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The L.A. Times and the Military - Again

| 26 Comments | 3 TrackBacks
In the long and storied tradition of newspaper arts writers who decide to let their true flag fly, the L.A. Times Calendar section today leads with a snide review of an Army recruiting film:

Camouflage cool

  • Army's filled with the spirit of giving: watches, saxophones, stints in Iraq....
By Carina Chocano, Times Staff Writer
The review opens with:
How awesome is the Army? You really have no idea until you send away for the "Stand Ready: Being a Soldier in the Army Reserve" DVD, as advertised on MTV. Because "learning more" is usually not enough incentive to get the kids on the phone ó especially the kinds of kids who sit around watching MTV all the time ó the Army was throwing in a free camo hat, the way Sports Illustrated might offer a free sneaker phone with your subscription, to sweeten the deal, if you call now.
I called then. Actually, I went to the Go Army! website and filled out an online form. Three e-mail requests; a brief but terrifying phone conversation with a recruiter; and six to eight weeks of anticipation, then patience, then the total loss of hope later, the DVD arrived. There was no hat in the package ó the gift had been upgraded to a sports watch. Does that sound weird? Well, watch the DVD and learn ó the Army is all about giving.
and continues with:
Produced by Leo Burnett USA, whose Army contracts totaled about $350 million this year, and directed by Hank Vincent of Avalon Films, "Stand Ready: Be a Soldier in the Army Reserve" opens on a video loop of super-macho, sepia-toned, high-contrast images of modern soldiering. A square-jawed soldier glistens in profile, a chopper flies low overhead, a soldier in a helmet raises a flag. It's very retro, very now. And that's just the menu screen.

"We are the men and women of the Army Reserve," a deep voice intones, as a series of Rockwellian tableaux vivants flashes in front of your eyes to some extremely heartfelt John Mellencamp-ish acoustic strumming. "We live in big cities and small towns. We are regular people who have taken an oath." The soldiers stand proudly amid the kind of real estate beloved by the makers of breakfast-cereal commercials. The burnished, bucolic beauty ó so clean, calm, old-fashioned, benign ó is almost unbearable. Ain't that America?

and then closes with:
The brief, almost incidental allusions to Iraq come later, in the segment on world travel and learning about other cultures.

"When you get deployed, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll be in the Middle East or Iraq. There are opportunities to make a difference wherever you go." Be it in Thailand building a schoolhouse, Alaska building a road, the Army lets you "see the sights" and "enjoy the culture" of places as diverse as Australia, Germany, Spain, China, Japan, Malaysia and Amsterdam!

"Tell them about Germany," the saxophonist says. "Germany was the best time I've ever spent in my life."

Germany, of course, is the home of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which has treated nearly 10,000 soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. And it would seem like a great time, after all that difference-making.

Maybe I'm oversensitive after reading so much about the "vigils" Code Pink is holding to tell out wounded soldiers that they have been injured for nothing, or lies, or oil, and so over-reacting to their use as an antimilitary punch line.

Maybe I've just gotten fed up with an entertainment industry that is reflexively anti-American interests (in the spirit of cosmopolitanism, of course) and that belittles "red state values" reflexively while having none of its own.

Or maybe it's just fatigue at seeing the Times slowly wash away the respect that I held for it for much of my life.

There are all kinds of discussions and debates to have about Iraq and the war, our policies, terrorism, our military and how it recruits, treats its soldiers, and treats its opponents.

what I think I'm mostly tired of is people who won't have a stand-up debate or argument about those issues and aren't adult enough to avoid self-satisfied efforts to slide conclusions onto the table while claiming they aren't.

After all, they're just reviewing a video.

I'll be writing a letter, which I'll post here. You may wish to write your own.

carina.chocano@latimes.com wrote the article.

alice.short@latimes edits the daily Calendar section.

