Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Being there matters most: Jena and Iraq

By Rick Morris

Two seemingly separate stories that materialized this week are bound by one common thread: on-the-ground observance trumping a pre-existing media template.

In Louisiana, the “Jena 6” legal situation has resulted in a pall of racist shame being cast on a rural community. One reporter, who has been on the scene throughout the story, can posit with certainty that many characterizations that have been cast about the community are quite unfair. On a personal note, I should mention that I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, namely Parma, Ohio, which is widely and unfairly considered racist and I do know firsthand what it is like to have my racial views prejudged based on where I live. While some injustices in this affair may have occurred, we cannot fairly understand what should happen from here until we separate fact from fiction about what has transpired. This account provides a valuable service in helping to sort out the historical record. We tip our hat to Instapundit, where we first saw this story linked.

One example may sound unbelievable at first glance, but makes more sense upon further consideration. The much-vaunted nooses hanging on the tree on school grounds were apparently not racially motivated, but a misguided joke aimed at one group of white students from another. While this might seem to stretch credulity, it really doesn’t. We hear and see all the time about this historical illiteracy of kids these days. The notion that some of them might be too uneducated to know the context of racism and lynching is actually quite possible, regardless of where they live.

The other story we reference is the defining one of this last half-decade: the Iraq war. Over the course of the war, the American public has been told by the mass media about a conflict that degenerated horribly after the initial success of toppling the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. However, the template that fit for three years does not anymore, as the surge of 2007 has reversed the previous horrible bumbling of those in charge of our war effort and helped stabilize very unlikely parts of the country. As has been the case all throughout the war, military bloggers have been way ahead of the curve in the reportage of the story, because they’ve been on the front lines consistently and been able to report on the realities of day-to-day life. Michael Yon’s dispatch illuminates quite clearly the widening gap between the default media coverage of the war and the realities on the ground.

Speaking of milbloggers covering the scene up close, Bill Roggio continues to be near or at the top of this outstanding field. We had him on THE FDH LOUNGE show previously, in what we consider one of our greatest segments ever, and we look forward to doing so again, although we regrettably have not been able to get our booking requests answered (we mention this solely to let those listeners who have requested a repeat appearance know that we want it also and are working towards making it happen). Notwithstanding that, Bill is spending every day making the most difficult-to-understand corners of the world relatable to his readership and his latest writing about the volatile Pakistan nightmare is both enlightening and chilling indeed. If the world finds itself engulfed in a large-scale war with unprecedented use of weapons of mass destruction, elements currently operating in Pakistan could end up more responsible than anyone else.

No comments: