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Thread: More Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

  1. #1
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
    Largo, Florida

    Default More Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

    More Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics by LTC Robert Bateman at SWJ Blog.

    Originally posted at Committee of Concerned Journalists.

    I spend a lot of time trying to convince my colleagues in the Army and the Marines that the media are not the problem. I cite chapter and verse of the history of our relationship -- the dysfunctional periods, propaganda phases, the development of the ethics of good responsible American journalism -- and Iím usually able to demonstrate that while what passed for mid-19th century journalism truly was enough to drive one to distraction, in the 20th and thus far in the 21st, journalists really have been at least as professional as we, and quite often more so.

    This self-appointed task, unfortunately, often remains an uphill battle, as many soldiers, Marines and their officers are convinced a media bias exists against the military in general and the ground forces in particular.

    I wage my little internal struggle because I think it is right, and that my peers are often blowing small things out of proportion and seeing a bogeyman where there is none. I try to show them how this is part of a narrative that periodically recurs in military circles (the German army after WWI, the American army after Vietnam). I also try to demonstrate to them how they have been conditioned to accept the narrative as true without being critical of the assertions.

    In short, I argue for journalists and journalism all of the time, and passionately.

    And then the editors of the New York Times dig themselves a nice deep pit, fill it with slime and muck, and dive in headfirst...

  2. #2
    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Jan 2007


    It was what I've come to expect, given the NY Times standards of "journalism."

    However, it did inspire this:

    and this:
    John Wolfsberger, Jr.

    An unruffled person with some useful skills.

  3. #3
    Council Member Rockbridge's Avatar
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    Aug 2007


    And this is a surprise because ..... ????

    Let's face it, most journalistic endeavors are sensationalistic in nature, because sensationalism sells. I'd be surprised to see any reporting on the fact that the vast majority of Americans get up in the morning, go to work, and return home without incident and without committing any crimes. The ones who make the front page are the unfortunates who are victims of crime or tragedy, or the criminals themselves.

    Similarly, the NY Times' decision to latch onto ex-military felons as a "quiet phenomenon" is not reflective of the vast majority of ex-military members. Had they reported that 99.999712% (to use LTC Bateman's math) of discharged military members do not become homocide offenders upon return from combat, that wouldn't have been much of a story.
    You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone

  4. #4
    Council Member bismark17's Avatar
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    Mar 2006
    Seattle, Wa

    Default re:

    Part of the problem with the media is that it appears that in many cases their only real world experiences were formed on liberal college campuses and thus have had their viewpoints shaped a certain way prior to even entering the real world.

    The first Homicide that I was primary on was a gang shootout. The "victim" was found with an empty holster (how many bangers wear holsters???) and was laying on a stun gun that had fallen out of a pocket as he was gunned down. His homies had stashed the gun prior to our arrival. All of this was clearly stated in the Incident Report but the papers the next day made him out to be an innocent victim who was finally getting his life together as he was gunned down in his prime.....It was so bad that when the case was solved the shooters only had to plead to Manslaughter convictions.

    I do commend your efforts and cringe when people go off on stereotypical rants about the media. It does bring to mind the "stabbed in the back" syndromes of Post WW1 Germany. I guess we really have to worry when some of the junior officers start getting out and forming FreiKorps in their spare time.....

  5. #5
    Council Member LawVol's Avatar
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    Jun 2006


    When a terrorist or insurgent executes a successful attack we look inwardly and attempt to discover what we did wrong. When the media produces a story that runs counter to our interests, we look outwardly and try to place blame for what they did. Why is this? What is the factors cause us to treat these situations differently?

    I have come to believe that the media isn't necessarily anti-military. Sure some reporters are indeed anti-military, but the media establishment isn't that connected when it comes to personal agendas. The media's interest centers on one unwavering thing: ratings. They want ratings. The old saying is that if it bleeds it leads. This is so true. The media thrive on controversy because Americans thrive on controversy. Controversy sells and increases ratings.

    Our trick, then, is to recognize this fact and work with it instead of against it. When we simply throw up our hands and blame the media, we are working against it. Our complaints simply generate more controversy creating a never-ending cycle. The media wins and we lose. Our trick is to make the bad guy bleed (figuratively as well as literally). How do we do this? We do this by engaging in a concerted effort to shape the message emanating from the media. We must treat the media side of the war as we treat any other aspect of it.

    In doing so, we could take a number of lessons from politicians. Look at how they attempt to shape the message. The Republican primary in Florida is a great example. The perception is that McCain is great on foreign policy but not so great on economics. Romney is perceived as the exact opposite. So what do they do? McCain attempts to steer the debate to foreign policy issues and downplays economics. Romney does the opposite. Guiliani, attempting to plug the holes in his sinking ship, jumps on board and says that if you like McCain's foreign policy creds and Romney's economic creds, then he's the guy to vote for because he has both.

    I certainly don't have all the answers, but something along these lines would certainly be better than ceding the IO battle and simply crawling into a corner crying about the "unfair" media.
    -john bellflower

    Rule of Law in Afghanistan

    "You must, therefore know that there are two means of fighting: one according to the laws, the other with force; the first way is proper to man, the second to beasts; but because the first, in many cases, is not sufficient, it becomes necessary to have recourse to the second." -- Niccolo Machiavelli (from The Prince)


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