Fighter pilot, Royal Navy 1945, Hydrographer Iraq 1947-52 India 1952-53, Canadian Hydrographic Arctic explorer 1953-1960, Writer-producer Canadian National Film Board 1961-72, Freelance journalist, audio-visual producer 1972-2009, National Press Club of Canada 1961 - 2006

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pointless Heroics

How not to become too collateral

After watching Britain’s Light Brigade of Cavalry charge directly into the muzzles of Russian cannon during the Crimea War, and suffer fifty-percent casualties in just one half hour, French Army Marshal, Pierre Bosquet said:
"C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre. C'est de la folie" ("It is magnificent, but it is not war. It is madness.")

And so it was, I think, for Calgary Herald reporter, Michelle Lang, to be embedded among the ill-fated crew of a Light-Armoured Vehicle in Afghanistan recently.
To what purpose was she there?
To gather a few platitudes for newspaper readers concerned in varying degree over today’s much lower Canadian casualty rate, enormously sorrowful as it is, but spread over eight years? Or to provide interesting journalistic snippets for curious war watchers? Or to help her climb another rung up a promising career ladder?
More importantly, does it actually help the overall situation, in general or in particular?
Or maybe, might it possibly hinder?

What obvious or subconscious effects might the close presence of a strange non-group person, inserted into a confined small tactical unit, have on operational efficiency? Especially by the mandated official intrusion of a young female amid young males agog with raised adrenaline when immersed in a dangerous situation?

Which leads to the worrying thought: might it even be distracting to the point of fatal hindrance? Such as an individual soldier’s mental attention being diverted in an effort to compose a politically and socially correct, and polite response to a journalist’s varied or irrelevant questions.
Might vital watchful eyes, scanning the ground ahead for danger signs, be completely unaffected by such unusual factors? In similar fashion to those factors strongly considered to affect their own family members if using their cellphones while driving their cars back home in Canada. So strongly considered that such distractions are forbidden by law ?
Would a brain surgeon, airline pilot or ground controller be completely unfazed by an inquisitive and questioning reporter’s close-up presence during similar critical moments during his intricate work?
The time for such get togethers, verbal investigations and measured responses is in the peaceful atmosphere of the base cafeteria or Tim Hortons — not during periods of dangerous activity.
The embedding of journalists in wartime operational situations is unnecessary.

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