Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Embedded Reporters Considered Harmful

In this Redstate post, Charles Bird relates the story of how Michael Yon, a national treasure working to tell the story of the Iraq war from the battlefield, wants to pick up a weapon and fight along side the unit in which he's embedded. That's a really bad plan, and it highlights the folly of embedding reporters. They can't be objective anyway, so why put them there?

I never liked the idea of embedding reporters with units in a war zone. Probably that's because I never liked the idea of a war covered on TV. Wars should be fought, not televised. The instant a camera crew shows up, the war will be fought for the camera crew, directed for the audience rather than fought to be won.

But the horse is out of that barn, as modern wars are fought in urban areas and with a media front. The other side is going to be fighting a battle on the blogs and over the airwaves, the only question being whether we will show up.

The Geneva Conventions recognize four classes of people in an armed conflict:

  1. Protected combatants
  2. Unprotected combatants
  3. Protected civilians
  4. Unprotected civilians
Protected civilians are those persons in a war zone who, though they may give emotional support to one side or another, give no actual support and do not engage in hostile action themselves. Reporters are in that category. They are not uniformed and do not fight.

It seems odd that journalists, who are certainly as big a target as the classic "radio man", aren't allowed to fight. They ought to be able to defend themselves. Yet since they're

  1. Amateurs
  2. Not subject to military discipline
  3. Not uniformed
for them to take up arms makes them undependable and dangerous at best and war criminals at worst.

That's another reason that embedding reporters is a bad idea. The InfoOps people ought to come from the ranks, same as any other specialty. But it would be even better if there were no specialty at all. The new warrior has to fight with his mind as much as his bayonet.

So the camera crew have to be made part of the unit. Not attached, or embedded, or observing; part of it. What's more, it isn't enough to have one reporter with a unit. Every fighting man should also be trained as a reporter, and expected to give his point of view of the fighting. Everyone we send into harm's way should have a camera to record the action from his perspective, another weapon to use to destroy the enemy and take away his will to fight. When the battle ends, and the enemy claims we failed to shackle ourselves properly, our cameras will tell a different story.

Or rather than simply record the battle, the cameras should relay battlefield information for strategists and tactician to use in directing the fight.

So embedding reporters is the wrong paradigm. We should be sending armies of reporters to the field, armed with a camera and all the modern firepower we can give them. And even if we don't, it's an even bet that the other side will.

[Minor edits after posting]

Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Blog stats

Add to Technorati Favorites