Sunday, November 27, 2005

David Brooks Takes On His Irresponsible War Coverage

Today's column by David Brooks (Heroes Abroad, Unknown at Home; It's behind the "Times Select" firewall... sorry) is critical of the war coverage - no, not of the rationale for war or whether there was a distortion of the evidence, but of the scant media attention given to soldiers. His argument boils down to this:

* I have done a terrible job sharing the heroic stories of individual soliders - in fact, before today, I don't recall a single column or television appearance where I shared such a story. But, to the extent that space permits, I'll introduce such a story. ("I don't have space to describe how Ieva and the other marines fought on that hot spring day, but by the end, about 75 insurgents had been killed and 17 captured.")

* The media should be covering these stories.

* The media's failure to cover the stories is your fault.

As Brooks laments that "most Americans couldn't name a single hero from this war", perhaps he has forgotten that when the Pentagon announces that a soldier is a hero and presents the story line, the press will carry the story. That is why Americans can name Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman. But no... in the world of Brooks, it isn't the media or Pentagon who bear responsibility - it's you:
That's partly because in the post-Vietnam era many Americans - especially those who dominate the culture - are uncomfortable with military valor. That's partly because some people don't want this war to seem like a heroic enterprise. And it's partly because many Americans are aloof from this whole conflict, and couldn't tell you a thing about Operations Matador and Steel Curtain and the other major offensives.
So people like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Charles Krauthammer, Sean Hannity, David Brooks himself, and other leading conservative voices are silent on stories of individual courage because they are uncomfortable with military valor? Because they are aloof from the conflict, and know nothing of individual operations? Because they don't want the war to seem like a heroic enterprise? Or perhaps Brooks, in his inimitable manner, presents another thoughtless, knee-jerk rationalization?

Our nation loves its heroes - when it hears about them. There's certainly room in the media to cover the minutia of the love life of Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson... and, for that matter, to manufacture their fame. Looking at the Fox News website right now, I see no individual stories of heroism from the war, but I can read what Russell Crowe thinks of his now-resolved criminal charge for assaulting a hotel employee, of a statue of the Virgin Mary that is supposedly "crying" a substance that looks like blood... and a teaser for The O'Reilly Factor on the murder of the nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford. (If you go to his main page, he's actually talking about the war, but apparently Fox thinks its viewers are more interested in the salacious and sensational.)

And when Brooks writes,
Every time you delve into the situation in Iraq, you come away with the phrase "not enough troops" ringing in your head, and I hope someday we will find out how this travesty came about.
Has he truly forgotten?

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