Thursday, July 30, 2009

Broken News: PFC Bergdahl, The War, and Stupid people drink beer.

by Joshua M. Patton

I watched today as the President of the United States had a beer with a man he called, “stupid,” and the man whose arrest prompted that comment. When I initially heard this story, I was indeed disgusted by the behavior of the police in this instance and thought the President had just called it as he saw it. Yet, this story would not go away and soon the airwaves were abound with talk of the police and race and the President. All the while, Bowe Bergdahl sits somewhere far away from Ketchum, Idaho where – I am assuming – at the age of fifteen he watched two smoldering towers fall down in a city far across the country. One that would seem like another world to a boy who considered Boise the “big city.” Today at age 23 and now a member of the United States Army, he is in the country we went to war with after those towers fell and, by the grace of God, were going to bring those that did it to justice.

Throughout the campaign, President Obama supported the effort in Afghanistan and vowed to turn our attentions back to the war President Bush “forgot.” We have recently had our deadliest month in the country, and Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl is some-God-know's-where at the mercy of the “new and improved” Taliban. I wonder was this discussed during the Brew Summit? Do PFC Bergdahl's family merit a happy hour with the President? Perhaps in light of their sacrifice, a late lunch with wine? Have we forgotten about Bowe because a sexier story came along? Let's hope Sarah Palin doesn't say anything stupid next week, perhaps we can get an update on his condition?

All in all, I think the President is doing a fair job with what he was given, but that is not the point I am trying to convey, nor am I attempting to shame him for the G-24-pack. I would think he has better shit to do, but it reflects well on the man. If he makes a mess of things, he tries to clean it up. At least, this is what I hope will happen in Afghanistan. It is much easier to iron out differences and settle problems between two educated men. While I am far from privy to the best intel, it would seem that we are facing a similar challenge in Afghanistan to the one we faced in the middle of the Iraq war in as much as: there is no clear mission they are executing, no clear timetable for the achievement of objectives, and we are squaring off against natives that have successfully repelled foreign invaders for literally thousands of years. I remain confident in our military and its leaders, and I do hope I am merely under-informed about the situation.

It is my ignorance and the general ignorance of the average American that causes me to place the blame strictly at the feet of the media in America today. We just mourned the passing of the legendary Walter Cronkite, and I watched the network news anchors all lament that Cronkite's era represented something pure and lost to the news today. They said it as if they were powerless to affect any sort of real change in the industry of which they are the public faces. During the aftermath of the assassination of President Kennedy, we watched live as Walter Cronkite and his staff researched and fact-checked on-air, only confirming it once he heard the news from Dan Rather, another of the old tradition of news journalists that we are lucky enough to still have around. Conversely, a week later, the details surrounding the abduction of PFC Bergdahl are confused and shady at best. The military's official investigation implies that he may have left willingly, which is a terrible thing to even release until the case is concluded one way or another. The Taliban released a story accusing him of raping women and may or may not have called him a hash-addict, lies surely, but reported on by American news while the truth remains a mystery.

If the 24-hour news machine can't get past deceased pop singers, racial tension and police, or the President's birth-certificate, and get back to the business of reporting what the American public needs to know, slanted through bias or otherwise, we are in huge trouble as a country. The problem isn't just missing the story about the captured soldier, although such news always affects me in a personal way. The problem is that what is the “top story” is often determined not by the most pressing matter facing the country that day, but by which story is juicier and more entertaining. PFC Bergdahl's story remains unfinished and also mostly ignored by the media, but his story is part of the larger, mostly ignored narrative of the war in Afghanistan. I hope he is treated well and does not have to suffer for what America did as we traveled down Dick Cheney's “dark roads.” I hope that the people of Afghanistan want Freedom for themselves as badly as we do. I hope when it happens, it's a slow news week so we hear about it.
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