10 Nov 2008 @ 7:43 PM 

Information Operations: Pop Culture Pops Soldiers In The Eye


Ariana Huffington asked Scott Kesterson to gather the impressions of soldiers for The Huffington Post. He did it. Personally, I wish that he hadn’t. If he had politely declined, I would have been spared discovering how what appears to be more than half of my country feels about soldiers and our political thought.

This blog has maintained a largely apolitical stance. I do not address those issues, preferring to simply address the issues that I have something unique to add to. Political campaigns have even sought my approval, but I have maintained my stance as best I can. I encourage everyone to vote. If you did not vote when you could have, shame on you. If you give up on the process, you deserve what you get.

That being said, there is a disturbing trend out there that I have addressed before, as when in February of this year Lizette Alvarez of The New York Times posted her second in a series of articles that painted returning veterans as dangerous victims of war, something that is akin to the feeling of having my teeth etched with a razor blade.

Many soldiers have expressed that we do not like being portrayed as victims. It suits a particular agenda to paint us as such. It makes for gripping theater, to be sure. There’s more to it than that, though. This nation has been trying to “support the troops” consciously; to avoid making the same horrible mistake that was made with the treatment of Viet Nam veterans. While to some supporting the troops means bringing us home as quickly as possible whether the job is done or not, there are those for whom discrediting the troops while appearing to support us is really what’s on the agenda. Why would someone do that? I think that the answer to that is complex, because I’m not sure that the motivation is the same for everyone.

For the commenters on The Huffington Post, the answer seems to be that soldiers have become a voice of dissension in the current political climate. They must be crazy, right? The explanations they come up with range from latent Nazism to the effects of military training brainwashing our minds, removing the capacity for independent thought. The vigor with which the the soldiers are attacked for their opinions was stunning.

Why the consistent art (films) portraying warriors as aberrant beings? Why are people sinking millions of dollars into cinematic depictions of soldiers as less than stellar persons?

Hey, I’m open to suggestions. How about some comments on this? What are your ideas as to what their motivations are? Another query; can anyone cite a movie that portrays veterans of the GWOT in a positive light?

What was Lizette Alvarez’s motivation in portraying, in a calculated series of articles, returning veterans as dangerous victims; a bunch of abused children who are actually hazardous to your health to be in proximity to? Her depiction was shown to be false; it turns out that you are actually less likely to be murdered by a war veteran than by a non-veteran. Still, her articles would leave you looking at your own veteran relative out of the corner of your eye, wondering what the telltale sign may be that he was going to snap and viciously attack you with murderous intent.

Some muggings are less stylish. Nick Meo’s character assassination of Easyrider was clumsy and full of easily disproven lies. The thing is that it’s not an isolated event. Meo’s screed was a symptom of a larger illness. Hey, I can recognize Information Operations when I see them. Not all propaganda is government-issue.

I’m not the only one who sees this; evidence this well-written article by Andrew Klavan which appears in City Journal. Klavan, author of several novels (at least one of which has been made into a movie,) sees things from the viewpoint of someone who has been exposed to Hollywood close-up. His point remains that even the movies of today portray soldiers in general and combat veterans in particular as either pawns victimized by a heinous conspiratorial government or as sociopathic rapist-killers (as in DePalma’s recent effort.)

Klavan did a short embed in one of my old stomping grounds; FOB Kalagush in Nuristan. He does a good job of depicting the challenges of the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) in Nuristan, and how spooky Nuristan can be to operate in. This article highlights many things that I would like to address as far as helping to make progress in Afghanistan, but one thing that stands out is his refusal to take the low road dramatically.

Take the time to read his article. It’s a good snapshot of a little-known area and the struggle to make incremental progress there. If he hasn’t been replaced, I knew the Police Chief who is making the mumbled promises to investigate those who ambushed the PRT. The fact is that he hasn’t had mentorship since my team left there. There hasn’t been the manpower to provide it to him. Any progress that we ever made with his district has long since evaporated. With a hostile police chief just up the road in a neighboring district facilitating the anti-government forces, our guy is out in the breeze.

Tomorrow morning we will wake up to Veteran’s Day. I can tell you that reading the comments on HuffPo has taken any muted sense of pride in my veteran status and turned it into a smoldering sense of discontentment with my fellow citizens. The heinous remarks about the men in that little FOB near the Pakistan border, the fact that a political difference can bring out those prejudices, means that the contempt that we are held in is barely concealed.

This is a trend. It’s disturbing to see it happening; it’s sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle. It is becoming acceptable to portray us as an underclass, to hold us in contempt either as idiot victims or as sociopaths. Where is the backlash?

