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A Memorial Day For Afghanistan

May 31, 2010

I just got done reading an article by John Walsh, a scientist, which is entitled ‘The Prettification Of War: A Big Dose Of Servile Journalism for Memorial Day‘.  I couldn’t agree with him more.  Here are some excerpts:

“Sunday’s NYT, gearing up for Memorial Day, carries a leading front-page story direct from the Afghan front, complete with photos. Does it tell of the 1000 Americans who have perished there in America’s longest war or the unknown number of innocent Afghanis to fall or the many more on both sides to be gruesomely injured or the devastation visited on the poor and backward regions of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan by the firepower of the mightiest war machine the world has yet to produce? Absolutely not.

Instead we are treated to a feel-good story about female Marines “bonding” with their Afghan sisters, under the heading “In Camouflage or Veil, a Fragile Bond.” Did a NYT writer dream up that sappy headline or did it come from a basement office in the Pentagon or Langley where prowar psyops against the U.S. citizenry are concocted? Or can such a distinction even be drawn, with journalistic ambition and careerism run wild? In my edition of the paper of record the story was adorned with a photo of a young Marine woman holding an Afghan toddler. How nice these warriors are. No killing for them. Just handing out ibuprofen, “giggling” (sic) with Afghan women and playing with kids.

….

Out West, the LA Times commissioned a piece by a returned Iraqi vet who writes about a fallen comrade after reminding us why they were sent to that ravaged country, namely to “work on projects aimed at rebuilding Iraq and winning hearts and minds … to rebuild schools, repair the power grid and pass out Beanie Babies.” No mention of who caused the destruction in the first place or the lies that were fed to soldiers and citizens alike to con them into that ugly war. No, just humanitarian efforts by well-meaning Americans. And so it goes. There will be more of the same tomorrow from the NYT to NPR, which has a special affinity for this kind of stuff, no doubt because its clientele is more open to imperialism of the humanitarian variety. And although there is an enormous percentage of our citizenry opposed to these wars, on both Left and Right and in the middle, expect none of them to gain access to the mainstream media to voice their opposition, much less rage at the death and destruction wrought by the Empire to preserve its hegemony.

Many say that the media hides the wars now waged by the U.S. in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. But it is worse than that. While hiding the death and destruction and certainly blotting out any graphic images of it, our poor excuse for journalism is awash with feel-good stories about the wars.

….

But our rulers learned their lesson well. No more graphic images come to us from the battlefield. They are censored by being cut off at their source. Worse, the war is systematically prettified by the media. Such is the function of the servile journalism of the Empire.”

When it comes to armies and war, I agree with Albert Einstein:

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once.”

“Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”

— Albert Einstein

I don’t want to hear any more sappy stories about the troops and how we’re so good, and they’re so bad.  Blow up their schools and destroy their cities, then walk in and smile for the camera holding some toddlers.  Give me a break.

Sometimes I wonder how people can be like this; how they are unable to think of things from the perspective of those in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Well, psychologists are telling us that we’ve lost our sense of empathy.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/college-life/todays-college-students-less-e.html

Quoting from the article:

A new University of Michigan study shows that since 2000, college students have become less empathetic  than before.

Compared to college kids of the late 1970s, the study said, today’s are less likely to agree with statements such as “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective” and “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.”

“We found the biggest drop in empathy after the year 2000,” said Konrath, who is also affiliated with the University of Rochester Department of Psychiatry. “College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago, as measured by standard tests of this personality trait.

Why is empathy declining among young adults?

“In terms of media content, this generation of college students grew up with video games, and a growing body of research, including work done by my colleagues at Michigan, is establishing that exposure to violent media numbs people to the pain of others.”

Social media may also play a role, O’Brien said.

“The ease of having ‘friends’ online might make people more likely to just tune out when they don’t feel like responding to others’ problems, a behavior that could carry over offline,” he said.

Add in the hyper-competitive atmosphere and inflated expectations of success, borne of celebrity “reality shows,” and you have a social environment that works against slowing down and listening to someone who needs a bit of sympathy, he said.

“College students today may be so busy worrying about themselves and their own issues that they don’t have time to spend empathizing with others, or at least perceive such time to be limited,” O’Brien said.

We expose ourselves to so much violence in video games, movies, and mass-culture in general, that we can’t even identify killing and destruction when we see it.  Our minds have been numbed.  To top it all off, we’re so busy working two or three jobs, paying off the huge debts we’re buried in, that we don’t have time to think of anyone but ourselves.  And just like the online world, when things become troubling we just want to click the ‘Close’ button in the corner.  Well, before you click ‘Close’ on your web-browser, I ask you not to just think about our troops who have died, but all the innocent Afghans and Iraqis as well.  A lot more of them have died than our troops.

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