Guess what’s missing in this post

On June 30, the blogger known as the Dissident Frogman (DFM) wrote about a trip he had taken to Normandy. There he visited the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy.

What happened?

The opening paragraph of his post does not mince words:

If you planned it, you may want to cancel your visit to the Mus?e M?morial de la Bataille de Normandie (Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy) in Bayeux.

Why you ask?
The authorities at the Museum could not explain the “removal” [sic] of the American flags that would normally fly between the French and British flags at a monument, as well as those offered in two places in the gift shop.
Was the outrage, and the post to his blog, warranted? Sadly, no.

In fact, it would be hard to imagine a post that would be off the mark by a larger margin. The very spectacular inaccuracy made the post the stuff of internet legends, the kind that will forever be spun by those who would like to believe it, and debunked on Snopes.

Upon further review the facts of the case are:

  • The only flag that is ever flown on the middle pole is that of the Sherwood Rangers, the British troops who are honored at the Museum.
  • The gift shop had sold out its supply of American flags because of the D-Day commemorations.
  • Having been made aware of the facts (by others) the DFM posted an apology of Clintonesque proportion: long and rambling, taking every opportunity to lash out at his critics and arguing the problem was that people misunderstood his original post.

    Nice try.

    On the “you didn’t get my tone” topic, the DFM writes: “I considered that issue was innocuous enough to write about it in a sarcastic way and a teasing tone.” In case you missed it, this was sarcastic and teasing: “I could fire up a ferocious comment but I’m still disgusted by these three “coincidences”. Much like the call to cancel your visit he issued in the opening paragraph of his post was just a tease I suppose. Such teasers those dissident frogmen!

    When the DFM puffs and huffs: “Guess what’s missing on an empty pole, around a monument to the liberators in the Museum’s park up front?” apparently no one should conclude that he wanted to suggest that “the US flag has been removed.”

    In his second post on the topic, the DFM repeats (and repeats, and repeats) that one should not have gotten too upset over what were after all: “three – and only three – troubling omissions,” “The three – and only three – troubling omissions,” “I noticed three – and only three – troubling omissions,” “troubled by these three – and only three – omissions,” “Hey that’s three – and only three – troubling coincidences,” “would these three – and three only – troubling omissions.”

    His original post, however, includes no such qualifiers. The importance of what was originally labeled “omissions” and then at times becomes “coincidences” is not downplayed in the first entry. Only when caught entirely off track about the (implied) accusations and his response (outrage) do we begin to see the that’s not what I meant — you misunderstood everything! defense. (In other words, the fault lies not with his original entry, but with the readers, and media outlets, that picked up his story.) It is only once called on his facts that he adds: “it’s worth mentioning that half of the museum is dedicated to the American Sector of the aforementioned battle.” Wasn’t this worth mentioning the first time around? You know — the time he suggested canceling your visit to the Museum?

    The first entry had ended with: “What’s more, I couldn’t get any lucid and convincing explanation for this “fortuitous” accrual.” The second comments: “I have no information on the reasons why their was obviously something missing.” So how, exactly, did he try to get an answer to these probing questions on his first visit? I saw no such explanation in the posts on the Museum (but would be happy to be corrected.)

    It’s only fair to point out that faced with the same images, I might have had the same reaction. There are two problems with the original post and subsequent retractions. The first, as I argued above, is the statement that no “lucid and convincing explanation” was available for the three omissions. This suggests such an explanation was sought. Given that the empty pole only has a flag once a year, and is never meant to fly the US flag, there’s little reason to believe such an inquiry was made.

    The second is the “technically speaking, my initial post wasn’t formulating any theory” defense. It is on par with “I did not have, sexual relations, with that woman.” Maybe not technically — but surely words have meanings and accusations (calling something “coincidences” is surely meant to convey something.)

    There is no need to apologize, as the DFM does, for not being “full blown funded investigation journalist working on behalf of an important press company.” The real failure is assuming a specific reason for observed facts, implying the cause, and failing to seek an explanation before posting.

    Guess which of these weren’t missing from the DFM’s original post?



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