One issue that keeps coming up is the question of why this whole Beauchamp thing matters? The neoleft blogs – John Cole et alia – are all “hey, they have a small circulation, it’s not a big deal why obsess over it?”
Well, because memes drive ideas, and ideas – in the media monoculture – drive coverage, which in turn drive how we understand what’s going on.
I wrote about it before (yeah, I say that a lot, I know, and it bugs me too) when I talked about the murder of Karen Toshima and the perception of gang violence:
For most of the next decade, as gang crime rose, peaked in 1995, and then fell dramatically, the narrative of life in Los Angeles was the omnipresent fear of gang violence.
That fear was fed by sensational media – first news, then movies and television – and it defined and limited life in Los Angeles.
Was gang violence a real issue in Los Angeles before 1988? Of course. Was it something worth spending significant resources on and attempting to suppress? Yes.
But the monomaniacal focus on Los Angeles as the “Gang Capital of the World” created a false impression that Crips and Bloods ruled the streets. Where did that perception come from? From reporting the, like a hip-hop drumbeat, regularly pounded home the point
In a few small pockets, for a few years, yes. But the vast majority of people in Los Angeles – people like me – drove throughout the city, ate in restaurants throughout the city (three of my favorites are in South Central and two in East LA).
But the perception of the city changed. Policies changed as a result – policies that may or may not have been good ones.
In Iraq the stakes are much higher. But the mechanisms we’re using to sort them out really are no different. Wouldn’t it be nice if they were?
Today, the WaPo gives a good example of why it’s worth fighting the TNR issue:
‘I Don’t Think This Place Is Worth Another Soldier’s Life’
After 14 months in a Baghdad district torn by mounting sectarian violence, members of one U.S. unit are tired, bitter and skeptical.
I don’t for an instant question the validity of what the Post reporter wrote, or the honesty of what the serving soldiers said.
But I’m willing to bet that I could – in a day or two of research I dont have time to do – find similar cites from troops in World War II or any other war that you choose. No one hates war the way soldiers do; talking to the soldiers that I know has convinced me of that.
But sometimes they have to be fought.
And deciding to fight them – and to win, and most important, how to win, having decided so – is important (yes, that’s a statement I’ll need to take some time and defend in comments), and so it’s important that we have a complete view of what’s going on.
A news media full of nothing but the heroic exploits of our troops isn’t a complete view; neither is one that says our troops are brutal and brutalized, helpless and yet omnipotent, and that the reality of war with either the one TNR stubbornly clings to or the one presented in this article.
We need truth to see our way through this, and truth is ambiguous, morally complex, and fits no one’s set agendas.