No Place for American Heroes — in the Media

by | Aug 10, 2005

Back in June, this column pointed out that it is impossible to fight a war without heroism — but that you would never know that from the mainstream media. Nothing heroic done by American troops in Iraq is likely to make headlines in the New York Times or be featured on the big three broadcast […]

Back in June, this column pointed out that it is impossible to fight a war without heroism — but that you would never know that from the mainstream media. Nothing heroic done by American troops in Iraq is likely to make headlines in the New York Times or be featured on the big three broadcast network news programs.

That fact has now been belatedly recognized in a New York Times opinion piece, but with a strange twist.

After briefly mentioning a few acts of bravery in Iraq — including a Marine who smothered an enemy grenade with his own body, saving the lives of his fellow Marines at the cost of his own — the Times’ writer said, “the military, the White House and the culture at large have not publicized their actions with the zeal that was lavished on the heroes of World War I and World War II.”

Think about that spin: The reason we don’t hear about such things is because of the Pentagon, Bush and “the culture at large.”

Neither the Pentagon, the White House or “the culture at large” can stop the newspapers or the televisions networks from publicizing whatever they want to publicize. They all have reporters on the scene but what they choose to feature in their reports are all the negative things they can find.

The very issue of the New York Times in which this essay appeared — August 7th — featured a front-page picture of a funeral for a Marine killed in Iraq. If you judged by the front page of this and many other newspapers, our troops in Iraq don’t do anything except get killed.

The plain fact is that the mainstream media have been too busy depicting our troops as victims to have much time left to tell about the heroic things they have done, the far greater casualties which they have inflicted on their enemies, or their attempts to restore some basic services and basic decencies to this country that has been torn apart for years by internal and external wars — even before the first American troops arrived on the scene.

The unrelenting quest for stories depicting American troops as victims — including even front-page stories about the financial problems of some National Guardsmen called to active duty — has created a virtual reality in the media that has no place for heroes.

Senator John Kerry has called the activation of reservists and National Guardsmen “a backdoor draft,” as if joining the reserves or the National Guard is supposed to mean an exemption from ever having to fight.

The theme of troops as victims has been a steady drumbeat in the media, because of the way the media have chosen to filter the news, filtering out heroes, among other things.

This virtual reality can become more important than any facts.

Even a young lady interviewer on Fox News Channel — of all places — recently asked a guest how long the American people will be able to continue supporting the war in Iraq with all the casualties.

All the American deaths in Iraq since the war began are not even half of the deaths of U.S. Marines taking the one island of Iwo Jima in a couple of months of fighting. And Iwo Jima was just one battle in a war that was raging on other fronts around the world simultaneously and continuing for nearly four long years.

It is not the casualties which are unprecedented but the media filtering and the gullibility of those who accept the virtual reality created by the media.

This is a re-creation of the media’s role in the Vietnam war, where American victories on the battlefield were turned into defeat on the home front by the filtering and spin of the media.

Even the current Communist rulers of Vietnam have admitted that they lost militarily in Vietnam but hung on because they expected to win politically in the United States — as they did, with the help of the Jane Fondas, the Walter Cronkhites and a cast of thousands in the streets and on campuses across the country.

The very people who have been anti-military for years, who filter out American heroes in battle, are now proclaiming that they are “honoring” our troops by publicizing every death by name, day in and day out.

Has the dumbed-down education in our schools left us so ill-equipped that we cannot see through even the most blatant hypocrisy?

Thomas Sowell has published a large volume of writing. His dozen books, as well as numerous articles and essays, cover a wide range of topics, from classic economic theory to judicial activism, from civil rights to choosing the right college. Please contact your local newspaper editor if you want to read the THOMAS SOWELL column in your hometown paper.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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