I’ve been following the fallout from the Rolling Stone article titled “The Runaway General” about Gen. Stanley McChrystal closely since it came to a boil earlier this week. It seems to be on a simmer now so I’m feeling informed enough to speak and I have more questions than answers popping into my head:
Why are people shocked about the interview being with Rolling Stone?
Rolling Stone is an established media outlet. They don’t just cover music, but varied topics regarding culture and politics with an edge. I think it was quite a catch for Rolling Stone to get an interview with someone like Gen. McChrystal and have the access that they got. Was it too much access? Maybe.
Why did Gen. McChrystal’s civilian Pentagon consultantresign? When Rolling Stone sent the article to Gen. McChrystal’s office, I’d like to know who reviewed it and what was actually sent. Was it the whole article or pieces of it (with basically the juicy bits left out)? Was it Duncan Boothby (the civilian consultant) who originally set-up the interview, McChrystal himself or a member of his public affairs staff who saw it? If there were explosive comments in the material sent then someone should have sent the red flag up the pole alerting key players that the article could cause this brew-haha. This is where public relations staff should be empowered to speak freely and honestly where they could have said directly to the general that he has a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease. And I’d like to know who approved and who knew about the interview in the first place. Were the Joint Chiefs and/or Defense Department aware of it?
Will the fallout affect the relationship between the media and the military? Well, maybe, but it shouldn’t. Basic media relations 101: don’t say anything privately to a journalist you wouldn’t say publicly. Nothing is ever off the record. If you’ve got a loose cannon, then the person should not be available for interviews or not left alone to do interviews. Loose lips can sink careers not only ships.
Now for some other thoughts…. After reading the article, I can say Gen. McChrystal’s use of language is very colorful and call me old-fashioned not every becoming of an individual in his high position. That maybe appropriate, as battlefield talk for your soldiers but it is not appropriate for an interview when you are representing your position and country with any media outlet.
Also, it is never a good idea to publicly mock your bosses. My view is if you have an issue then you take it up with them directly while providing solutions. Not do it in a public arena. We’re talking about a war here where lives are at stake. Words can undermine the effort.
While I believe the purpose of the article was perhaps to portray him as a “badass,” it came across that he was crude, a bully, and well, I’ll just say it, a jerk. I don’t like calling anyone a jerk since I don’t know him personally.
I keep thinking about Gen. George Patton. He was larger than life and a very colorful character. I wonder what would have happened to Gen. George Patton if he had given a similar interview?
On a related side note, it seems that Gen. McChrystal is now on Twitter as @GenMcChrystal and I’m betting the farm it is a squatter account from the recent posts.