Saturday, May 21, 2005

What's Wrong With Journalists?

I'm a little too young to remember the reporting from WW2 but I grew up reading the words of the reporters who covered the war. I'm struck by the difference between what we had then and what we have now. Unlike my Dad's generation, the journalists of today act no differently than if they were actively working for the other side.

Those are hard words, I know. Still if Newsweek, or Eason, now this Foley person were actively working on the side of the Jihadis how would their reportage be different than it is? If the NY Times were actively on the other side would there be any more coverage of the bad and less of the good news coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq?

The wartime censorship during WW2 is sometimes offered as an explanation but I've read too many books by those same reporters, written after the war, when the censorship had ended. No, it's not the censorship, it's something else. I think I have a handle on a large part of it.

Prior to WW2 a college degree was a rare thing. Many people stayed in school only long enough to learn to read and write. The GI Bill changed that, for the first time in history large numbers of working and middle class people got degrees. This is seen, generally, as a good thing. The downside, though, was that all of these new degrees tended to devalue those degrees. Jobs that were previously open to anyone now required degrees.

At the same time, trades became 'professions'. Nowhere is this more true than in the News business. Prior to the degree glut reporters were almost all the sons of blue collar workers or farmers. Bright young kids with a way with words got out of the drudgery of farm and factory by going to work for the newspapers. Reporting was a trade like bricklaying. The kids who went into reporting brought their working class attitudes with them. When a reporter covered stories about the military or the police they were covering the people they grew up with. The average reporter probably had a brother or cousin on the cops or in the Service.

The reason that people go into reporting is different as well. In the old days people took jobs as reporters because that was their chance to get out of the farms and factories. It was a job that was often interesting and involving no stultifying manual labor. Today people get into the news biz to 'make a difference'.

As the WW2 generation of reporters retired they were replaced by a new generation of college-educated people for whom the trade of news reporting wasn't good enough, hence came "The Profession of Journalism". Let's add a couple of things that happened while this was going on. First was the shrinking of the military and the end of the Draft. Not that the Draft had much to do with this new generation of journos, not with the 2-S deferments. Even the war in Southeast Asia had small effect on this new batch of reporters, they could simply stay in school until they were out of the age class the Services liked. Of course this had a tendency to raise the socio-economic class of the graduates entering the news business, blue collar families couldn't afford to keep their kids in college through grad school and the Viet Nam Era GI Bill was nothing like the post WW2 GI Bill.

So, what we have today is a completely different breed of reporters than previous generations. I doubt that Linda Foley personally knows a single member of the Armed Services. What are the odds that Eason Jordan has ever known a Soldier in a social situation? Over at the Times, anybody want to bet the house payment that Maureen Dowd has ever dated a Marine?

To the new generation of journos the members of our Armed Services are not their fathers, sisters, cousins or sons and daughters, they're abstractions. Writing something that would harm them is unimportant. What matters more is the chance to harm an administration with which they feel no loyalty and, in a large percentage, outright hatred.

It also matters that the vast majority of today's journos are poster children for the Me Generations we've raised. The concept of risking discomfort, much less their lives, for something larger than themselves is as foreign to them as the concept of suicide bombing.

Since few journos know no service men or women, it's easy to believe any outlandish thing they hear.

Add it all up and why not print a poorly sourced story about the possible flushing of a Koran at Gitmo? No one that Newsweak cares about will be hurt.

Why not claim that military people are intentionally targeting journos? Our Soldiers and Marines, our Airmen and Sailors are foreigners to these journos. We who have served or are serving now know how silly an idea that is, if for any other reason that they're still breathing air. If it were policy that we offed journos and our troops went along with that policy, journos would be stacked like cordwood. Of course very few of our troops would stand for such a policy, though I suspect that more would now than last month.

My concern is that we are still in the early stages of the fight against militant Islamism. It's bad enough that mainstream journos are acting just like their intention is to turn the public against our victory in this life and death struggle. On top of that they, at every chance, put out materiel that puts the lives of our people at greater risk. I know combat troops, I was one. We're the most pragmatic people in the world. How long before the rants of the Jordans and the Foleys become self-fulfilling prophesies?

Update...I do not expect our Servicepeople to go around willy-nilly blowing away journos. Something has got to give, though. If the world war against militant Islamism is as dangerous to the survival of our Western Civilisation as I think, and the chance of our losing as real, we simply cannot afford the mainstream media acting as they do.

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