This reality TV circus that demeans UK War Dead and Injured

#1
Very interesting piece by Mr. Newland about media who he accuses of twisting coverage of UK deaths into policy arguments against the war.

This reality TV circus that demeans the sacrifice of war

Martin Newland

* Last Updated: September 22. 2009 11:30PM UAE / September 22. 2009 7:30PM GMT

The bodies of British servicemen killed in Afghanistan are flown to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, from where they are driven in hearses through the small market town of Wootton Bassett five miles away before setting off on the motorway towards their final resting places.

A melancholy and moving ceremony has evolved around the passage of the cortege up Wootton Basset High Street: the bell at St Bartholomew’s church sounds, summoning residents to either side of the road. Members of the Royal British Legion, many of them ex-servicemen who endured far more ferocious conflicts than that in Afghanistan, stand to attention as the flag-draped coffins pass. Bystanders say that they are there not just to mourn, but to express solidarity with the servicemen and women still in Afghanistan.

Death in combat is something with which previous generations of British were only too familiar: almost every village, every church, no matter how small, has its memorial to local men lost in two world wars and countless other smaller conflicts. But something has changed in the UK’s attitude to its servicemen.

This something should be seen against the wider loss of emotional reserve in British society that began with the extraordinary scenes surrounding the death in 1997 of Diana, Princess of Wales. The tragic loss of UK servicemen is now greeted more with recrimination than forbearance. Grieving relatives speak of bringing law suits against the government for placing their loved ones in jeopardy. Health and safety attitudes of the kind applied by municipal inspectors to unsafe playground equipment are attached to scenarios involving high velocity bullets, mines and rocket propelled grenades.

The living rooms of the bereaved, themselves from a generation that never experienced the horrible domestic effects of the 1939-45 war, are invaded by television cameras. Grieving families are invited by a politicised and generally anti-war media to pour out their sorrow and express their anger towards the government, the ministry of defence and even at Queen Elizabeth, for perceived negligence in training, equipment or strategic policy that may have led to the deaths of loved ones.

The same media proclaims at every opportunity its support for servicemen in Afghanistan. But in many cases television outlets and newspapers too easily link characteristically messy, unpredictable events on the battlefield to avoidable political mistakes by public servants. Thus deaths in battle tend to be repackaged into policy failures: a shortage of helicopters or insufficient armour on military vehicles. The media obsession with public demonstrations of grief, now a sure-fire ratings success, demands that the bereaved are dragged out of private mourning to express their anger for the benefit of millions of viewers.

I would imagine that the morale of a moderately remunerated, low-ranking serviceman in Helmand Province would be adversely affected by the majority of reportage at home, linked as it is to a narrative of avoidable deaths and negligence and to reality television-style expressions of grief and anger by the families of his deceased colleagues.

There is, of course, a duty on the media to defend the public interest by exposing operational failures by government and the military hierarchy. And our hearts go out to those who are bereaved – especially where parents, wives and children are left behind. But this can all too easily take on the tone of the Oprah-style confessional chat show, where the unique set of principles governing military sacrifice and obedience take second place to the needs of “good television”.

In today’s world, sacrifice and suffering, until recently confined to the private realm, have become marketable media “content”. Indeed in the West, because of scientific advances, increased prosperity and the decline of religion, many have lost the ability to cope with adversity, seeking instead a cause, something or someone to blame.

This moral infantilism, when combined with the media’s tendency to filter war through a prism of avoidable loss, liability and televised recrimination, might well begin to define the dynamics of military service itself.

Nowhere was this better illustrated than in 2007 when 15 British sailors and Royal Marines were captured by elements of the Revolutionary Guard off the coast of Iran. Some, after being freed, were allowed, incredibly, to sell their story to the newspapers. One serviceman, lips trembling, complained that his captors had dubbed him “Mr Bean” because of his physical similarity to the rubber-faced British comedian – and had taken away his iPod. No wonder they were so easily captured in the first place.

