Our blogstress-fave The Anchoress was invited to comment on CBS News’s new Rather-free format–and lo, she “rather” liked its efforts to transcend the usual Mainstream Media contempt for all that is connected to the war in Iraq:
“‘The Home Front’ is currently another nightly segment of the broadcast which — for the next two weeks — will feature Sharyn Alfonsi traveling across the country, from South Carolina to California, exploring American thoughts and feelings on the war effort. Her treck began at the Marine Boot Camp at Parris Island, where Alfonsi asked young recruits why they had enlisted and what they expected to find beyond their basic training; her report was a showcase of youth and optimism. Alfonsi was respectfully impressed with the commitment she saw, and she admiringly professed that the grueling marine training displayed ‘a lot of heart’ on the part of the recruits.”
But of course the Mainstream Media can’t help being what it is, as in this “Home Front” segment on the children of military parents whose tours of duty in Iraq have been extended:
“While it is certainly necessary to be aware that the children of soldiers face a peculiar sort of suffering, the piece was grim. The focus was on kids whose parents were overdue, whose orders had been changed, and the suggestion seemed to be that the children were becoming jaded and giving up on ever seeing their mothers or fathers again. Once more, I felt a little manipulated. My heart ached for children, but I couldn’t help thinking, ‘wait a second – some of these kid’s parents must have come home, right? Do we get to see them? Do we get to see the moms and other family members who are living with these children and working hard to help them cope with missing a beloved parent? Is there not a single child in Fort Benning who feels pride in what his or her parent is doing? ‘ The whole piece had a distinct patina of tragedy, abandonment and hopelessness. The children were shown only in their school — institutional — environment, which gave the impression that there were no warm homes, no family meals, no kisses and tucked-in-beds in their lives. When the piece covered the children saying goodbye to a gym teacher who was being deployed, the abandonment theme was complete. ‘Even the teacher…’ was leaving these kids. Did I say the piece was grim? Beyond grim, it was two minutes of unrelieved hopelessness. That children miss their parents at war, and live with some anxiety for their safe return, is very sad, indeed, and completely newsworthy, but to portray them as bleak, untethered little balls of misery, having no resources, seemed tremendously unfair to their parents both here and away, and somewhat exploitative.
“I found my anger on behalf of those children rekindled the next night when Alfonsi, now in Birmingham, Alabama, focused on 12 anti-war protesters — some of them veterans — demonstrating on a corner. Recalling that only the day before Sharyn Alfonsi had interviewed Ft. Benning children who clearly stated they found such protests troubling, I thought it was a bit raw. That a dozen people, some veterans – including one enlistment recruiter – situated in the deeply ‘pro-war’ South are against the war effort could be newsworthy. But this report focused on recruiter guilt, the churlishness of war supporters (‘have you been spit on?’) and the patriotic pedigree of protesting to ‘bring the troops home,’ and never asked a protester what he or she thought might be the immediate result of such a pull-out.”
Ah, you can take the media out of the mainstream (as seems to be happening as the Internet increasingly renders TV news irrelevant), but you can’t take the mainstream out of the media.