3 TrackBacks

Tracked: November 28, 2005 7:24 PM
The Rorschach withdrawal from Can't See the Center
Excerpt: Winds of Change has another example of the not-Iraq debate.
Tracked: November 28, 2005 7:37 PM
Excerpt: The MSM is always front and center when John McCain dissents from the Bush administration, so why aren't they trumpeting his call for more troops in Iraq vs. the Dem. demand for beginning an immediate withdrawal? And here is an example from Winds ...
Tracked: November 28, 2005 7:48 PM
Why disillusion heroes? from Classical Values
Excerpt: In a (Sunday-after-Thanksgiving) front page headline, the Philadelphia Inquirer is claiming that Army Spec. John Kulick (who was killed last August) was "A war supporter disillusioned in Iraq." Expecting to find some evidence that Kulick had in fact be...

26 Comments

Maybe I'm sensitive, but I'm cancelling my subscription to the Book of the Month Club after reading this description of George Packer's Assassins' Gate

Whether you agree with the Bush administrationís course of action in Iraq or not, the current state of the war has, by all accounts, evolved into a quagmire.

I'm not sure the q word bothers me as much as the complete dismissal of any other voices.

(yes, the BOMC kinda sucks anyway -- so its a cheap tantrum)

There are all kinds of discussions and debates to have about Iraq and the war, our policies, terrorism, our military and how it recruits, treats its soldiers, and treats its opponents.

Aaaand... perhaps you'd actually like to have one of those discussions, rather than making pro-war pot-shots in response to anti-war pot-shots?

Whatever the current situation actually is in Iraq, there seems little doubt that the will to stay and fight is eroding here in the US on all sides of the political spectrum. Based on virtually every post I've ever seen here at WoC, withdrawing prematurely is completely anathema to those who post here... but what gets posted to the front page is calls for letters to the editor about the snarky tone of a fluff review in the arts section. (Consarn it, these dang kids today!)

These kind of posts don't read to me like something you'd see from a side that still has a dog in the fight - these posts read to me like mutterings from people who're long since resigned to losing, the kind of cranks who're still upset that the country moved away from the gold standard.

Weak tea, AL.

"...aren't adult enough to avoid self-satisfied efforts to slide conclusions onto the table while claiming they aren't."

Exhibit A - see Chris' post.

Um, Chris, I'd say much of the content on this blog is about those discussions...

I can take a few minutes and point some out to youy, or you could just enter "Iraq" in the serach box over on the right.

And if you wonder why the support is eroding, may I offer as Exhibit B the tone of the media?

A.L.

Too bad Jack Nicholson's character was such a megalomaniacal ass in "A Few Good Men,Ē because his monologue near the end of the movie is a great rejoinder to Chocano's snark.

"We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as a backbone of a life spent defending something, you use them as a punch line. I have neither the time, nor the inclination to explain myself to a man that rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the matter in which I provide it. I'd rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post, either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to."

That's sort of how people who actually wear a uniform for a living view it.

You don't have to like what we do, but you should have a decency to just keep the cheap shots about the troops to yourself while we're getting shot at. Politicians? Who cares? Say anything you want. But the people who are trying to do a job which needs to be done? Leave them alone. But please DO have the argument about us when the shooting is done. Please do, after all, we just bought that right for you with blood.

Not that most of them give a damn though...

Thanks for the post. Here's my letter:

I wonder if you have any idea how tired most of the rest of us get of hearing cynical, anti-military drivel from you folks who are the principle exploiters of first amendment freedoms bought with the blood of our soldiers. My guess, Carina and Alice, is that neither of you will ever exude a drop of sweat, let alone blood, to secure or defend any right or freedom on behalf of another. (Sorry, "writing about" in a newspaper just isn't the real thing.)

You might want to notice how unseemly, if not unprincipled, it is to ridicule the values of those who do it for you. If you don't understand that this is a recruiting film and designed to appeal to those values, then you are ignorant as well as insensitive.

"...aren't adult enough to avoid self-satisfied efforts to slide conclusions onto the table while claiming they aren't."

Exhibit A - see Chris' post.

Neal, I'm being quite upfront with my conclusions, and I've never claimed otherwise, thanks.

Um, Chris, I'd say much of the content on this blog is about those discussions...

