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CSotD: Preserving Our Right Not To Know

The perceptive little girl in this Christopher Weyant cartoon asks an excellent question for which her father — judging by his expression — doesn’t have an excellent answer.

“Read” the news, we can assume, is shorthand for “consuming” the news, for “paying attention to” the news.

Actually reading the news has long been for those interested in filling in the details of the basics learned, first from radio, then television and now the Internet.

For all the nostalgic praise of Walter Cronkite, even he knew he was providing a headline service, often sufficient for people who skipped past the in-depth coverage in their newspaper in favor of local headlines and pleasant features.

But cutting her question down to “Don’t they know what’s going on?” makes it just as telling, because even a superficial knowledge of current events should undermine any chance of living happily ever after.

That applies regardless of where people choose to get their news, by the way.

In the days of Walter Cronkite, the difference between what you heard from CBS or NBC or ABC was relatively subtle; Networks didn’t broadcast overt propaganda until Fox News went on the air in 1996, and most people acknowledged the difference between the standard news heard on radio and TV and the bat guano versions heard at the local bar or laundromat.

But, of course, the looney stuff is as depressing as the well-grounded versions. True then, true now.

Case in Point, our

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Chip Bok – Creators)

 

(Clay Jones)

Both Bok and Jones, coming from different ends of the political spectrum, blame General Milley for the accidental droning of an Afghan aid worker and his family, whose actions in the immediate wake of the airport bombing were misinterpreted as terrorist activity.

Bok either believes or pretends to believe that Milley’s heads-up to China over rumors of a potential unprovoked nuclear attack should have been a heads-up to every target in every war zone.

In his essay, Jones explains that his anger is because, after initial reports doubting the identity of the target, Milley defended the strike and, now that the error was confirmed and regretted by others, has not apologized.

This may be a valid complaint, but it’s only in the essay, not in the cartoon, which, standing alone, appears to equate a tragically mistaken drone strike with nuclear holocaust.

The greater problem with both cartoons is that what shocks an American audience doesn’t likely make many fresh waves in Afghanistan, where things like this have been happening for two decades.

War is reportedly Hell, but we’ve absorbed the words without having to face the reality.

Sherman would not have had to caution those young military graduates if they could have known that war is Hell without having, as he had, experienced it in person.

There are many fallacies in our collective history of Vietnam, but the relevant one in this case is the common belief that it was a war we saw on television.

No, not really.

Technically, we could bounce signals off satellites and broadcast live from Vietnam, but, not only did it not happen often, but it didn’t happen from the field and, besides, we were still filming, not videotaping. Film was generally flown out and processed elsewhere, and, more to the point, it was edited to avoid showing too much blood, particularly of our own kids.

What was seen in American living rooms was a couple of days old and edited to a PG-13 level.

It was the exceptions, the images that escaped, that blew our minds:

A captured Viet Cong shot in the head.

A naked girl, burned by napalm, running screaming down a dirt road.

My Lai.

Which, BTW, happened in March, 1968, but wasn’t reported until November, 1969.

And the famous poster of that atrocity was not part of the mainstream reporting, having been created by antiwar activists.

It helped motivate people who had been sitting on the fence to clamber down and more actively oppose the war, but there remained a strong element of the public who defended the officer in charge, on the basis that, well, war is Hell and shit happens.

Here’s the point: War is, indeed, Hell, and shit does, indeed, happen. We should be shocked by that little napalmed girl and that executed prisoner and those dead civilians, including babies.

What we cannot, must not, do, is act as if they were singular events.

For us, at home, they were the snippets we glimpsed. For the people who were there, they were part of a larger landscape.

The officer in charge at My Lai was given a life sentence, but it was later reduced to three and a half years under house arrest. He’s lucky he wasn’t caught smoking marijuana.

Similarly, we are divided in how we feel about General Milley stepping in to assure that the transition of power didn’t set off a regrettable, global singularity.

 

Juxtaposition of the Day #2

(Bob Gorrell – Creators)

 

(Clay Bennett – CTFP)

Gorrell accuses Milley of being a traitor for going outside the chain of command to avert a nuclear holocaust.

To which I would add this historic note: Arnold’s plan was uncovered during the mugging of his co-conspirator, Major Andre, when the thieves — members of a Yankee militia — found the incriminating papers while rifling him for cash.

It may have saved the country, but I don’t think it’s a very good example of going through proper channels.

The more salient point is made by Bennett, which is that we hear the cries for Milley to resign, but only because they stand out. The overall response has been gratitude.

That overall response doesn’t get much coverage in a world in which, if 100 meteorologists say it’s raining, newscasters frantically search for someone to say the sun is shining.

 

Or in a world in which, as Steve Brodner struggles to make clear, even the growing piles of dead and dying have little chance of prevailing against a well-established, well-promoted, well-financed campaign against common sense and scientific facts.

The public struggles mightily to preserve their right not to know what’s going on.

And, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is despised.

 

Community Comments

#1 Annette Hudgens
September/20/2021
@ 4:14 pm

Milley’s sworn duty is to protect the United States from enemies abroad and domestic. He recognized the enemy and acted accordingly.

#2 Mary McNeil
September/20/2021
@ 7:13 pm

Yes, it’s true, Matthew Brady and other Civil War photographers sometimes moved bodies around to make a more effective picture. Everything old is new again.

Today the State of Alabama released the news that, for the first time in more than a century (since the last pandemic ?) there were more deaths than births there in 2020.

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