Shot Down

Why, oh why, must the facts continue to get in the way of a good story? It's especially true online, where bloggers can be guilty of passing a secret around the circle without directly verifying the information first. (I know, not all of them.) Such is the case surrounding Kevin Garrard, who unwittingly became the latest casualty in the Internet free-for-all -– even as he was apparently "saved" by an iconic piece of technology.

It seems Garrard, an Iraq-based soldier, recently encountered a fire fight and was shot in the chest. Someone later posted photos on Flicker of an iPod with a hole ripped through it. As the story went, the iPod took one for the team and prevented the bullet from entering Garrard's body. Sounds good, right? Now that's a feel-good tale! And it even seems somewhat plausible, I guess. But could a soldered collection of electronics and metal really stop a bullet? I first read the story here, and while I chuckled and shook my head in amazement, I had my doubts about the human-shield ability of Apple's ubiquitous digital music player. I mean, I'd recently watched one be destroyed in a blender. And, hey, wait a minute! The photos show an iPod that's made by HP and not Apple anyway.

That's when digital detectives took over, and it seems Garrard better explained what happened through another blogger. (Caveat: I have not directly talked nor e-mailed with Garrard, so does that mean I'm contributing to the scuttlebutt, too? Sigh. I suppose so. But I hope it's worth it.) According to new accounts, it was body armor that literally saved Garrard, and it was only when he reached for his iPod while safely back in his bunk that he realized he had been shot. Well, that's still sort of interesting, too…no? Come on.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not against blogs (I'm writing one, aren't I?), but it's another reminder to double or triple-check sources and stats. The temptation to break a softball story can be just as alluring as the hard news ones. Not that taking a bullet in the chest is softball. You know what I mean. Sometimes pictures do speak a thousand words, however, they aren't necessary accurate ones. Sure, it's easier for me to sit back and gently toss stones now, but I'm writing this as much to remind myself as any reader. At least it seems the whole process is slowly course-correcting itself, as routinely happens in the blogosphere. Though it's hard to know if we'll ever be able to glean the whole truth.

A lesson learned, and fortunately Garrard's health isn't in question. Also, it turns out you can live without your iPod after all.
  • Daniel Sieberg