Magazine article Reason

Editor's Note

Magazine article Reason

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

"WRITE WHAT YOU know" is the standard--and useful--advice given to all budding fiction writers. Unfortunately, that bit of wisdom is often lost on journalists and can lead to stories that are at best woefully uninformed and at worst wildly inaccurate.

This month's cover story, "The Media and GI Joe" (page 22), looks at how such ignorance plays out with regard to the armed forces. "Reporters who cover the military...don't just muff a few basic facts about what kind of soldier carries what kind of gun, or which service does what," writes Chris Bray. "They also fail to apply the right skepticism in the right places, or even the right credulity in the right places, and so end up swinging in a wild arc between breathless adulation and naive condemnation. They surrender many of the necessary tools for questioning the authority of the armed forces, and render nearly useless the check and the balance of the Fourth Estate on a major power of government. They create confidence where there should be wariness, and fear where there should be strength."

Anyone who surveys the evening yak shows--where the Ashleighs and the Geraldos have traded in their civvies for camo wear--has a strong sense of what Bray is talking about. His experience as an infantryman explains why he can draw a bead so authoritatively on reporters who are impressed to learn that soldiers occasionally train with live ammo.

His firsthand knowledge also allows him to dig deeper and expose how the military itself is a captive of its own mangled internal communications. The result is chilling to ponder as we gear up for the next stage of the war on terror: We've got "a national security infrastructure that is stuck in such a deep rut that it knows about the cliff but can't turn the steering wheel to avoid it," writes Bray, who quotes an analyst certain that only "the experience of defeat" can change the status quo. …

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