My Cardboard Box

The Origin of Pappy’s Picks

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At a virtual club where I tends the bar, scare away the spammers, and play on-duty mod of the host site, I began to use slow periods searching for interesting posts and posting them in an edited format for easy reading by the patrons. Thus evolved something called ‘Pappy’s Picks’. An example:

James Bowman:

“For those who remember journalism back in a 1970s heyday they can’t explain to to [sic] the young, [David] Halberstam’s death was not just the death of a hero, it was like the death of the great Hollywood stars.” So wrote Henry Allen in The Washington Post shortly after the car crash which brought about the melancholy event to which he refers. Halberstam’s old employer, The New York Times, took the occasion to run a piece by Dexter Filkins, who writes for the paper from Iraq, comparing now with then:

“During four years of war in Iraq, American reporters on the ground in Baghdad have often found themselves coming under criticism remarkably similar to that which Mr. Halberstam endured: those journalists in Baghdad, so said the Bush administration and its supporters, only reported the bad news. They were dupes of the insurgents. They were cowardly and unpatriotic.”

Small wonder then that, before he died, Halberstam himself “did not hesitate to compare America’s predicament in Iraq to its defeat in Vietnam.” And he was not afraid to admit that his views on Iraq had been influenced by his experience in the earlier war. Yet neither Halberstam nor Mr. Filkins mentions one crucial difference between Vietnam and Iraq. In Vietnam, the enemy was militarily formidable even without any assistance from the media. In Iraq, the enemy is militarily weak and can only hope to win by exploiting the media’s negativity—and the continuing romance of its role in Vietnam—to make the war seem unwinnable. The role of fearless truth-teller is no longer available, if it ever was. Like it or not, the media are already involved in the action and must pick a side.

Halberstam’s legacy to today’s Iraq war coverage—which was the subtext of so many of his posthumous tributes—has been not only to make yielding to the temptation of “I know now, therefore they should have known then.” okay for journalists, but to make it almost the whole business of journalism. The media’s treatment of the Iraq war suggests that the myth of the journalist’s independence from and lack of any responsibility for the events he reports on is now firmly entrenched. For that we have to thank, at least partly, David Halberstam’s—and the media’s—Vietnam reporting.

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Written by PappyBro

June 2, 2007 at 21:34

Posted in Media, WoT

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