I can take a few minutes and point some out to youy, or you could just enter "Iraq" in the serach box over on the right.

AL, I suggest you step back and take a fresh look at what's currently on the front page. As a quick refresher: Joe talking up a fluff story about the military rescuing cheetah cubs, you bitching about the LA Times, Cicero talking about his Thanksgiving, 2 news roundups with no analysis or opinion attached, an interview with a military blogger, 2 unquestionably substantive pieces by Dan Darling, a request for opinions on LCD monitors from Joe, and your recipe for turkey chili. By my count, that's 20% of the posts qualifying as the kind of discussions you mention above.

Of course, you can argue that this past week was Thanksgiving week, and posting is therefore somewhat light... but if you take a look at the November archives as a whole, or even the October archives, there're similarly low ratios of full-throttle posts that directly engage the reader w/r/t Iraq. (Although, yes, higher than 20%.) And when I take a look at blogs with a lefty slant talking about the war, such as Obsidian Wings or Liberals Against Terrorism (or whatever they're called these days) I see the opposite effect: they're becoming more engaged, getting into more and more details, and pushing harder and harder for timetables, withdrawal, etc.

In contrast, here's the kind of thing we're getting from you:

And if you wonder why the support is eroding, may I offer as Exhibit B the tone of the media?

Here's the thing, man: trashing the media hurts the reputation of the media, but it doesn't do one damn thing to repair that eroded support. You're setting up a scapegoat for the failures of Bush's Iraq policy, but you're not promoting it in the public eye, not in the same way the site was doing a year or two ago. To make that kind of case, you'd have to dive right in to the kind of details that LAT talks about daily these days, and argue why those particular facts don't really mean what praktike and Eric Martin say they do... but only Dan Darling really seems ready to do that here. You'd have to argue that Bush is still worth supporting even as he's making arguments that he should be able to waterboard un-persons in secret prisons at will... but despite your "liberal" moniker, somehow the subject's never really come up in any of your posts. You'd have to argue that something more than low-level civil war and encroaching Iranian hegemony is a best case scenario for Iraq if we stick around longer... but I don't think anybody seriously believes that to be the case anymore.

In short, you'd have to do a hell of a lot more than pick fights with the LA Times and Matt Yglesias, AL, and I don't foresee much evidence of that.

But hey, prove me wrong, and I'll be thrilled to watch the fireworks.

And just who the heck are you that anyone here needs to "prove" anything to you?

hmph.

Chris seems extraordinarily satisfied that the war is being "lost;" so now's the time to rub war supporter's faces in it, especially in light of the near-orgasmic discussion on lefty blogs on how to lose the war even more quickly.

Except, of course, not only is Chris wrong about the war, but his glee with the (improbable and unproven) prospect of losing the war will ultimately leave his kind wanting.

"Wanting what?" one asks?

Chris and other free riders surfing freedoms they never earned should ask themselves who will defend him and his kind when the war inevitably comes home? Does Chris think "An Army Officer" from post no. 5 will happily lead his men into battle and risk losing limb or life for the mere likes of free riders like Chris? Is there one soldierís life anywhere worth a dozen Chrisís, two dozen, a hundred, a thousand?

No, of course there is not, not one. Does Chris and others like him have an irrevocable claim on the blood sacrifices of the American warriors they so excitedly mock? Does Chris and others like him think these men and women in uniform are ignorant of the sheep-like bleatings of the losers and appeasers who'd surrender to the enemy while bitterly mocking the warriors protecting all of us? They are not; there eventually will be a price to be paid for Chrisís faithlessness; the bill will be much greater than Chris and his kind can stand.

Someone just cheezed all over himself...

#9 Tim
Does Chris think "An Army Officer" from post no. 5 will happily lead his men into battle and risk losing limb or life for the mere likes of free riders like Chris?

Short answer, Tim: Yes.

Chris (#7) raises a helluva good point. I do think it's time that those of us who supported (and still support) the war step it up, and I'll take that as my personal task.

