Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Media Bias and Women in the Military

David Airth asks,

"Marshall Mcluhan came to mind the other day with his "the media is message" idea.

Many people argue that the media is bias towards liberalism. Is the media message then supposed to be liberal? But in the build-up to the Iraqi war the media was said to be bias towards the war.

The question is, is the media bias to that which has to be and is in the best interest?"
A couple very interesting questions here. Eric Alterman has done some of the best work out there on this question and conservatives themselves have admitted that the "liberal media" line is an attempt to "work the refs," that is, if a coach complains loud enough and often enough, refs will make calls in that coach's favor just to keep from having to hear the complaints. So, too, conservatives have cowed the media into self-censorship and false "balance."

So is there a bias? Sure, everyone has a point of view, a set of categories from which they make sense of the world which contains certain presuppositions. There is certainly a bias towards their own. They are wealthy and clubby and if you want example after example of their Heather-like behavior, read Bob Somerby. These are not progressives in the media, you will never ever see a real progressive anywhere on television outside of, say, Democracy Now. They will put up folks from the center-left, who by comparison seem liberal, but are not truly progressive. The media bias keeps anyone who would truly offend the wealthy off the air.

Hanno asks,
"So my 12 year old is watching "Mulan" and wonders why it is against the law for women to be in the army. So why, in China in 1300, is it against the law for women to be in the army? Why in 1776? Why now?"
There has been a shift in both the function of the military and gender. In 14th century China and 18th century Europe and America, life was divided by both problematic views of gender and the need to get things done that to some degree required a division of labor.

As such, military service was not merely about defending national borders, but also played a part in defining masculinity. The code of chivalry may have been explicit at one time, but the idea that honor, bravery, and all the virtues specific to men would be tied up with martial service was certainly not unique.

But since Vietnam, the military has a different cultural meaning and occupies a different place politically. It has been largely technologized and the tough jobs done by folks of lower class. Military service is no longer the marker of virtue it once was -- in part because of events from My Lai to Tailhook and in part because of the class status of many of those in the military. Look at "Operation Yellow Elephant" that sought college conservatives who were championing the Iraq War who would sign up. They overwhelmingly opted out in favor of high paying, more prestigious positions. Even those who were the loudest boosters for "the troops" did not want to join them because military service has become a negative class indicator, a place of necessity for those who will have a tough time otherwise finding a good paying job. Add to this the overturning of traditional gender roles in many fields, and the military is a different institution than it was, women can perform the duties which no longer define what it is to be a man in this culture the way it did in other places and earlier times.