Be Wary Of How The Mainstream Media Covers Military Stories

Jeff Black, from MSNBC emailed us for a comment on the latest non-scandal that we discussed yesterday — the photos with dead suicide bombers — and here’s how my response to Black played out:

Jonn Lilyea, a retired Army sergeant who writes the blog “This Ain’t Hell,” said Wednesday that the media overly emphasises negative stories about the troops and underplays positive stories.

The high-profile news coverage of the photographs “is a perfect example of the media blowing (expletive) out of proportion as long as the only ones who get hurt are the troops and their reputations,” Lilyea told

He pointed to the case of Sgt. Dennis Weichel, of the Rhode Island National Guard, who gave his life to save an Afghan girl last month.

“Sure everyone covered (Weichel) but not to the extent they covered the urination videos or the burn pit Korans, or (alleged massacre of civilians by) Sgt. Bales.”

Now, think about this for a minute; we have my co-blogger TSO bringing us hot news from Afghanistan. Suppose he witnessed something that would bring discredit on the troops and their reputations. We all know that photographic evidence of such malfeasance would bump up our traffic considerably, and might generate another click or two on our ads, but do you think TSO would document that incident if he understood that it doesn’t represent more than the actions of a few?

Or do you think that I would publish it, again understanding that it was the result of the actions of a few, but had the potential to smear all of the services who are mostly just guys and gals doing their jobs the way they know how to do it properly?

That’s the difference between blogs and the media – the media would run the story regardless of the effect that it would have on the troops and the conflict in general. Blogs are generally more responsible, the rational grown ups, if you will. There are times that we discuss things for months before we publish a word, just among ourselves in the milblog community.

It’s like I told Jake Diliberto (HuffPo) on Facebook one time, before I answer a question from the media, I think about what the troops would want me to say if they were asked the question. Because when the media calls me a “retired platoon sergeant”, I understand that there’s an inherent responsibility in giving the right answer.

I want the troops all to come home in the same number of pieces that they left us in. And we exist to give them a voice in the discussion.

We also light the torches and sharpen the pitch forks when there are fortress walls to be stormed, too.

By the way, the part that Jeff didn’t publish was the part I wrote about how this media frenzy is largely the fault of Leon Panetta and his staff who are ready to apologise for every perceived transgression and the media delights in those apologies and generates more of this false outrage. If they need me to be the guy who tells the media to GFY once-in-a-while, I’d gladly do it for a six-figure-salary.

This post was originally published at This Ain’t Hell.

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