This isn't my day job, so I'll excuse myself from competition with Dan (or Matt Yglesias) on quantity, but I do think I can - and will - do better.

Watch this space.

A.L.

"Chris and other free riders surfing freedoms they never earned should ask themselves who will defend him and his kind when the war inevitably comes home? Does Chris think "An Army Officer" from post no. 5 will happily lead his men into battle and risk losing limb or life for the mere likes of free riders like Chris? Is there one soldierís life anywhere worth a dozen Chrisís, two dozen, a hundred, a thousand?"

That's some sick shit.

Tim, I suppose you are some kinda Medal of Honor recipient?

I find it amusing that while the "chickenhawk" label is banned here, the chicken liberal label is alive and well.

Hey it's your playpen, you set the rules. But don't take yourselves so seriously if that's how it is going to be.

As far as Army Officer, I think he missed the whole point of the movie (though I agree that it generally sucked and that Cruise is a pussy). The point was that, for all his lip service to the ideals expressed in the quote, the Nicholson character was a hypocrite, a fraud. He failed to exhibit the characteristics of honor. He failed to live up to the second expectation of a US Marine Corps Officer (responsibility and care of his Marines - second only to achieving the objective). The enlisted guys who got drummed out at the end of the trial at least realized their error.

Anyhow, Chris is right. There's a lot of gratuitous "lefty" bashing and posts designed to enforce mindless alliagence to the Bush admin. and other drone like behavior on this site.

I, myself, have tossed ideas out into this forum only to be called a "lefty", an "appeaser" a "friend of terrorists" and accused of hating the military (pretty funny considering the service record of the last four generations, including presently my son, of my family) and other slanders derived from someones fevered perspective of political life in America.

Name calling passes for thought too often here.

And, while I'm here, just what is it about the article that you object to?

The article is reasonably describing a deficiency of honesty in the Army's advertising campaign.

I would say that it is the Army itself, not the LA Times, that is demeaning the service. Thank God we don't see such unadultrated crap out the Marine Corps. The Marines at least still allude to the intensity of the challenge that lies ahead for a young enlistee.

The Army should not be advertised as a party, a fashion statement, a travel agency, or an outward bound adventure; especially not in times of war.

That you cannot understand this is should be concerning to your readers.

War time is killing time. I don't see the vaguest reference to hardship in any of the promo.s, let alone the realities of training to kill.

Again, at least the Marines give you enough of an image that a semi-cognizant person can read between the lines.

Except that Avedis the article itself paints the Army as some sort of "evil conspiracy" to kill innocent Third Worlders and maim/kill stupid Redstaters in service of AmeriKKKA and Chimpy BushitlerCo. It encapsulates perfectly the ongoing contempt for the Military held by the hereditary elite in this country and the hostility to symbols (the Flag, Statue of Liberty, Pledge of Allegiance, Boy Scouts, the Military, Police, etc) that the tragically hip rich urbanites view as their only religion.

Not to mention that this line is straight out of the Cindy Sheehan rhetoric (and ANSWER as well): "those evil deceitful Army recruiters TRICKED my Son into getting blown up!" It is part and parcel of the attempt to push out from any public space (HS and Colleges, particularly Law Schools) the participation of the Military. It's part of the City of San Francisco condemning the Military for "war crimes" and telling the Navy a battleship as a museum is not wanted there.

The article believes that enlistees are "stupid and naive" rednecks and inner city youths akin to the yokel character in "Three Kings" and generally too foolish to make any decisions without guidance from their natural betters. For instance, it goes without saying that anyone paying the least attention would know that reservists get called up, and yes there is a war on where people get killed and maimed. Chocana need hardly point this out.

[Ironic since the Three Kings portrait is way off-base; the Military requires higher IQs than that of the Median in the general population, they constantly turn away those who simply are not smart enough to be soldiers. Ironic as well that most who fight and die in combat units are middle class white guys like Casey Sheehan, who actively seek out front line positions and are highly trained soldiers, not the Vietnam boomer-narcissism fantasies of say Cindy Sheehan.]

