"Easongate" the scandal surrounding former CNN news chief Eason Jordan's false claims that U.S. troops deliberately targeted journalists in Iraq has just about faded away, having definitively established the blogosphere as a force to be reckoned with in the news media world.
However, Easongate was not the first time non-journalists used the power of the Internet to force CNN to withdraw a bogus story alleging brutal behavior by U.S. troops.
In a 1999 speech based on his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas L. Friedman recounts the reaction of Army veterans to CNN's "Tailwind" broadcast, which alleged that U.S. forces had deliberately used deadly sarin nerve gas to murder American defectors in Laos:
Remember the story CNN had out last year, the "Tailwind" story, that American troops used poison gases in the Vietnam war?CNN first aired its "Tailwind" story on June 7, 1998; it retracted it less than one month later, on July 2.
The story was put out by Time Warner/CNN, I believe the world’s biggest media conglomerate. They had a General advising them named Perry Smith. When that story came out he said "This is a bogus story, and if you run this story I’m going to quit."
They said, "Bye-bye. We are Time-Warner/CNN. We don’t really care what some retired general has to say."
Perry Smith went home and he got on his e-mail network and he mailed his five General friends from the Vietnam War, they e-mailed their five Colonel friends, the five Colonel friends e-mailed their five Major friends and right on down the line. Within a week, they had assembled a strong enough dossier to bring big, fat Time-Warner/CNN to their knees, begging for mercy.
Some things never change.