Saturday, February 19, 2005 mean soldiers really aren't blood thirsty killers?

There was something that I became really aware of in the “aftermath” of the 2004 elections: that the mainstream media is extremely disconnected from a large portion of the population. Just because they can’t comprehend a certain point of view, they either pretend it doesn’t exist or give false motives for this position. Up until the election it seemed pretty clear to most of the media that Kerry was going to win, because most of the people they interviewed were Kerry supporters [they usually didn’t venture far beyond their social circles]. And when Bush won, they decided it was because of moral values.

The military, just like “red-state” America, just doesn’t overlap much with many journalists’ social circles. Consequently, many journalists had pretty simplified ideas of what makes a soldier tick. And surprise, surprise, upon reporting as embedded journalists many were shocked to have their prejudices challenged.

Myrna Blyth quoted a reporter from the Washington Post, who had embedded with troops in Iraq:

First of all, she said she was "overwhelmed by the military," but she did learn by being embedded that members of our armed forces were not "blood-thirsty maniacs." Yes, she really did say that.

In fact, she said, they were "really decent people." And even "sweet." Of course, after being shot at they were eager to shoot back — a military attitude that seemed to surprise her.

She also reported that when she asked soldiers why were they in Iraq, every single one told her, "to help the Iraqi people." Again she was surprised that the military could create such a unity of purpose even though, she said, she didn't see any "brainwashing" going on. She also noted that many soldiers had no opinion about the war. They had gone where they were ordered to go, like all good soldiers. Such an attitude seemed to dazzle her as well.

She didn't have anything much to say about "reporters as citizens," but clearly she appeared to be one citizen who had very little familiarity with, or understanding of, or even quite possibly respect for the military before her tour of duty. In a way, it is kind of sad that only after some first-hand experience did she learn what most American citizens believe: that American soldiers are "decent people." And that it is those soldiers, not our journalists, after all, who protect our freedom of the press.

If someone is sent to report on a football game, they are expected to have some knowledge of the game, the teams, and the rules, if someone is sent to report on a movie premiere, they are supposed to have some knowledge about the actors, the storyline, and the people attending the event. But somehow the same is not expected of many reporters going to report from war zones. Although I am glad that most reporters are finding out that the military is different than they previously though, it makes me a little disappointed that the people sent to report on work of American troops previously had such low regard for and ignorant views of the US military.


Blogger Sarah said...

Good point. Jason from Iraq Now always says that the lack of military knowledge among journalists is directly related to the dearth of veterans and conservatives on college campuses. I would guess that he's right.


10:32 AM  

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