Afghanistan may indeed be a lost cause. One can sense growing political pressure in the UK for withdrawal. But the final decision must be based on facts on the ground – the inhuman activities of the Taliban and the potential for exporting terrorism weighed against the probable inability to achieve a decisive victory over such a nebulous force and the fact that so many Nato “allies” will not properly engage in front-line activity – rather than the ratings obsession of the domestic media.

Martin Newland is a former editor of The Daily Telegraph in the UK, and founding Editor of The National

http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090923/OPINION/709229940/1080
 
#2
jumpinjarhead said:
Afghanistan may indeed be a lost cause. One can sense growing political pressure in the UK for withdrawal. But the final decision must be based on facts on the ground – the inhuman activities of the Taliban and the potential for exporting terrorism weighed against the probable inability to achieve a decisive victory over such a nebulous force and the fact that so many Nato “allies” will not properly engage in front-line activity – rather than the ratings obsession of the domestic media.
totally agree (says he from the comfort of his living room).

Media'll hijack anything for ratings. Moreover, there's a highly vocal minority rooting for the enemy and would just love to see our forces lose.
 
#3
A good article.

Unfortunately, the media will hijack anything and spin it their way if they think it increases their ratings.

Their platitudes ring hollow when we know their bottom line is all about the $$$
 

Grownup_Rafbrat

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
It was ever thus. I remember my parents receiving letters from our relatives back home saying what was being reported about Aden, and it being nothing like what was really going on out there.

News media are not there to report news, but to sell more papers/adverts.
 
#5
Grownup_Rafbrat said:
It was ever thus. I remember my parents receiving letters from our relatives back home saying what was being reported about Aden, and it being nothing like what was really going on out there.

News media are not there to report news, but to sell more papers/adverts.
groan! No profits - no point.

Are you suggesting that News Networks don't provide a service. I expect you've heard of Reuters, Grown-up? They are a no-frills provider who's employees are constantly at the sharp end.
 
#6
bigeye said:
Grownup_Rafbrat said:
It was ever thus. I remember my parents receiving letters from our relatives back home saying what was being reported about Aden, and it being nothing like what was really going on out there.

News media are not there to report news, but to sell more papers/adverts.
groan! No profits - no point.

Are you suggesting that News Networks don't provide a service. I expect you've heard of Reuters, Grown-up? They are a no-frills provider who's employees are constantly at the sharp end.
But have more than there fair share of controversies. Much like the Guardian BBC.
 
#7
Says on Wiki that Martin Newland was educated at Sandhurst, but no mention of further service. Anyone add any meat to the bones?

Also suggests he might be standing as a Conservative at the next election.
 

Grownup_Rafbrat

LE
Book Reviewer
#8
bigeye said:
Grownup_Rafbrat said:
It was ever thus. I remember my parents receiving letters from our relatives back home saying what was being reported about Aden, and it being nothing like what was really going on out there.

News media are not there to report news, but to sell more papers/adverts.
groan! No profits - no point.

Are you suggesting that News Networks don't provide a service. I expect you've heard of Reuters, Grown-up? They are a no-frills provider who's employees are constantly at the sharp end.
Heard of them? I did some work for them at one point. However they don't actually publish newspapers or deliver news stories to living rooms. Others, with axes to grind and stuff to sell, take Reuters' news, and 'embellish', 'slant', 'twist' or 'spin' it to suit their own agendas.
 
#9
Grownup_Rafbrat said:
bigeye said:
Grownup_Rafbrat said:
It was ever thus. I remember my parents receiving letters from our relatives back home saying what was being reported about Aden, and it being nothing like what was really going on out there.

News media are not there to report news, but to sell more papers/adverts.
groan! No profits - no point.

Are you suggesting that News Networks don't provide a service. I expect you've heard of Reuters, Grown-up? They are a no-frills provider who's employees are constantly at the sharp end.
Heard of them? I did some work for them at one point. However they don't actually publish newspapers or deliver news stories to living rooms. Others, with axes to grind and stuff to sell, take Reuters' news, and 'embellish', 'slant', 'twist' or 'spin' it to suit their own agendas.
I have to add that bigeye has admitted to manipulation himself in footage that he has taken.

http://www.arrse.co.uk/Forums/viewtopic/t=133651/postdays=0/postorder=asc/start=80.html



bigeye said:
Cabana said:
longtimeout said:
Can I ask one question here Cabana?

