October 25th, 2007

‘Twas ever thus: the press vs. the military, and vice versa

As Exhibit A, we have the exquisite sarcasm of General Robert E. Lee:

It appears we have appointed our worst generals to command forces, and our most gifted and brilliant to edit newspapers. In fact, I discovered by reading newspapers that these editor/geniuses plainly saw all my strategic defects from the start, yet failed to inform me until it was too late.

“Accordingly, I am readily willing to yield my command to these obviously superior intellects, and I will, in turn, do my best for the
Cause by writing editorials – after the fact.

And then there’s Exhibit B, the more direct approach of General William Tecumseh Sherman:

I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast.

It seems the journalistic tradition of second-guessing, error, and disclosure of sensitive information in war is a long one. The needs of the press are antithetical to the needs of the military. The first seeks “scoops” and sensational information; it’s just too boring to be supportive cheerleaders. The press has its macho need for bravery as well, and that is defined quite differently from the valor of the military. Perhaps some members of the press are even envious of the latter, and seek to challenge it with their own feats of daring.

The press serves a needed function, of course: to inform the public. But during a war, this is a delicate balancing act. Too much emphasis on the death, destruction, and setbacks that inevitably go with any war can hamper the war effort in a way that serves neither the country nor its people. Unfortunately, all too often, the press errs on the side of being oppositional in a kneejerk manner, rather than achieving the balance that would be most beneficial to everyone.

Case in point.

10 Responses to “‘Twas ever thus: the press vs. the military, and vice versa”

  1. Richard Aubrey Says:

    See “Blackfive”, on the Calvan blog.
    The moron gave a US soldier some attitude and blogged about it. He got so much stuff in his comments that he finally figured out he wasn’t as much of a stud as he’d thought.
    So he pulled the blog, thinking it would all go away.
    Blackfive has links to sites which have saved the entire thing.

  2. Tertium Quid Says:

    General George Meade tied a reporter to a horse facing the backend and rode him out of his camp.

    The revenge of the newspapermen of the time was to ignore Gen. Meade, victor at Gettysburg, for the rest of the war. They killed his postwar career, though I don’t know if he had political ambitions or not. After Gettysburg, he could have likely run for U.S. Senate or President.

  3. Americaneocon Says:

    Sending this NYT piece on Giuliani’s neoconservative forieign policy for your review:


    Have a great day1

  4. DC Says:

    TNR was/is in a no win position on this. Admitting their folly would seem to require rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic for a second time. The embellished nature of the stories was completely obvious, especially where Beauchamp has this kid standing waist deep in sewage.

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    We no longer need the press for an informed citizenry, Neo. They are superfluous, and exist only because of social, bureacratic, business, or technological inertial.

    The military, former and current, are quite adequate at informing the citizens concerning what is going on.

  6. Ymarsakar Says:

    Unfortunately, all too often, the press errs on the side of being oppositional in a kneejerk manner, rather than achieving the balance that would be most beneficial to everyone.

    Back then, the press could have made a case that they knew more than the people they were informing. Now a days, Neo, that doesn’t cut the steel rod anymore.

  7. Dan Says:

    It gives one pause to think what the presence of bloggers would have created in the mid 19th century

  8. sergey Says:

    “It gives one pause to think what the presence of bloggers would have created in the mid 19th century”
    Something like presence of printed books in 17 century – the Reformation.

  9. camojack Says:

    General Lee truly was a gentleman and a scholar.

  10. armchair pessimist Says:

    I’m with Uncle Billy Sherman. Anybody know where he’s buried? “Wake up, General! Wake up! There’s work to be done”

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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