When IO goes uncontested, many will accept it as fact.

There will be a special Veterans Day Show on Blog Talk Radio’s You Served radio show Tuesday, November 11th from 9-11pm. Guests will include two Medal of Honor recipients and the last surviving officer from WW-II’s Marine Combat Team 28. It promises to be a very special show, with veterans of WW-II, Viet Nam, Desert Storm, and the GWOT. You can find it at Blog Talk Radio or download it later from the same site as a podcast. Go see my friend Bouhammer for more details on the guests.

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Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 10 Nov 2008 @ 07 43 PM


Responses to this post » (8 Total)

  1. David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post – From the Front: 11/11/2008 – News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  2. Anonymous says:

    First off Brother, there are several reasons for this venom. I've spent some time myself considering this question. I'll try to be brief in my comments here.
    I too am an Iraq vet '03-'04 & Afghanistan '06-'07 and in fact I was part of the group that built the fob in Kalagush. I've also done 20 years and counting active and reserve. I've volunteered and have a graduate degree although meaningless I'm far from a victim of the “military industrial complex.”

    First, consider the source, the Huff Post? These are hardcore, vicious leftists and here is where they hang out. I didn't even bother reading most of the comments as they would do little but infuriate me, but to respond to them is like talking to the wall. They are right and you are not. The so-called “liberals” are the most closed minded individuals in this country. If you don't agree with their “enlightened” world view, you clearly must be stupid, uninformed, a redneck, or a victim because of socio-economic status, or all of the above. If you actually had independent thought you would of course agree with them and therefore would never be in the military in the first place. By logical extension you are presumed to be an idiot and therefore it is only natural that once you leave the military or your tour as a victimized, brain washed zombie, you will redirect your havoc onto society as a rapist, a murderer or simply a victim in need of being saved by a government that will of course let you down.

    Second is the cultural thinking that lends itself to this so called “enlightened world view.” It's a not so subtly veiled neo-marxism coming form the only place in the world where Uncle Karl remains a legitimate ideology and that is the American university. Take for example the fact that a guy like William Ayers is considered “mainstream,” – he and his terrorist wife are college professors – not in Beijing but Chicago. Who else would hire these clowns? Just take a glance at their writings and what they are teaching. It's, always under the guise of “kindness & reform” of an unjust social order but it doesn't take a PhD to call it what it is: Marxism, relativism in the extreme, and a disdain for this country that has given them so much. These guys are just an easy example, but think about, how could they actually get a job in academia (or anywhere for that matter)? Well simply because like-minded folks have hired them. This is the “mainstreaming” of radicalism that has been going on for some time. The last vestige of the hippie-me-first-baby boomer-generation. They have left their mark in the only place they could, and not without some effect.

    From this relativism is a cultural secularism, or nihilism and therefore a belief that there is something intrinsically wrong with the United States, and this evil should be punished. They flat out reject the belief that United States is not only intrinsically good but is the standard bearer for is right in the world. Our experiment as a country, even with its faults, is the greatest country on earth, and arguably has a duty assist the rest of the world to rise up our standards rather than us to theirs. Not only is there no concern for us being attacked, WTC I in '93, Khyber Tower's, the U.S.S. Cole, 9/11 etc., in fact we “deserve” to be attacked for all or injustices committed on the world: the gift of democracy, human rights, and humanitarian aid to start. Of course, having this intellectually lazy world view of the intrinsic malady of the United States leaves one, to conclude that our values are not worth fighting for. Logically then, there is nothing worth fighting for, the concept of “Duty, Honor, Country,”-things us military folks hold dear -is an outdated,outgrowth of our evil imperialistic ways spouted by mindless automatons who need these beliefs to justify themselves.

    I don't think the majority of people feel this way, but the influence is there, it permeates into the mainstream. Despite the reasons above there is President Bush's failure to mobilize the American public in the wake of 9/11, and his subsequent failure to properly articulate to the American public the importance of why we fight and the continued danger Islamic militants present to us. This fight was just left to “those poor bastards in the military.” Well hey that's what they signed up for, and like Senator Kerry said, they probably couldn't do anything else anyway i.e.: either too stupid to do otherwise or aren't setting up their future political careers. The so-called support our troops to me is more like “gee I feel sorry for those suckers,” much like one might do for disaster victims – sucks for them but better than than me! The fight in Afghanistan, especially, IS right and IS just and taken to its correct end will assist not only the Afghan people but provide more security in the world. Unfortunately most of the American public has not felt the sting of what failure would mean in the wake of 9/11, like America did after the attack on Pearl Harbor where the entire country for the most part was concerned with our victory. In some respects we are loosing the IO battle.
    Chris M – i welcome a discussion.