In the same LA Times dead tree edition was an op-ed with the usual Liberal talking point that "fear is unwarranted," straight out of Jimmy Carter's utterances or fake Vietnam Vet / Paratrooper Joe Ellis's comments that 9/11 was "overblown hype."

The problem with folks like Chocana is that they adhere to to articles of religious faith that simply don't mesh with reality:

1. All military force is bad, evil, and never works, unless it's our enemies.
2. The US military is inherently bad, evil, stupid, and comprised of people much stupider than the tragically hip trustafarians who dominate the Media and Charitable Foundations.
3. Terrorism does not exist, it's a myth or hype. 9/11 was nothing to get excited about.
4. Redstaters are stupid fools who need to be ruled by their natural betters who are smarter and cooler.
5. The US can and should act like Sweden in foreign affairs because if people are trying to kill us it's our own fault, give them money and grovel and they will go away.

This is all class based IMHO. The people who died in 9/11 were working/middle class people from New Jersey and Long Island who could not afford to live in the City, and did boring back office stuff not rich/artsy/elite stuff like off-off-off Broadway plays about suicide and incest, or smearing yams over themselves as performance art while living on a trust fund or NEA grants. Window washers, cooks and waiters, accountants, secretaries, and blue collar fireman made up the death toll.

Secretly, most of the upper class Mediacracy felt they had it coming. "Not our sort" don't you know. This explains the extraordinary response poor and working class people had for those who died in NYC, to the point of impoverished Louisiana raising half a million dollars to replace a fire engine. They understood that people like them had died. While tragically hip media figures like Jon Stewart dismissed it, because hey his cool crowd lost no one and didn't Norman Mailer (uber-cool guy) say the wreckage was more beautiful than the towers? Wasn't cool guy Bill Maher in awe and admiration of the 9/11 hijackers?

Avedis this all goes to class. You won't find working men and women toeing the ANSWER line.

Credit where credit's due, that was a classy answer from AL, and I'll surely be keeping an eye out for any posts he makes on this subject in the future.

It also says a lot for WoC as a site that Tim got shot down as quickly as a did - good job, guys. My hat's off to the lot of you.

Shot down? Hardly.

Re-read the posts - one from a hacked-off lib supporting the LA Times smear against the Army; another agreeing with my point that free riders like yourself (and the moron voters of San Francisco can vote against military recruitment within city limits AND still) expect the military to defend them as if it was their birthright to mock the uniform that would defend them.

As for the hacked off lib's question, no, I didn't earn the Medal of Honor - but I wore the uniform voluntarily and was called a "baby killer" for that privilege by the likes of you and your kind - and your kind weren't what I was willing to fight and die for, not by any stretch of anyone's fanciful imagination, no matter how much you might wish it so. Of course, Iíd have followed and issued orders to uphold my oath to the Constitution and to achieve the mission because good and decent Americans donít deserve to lose their freedoms because of free riders; but donít think we didnít know who you are, and that you werenít worth the sacrifice. The "sick shit" is the free-rider mocking the uniform that defends you. If you don't like what soldiers do, go out and earn your own freedom, if you're man enough.

As for Bush, who said anything about himÖ?

Tim-

Let's get a few things straight.

1. Despite how much you wish it to be the case, the world doesn't break down into "warriors" and "free riders". Case in point, my dad was a US Army captain, not to mention a liberal, yellow-dog Democrat, a man who'd fight to the death for any American's opinion to impugn the character of anyone and anything they wanted to.

What's more, you're so wound up about "smears" against the military that you've completely managed to overlook the fact that I didn't say much at all about the article in question, pro or con. And, for the record, I wouldn't have voted in favor of banning military recruitment, if I lived in SF... but I understand that it makes things so much easier for you to lump everybody you disagree with into the same box.

2. The military, as a whole, does important and honorable work, and they deserve to be respected for that, but they're not the whole of the story. Many of those who don't fight design the weapons the soldiers use, build the ships and tanks and planes, and program the computer systems that coordinate the whole shebang (guilty!). Without those folks, the military, no matter how noble and honorable, are just guys running around with sticks.