Why would Bigeye want to influence the viewer one way or another?

There have for example been many accusations of bias amongst the Palestinian cameramen covering Gaza and the West Bank. I suppose that being viewed by "the other side" as a valid target may temper your views somewhat.

But doesn't that reaffirm the need for more independent, international media to cover the stories?
To sensationalise the story to get more viewers and/or to get his (or the journalists he is working with) view across to the viewer. Even independant reporters/cameramen have views/opinions on the stories they are covering and can be biased in the footage they choose to show or the story they tell. Which of course you just pointed out in regards to the Palestinian cameramen.

Lets get one thing clear. At no point have I stated that bigeye or anyone has done this. I am saying (or asking if you note from my original post on this part of the thread) whether video footage can be used in such a way as to influence a viewer. In my opinion, yes it can.

Edited to add independant above
Well when working with a certain US Broadcaster (LTS) knows who I mean) you are actually fighting the bias.

So have I manipulated circumstances for a better shot? yes I have. Although not to the same degree as LBC (Lebanon) when it was noticed that one of the 'corpses' they filmed appeared in 4 or 5 different locations in a variety of dramatic poses!

Why? I suppose only he will know, but it wasn't as bad as LBC's manipulations...like thats a valid excuse. :roll: He states that it was for "a better shot", could that mean "make the shot more dramatic to increase sales of the footage" or "make the shot more dramatic to boost his cause". Whatever the reason, it was manipulation, i.e. not showing the actual circumstances.

On that note, I am off for lunch.

edited cos I forgot something
 
#10
Grownup_Rafbrat said:
bigeye said:
Grownup_Rafbrat said:
It was ever thus. I remember my parents receiving letters from our relatives back home saying what was being reported about Aden, and it being nothing like what was really going on out there.

News media are not there to report news, but to sell more papers/adverts.
groan! No profits - no point.

Are you suggesting that News Networks don't provide a service. I expect you've heard of Reuters, Grown-up? They are a no-frills provider who's employees are constantly at the sharp end.
Heard of them? I did some work for them at one point. However they don't actually publish newspapers or deliver news stories to living rooms. Others, with axes to grind and stuff to sell, take Reuters' news, and 'embellish', 'slant', 'twist' or 'spin' it to suit their own agendas.
That was my point - in other words not all News media is about profits above content.
 
#11
nigegilb said:
Says on Wiki that Martin Newland was educated at Sandhurst, but no mention of further service. Anyone add any meat to the bones?

Also suggests he might be standing as a Conservative at the next election.
At Sandhurst or in Sandhurst?
 
#12
"Newland was educated at Downside School, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and Heythrop College, University of London, where he took an MA in theology."
 
#13
Cabana said:
Grownup_Rafbrat said:
bigeye said:
Grownup_Rafbrat said:
It was ever thus. I remember my parents receiving letters from our relatives back home saying what was being reported about Aden, and it being nothing like what was really going on out there.

News media are not there to report news, but to sell more papers/adverts.
groan! No profits - no point.

Are you suggesting that News Networks don't provide a service. I expect you've heard of Reuters, Grown-up? They are a no-frills provider who's employees are constantly at the sharp end.
Heard of them? I did some work for them at one point. However they don't actually publish newspapers or deliver news stories to living rooms. Others, with axes to grind and stuff to sell, take Reuters' news, and 'embellish', 'slant', 'twist' or 'spin' it to suit their own agendas.
I have to add that bigeye has admitted to manipulation himself in footage that he has taken.

http://www.arrse.co.uk/Forums/viewtopic/t=133651/postdays=0/postorder=asc/start=80.html



bigeye said:
Cabana said:
longtimeout said:
Can I ask one question here Cabana?

