Monday, December 19, 2011

The Rashomon effect? Or just the complexity of human beings and life? Hero? Villain? Both? An alternate view of "Fed of the Year" Tom Brandon.

The Rashomon effect is the effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection, by which observers of an event are able to produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of it. A useful demonstration of this principle in scientific understanding can be found in an article by that name authored by Karl G. Heider. It is named for Akira Kurosawa's film Rashomon, in which a crime witnessed by four individuals is described in four mutually contradictory ways. -- Wikipedia.
Readers will recall this story from Thursday: "ATF’s Tom Brandon Named’s Fed of the Year." Let me tell you something about this much ballyhooed schmuck. In it, I described the recipient of Tickle the Wire's "Fed of the Year" award thusly:
Much respected? Yes. Even the guys at welcomed him. "A straight shooter"? Well, you be the judge. Sources tell Sipsey Street that right after he was transferred to Phoenix, Brandon screwed up. That is, he took his charge to clean up Phoenix seriously. In the process, he began to follow the leads that the dissident agents of Phoenix Group VII had followed before being pulled off the surveillances of the straw buyers which were leading to the smugglers and money men.
In short order, Brandon was told to back off, say our sources. He continued to push -- until he was summoned to a meeting with the FBI and DOJ higher ups and given the "national security" warning. The FBI paid informant that the ATF agents had unknowingly identified was a "piece of slime, but a protected piece of slime," according to one source. Brandon was ordered to back off and he very meekly did.
I stand by the story, of course, but I am in receipt of an email from one of the ATF whistleblowers who wants to let us know that the story is not all of the picture, from his point of view:
You and your sources are entitled to their opinions. I imagine that there are people who may not like Tom Brandon for one reason or another. I'll say this: When Mr. Brandon came to Phoenix, he saw the gaping wound before the scab even began to form. He did his best to fix the problem, and had the balls to tell his bosses at HQ what was going on. He also stood firmly on the train tracks when the train was about to roll over the Whistleblowers. He very easily could have just stood by and watched as so many other SES'ers would have done. I respect Tom, and although I only met him when he first landed in Phoenix, I believe he has more integrity than any leader I've worked for in my career. If, as you speculate Congressman Issa or Senator Grassley choose to speak with him, I'm sure he'd uphold his oath of office and place it above any personal agendas or career aspirations.
It's just my two cents. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
This is not necessarily the Rashomon effect, of course. People, and life, are far more complicated than the convenient but flawed shorthand cartoons we create of it. Rogues can be heroes and heroes rogues, and often are. Our perception of which is which is most often dependent upon when we view them. Brandon folded on the "national security" trump card, but fought for the individual whistleblowers it seems. These are not mutually exclusive actions.
There is a scene in the 1949 film Battleground, about the 101st at Bastogne, where the 3rd Platoon is attacked at dawn at a railway overpass, and appears about to be overrun. Hansan moves forward to get a better shot at the attackers and is wounded. The German volume of fire seems overwhelming, with flashes, bangs and confused shouting in the semi-dark. The veteran Holley loses his nerve and starts to run away, followed by the replacement Layton. Layton doesn't know what Holley's doing, but he only knows that he feels safe around the veteran. Holley, afraid of being a coward in front of the younger man, regains his courage and leads a flanking counterattack that defeats the Germans. At the end of the engagement, it is the Germans who are mostly lying dead and wounded in the snow, crying out in pain.
Hero? Villain? Both?
The answer depends upon when.
Of all the war films made during and after World War II, Battleground was regarded by veterans of that war to be the most honest.
One day we will find out the entire story of the Gunwalker Scandal and then we will know who the villains and who the heroes are. Some, perhaps Tom Brandon, will turn out to have been both.


Sean said...

Hey, the snow is really coming down! A buddy: They didn't tell you that it's cold, and a little on the wet side, did they?

Anonymous said...

"Name me a hero, and I'll prove he's a bum!" -- Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, Major, USMC, Medal of Honor recipient

otterhauser said...

Tashiro Mifune. A GREAT Japanese actor of the 50s and 60s especially.

Anonymous said...

"One day we will find out the entire story of the Gunwalker Scandal and then we will know who the villains and who the heroes are."

Like we found out the true story of the Clinton administration?

Anonymous said...

'One day we will find out the entire story of the Gunwalker Scandal and then we will know who the villains and who the heroes are. Some, perhaps Tom Brandon, will turn out to have been both."

I can live with this moral ambiguity. It is consonant with the Calvinistic doctrine of Total Depravity: no man is as good as he should be nor as bad as he could be.

God will judge Tom Brandon by by His own Holy Law but I will judge Tom Brandon by his willingness to uphold his oath of office.

Be forewarned, Mr. Brandon. Both God and man despise oath breakers. ;^(