History shows that shell shock can make soldiers go mad. So is that what happened to General Stanley McChrystal, formerly top dog of the Nato war effort in Afghanistan when he allowed a Rolling Stone reporter to follow him for an entire month? Or had he started to believe his own publicity? After all, until the US magazine published its explosive profile, the American General had become accustomed to almost reverential reporting. He could say anything. Reporters would airbrush the words in return for future interviews. Until his luck ran out with the media he had been courting.
And when the luck deserted him, even Rolling Stone appeared unaware that it had a career-busting piece for its bumper summer issue. Instead an almost-naked Lady Gaga displaced blurb for the Afghan story almost entirely from the cover.
Although General McChrysal paid for the publicity with his job, he appears to have understood what he was doing, not during the time he enjoyed the company of a journalist, but in the days before publication. Neither he nor his staff objected when the profile was fact checked, a kindness that not all publications offer, of course. That means General McChrystal knew what he was saying and he was happy with it. Although he couldn’t unsay what had been said, he appears to have offered no clarification. No extra words that showed he was under pressure when he said what he shouldn’t have about his colleagues and allies.
And that’s what cost him his job.