Episode 6

 5 O’Clock Shadow

Describe in detail the kinds of sources that have been used in Serial by the correspondents.  Which are primary sources?  Which are secondary sources?  What about the approach of the reporters to the story make the various aspects more compelling? What have you learned about research from Serial?

A substantial portion of the related information deprives of primary sources such as personal interviews with Bergdahl, his platoon members, David Rodhe, Lieutenant Jason Amerine, Taliban members, army officials, and many more individuals. These unique accounts shed light on many aspects and viewpoints of Bowe’s case. At the beginning of the episode, Bowe shared with Mark Boal and Sarah the lengthy personal statement he reported to General Kenneth Dahl. It includes background information, incidents, and events that added up to more than 380 pages long. Moreover, it encompasses who Bergdahl is as a person, soldier, and platoon members’ perspective of him before he was taken by the Taliban.  For example, Greg Leatherman, Bergdahl’s former squad leader recalls Bowe’s as a great, fit soldier that was always chosen first for any squad. While others regarded him as a detached person that listened to classical music and smoked tobacco out of a pipe.

Bergdahl was one of the few soldiers that read and studied the ranger handbook on tactics and techniques. His dedication distinguished him a “squared away” soldier that did what he was supposed to do and more. However, in interviews given by the platoon members, we learn that he also kept to himself and did not get close with many people. Bowe explains this as “the best way to limit frictions.” He was an introvert that was into a different type of conversation than the ones his peers were having around him, which encouraged him to isolate some more. He would observe the ways the platoons and leaders were communicating, behaving, and performing around him. In the episode, it seems as though he was mostly disappointed with what he was witnessing. For example, Bowe was disappointed with the lack of care and concern from the company’s commander after the Omnah event.

Other secondary sources used by Serial 2 include Wikileaks, maps, photos, and a memo Secretary Hillary Clinton received from a CIA person named Bill Murray. It included a conversation discussing the war in Afghanistan and its issues. Bill Murray advocates for a different type of approach that will let the people know the Americans were there to help and not conquer or stay forever. He predicted that ordinary people in Afghanistan believed the American soldiers were stationed there to fight Islam. Bill recommended sharing the army’s principal mission, which was to capture Bin Laden and leave. Additionally, he wanted to address the miscommunication that was appearing during this war. On the other hand, soldiers like Bergdahl were getting confused about their role and mission.

All the sources showcase the matters surrounding Bowe’s experience, but Serial and Sarah do not explain or interpret the facts. They organize and present them to the audience. Therefore, it is up to us listeners to arrive at our own judgment of the facts.


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