Day by Day

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Media and GI Joe: How the press gets the military wrong -- and why it matters

Reason Magazine has an interesting piece about how inept today's media are in comprehending today's military. To wit:

Back in October, when U.S. Army Rangers first started to fight on the ground in Afghanistan, Washington Post reporter Greg Schneider drew the job of explaining the role of those elite infantrymen to the paper’s readers. Drawing on Army manuals, he set out to explain just what it is that sets Ranger battalions apart from their infantry cousins. "Rangers are more heavily armed than most light infantry units," he wrote on October 20. "Their automatic weapons units carry M240G machine guns that can fire up to 1,000 rounds a minute at a range of 1,000 yards. Some Rangers also carry grenade launchers." Rangers also "train with live fire -- actual bullets -- and under all conditions, including night and bad weather." Finally, the Rangers "travel light, usually in rifle companies of about 200 men each." With this kind of information, it’s hard not to be impressed: soldiers who train with actual bullets! And travel light, albeit in groups of 200.

There’s a very particular tone-deafness at work here. U.S. infantry units of every type tend to be grouped in rifle companies of 200, for example -- and armed in part with machine guns and grenade launchers, and likely to train at night and in bad weather. Imagine one of the Post’s science writers telling you that human beings are unique among animals because they alone have lungs and a spine. The very thing that distinguishes the Rangers, if you’re inclined to be picky, is not that they are more heavily armed than other infantrymen, but rather that they are often less heavily armed; they are a raiding force, organized not for firepower but for speed and agility.
Seems like a general theme in today's media - of all stripes - get it in, even if you don't get it right.

Reason: The Media and GI Joe

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