Last Saturday on the way to do some book shopping, I observed aloud to my wife that the biggest problem with media coverage of the war is the fact that most people in the media don’t seem to really understand the first thing about the military or military history.
And for those that do know anything about military history, either first-hand or through classroom instruction, 95% of that knowledge is based upon the Vietnam war.
Which is why everything looks the Tet Offensive all over again.
(To be fair, there ARE some similarities. I’m not dismissing them. But it’s not the tactics and the military significance of the Tet Offensive that enthralls most reporters. It’s the effect upon the American public and world opinion. That’s what I’m talking about here.)
I’ll dismiss for the moment those reporters and editors that are truly un-American. They cannot be saved. But I really do expect more from the majority of journalists, even those that personally oppose the war or distrust the military.
This is from April. Early April. Of 2003.
And it’s just been getting worse.
Just like every journalism student is raised on a steady diet of ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, nearly everyone who covers the military has probably been educated with a stream of Pentagon Papers, My Lai, and Iran Contra. That’s what so many in the media seem to be on the hunt for. Those are all important stories, and they all deserve to be covered.
But there’s more to it than that. That’s a tiny slice of what the military is all about.
…journalists, far more than generals, fight the last war. Actually, American journalists seem only to fight Vietnam over and over again –perhaps because it was in Vietnam that journalists first became part of the story as opposed to mere sideline scribblers. The effort to turn Iraq into Vietnam has been underway on the left side of MSM (which is 90%+ of MSM) for some time, and isn’t going to end soon.
If someone on FoxNews jumped up, and began a non-stop recital of all things good in Iraq with the Star Spangled Banner playing in the background, you’d dismiss it. So would I. Every single item on the list might be completely true, but you and I would see it for what it is: propaganda. The fact of the matter wouldn’t change the method of its use or the end being pursued. For what it’s worth, I think that too many reports on FoxNews or in the Washington Times are like this already. And I factor that in when digesting them.
But why is it that doom and gloom reports on CNN or in the New York Times aren’t treated with the same skepticism?
As I wrote last week (the post is actually what started that particular conversation with my wife, in fact), can you imagine what the media would have had to say about the beginning of the Ardennes Counter-offensive in 1944 if coverage then was like coverage now?
As someone with more than a passing knowledge about the military and military history, I see a constant stream of errors and bad reporting. Even from those who support the troops and what they’re doing. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. And sometimes you don’t even understand what trees are. I also see a lot of breathless reporting of rumor, misinformation, and speculation, which is even more rampant in military affairs than it is in the rest of the world. I imagine that you do, too.
It’s what we’re stuck with, so we need to be on guard against it. The first step is recognizing the problem.
UPDATE: And another thing! 2Slick covers AP’s coverage of the Mosul attacks. Worth a look.