Even those who don't have anything to do with the military/industrial complex are an integral part of the process - by living their lives and being productive, they generate the economy which can afford to field the world's finest army, and build a society that's worthy of that army's protection. Nor does it make any sense to imply that those who haven't served aren't capable of doing so - time and time again, Americans of all stripes have shown that they'll rise to meet a clear and present danger.

In short, suggesting that society exists only because of the military's vigilance and sacrifice really misses the whole point of having a society in the first place; one might as well suggest that we live only because of our white blood cells. It's true, but it misses the equally vital importance of the heart, brain, lungs, etc.

3. Lastly, I simply have to agree with avedis - your post #9 was truly some sick sh*t. I honestly don't care how you personally define my worth relative to a soldier's life, but the outright yearning on display when you describe how the "free riders" will face the "price to be paid" for our "faithlesness" is profoundly disturbing. You've clearly reached a point where your loyalty to what you percieve as military honor has far outgrown your respect for the "sheep-like bleatings of losers and appeasers" - in other words, for the freedom of expression that the military's supposed to protect in the first place.

You seem to have reached a point where you see your fellow citizens as the enemy... and ironically, have therefore become at least as much of an enemy to America as those we're fighting in Iraq. You have lost your way, and I pity you, even as you seem to feel nothing but hatred and contempt for me.

Goodbye.

Chris,

You forgot to mention the part where you support the troops while hoping they lose in Iraq, and how dare anyone question your patriotism while rooting against our Army in the field, notwithstanding how you support the troops...

As for all the rest, well, you read more into my postings than I wrote. As for why you did, that isn't exactly my problem.

You forgot to mention the part where you support the troops while hoping they lose in Iraq...

...well, you read more into my postings than I wrote.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Things such as this don't help:

Ted Rall's view of the Military

This seems to be the view of the Military by much of:

1. The Press.
2. The National Democratic Party, excepting Joe Lieberman.
3. Most of the Liberals in the nation.

Rall would not draw this (depicting Iraq vets as deranged monsters) if it did not get widespread approval from his base; which is the Democratic Party. That it runs on AP speaks for itself.

But then, Joe Ellis says 9/11 was "hype" and "overblown."

Jim-

I don't know if you honestly believe the junk you're spewing, or if you just view it as a convienent partisan attack, but let's try this as a reasonable compromise:

Ted Rall does not, in fact, represent the majority viewpoint of most Democrats and liberals, just as Ann Coulter does not represent the majority viewpoint of most Republicans and conservatives.

Saying otherwise, and using the bizarro logic that A) Rall somehow operates only with the Democratic party's blessing, and B) the Yahoo/AP site condones the opinions expressed in every single one of the cartoons it carries, does nothing to advance the cause you're arguing for, as I pointed out above. It just makes for a convienent scapegoat for when that cause goes belly-up.

Its not that difficult to build the chain of links between Rall's bile and the Democratic Party, Chris. Its not even as difficult as a game of "six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon".

The chain goes through MoveOn.org and its links to objectively pro-terrorists like Cindy Sheehan.

Its not that difficult to build the chain of links between Rall's bile and the Democratic Party, Chris. Its not even as difficult as a game of "six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon".

The chain goes through MoveOn.org and its links to objectively pro-terrorists like Cindy Sheehan.

And it's equally not difficult to make a chain of links between George W Bush and Coulter... but that doesn't mean W wants terrorists to blow up the New York Times building.

A "chain of links" suggests a conspiracy; they're not anywhere near proof that two people or groups are in substantive agreement with each other on most issues.

Bravo Chris.

I read WoC mainly because its writers feature a pro-war viewpoint that is honest, well-argued, and engages its opposition (me) with intensity and respect (or at least a lack of personal animosity).

I've also noticed the marked decline in that sort of content lately, and I welcome AL's pledge to up the S/N ratio a bit.

Chris,
When 41% of Democrats surveyed state that the world would be better off were Saddam Hussein still in power, your claims of distance between the loons and Democrats as a party get harder to maintain.

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