Rosen is always provocative, but he crossed the line with his comments about Lara Logan. I am deeply distressed by what he wrote about Ms. Logan and strongly denounce his comments. They were cruel and insensitive and completely unacceptable. Mr. Rosen tells me that he misunderstood the severity of the attack on her in Cairo. He has apologized, withdrawn his remarks, and submitted his resignation as a fellow, which I have accepted. However, this in no way compensates for the harm his comments have inflicted. We are all horrified by what happened to Ms. Logan, and our thoughts are with her during this difficult time.
Rosen has issued abject apologies on Twitter and in an interview with FishbownDC’s Betsy Rothstein, who issued this preface:
Strangers are now lambasting him. Friends and family are telling him he’s not fit for Twitter. He says he agrees. Like many men, he says, he made a tasteless joke. Like most men, he adds, he needs to be far more sensitive. We caught up with him in an email exchange from Dubai, where he is as of this morning. Attempting damage control, he agreed to answer our questions. Rosen contributes to Atlantic Monthly,WaPo, NYT Magazine and Harper’s. Due to his vitriolic comments, he has resigned as a fellow at New York University Center on Law and Security.
His tweets from Feb. 15: “Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson. Where was her buddy McCrystal.” But there was more: Yes yes its wrong what happened to her. Of course. I don’t support that. But, it would have been funny if it happened to Anderson too.” He was referring to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who suffered beatings during his Egypt coverage. He also called Logan a war monger, saying, “Jesus Christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger.”
Among Rosen’s responses:
I’ve often been warned by friends that someone as rash and careless as me should not be on twitter, and clearly they were right. I have certainly lost any desire to use twitter mostly because I am ashamed of what happened and I’m eager to retreat from the public spotlight I brought upon myself.
Its difficult to try to explain why you were a jerk (or an asshole). On twitter I often banter and argue with various acquaintances about subjects like the morality of wikileaks, the war in Afghanistan, etc. We don’t regard it as a place to make serious statements, after all, at least I thought, it’s just silly social media, but that was idiotic of me and showed terrible judgment. I heard that Ms. Logan was roughed up like many other journalists, I had not realized it was something more serious. I thought I would provoke a friend on Twitter, childishly, and then the exchange grew and suddenly statements that I could not possibly mean were being taken seriously and I was hurting people I didnt even know without any intention. I am not suggesting that making such jokes are ever okay. I have known women, and actually quite a few men, who have been sexually assaulted, and in the last eight years I have often reported on such abuses. When you’re in war zones you develop a black humor and make jokes about your death, other people’s deaths, other terrible things, writers and photographers do it, as of course do Bosnians, Iraqis, Somalis and others as a coping mechanism. But taken out of context this can be deeply hurtful, especially when made by a man. A man should never joke about women being abused or harassed.
I have spent eight years risking my life as a journalist and also as a consultant to several NGOs and humanitarian organizations to bring attention to victims of injustice and to give voice and empowerment to the weak. By joking around with some friends I betrayed all that and betrayed my family, friends and supports, and I brought shame upon myself and them.
There’s much more at the interview, which I commend to you in full. He has gone light years beyond the typical “I apologize if anyone was offended” line public officials do when caught. Given his history, I believe him to be sincere in both his regret and embarrassment at his remarks, not just at getting caught.
While I’ve encountered Rosen at public fora in DC, I can’t claim to know him. But his reputation, at least before this incident, was as a brilliant and caring fellow. He’s been invited to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and fellowed at prestigious and centrist academic institutions including New America’s Foundation and the American Academy in Berlin in addition to NYU. He’s not just some crank with a Twitter account.
My strong hunch is that an hour’s ugliness on Twitter will become a mere asterisk on an otherwise distinguished career. But this is merely the latest in a long line of examples of people embarrassing themselves on social media, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, or a blog.
I constantly see people railing against Big Media companies and other institutions who issue social media guidelines to their employees. The company rationale is always that the person is a “brand” who reflects on them 24/7. The crowd response is that people are more than their jobs and should be able to say or do whatever they want in their free time.
The companies are right.
Not me, that’s for sure.
Alas, I responded, “Tweeting feels like IM’ing but it’s more like blogging.”
While we can usually get away with an out-of-public-character snide remark in private conversation, social media is public. And it’s shocking how many otherwise thoughtful people haven’t figured that out yet.