Why would Bigeye want to influence the viewer one way or another?

There have for example been many accusations of bias amongst the Palestinian cameramen covering Gaza and the West Bank. I suppose that being viewed by "the other side" as a valid target may temper your views somewhat.

But doesn't that reaffirm the need for more independent, international media to cover the stories?
To sensationalise the story to get more viewers and/or to get his (or the journalists he is working with) view across to the viewer. Even independant reporters/cameramen have views/opinions on the stories they are covering and can be biased in the footage they choose to show or the story they tell. Which of course you just pointed out in regards to the Palestinian cameramen.

Lets get one thing clear. At no point have I stated that bigeye or anyone has done this. I am saying (or asking if you note from my original post on this part of the thread) whether video footage can be used in such a way as to influence a viewer. In my opinion, yes it can.

Edited to add independant above
Well when working with a certain US Broadcaster (LTS) knows who I mean) you are actually fighting the bias.

So have I manipulated circumstances for a better shot? yes I have. Although not to the same degree as LBC (Lebanon) when it was noticed that one of the 'corpses' they filmed appeared in 4 or 5 different locations in a variety of dramatic poses!

Why? I suppose only he will know, but it wasn't as bad as LBC's manipulations. He states that it was for "a better shot", could that mean "make the shot more dramatic to increase sales of the footage" or "make the shot more dramatic to boost his cause". Whatever the reason, it was manipulation, i.e. not showing the actual circumstances.

On that note, I am off for lunch.
Manipulate the shot? I'll give you an example:

I was filming Ms Lumley as she assisted the Gurkhas I spent a couple of days following her around. At one point we were in the garden at Downing street and she was kneeling down talking to Tul Bahadur Pun VC. It was a nice shot but I couldn't see his face so I asked her to move around to the left - she did.

It was a more dramatic shot but did it mean more people watched Sky News that day - who knows?

As a news cameraman you are looking to cover an event accurately and you rarely direct the subjects - but in order to make sure the images you are filming make sense it's sometimes necessary to slightly influence the situation. As above


This is a still shot taken at the same time:
Joanna
 
#14
bigeye, don't bite for the troll.

He's not smart enough to realise that quoting you out of context to "prove" his ignorant point is exactly the twisting and manipulation that he accuses the entire media industry of.

I think a reread of the other thread, and a quick glance at his other posts (and the general tone of peoples replies to them) indicates that the man is a cretin, and commonly regarded as such.
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#16
Having interacted quite extensively with veterans of the Korean War over the last couple of years, I can assure you that they were NOT happy at the lack of media coverage their conflict (a far bloodier affair than the current situtation) received.

I also agree that much coverage is vaucous (I saw a TV "news spot" in which the interviewer interviewed a Danish squaddie, a couple of US Marines and a Brit squaddie on their choices at the Bastion Pizza Hut. A total waste of footage.) Still, I am not sure why quite so many service members are so anti-media when, as noted above, media coverage of their activities is generally pro and embeds and other hacks are keen to let the lads (and their families) are their views on cam.

So...damned if you do. Damned if you don't.

I fully agree with what the writer states about the increased and increasing flacidity of the national upper lip in recent years, but this is an issue which affects all of society - including the armed forces - not just the media.
 
#17
One interesting phenomenon here in the US has been the rather dramatic shift in media coverage of the Afghanistan War when compared to that given the Iraq War. Coverage of the former is now characterized by more meaty discussions of policy and the pros and cons of one course of action over another. Coverage of the latter has been more about the casualties and miscues of the US effort overall (ill prepared for the insurgency after toppling Hussein, lack of security for building the new government, the lost cause--at least until the surge, etc.).

Pundits have attributed this difference to the "ownership" of the respective wars. since the Afghanistan War has been portrayed in the media as Obama's (since during the campaign he supported the US being there though criticizing the way the US was fighting it) whereas the Iraq war is laid at the feet of the evil Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld triumvirate such that it got much more pointed coverage in the US media.
 

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