Body counts. Subversive?

During the Vietnam War, the nightly news had body counts of enemies slain and images of American soldiers being brought home in flag-fraped coffins. (Okay, I was too young to be watching the news, but I’ve seen documentaries.) I understand that the images of American coffins is one of the things that turned Americans against the war.

I usually turn on the local news and CBS Evening News when I get home from work. The local news has a story on every Washington soldier who has been killed in Iraq. The CBS Evening News has a segment called ‘Fallen Heros’ that profiles one of the soldiers killed recently. The local news often has footage of grieving relatives, who often say they are against the war.

The Evening News segments are ‘tributes’, but I wonder if they may be a bit ‘subversive’? That is, are they showing the senseless loss of life in an effort to turn American opinion against the war, while disguising it as a tribute to the dead soldier? Is the local news doing the same by broadcasting grieving relatives saying they are opposed to the war?

(Full discolsure: I opposed the war in Iraq before it started, and I oppose it now.)

I’d say it’s more dishonest to ignore the human cost, for that is a simple fact of war.

Is it also dishonest that casualty counts no longer include wounded? Casualties, as far as I remember included KIA, MIA and wounded. These days it seems casualties only count the dead. Maybe because the if you said so far there are
7 000 plus casualties in the war thus far it sounds more dire than 1 000.

Has it always been reported this way in the US or am I mistaken?

Depends on what you’re doing with them. Certainly they can be used as propaganda. And not just by the one side. Body counts can be used as a ‘bloody shirt,’ or alternatively as a way to create opposition to war.

The way I’m seeing it used recently on network news seems to is as a means of lowering support for the administration. They’re conducting a political campaign under the guise of ‘telling the news.’ IMHO, that’s dishonest, but it’s also entirely within their right, as the rules work, to so do.

Can you give an example? And explain why you think mentioning the body count is there to serve a political purpose, and not simply a related part of the story?

Sure - Local news (NBC) runs stories on the numbers dead, and then the local dead but then selectively puts on the air the weepiest of the bereaved. Never the stoics, or the supportive relatives, only the ones gnashing their teeth and weeping. These segments do not run in parallel with any other war news, and the narrative almost always couches the death in terms of Administration Policy. That appears to me to be a deliberate attempt to tie the administration with only negative emotional results in the war. I think it is, based upon context, politically motivated. Not that there is any reason they can’t do it, but also IMO, doing so without stating an editorial policy is less than honest.

Haven’t you heard? Anything that embarasses the Bush Administration is subversive.

That may not be fair to say, however, simply because the vast majority of all local news is emotionally negative. Sure once and a while you will see some uplifting “human interest” story but for the most part, if it bleeds, it leads.

My sense is that the local news stations are handling the war with about as much class as they do everything else.