  3. admiyo says:

    I think there is a slippery slope argument here. Pointing out that some Soldier’s coming home have needs regarding treatment for PTSD and emotional difficulties due to their deployments is the good side of it. Tarring all soldiers with the same brush, that all soldier’s have these problems is a really easy mistake to make. The real problem is finding the dividing line: is the VA really failing a substantial number of Soldiers’ or do we just hear about the outliers?

    I know of at least one returned soldier that has trouble from something akin to PTSD that is not getting the care his family thinks he needs.

    I know of dozens of Soldier’s that have been deployed, did their part, and are fine. Their experiences are widely varied.

    I suspect that part of the disconnect comes from the absence of violence in most people’s lives theses days. To live as sheltered an existence as is the norm in huge portions of America cannot help but shape the perception that someone exposed to combat must be seriously affected by the experience.

    Seriously, we all grew up with Deerhunter, Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and Full Metal Jacket. It isn’t a Left vs Right thing, it is a reality versus selling movie tickets thing.

    I think you are just a little more attuned to it than the Average American reader. My advice to you is to not take it too seriously. Do try to point out where writers slip too far down the slope.

  4. Jean says:

    Want to say “Thank you for serving”.

    Thank you every day not just Veteran’s Day.

  5. Ky Woman says:

    Sad isn’t it, that the ones who utilize their freedom of speech that has been protected and fought for by the countless number of Veterans this country has produced, use it to make derogatory remarks against those same protectors…
    Those of us who have tried to counter their negativity soon realize it’s like beating your head up against a brick wall.

    But I did want to “Thank You” for being one of our protectors. Y’all make me proud!

  6. munzenberg says:

    “What are your ideas as to what their motivations are?”

    They are trying to undermine the military, as they see it as an explicitly right wing organisation. Such an organisation is an impediment to their acquisition of power, especially so if that power grab were to turn kinetic.

    If there were some uprising or mass revolution by the left, then the reactionary and counter-revolutionary organisations and persons would most likely come from inside the military (and other like-organisations, e.g: law enforcement).

    Part of the left’s IO/propaganda strategy (or “narrative” in their terms) is to demonize the military. I don’t think it is a top-down conspiracy of any sorts. Just how things have turned out under their aims, group think, and the spread of memes.

    On the opposite front, while they’ll demonize the military you’ll also notice that the left will exhort the criminal classes. Hence why you see individuals like Adnan Khashoggi and The Kray Twins mingling with celebrities, to mythologizing bandits asfreedom fighters.”

    This also may serve the purpose of using such groups for their own ends, as in history lower class criminal groups have often acted as a proxy-military in times of revolution, e.g: the Sans-Culottes in the “Great Terror.”

    Undermining future counter-revolutionaries + exhorting their own proxy-militias = a less bumpy ride for the far left if they ever had to take things further than just the “long march through the institutions.”

  7. JinTX says:

    In response to Chris M:

    Sometimes I feel as if I’m in a sea, alone, with my thoughts, apprehensions, paranoia..etc – LOL. But then I stumble across a comment left on a blog by a soldier. I swear – he is channeling me (well except for that part about building an FOB in Kalagush!! hahah!!!

    But I believe THIS is the critical message which the next SUCCESSFUL Republican Party will carry. It will NOT be one about “focus on the family” (because families which focus on each other don’t need a messenger!) nor will it be “valuing human life” because those who value life demonstrate that and those who don’t, won’t)

    But THIS cultural war is one which is not fought merely by like-minded Christians, it is one fought by those who believe “Duty, Honor and Country” transcends all religious dogma.
    It will be fought by those who believe “no guts, no glory” independent thought, determination, self sacrifice, self deprecation, self healed bruises, team earned scars, and a little humility and problem ownership are the threads woven to form the fabric of this nation.

  8. Trish says:

    I hope you take into consideration that almost half the country voted against him, and that there is a reported 6 million dumb and or, stubborn Republicans who didn’t bother to go out.
    The left, the manipulated and the uninformed youth who voted him in, don’t know their hind ends from a hole in the ground. They follow like sheep, and they will be slaughtered like them if they do not wake up!
    The people I have day to day dealings with, are proud of and support you troops, and have been supporting them, and will deepen our convictions more than ever now. Please check out a couple of sites, where we choose to honor you all, and love the USA with all our hearts!
    Thank you for everything you do to protect and defend!



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