Thursday, August 24, 2006

'Itching for justice, or maybe just revenge'

I was recently given a copy of The Great War for Civilisation, Robert Fisk's account of his dangerous and frequently rather lonely three decade odyssey around the Middle East's battlefields and capitals. The journey is a hard slog, and Fisk paces himself, which means that the acerbic tone and staccato sentences that mark much of his straight journalism frequently give way to a sort of calm weariness in the face of endless scenes of suffering and injustice. Because of the way that its epic scale can diminish the power of any of its details, the book is perhaps better to dip into than to read in toto.

Here's a passage which resonates with my remarks the other day about the tendency of the Faux News network to make itself a flying column of the US army:

It was in Vietnam that journalists started wearing combat fatigues and carrying weapons - and sometimes shooting those weapons at America's enemies - even though their countries were not officially at war and when they could have carried out their duties without wearing a soldier's clothes. In Vietnam, reporters were murdered because they were reporters.

This tendency of journalists to be part of the story, to play their own theatrical role, took hold only slowly...In the 1991 Gulf War, as we have seen, many correspondents dressed up in their own army costumes - complete with helmets - as if they were members of the 82nd Airborne. In Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2001, something similar happened. Reporters in Peshawar could be seen wearing soft Pashtun hats. Geraldo Rivera of Fox News claimed on television that while in Jalalabad he was carrying a gun. He fully intended to use it, he said on another occasion, to Kill Osama bin Laden. 'I'm feeling more patriotic than at any time in my life, itching for justice, or maybe just revenge', he vouchsafed to the world. 'And this catharsis I've gone through has caused me to reasess what I do for a living'. It was the last straw. The reporter had become a combatant. [pgs 1081-82]

Rivera and his ilk may well be responsible for the situation that Olaf Wiig finds himself in right now.


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