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Reader Tom Mangan writes:

I can't help reminding you that Western journalists have suffered more

combat casualties than the military they are covering.

I work in a newsroom and people much like me (though braver) have been

killed trying to cover this war. Others merely maimed for life. That is,

DEAD, daddy not coming home, mommy applying for the life insurance, etc.

I'm not saying news people are owed any special protection from satire,

I'm just saying that your MASH metaphor is tasteless and offensive to

the friends and families of the dead and wounded.

Humor at the expense of the dead works if it's say, the former dictator

of Spain. It's not funny when it's regular people with regular jobs who

got killed trying to earn their paycheck. You wouldn't ridicule the

firefighters killed on Sept. 11, though I'm sure there would be

opportunities for humor if you were properly twisted.

He's right, and in fact I have pointed this out (that the press casualties have in fact been higher than military, which is more of a commentary on how competent the military campaign is than how high the press casualties are). But I was not satirizing those brave journalists who are actually on the front line really covering the war and have in fact been seriously injured or killed--I was going after the armchair media generals back in the states and other countries, and specific people like Ted Rall and Robert Fisk (the latter of whom was not a war casualty per se, but was simply subject to a mugging, and who have also been mercilessly and justifiably pummeled by others). I thought that this would be obvious, but if it wasn't, I hope it's clear now.

Posted by Rand Simberg at December 27, 2001 07:09 AM
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It was already obvious that you were not satirizing war casualties, whether journalists or others. That someone would suggest that you were, may merely be another symptom of some "newsroom" syndrome.

Posted by Jerry B at December 27, 2001 07:59 AM

Oh, I do not think this person has actually properly read your wonderful article but only a review of it. How to be thinking you are making fun of real injured people? Silliness.

Posted by Natalija Radic at December 27, 2001 10:53 AM

So let me get this straight: it's okay for ABC, CBS, CNN and other media outlets to abuse their journalistic duties and "spin" the news in such a way as to advance policies that caused the deaths of civilians (remember, one of the reasons we enjoyed eight years of Clintonista mishandling of terror and foreign policy issues was the unswerving devotion of the media)

but any satire of their mighty mediaships is automatically an insult to their glorious dead. Yeah, right, buddy; tell someone who has pity to spare for you.

Posted by David Paglia at December 27, 2001 07:40 PM

The "newsroom syndrome" is this: I'm sick to death of everyone using electronic media to dump on "the media." As I said in a note to Rand: You can't think of them as "them" anymore. Rand was celebrating the fact that the "establishment media" had become casualties in the war, which I don't dispute. I've seen too many colleagues murdered for trying to do their jobs, so maybe I'm oversensitive to the offense of depicting a MASH unit full of media casualties... it's just an affront to the real casualties. I usually love tasteless humor but this one hit me too close to home, I suppose.

Posted by tom mangan at December 27, 2001 10:49 PM

This is an example of the "slap in the face" defense which is useful when logic is not on your side. This veers close to the "insensitive" defense, but with a few differences.

The way you use this is to declare any criticism of a particular institution as a "slap in the face" to the most sympathetic representatives of that institution. Some examples:

-- Criticizing the media is a "slap in the face" to the many reporters who risk their lives to bring us these stories, and the families of those who are mourning those who died.

-- Criticizing the American Red Cross's use of 9/11 funds is a "slap in the face" to the hard working people who react to disasters for little or no pay.

-- Criticizing the defense policy is a "slap in the face" to the thousands of young men and women who wear a uniform, putting their lives on the line so that we have the right to criticize them.

-- Criticizing public education is a "slap in the face" to the thousands of teachers who show up and work hard every day for a fraction of what most people are paid.

And so on...

Defenders of the establishment media will have to make their case on their own, rather than lean on this fallacious defense.

Posted by John McGuinness at January 2, 2002 11:35 AM

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