Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Times and the 'Killer Vet'

The following blog post is reprinted with permission from Bruce Kesler of the Democracy Project:

5219 words, and what do you get?
Another week older, and deeper in killer vet

With apologies to Tennessee Ernie, that’s how I felt while reading this week’s installment of the New York Times’ series “War Torn,” already torn to shreds from the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal to the New York Post to any sentient being in the blogosphere during the past week as transparent, statistically silly, dangerously damaging agenda journalism.

This week, the series delines the descent from Mormon alter boy to mentally wracked Iraq veteran to confessed murderer of his childrens’ mother. It’s truly chilling. The NYT’s points out the occasions where either the military, the VA or the Marine himself missed possible opportunities for stronger intervention. Like a macabre thriller, where the terrible ending is already known, one wants to yell out, “please help him.”

This week, the NYT’s points out:

Clearly, Mr. Smith’s descent into homicidal, and suicidal, behavior is not representative of returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. But among the homicide cases involving recent war veterans examined by The New York Times, Mr. Smith’s stands out because his identity as a psychologically injured veteran shaped the way that his crime was perceived locally and handled by local authorities.

His crime was treated compassionately, with consideration of his obvious remorse and the trials he’s seen. That’s commendable.

Really, not to take away from this story telling, it’s still not a telling story about our servicepeople serving.

The fact of the matter is that there’s a lesser incidence of violence upon return to civilian life than among non-serving civilians. See here for example.

The NYT’s choice of focus, however, is upon the rare exceptions, and at a forecast total tens of thousands of words, the size of a book. Instead, where’s the focus upon the statistically greater successes in adjustment among veterans, greater civilian career successes than non-serving cohorts?

When that happens on the pages of the NYT’s, we’ll be more willing to believe it has compassion for veterans rather than exploitation of a few’s sad trails.