Mar 242003

You really want a culture clash, attend the next time some TV reporter interviews a soldier. Chances are you’ll hear an exchange like the following:

TV Head: So, you’re flying out again tonight?
Pilot: Yes.
TV Head: How do you feel? Are you apprehensive at all?
Pilot: No. I’m ready to go out there and do my job.
TV Head: Are you ever worried that you’ll, uh, drop a bomb on the wrong target?
Pilot: No.
TV Head: No?
Pilot: We’ve got a job to do and we’re well-trained to do it. We don’t release until we have 100% target acquisition. And when I aim at something, I’m gonna hit it.

Now I’m speaking here as a member of the culture consumed by fear and doubt. You want 100% target acquisition, don’t send me. And there are martial vices as well as martial virtues. But when I watch an interview like this, I can’t help feeling that these soldiers are, in important ways, my moral superiors, and I hope the TV journalists feel the same way. Somehow I doubt it.

(Update: Jim Ryan comments. Marc Miyake comments. Floyd McWilliams comments.)

  8 Responses to “Culture Clash”

  1. Aaron, I think I must have missed your point. What is the pilot supposed to say? "Gosh, I’m scared shitless this system wont work when I let the bomb go and I will blow helpless civilians to smithereens." The only way anyone could go into a combat situation and remain human is to TOTALLY believe what they are doing is right and just. I just think it’s rude of the reporter to try to shake that belief. Or was that your point?


  2. I’m on the pilot’s side, Deb. Even though I’m not much like the pilot, personally.

  3. Aaron, I caught that you were on the pilot’s side of the exchange. I personnally think a reporter who asks questions such as the ones you presented is a weenie that should to think a little harder about what his purpose is in that arena. They aren’t sports reporters interviewing athletes before the big game.

    What I didn’t get is why you think they are your moral superiors. The miliitary guys are extremely well trained, well armed and focused. They have to trust their leaders. Right now, they have can have no doubts. But that doesn’t make them superier. Unless the word is morale and not moral.


  4. You obtain a certain moral stature from risking your life for your country. But it’s the combination of his confidence, which is not only necessary, as you point out, but obviously well-founded, and his competence that especially impresses me. Or maybe I’m just overawed by people who can handle machines, being so bad at it myself.

  5. Ok, I agree. The folks in the military deserve respect and homage for what they do. And that goes for all of them, including the guys doing all the grunt work involved. They all are out there for us.

    But a guy who calls his blog "God Of The Machine" really shouldnt admit to, um, incompetence with, well, machines. ;0)

  6. Aaron only likes Third Wave machines (aka, those whose invention turned the industrial economy into an information economy)…

    As for the reporter: this is, like, the five billionth example of people criticizing journalists for doing their job. What is the journalist supposed to ask the pilot, if not about the feelings, doubts, questions, etc., which go through his mind as he prepares for a mission? Is the pilot’s job more noble than the journalist’s? Sure. Aaron’s initial point that the specifics of this pre-determined, Kabuki-like exchange speak to a "culture clash" is pretty bogus. They’re both saying exactly what the situation calls for them to say. The pilot isn’t showing bravery, or certainty, or whatever — he’s just parroting back what his boss taught him to say to reporters. And the reporter isn’t showing doubt, weasellinig, fear, or whatever — he’s just asking the only set of appropriate questions available to him in a situation that (like most athlete interviews) is only likely to produce something of interest if somebody blows their lines.

  7. What’s appropriate about the questions, exactly? How do they inform the viewer? Why is the pilot’s inner life of the faintest consequence to anyone, except the pilot himself?

    As for the pilot, although I’m sure his answers would please his boss, on what basis do you assume they aren’t true? My limited experience with soldiers indicates that they really are like that. You know different?

  8. And if the pilot does "blow his lines", as you say, and comes out with a statement of doubt about his ability, competence or the reason we are there in the first place, exactly how does that help the situation?

    And if the press can only come up with the same tired questions when talking to the guys, what purpose are they serving over there? Don’t they have some responsibilities as well.

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