Saturday, May 01, 2004

About Last Nightline

Like many, I have been increasingly, and more than mildly, frustrated with American journalism for years. However, I had hoped that ABC's production of The Fallen would be devoid of politics and journalistic pandering, and that the names and photos of the men and women who have thus far lost their lives in Bush's 'crusade' would have been presented without commercial interruption. I was disappointed on both counts. As with his poor performance as moderator of the Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire, Ted's 'closing thought' took away from his stated goal of elevating 'the fallen' "above the politics and the daily journalism".

Koppel's 'closing thought' on Nightline:
There is no easier applause line in American politics than to invoke the brave men and women fighting in our behalf. As for those who've died, they can be used with equal cynicism by the hawks and the doves.

You want to whip up support for the war? It goes something like this …We owe it to the men and women who have died in the cause of freedom that we complete their mission with honor. You oppose the war and want to pull the troops out? It's one variation or another of this theme … too many brave men and women have already died in a war that never should have been fought in the first place.

Our goal tonight was to elevate the fallen above the politics and the daily journalism. To let their names and faces remind us of what has always been true. When the American people fully understand the cause for which our troops are fighting and when they accept that it is essential to our national welfare and security … no burden is too heavy; no cost is too high.

It may well be that the war against terrorism, which is all too real, does require that our troops spend many more dangerous years in Iraq. At times, there is no alternative to war.

During World War II, more than 16 million Americans served in uniform and over 400,000 of those died. Most Americans believed then and believe now that the sacrifice was necessary.

The reading, tonight, of those 721 names was neither intended to provoke opposition to the war nor was it meant as an endorsement. Some of you doubt that. You are convinced that I am opposed to the war. I'm not. But that's beside the point. I am opposed to sustaining the illusion that war can be waged by the sacrifice of a few without burdening the rest of us in any way. I oppose the notion that to be at war is to forfeit the right to question, criticize or debate our leaders' policies - or for that matter, the policies of those who would like to become our leaders. Nightline will continue to do all of those things in the weeks and months to come, but not tonight. That is not what this broadcast was about.
Had Ted stopped after the seventh sentence (although I would argue the 2nd through 6th sentences would be best left out as well), I'd have only been disappointed that it had not been a commercial-free presentation. Ted, however, couldn't leave it there.

He had to speak of hawks and doves, had to intimate that when we fully understand the cause for this war; we'll accept the costs. He had to equate the invasion of Iraq with the war on terrorism and suggest there was no alternative but to go to war against Saddam. He had to compare the sacrifice, not to that of Vietnam but to that of World War II.

He thinks that many are convinced that he is opposed to this war. Perhaps for the wingnuts and dittoheads, not normally among his audience, that is true although, as he states, it's "beside the point".

We could argue about whether the sacrifice of war being borne by a few is or isn't an illusion (Do you think Bush and Cheney were burdened by Vietnam?). About whether Nightline has adequately questioned criticized or debated this administration's policies or whether we think they will do so in the weeks and months to come.

But if their goal last night was to "elevate the fallen above the politics and daily journalism", Ted should have read their names and kept his thoughts to himself.


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