Friday, August 24, 2012

Right To Know?

The media attention to the latest NZ Afghanistan casualties seems way out of proportion, and rather misdirected.
Take for example the coverage by Christchurch paper The Press. Thursday's issue used as front eye-catcher a half-page pic of the three coffins awaiting transport on landrovers at Bamiyan. Then followed a large piece about Jacinda Baker - one of the three dead and the first NZ female casualty of the conflict. The story delved into almost every aspect of her life, included that she liked baking and boxing (!!!). We heard from family, boyfriend, friends...
Such extensive in-depth personal analysis did not extend to her two male counterparts who also lay beside her.
The Press took the female angle even further, with a story about the last time NZ lost a woman in a conflict and why (TB in Viet Nam, incidentally). This perhaps may have been a vaguely interesting side-piece, but instead was inserted as if it was another riveting fresh news item.
What was of more interest - that NZ SAS were returning to the war-zone, albeit only two and as 'advisors' - was almost a throw-away afterthought item. (I strongly suspect our SAS are actually already actively hunting the Taliban responsible as I write...not sitting back in NZ as parade-ground markers at Papakura Military Camp! Wouldn't that be a waste of highly-skilled and ruthless resources!)
No, The Press and quite a few of its fellow media hounds have focused excessively on the death of one soldier because of her sex. The loss of the others was nearly cheapened by this feeding frenzy, and certainly the coverage of our previous losses paled in comparison.
Please don't give me that line about "the public has a right to know". How about "all soldiers have the right to national respect"? Not adulation - respect. Not excessive bloodthirsty coverage - respect. Not inside leg measurement, favourite baking recipe or menstrual cycle - respect.
They are soldiers, doing a very risky job, and some have paid the price. It is however their JOB. Leave them alone to do it.
We do NOT have a RIGHT to know.

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