This is a guest post by my long-time friend Yury Suponitsky. He drops a logic bomb on people who are complaining that Whitney Houston’s death is getting more media coverage than fallen soldiers in Iraq. ~Alex
In the last few days I’ve been noticing a strange phenomenon online. I’ve witnessed several memes, statuses, tweets, and general discussions all centering around the basic idea that the press is focusing too much on the death of Whitney Houston, while completely ignoring the deaths of soldiers who die in war. This baffles me for several reasons. One is because Whitney Houston is not the first celebrity to die of drugs since the war began so I’m curious as to why this argument is being raised for the first time. Two, is because this is a terrible comparison that essentially cheapens both issues and demeans the losses of everyone involved.
I first want to say that I am not suggesting that Whitney Houston’s death is more important than the sacrifices made by soldiers overseas. I fully support and appreciate the fact that countless people are sacrificing themselves across the globe for a larger purpose. However, that being said, it doesn’t do any of these soldiers any favors by complaining that Whitney Houston, or any celebrity who has died, is receiving more attention then they are. I would compare it to a kid complaining that their younger sibling is receiving more attention for potty training then they did for an A on their paper.
If some of you were offended by that last analogy, good that was the point. It over-simplified the issue and insulted both Whitney Houston and the troops. That is essentially the same thing people are doing by even beginning to compare the two. It makes perfect sense that the media focuses on the death of Whitney Houston, and other celebrities, over the deaths of soldiers. Here are several reasons why:
- the logistical difficulties in giving credit to fallen soldiers
- policy reasons that are actually specifically meant to support the war
- the emotional connections that music and celebrities create in us
- for the cynics – the media’s greed and desire to perpetuate stories they believe will sell
Logistically impossible to pay proper tribute to every fallen soldier.
The first reason celebrities will receive more media attention than soldiers can be summed up by a number -4,862. That is how many U.S. soldiers have died directly as a result of the conflict in Iraq. That’s not counting other areas of the world, or civilians, or opposing forces. That’s just our forces. How is the media supposed to give proper attention to each one of those soldiers and still report on everything else? Most news stations already have a nightly segment paying respect to any local soldiers that have fallen in battle. What more should they do? Is a 10-minute segment on each life enough? Who’s going to do the research and make sure the stories are fair and accurate? What if families want privacy as they grieve?
It is simply unreasonable to expect the media to give the amount of respect each fallen soldier deserves. That is done by their family and loved ones who truly knew and respect them. The nation must be content to mourn as a whole and to consider these soldiers in their daily thoughts and prayers (for those of you who are religious), but to ask the media to bear the burden is unrealistic and improbable. Whitney Houston gave herself up to the public by being a celebrity, having them probe every dark secret of her life, and also praise the good aspects is something she signed into. Not every soldier and their families want this kind of attention, and it’s not feasible that they could get it.
Soldiers’ deaths aren’t emphasized for policy reasons
The second reason comes with the territory of war. For anyone who is a civil war buff, the wartime strategies of Abraham Lincoln were most likely fascinating and unique. For those who don’t know a lot about it, let me tell you Lincoln’s biggest tool in winning the war: public opinion. Lincoln understood that in order to keep the war effort going, and to keep getting enrollment and support, he had to have the public with him. Lincoln did everything in his power to keep support for the war strong. Propaganda, lies, informed disclosures, praising victories and ignoring defeats. Every single President since Lincoln has followed his example. It is no coincidence, that the first failed war in American history, and the first war that America pulled out of, was Vietnam. It also coincidentally happened to be the first war televised on TV. Public opinion quickly swung against the war, and America was forced to pull out. Bush almost suffered a similar situation if people remember.
What this has to do with my point, is if the media focused on every single fallen soldier, and did segment after segment, bombarded the viewers with the pain and loss felt by families, public opinion would completely abandon the war. Once again we would be forced to pull out and leave without finishing what we started. For those of you who really want to help the soldiers, you know that nothing would hurt them more then to leave without finishing what they started, which is exactly what would happen if America was forced to truly understand the horrors of war.
More people can relate to the death of a celebrity than a soldier’s
The third reason Whitney Houston will receive more attention is because there is only ONE Whitney Houston. Of course there is also ONE unique individual when it comes to any fallen soldier, but to society most soldiers are just faceless people dedicated to serving a noble cause. While this isn’t true for everybody, a lot of people are more likely to be able to relate to the death of Whitney when they danced to her music at their wedding, then the brave soldier who fell on a grenade to save his comrades. Obviously what the soldier did was more impressive and should be revered, but except the few that have had actual experience in war and combat, most people can’t relate to something like that. They will hear about it, feel sad and move on. When you hear about Whitney Houston dying, you are flooded with any memories that come with times when you listened to her songs. Movies, girlfriends, break ups, etc. People want to connect to things, and while once again that doesn’t make it right, it makes it realistic.
The media is a business that seeks profits
Finally, as I said before, the media is profit driven and searches for things that will sell. Celebrity deaths are the kind of thing they drool over. The aspects, the nostalgia, the controversy, it sells like crazy. So although ideally the media would be a bastion of free press and honest news reporting, in truth they are a business that has a bottom line. Just like Fox news has its spin, and CNN has theirs, the media as a whole has their motives. Your best bet for real news that truly shows the war how it is, is BBC, mostly because they AREN’T American and have no biases or motives.
I want to make clear once again that I am not saying that soldiers should not be respected. The sacrifice they make for this country is one of the highest, and I personally could not do it. I’m thankful that they do what they do, and that I can sleep better at night thanks to them. What I am saying though, is that to argue that Whitney Houston’s death is being reported but theirs aren’t demeans them. True soldiers aren’t signing up to get credit for their jobs, and to be glorified like celebrities; they are doing it for a higher cause. I would like to think that if you asked a soldier about how they feel on this issue, the answer would be “who gives a damn?”
All human life has value and lives shouldn’t be weighed against each other
Finally, the ultimate argument that needs to be made is that every human life is worth something. Regardless of jobs, past, beliefs, life is a sacred thing. When it ends, it’s a tragic thing for all those who cared deeply about that person. I hope that those who read this all the way through think a little bit longer the next time you make a quick comparison because it’s easy and catchy. Although I’m ultimately agreeing with most of you, I hope you see why it’s important to think about not just what you say, but how you say it. America is a country founded on freedom of speech, but just like the soldiers fighting overseas, just because we have it, doesn’t mean we can take it for granted.
For those of you who are interested in learning about some of the deeds done by soldiers, and the sacrifices made by those in the army, here is a list of documentaries about the Iraq war.