Bowden at the 2018 U.S. National Book Festival
|Born||Mark Robert Bowden|
July 17, 1951
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
|Notable works||Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War; Hue 1968|
Mark Robert Bowden (born July 17, 1951) is an American journalist and writer. He is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He is best known for his book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War (1999) about the 1993 U.S. military raid in Mogadishu, Somalia. It was adapted as a motion picture of the same name that received two Academy Awards.
He is also known for Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw (2001) about the efforts to take Pablo Escobar, a Colombian drug lord.
Born in 1951 in St. Louis, Missouri; Bowden is a 1973 graduate of Loyola University Maryland. While he was at college, he was inspired to embark on a career in journalism by reading Tom Wolfe's book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
From 1979 to 2003, Bowden was a staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer. In that role he researched and wrote Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo, both of which appeared as lengthy serials in the newspaper before being published as books. He published two books prior to these, Doctor Dealer and Bringing the Heat, both of which were based on reporting he originally did for the newspaper. He has since published nine other books.
He lives in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
From June 2012 through March 2013, the legal blog Trials & Tribulations (T&T), which reports on California trials and legal affairs, ran a seven-part series titled "Fact Checking Mark Bowden's Curious Vanity Fair Article on Stephanie Lazarus". This series disputes elements of Bowden's July 2012 Vanity Fair article, "A Case So Cold It Was Blue". The author suggests that Bowden may have created quotes and states of mind of principals to fit his story, and questions whether the journalist had conducted relevant interviews or attended a single day of the murder trial of former LAPD detective Stephanie Lazarus, although this case was the centerpiece of his story.
Part VI of the series, published on T&T in October 2012, noted that Cullen Murphy, Bowden's editor at Vanity Fair, declined to comment on the record to the blog's author about the allegations related to Bowden's article. Part VII, published in March 2013, said that Bowden, who was not approached about the blog's allegations prior to their posting, had since declined to respond to questions posed by the website's blogger regarding his article. He has said that he welcomes questions about it from others.
Poynter Journalism School blog posted an extended analysis of the dispute by Craig Silverman, noting that Vanity Fair had posted a correction to the article, and that "the discrepancies [noted by T&T] don't amount to quote manipulation or a misrepresentation of what was said." Vanity Fair editor Cullen Murphy, in an e-mail to Poynter, said in part "the quotations used in Bowden's text correspond with relevant portions of the video. Some things are hard to make out, and there may be an occasional small variance, but a fair reading would conclude that the quotes track accurately and correctly capture the dynamic of the interrogation. There has been no distortion." Silverman closes by listing three takeaways for newsrooms, one of which is, "Whether or not you like the tone or approach taken by an outside critic, you still have a responsibility to examine claims of factual error or ethical malfeasance," and he notes further that it might have been easier for T&T and Vanity Fair to deal with the issue if they had spoken to one another directly.
In the October 2003 issue of The Atlantic, Bowden's article "The Dark Art of Interrogation" advocated a ban on all forms of coercive interrogation. He said that in certain rare instances, interrogators would be morally justified in breaking the law and they ought to face the consequences. Written more than a year before the violations of prisoners were revealed at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers, he wrote, in part:
The Bush Administration has adopted exactly the right posture on the matter. Candor and consistency are not always public virtues. Torture is a crime against humanity, but coercion is an issue that is rightly handled with a wink, or even a touch of hypocrisy; it should be banned but also quietly practiced. Those who protest coercive methods will exaggerate their horrors, which is good: it generates a useful climate of fear. It is wise of the President to reiterate U.S. support for international agreements banning torture, and it is wise for American interrogators to employ whatever coercive methods work. It is also smart not to discuss the matter with anyone.
In The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson, Bowden's article was noted as a reference to the CIA's Project ARTICHOKE. This program developed physical methods that can be used during interrogations and Ronson noted that they can be brutal or fatal.
Bowden believes that young people are just as drawn to "deep" journalism as other generations of people have been. He said in March 2009: "Nothing will ever replace language as the medium of thought, so nothing will replace the well-written, originally-reported story, or the well-reasoned essay."