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.