Are you already acquainted with Neo-Neocon? If you are, you might not know that she has a new address, here (so update your blogroll). If you’re not, you’re in for a treat, because Neo has some of the most thoughtful, learned posts around. One of the things she tackles today, and one that’s been a particular irritant to me since the war started, is the way in which the MSM covers war deaths. Here’s just a little of a much longer, and very interesting, post:
During a war, it used to be that the body counts published in the newspapers focused on the number of enemies killed. And the populace reading those accounts were supposed to be happy, not sad; the statistics were supposed to make them feel that the effort was a success, not a failure.
Whatever deaths occurred to a country’s own combat forces were reported, but in a different way, a manner meant to inspire with the message of their courage and to praise their selfless sacrifice (here’s an interesting example of this, by the way).
These editorial policies were no accident. They were part of a tradition that glorified war and considered civilian morale something that needed boosting, not deflating.
Was this a good thing? Depends on the worthiness of the cause, I’d say. Which is always in the eye of the beholder. To an absolute pacifist none of it is worthy. To a relative pacifist most such causes are not worthy. And to the rest of us folks, the answer is variable, personal, and often political.
I’m not suggesting we go back to the days of automatic war boosterism. But I continue to be stunned by the fact that our media, since Vietnam, has adopted the opposite tack.
Neo-Neocon: it’s a good thing.
Incidentally, speaking of the way in which Americans in past wars viewed fallen soldiers, that veneration for war dead took a most beautiful, and moving, form in Stephen Foster’s beautiful, and very popular Civil War ballad, Was My Brother In The Battle (a song that is a nice companion piece to the 1863 New York Times article to which Neo linked):
Tell me, tell me, weary soldier from the rude and stirring wars,
Was my brother in the battle where you gained those noble scars?
He was ever brave and valiant, and I know he never fled.
Was his name among the wounded or numbered with the dead?
Was my brother in the battle when the tide of war ran high?
You would know him in a thousand by his dark and flashing eye.
Tell me, tell me, weary soldier, will he never come gain,
Did he suffer ‘mid the wounded or die among the slain?
Was my brother in the battle when the noble Highland host
Were so wrongfully outnumbered on the Carolina coast?
Did he struggle for the Union ‘mid the thunder and the rain,
Till he fell among the brave on a bleak Virginia plain?
Oh, I’m sure that he was dauntless and his courage ne’er would lag
While contending for the honor of our dear and cherished flag.
Was my brother in the battle when the flag of Erin came
To the rescue of our banner and protection of our fame,
While the fleet from off the waters poured out terror and dismay
Till the bold and erring foe fell like leaves on Autumn day?
When the bugle called to battle and the cannon deeply roared,
Oh! I wish I could have seen him draw his sharp and glittering sword.