No, We Didn’t Shoot Down a Libyan Scud

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Remember a week ago, when some mainstream media outlets reported that NATO airplanes had intercepted and shot down a Qaddafi-launched Scud missile? Never happened, concludes Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and expert on nonproliferation issues. In a fantastic post over at his blog, Arms Control Wonk, Lewis explains 1) how shooting down a ballistic missile from a fighter jet is not possible—yet—and 2) how one unsourced rumor on Al Jazeera snowballed into a big journalistic game of Telephone:

Al Jazeera TV initially reported “A NATO warplane shot down a scud missile fired from Sirte, Muammar Gaddafi’s home city east of Tripoli.”…Yasmine Saleh at Reuters picked up the Al Jazeera TV report…In a separate Reuters story, however, a different reporter named Phil Stewart got a “US defense official” on condition of anonymity to confirm “Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi fired a suspected scud missile.” Stewart’s story, however, does not mention any intercept. These two separate Reuters articles got tangled, leading lots of other reporters, like Molly Hennessy-Fiske at the Los Angeles Times, to claim that Reuters had confirmed the shoot-down…

Surely most of the blame must go to Al Jazeera for its bad reporting. But some of the blames also falls on the practice, widespread, of attributing a story to a news wire or a papers rather than the individual reporters.

A good cautionary tale, for security journalists and hawkish alarmists alike.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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