The Return of the Wacko Vet Media Narrative
BY DAVID PAULIN
As the troop build-up in Iraq produces positive results, many media outlets have seized upon a new anti-war narrative. It's right out of the Vietnam War-era: wacko and self-destructive vets running amok on the home front.
"Soldier Suicides at Record Levels," trumpeted a 1,500-word front-page piece in the Washington Post this week. And for three recent Sundays, the New York Times has dished up a front-page series of more than 10,000-words called "War Torn." It's about veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who have returned home -- only to kill again.
According to the Times' series:
"Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling similar stories. Taken together they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak."
The story is flawed, however. Commenting on "War Torn" in his column last Sunday, Times public editor Clark Hoyt wrote that the series "tangled itself in numbers right from the start." It was "analytically shaky" and relied upon "questionable statistics." His analysis followed howls from conservative bloggers, who were all over "War Torn" long before Hoyt's piece came out.
But give the Times credit for creating the position of public editor, a decision designed to restore its credibility after the Jayson Blair scandal and other problems.
Who is responsible for such agenda-driven reporting at the Times and other media outlets? Mostly senior reporters and editors who are in their 50s and 60s, folks who came of age during the 1960s.
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