I was driven to post on this by viewing the Obligatory Fourth of July Post at the decadent Pandagon site.
The author, Amanda Marcotte, wrote placed photos next to the words Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Specifically, she placed the following photo next to the word ‘Life’, so as to juxtoppose the ideal with the ‘reality’ she is trying to convey.
She traffics in feelings, emotive, and entirely subjective. Looking at the photo, we see that some sort of tragedy has taken place, and that somebody was probably killed, or at least gravely issued. We have no context. Who died? Was it deserved? An American? An insurgent? A mass-murderer? A killer of chidren? No one knows.
She is not alone. The New York Times, almost daily, prints the Names of the Dead column, listing simply the name and location of the servicemember who died. Though a matter of public record, such simplicity in reporting negates the value of the deeds of the fallen. Furthermore, there are other matters of public record which the Times neglects publishing, like the awards for deeds of valor. We do not hear of the Navy Cross or Silver Star awardees. We do not hear of Bronze Stars or Distinguished Flying Crosses. We scarcely hear of Congressional Medals of Honor. And by the absense of these citations, the Times negates the objective reality in favor of trafficing in subjective tragedy.
…Except, of course, the troops (who, I’m sure, they ‘support’), do something evil. That is the only time you will see the Newspapers of Record digging for the truth. Witness Abu Ghraib.
There does not even have to be impropriety, only the appearance of it: During the Battle of Fallujah a Marine shot dead an unarmed enemy prisoner of war, at a time when many such prisoners were booby-trapping themselves with bombs. The Marine made a correct tactical and lawful decision. A reporter caught the act on tape, and caused a small firestorm when the tape reached the news outlets. The Marine was cleared of wrongdoing. But the emotive news media videotaped and released the violence–without context–thereby negating the act of courage of the Marine and placing him, and his fellow Marines, under the judgement of the viewership of the networks.
The lack of witness to the deeds of merit and valor is not found everywhere in our culture. We fawn over Al Gore’s Academy Award. We admire atheletes. We dedicate columns to the late terrorist leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Yasser Arafat. The West is a culture that cares grately about winning, and about recognition. But not for our warriors.
The lack of context for much of the war reporting ultimately denies the objective reality of the virtues of the servicemembers. Honor, Courage, and Committment are negated, and expressed only as a fallen victim of war in the corner of page A-4. Some postmodernists would have you believe that these servicemembers are victims. Yet they are not. They acted, and by their actions, they prove the existence of heroism. I say this while admitting that there is not much heroism in dying in a mortar attack, or a random IED blast. But the willingness to sacrifice their lives for their brethren is common to all true soldiers: indeed, running from such a fight, risking the lives of fellow troops, would be a supreme act of cowardice, and be the antithesis of the warrior ethos. But through all these actions, one thing is clear: by our actions, and our actions alone, do we show our virtues as people and as warriors. We do not honor warriors in short faux-obituaries.
By not providing witness to these actions, the media negates context, and thus denies the humanity and heroism of the troops. Instead, they become victims of a meat-grinder, with virtue denied, and heroism unsung. They become another victim-group to be pandered to. And this is wrong.
From page 324 of Bing West’s superb accout of the Battle of Fallujah:
“In The Iliad, a warrior in the front ranks turned to his companion and said, “Let us win glory for ourselves, or yield it to others.” For Greek warriors, there was no true glory if they were not remembered afterward in poem or song. There will be no true glory for our soldiers in Iraq until they are recognized not as victims, but as aggressive warriors. Stories of their bravery deserved to be recorded and read by the next generation. Unsung, the noblest deed will die.”