Biden’s War Story: Gaffe, Lie, or Common Memory Error?

We all know the story about Biden’s scurrilous blatant lie about his war story! You know how he single handily won Pork Chop hill during the Viet Nam War while we defeated Hitler in the trenches with all the mustard gas? You know, that one?

I’mma make two points: (1) Ol’ Handsome Joe is a human being and (2) what the actual fuck is wrong with our press corpse as the kids like to say — I mean, they say, what the actual fuck and not calling the press corps, the press corpse. I am calling the press corps the press corpse because it so… okay, I’m sure you get it.

Here’s the story as reported by Nicole Wallace on Deadline White House on MSNBC. Okay, she quoted the Washington Post, but here’s what she said the post said. Biden got these “facts” wrong:

  • The time period
  • The location
  • The heroic act
  • The type of medal
  • The branch of service
  • And, the rank of the recipient
from the original article
The Press Adopts Reality TV Show Standards — The Atlantic

All within three minutes! As if that somehow makes him senile or something. He was telling a fucking story. It took three minutes to tell. Nothing sinister there unless you report it in a sinister way.

Conflating Three Stories

Here’s what he really did: he conflated three stories of awarding medals.

The Story

At a campaign event in Hanover, New Hampshire, he told the story of a Navy captain who descended into a ravine to rescue a wounded soldier in Afghanistan. The captain refused the medal he had been awarded for his act of bravery because the rescuee had died later. Biden claimed to be the one issuing the award when he was Veep.

The Three Stories

The three stories that the Washington Post figgers the one story cobbled together:

  • Barack Obama awarding the Medal of Honor to the soldier who did the ravine thing. It weren’t Ol’ Handsome Joe.
  • While then Sen. Biden watched, a general awarded a soldier a Bronze Star for rescuing another soldier under fire in Afghanistan.
  • As Veep Biden awarded a Bronze Star to a soldier who ran into a burning vehicle to save another. The soldier attempted to refuse the medal, but ultimately accepted it.

Misattribution: Biden’s Real Error

Here’s what really happened: According to Daniel Schacter, there are seven ways that people typically screw up their remembering of stuff. He famously called it The Seven Sins of Memory. The hapless Biden committed one of the sins, misattribution.

Misattribution occurs when a memory is assigned to a different time, place, or person. Schacter explains it as a person recalling a partial memory, and, then, as part of the reconstruction process of memory attributing something to a person, place, or time that isn’t true.

If you think of memories as IKEA furniture, you’ll understand how they can be so fucked up. When you recall a memory, it is like sliding the IKEA desk out of the flat box and assembling it. When you’re done with it, though, it is like disassembling it and putting it away until it is needed again. Over time, if you did this various things would go wrong: fasteners like screws would get lost, the pre-drilled holes would get worn and lose, and may be even a big panel or something would get lost. While you were putting it together, when you encountered one of these problems, you’d try and find a substitute. You’d get another screw or a nail. You’d let the desk wobble until you had to drill a new hole or find a thicker fastener. You’d get a different drawer or do without. Those substitutions are misattribution.

Memories are not solid pieces. They are assemblages of elements. So, when you’re retrieving them from long-term memory, you get the first few pieces and if you get stuck, you say to yourself, it must’ve been like this.

That’s very similar to what Ol’ Handsome Joe was doing. He had three very similar memories, which is bound to happen with a forty-year long career of public service. When he was trying to recall this memory awarding a Bronze Star for valor, he inadvertently ended up taking bits and pieces of the other two memories.

My point is, it is very human. We all have done, will do, and understand the process. Joe should have just come clean with it when it was brought up to him. Wow, it sounds like a conflated those memories, doesn’t it! Sorry about that. But, here let me tell you about them and you’ll see why I mixed them up — thanks to Nicolle Wallace for pointing out this as an effective strategy.

I guess, Uncle Joe is sensitive about his age and fears people attributing his manque memory to his age. He should worry about it, but in this case it clearly isn’t a product of an aging brain but a human one.

The Press’ Own Misattribution

So, why is it being reported as being anything other than a common error of memory that we have all experienced? Why does the headline read like Joe Biden is claiming war experience that isn’t his like a common Sean Hannity? Why did the Post have to track down leads and sources and painstakingly piece together the three stories? Why once that was done didn’t the reporter shrug, utter a meh, and go on to the next story?

Could it be that it is like the Ol’ Pussy Grabber says and the press really needs to have controversy in their political reporting? If Joe Biden builds up too much of a commanding lead, the primary will become dull and boring and not sell their ads? Do they need to take Joe down a notch to keep the others competitive with him?

This is story is just such a big old nothing shit burger that if it weren’t so serious it would be laughable. We’ve got to expect better from our press. They’ve got to be the fourth estate and not part of the story.

2 replies »

  1. So, shall we require all politicians and other public figures to never speak except from at prepared and fact-checked script? Well, I can think of one, but it isn’t Joe. I’ve seen dementia close up (my dad) and the conflation and confabulation that come when memory is truly failing and chunks of the past falling out. Then, there is the often demonstrated unreliability of eye witness testimony. I think the media’s addiction to conflict and controversy does best explain the excitement over things like this.

    Liked by 1 person

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