A Note to Media: Know When to Say When

November 5th’s tragic scene at Fort Hood, TX, left many of us in shock.  Soldiers everywhere were undoubtedly shaken by the events, and people with friends and/or family in the military (like myself) spent much of that day looking for answers.  Questions as to the motivation of Major Nidal Malik Hasan arose as soon as the event hit the news, and as soon as the culprit’s name was released, it seemed that some made the immediate determination that Hasan’ Muslim faith was at the root of his motive.

Less than twenty-four hours after the shooting, “news” outlets were already attempting to politicize the event.  WorldNetDaily, a staunch right-wing media site, made (and repeated) the claim that Major Hasan had been an advisor to the Obama transition team.  In actuality, the only connection to the President’s transition and Hasan is that the Major signed up for (and did not attend) some events hosted by the Homeland Security Policy Institute, which played no official role in the transition but only attempted to advise.  These claims were easily disproven by mediamatters.org, but the damage, and the connection of Hasan to Obama in the minds of many right-wingers, was already done.

In addition, FOX News contributor Michelle Malkin has decided that Hasan’s rampage was all too predictable because of his Muslim faith, seemingly trying to connect these heinous acts with the religion of Islam itself.  She’s not the only one.  Popular right-wing blogger and Republican operative Debbie Schlussel has gone so far as to prod us to “think of Major Malik Nadal Hasan (and all of the other Muslim American traitorous soldiers in the U.S. military who’ve shot their fellow soldiers up and killed them or otherwise helped the enemy), whenever you hear about how Muslims serve their country in the U.S. military.”

Let me remind you that these hateful, fearmongering claims were made less than tewnty-four hours after the shooting occurred.

It wasn’t only the right, though, that proved its indecency by politicizing this tragedy as soon as it took place.  Blogger Andrew Blast wrote Friday morning in newsweek.com that Hasan’s behavior was a symptom that “the U.S. military could well be reaching a breaking point as the president decides to send more troops into Afghanistan.” Could they?  Certainly.  There are many soldiers for whom the two wars in which we are currently engaged lead to serious mental health issues.  This tragedy, however, is not the jumping-off point for such a conversation only about fifteen hours after it happened.  The dead and wounded, as well as their families, deserve time to grieve before becoming fodder in an anti-war campaign (regardless of how justified anti-war campaigns might be).

The shootings at Fort Hood on November 5th were a national tragedy that affected the entire country.  I know that such news events can be highly lucrative to a media industry that has grown increasingly cynical and insensitive to the victims of such events.  We all want to know what is going on in the world, and we understand that the bad news is much more marketable than the good.  The “if it bleeds, it leads” attitude of the news media is something to which the American people have become accustomed.  But please, please, stop trying to make political points using the still-warm bodies of the victims.  To all of you who would do so:  you should be ashamed of yourselves.  You have now officially hit rock bottom in your quest to stir up ratings.  You are controversy junkies who have indulged in your addiction for far too long.  You need to take a break and learn to control yourselves.  You need to know when to say when.

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2 responses to “A Note to Media: Know When to Say When

  1. My heart and prayers go out to all the victims, the victims family and friends.

    From all the news reports it appears this Major is a career military man and that in his current position for less than a year and was not going well. He did not want to be deployed and in fact wanted out of the Army, so he paid back his military student loans and hired an attorney.

    The reason may have been that he was being harassed and called names like “camel jockey ”. I guess all that sensitivity training for those with bigotry tendencies are all for not. (Can training real change the way you were brought up?)

    Another reason is called PTSD by proxy, the stress of treating PTSD in other soldiers make you go a little crazy yourself. Its even more stressful because most of the higher ranks don’t even believe in such thing as PTSD. Their denial prompts them to tell suffering soldiers to “drink it off.” Some civilians in the defense dept feel the same way no doubt IMO, it’s why hardly anything is mentioned of PTSD until one of these violent episodes occurs. These people see PTSD as a cop-out or an excuse. First we need to have an understanding that PTSD actually is real before we can ever hope to help treat it (does anyone believe that being shot at or killing your fellow man is not going to affect you in some way either then or in the future?). I guess with the high soldier suicide rate before and after deployment kinda takes care of the complaints from coming in (so those who said he should have just killed himself, well that’s already happening ). What real ticked me off when I heard that the military was trying to say that some soldiers coming back from this war with PTSD or other psychological disorders had “Pre-Existing Conditions” and that the military would not pay to treat them, I think it has been corrected but what a bunch of asses they break you and don’t want to pay.

    The final issue is why does the military want to keep people in their ranks that no longer want to be there is it just sheer number? I mean is it ten percent, twenty percent. Is it that it is the only contract in the US that you can’t get out of unless to kill yourself or kill your fellow soldiers? It does not make any sense to me.

    I guess the Major could just be another wacko like Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nicholas, of course McVeigh was executed and apparently because Nicholas became a Christian he received a life sentenced. I real think if he gets that far the Major will get the former and not in a million years the latter.

    This is so messed up, hopefully they will make some changes that make sense.

    • W. T. Stambaugh

      I couldn’t agree more that Hasan may have suffered from PTSD, that he may have been driven mad by numerous external factors, and that PTSD doesn’t receive nearly the attention it deserves. As someone from a family with a long military history, I have many friends and family who suffer from PTSD and I have seen how devastating it can be.

      My only complaint with some of the coverage in that realm is that too many people are using this as a means by which to advance a political agenda, justified or not, at the expense of people who deserve better.

      Should we be doing more about PTSD in the military? You bet your ass we should. There is NO question there. I am absolutely with you in the hope that we can get some positive changes made.

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