I seldom post other people’s blog posts verbatim, but Bill Roggio (who is one of the best out there) rebuts Joe the Plumbers comments suggesting that we should get rid of war correspondents so well. I couldn’t resist.
This one is a must read (from the Weekly Standard blog):
There has been no shortage of coverage of Joe the Plumber’s foray into reporting on the Israeli military operation in Gaza. As someone who started reporting on the war as an independent reporter, I could understand PJTV’s decision to support citizen journalism by sending Joe to Israel. Sure, the decision was clearly made to generate publicity for the conservative, web-based news service, but PJTV’s decision to expend their resources is theirs to make.
After a few days of watching Joe fumble through interviews and issue his awkward opinions, it’s clear the guy is in over his head. Here’s what Joe has to say about the media and their coverage of the war:
I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think journalists should be anywhere allowed war (sic). I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what’s happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I think it’s asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II when you’d go to the theater and you’d see your troops on, you know, the screen and everyone would be real excited and happy for them. Now everyone’s got an opinion and wants to downer–and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers.
I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, “Well look at this atrocity,” well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it.
First, if the media shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a war, what are you doing there, Joe? And why did PJTV send you?
Second, while embedded as an independent reporter in Iraq and Afghanistan several times, I have seen journalists do some appalling things. I could probably write a book about it, but honestly I’m far more interested in the war itself. Despite what I have seen, I believe the media should have access during conflicts. Shutting the media out would entirely concede the information to al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, etc. who are increasingly developing sophisticated information strategies. Yes, there is bad and slanted reporting coming out of the combat zones, but there also are good reporters out there who can get the story right. The public needs to hear these stories to understand the nature of the war.
Third, if Joe’s spent any real time with the military, he’d know they typically don’t want reporters to cheerlead for them. In my experience, all the troops on the ground want is a fair shake (senior commanders may or may not want such candor). If something is working, they want you to tell that story, and if something is going wrong, they want that story out there too. One reason for the latter is that often the media can serve as a back door to get some problems fixed that the chain of command may be ignoring.
Finally, Joe is advocating a 1940’s media strategy for wars that are being fought in the 21st Century. We can’t roll back the mass access to print, television, the Internet, cell phones, etc. and push the news on grainy films at the theater.
The real irony here is that PJTV, a 21st Century, Internet-based news organization is sending a reporter–who doesn’t want reporters to report on war–to report on a war. And apparently Joe would love to return to the days when the news was influenced by the government and seen at the theater.