Friday, January 24, 2003

So that's it!
James S. Robbins offers his take on Scott Ritter in Vice Squad:
In my drinking circles when the question of Scott Ritter came up it was never in the context of "Why did he change his mind?" but always, "What do the Iraqis have on him?" Of course, we are all national-security community folks in one way or another, and pretty much look at life through the realist lens. We might come across as cynical, especially after a few rounds, but more often than not we get things right. When allegations of Ritter's planned sexual encounters with under-aged girls surfaced this week, the collective response was a professionally objective, "Oh, so that was it." There was not a lot of outrage. It was hard to take Ritter seriously in recent years. His rhetoric had escalated to fringe levels, his reasoning had become somewhat eccentric, and he really had run out of anything new to say factually. He sustained public-figure status through being a fixture in the appointment books of television producers and reporters seeking interesting quotes, but one was always struck by the sense that there was no particular reason to listen to him. He had been out of the game a long time. What was the point?
Nevertheless, Ritter's access to the media was never based on his message. Harry the Hippie has the same message, and may be even more articulate, but Ritter had man-bites-dog appeal. He was an outspoken hard-line inspector who transformed suddenly into a rather forceful apologist, and thus became instant producer-bait. Lacking that context, he was just some guy with something to say. This is why it is hard to compartmentalize man from message. The alleged sex scandal does not directly challenge the substance of Ritter's views, but it does call into question his legitimacy. And not because someone who may go to chat rooms looking for liaisons with underage girls cannot have a valid political message - I guess - but because the behavior could be directly linked to why the message changed. The sex story - mostly because it is a sex story, and of a particularly unfashionable type - will keep Ritter an in-demand media property, but for the wrong reasons. And it makes him less bankable for the peace movement, since they wouldn't want to be tainted by association (that is, with someone possibly turned by the Iraqis. I am sure to them the other alleged thing falls under "lifestyle choice").
More by following the link.

His vaunted expertise was years out of date, but he was always good for a "man-bites-dog" quote. Now he's good for a quote and a whine. Dang, where's the popcorn?