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CMR Sitrep
Friday, September 4, 2009
Media Bias on Military Social Issues

CMR has been wondering for some time why it is that the Washington Times, thought to be a conservative newspaper, more often than not covers the gays in the military story from the standpoint of those pushing for repeal of the law. This article, for example, quotes Elaine Donnelly briefly but primarily focuses on the perspective of the "LGBT Left."

-Obama Faces Growing Anger on the Left

One of the gay activists quoted in the article claimed on his blog that he had "played a small part in generating this story."

* * * * * *

On August 15 the New York Times published the first of two major articles in a series promoting the idea of women in land combat, complete with a color photograph, several videos, and the results of a poll conducted in July. The photo, dated April 2004, raised more than a few eyebrows and sparked inquiries to CMR.

The featured female soldier is shown charging an unseen enemy with her rifle, but the background doesn't seem to support the warlike image. Behind her, next to a wall, are five male soldiers lounging with guns and bottled water, one of them inspecting a large camera. There is no apparent urgency to help the female soldier to charge the unseen enemy, but the casual reader might miss the illusion substituting for reality. The image fits the template of the article, but it is no help to military women who are well aware of resentment that arises when the media pretends that special treatment equals equality.

The New York Times also published the results of a poll of civilians on the issue of women combat:

-"Support for Women on the Battlefield"

The poll, indicating that 83% of respondents favor women in combat, is highly misleading. The 83% reading resulted from a question essentially asking whether women should be in the military and be deployed to danger zones-on a voluntary basis, of course. This is the current situation, which news reports have consistently portrayed both as a fait accompli and a policy that is working almost perfectly well. Professional pollsters know that questions about issues that people believe to be settled usually generate a positive response. In this case, the conditional nature of the question virtually guaranteed an 83% approval rating that fit in nicely with the two front-page articles pushing women in land combat.

The poll question did not seek opinions on women being ordered into direct ground combat on the same basis as men-a situation that is already happening, in violation of regulation and law, but most people don't believe to be happening. Still, responses to the New York Times' follow-up questions were not a hearty endorsement of women in the infantry, even though the word "join" suggested that such units are like a social club, and the question did not even hint that the definition of "combat" involves far more than being "in harm's way."

Direct ground combat is defined as deliberate offensive action against the enemy while under fire. In infantry battalions where physical requirements and missions have not changed, female soldiers do not have an equal opportunity to survive, or to help fellow soldiers survive.

The New York Times PR blitz followed the usual "perception management" template, and the Boston Globe followed the Times' lead with an op-ed that inaccurately described the position of CMR on this issue. Elaine Donnelly's Letter to the Editor in response, titled "Army's 'Anything Goes' Policies Are Unwise for Women and Men," was published in the Globe on September 2.
posted by CMR Editor @ 9/04/2009 12:45:00 PM

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