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March 09, 2006

McNews. One of the things about the msm that...

...just slays me. Of course, we see it in the world of blogs, too.

McNews. The pejorative term coined for USA Today, by people who work for fishwrap that can't edit and write tightly like, oh, the NYT comes to mind.

That said - I don't know what Bill Nichols was after in his story when he started, but the tortured requirement to be "balanced" and the insertion of editorial bias, whether on the part of the bylined author, editors, or headline writer, produced this misleading waste of slain Gaia-beloved Sylvan Collective Ent-Herded Beings.

The Headline: 8,000 desert during Iraq war

Uh-oh. That's bad! I knew it! Chimpy HalliBusHitler's Myrmidons don't even support him! Now, what's up with Important Stuff - what's George Clooney think today? I need my talking points for the Poetry Reading at the coffeehouse....

Now, someone interested in that story, vice someone for whom it is merely confirmatory for what they want to believe anyway, will, perhaps, read on. If they have time.

At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although the overall desertion rate has plunged since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. [emphasis mine]

Oops. *That* didn't follow the meme, did it? But, being a stark fact, and McPaper being a slightly better quality fishwrap (pretty colors!) or, Mr. Nichols just being an honest journalist, they had to let it sneak in there. And up top. Pat on the back!

Except - we have to be "balanced" doncha know. Show that alternative viewpoint.

Since fall 2003, 4,387 Army soldiers, 3,454 Navy sailors and 82 Air Force personnel have deserted. The Marine Corps does not track the number of desertions each year but listed 1,455 Marines in desertion status last September, the end of fiscal 2005, says Capt. Jay Delarosa, a Marine Corps spokesman.

Desertion records are kept by fiscal year, so there are no figures from the beginning of the war in March 2003 until that fall.

Okay, fair enough. Pretty neutral there, "just the facts ma'am."

Oh-oh, Bosun, sound the pipes, "Balance, Arriving!" (Navy humor)

Some lawyers who represent deserters say the war in Iraq is driving more soldiers to question their service and that the Pentagon is cracking down on deserters.

"The last thing they want is for people to think ... that this is like Vietnam," says Tod Ensign, head of Citizen Soldier, an anti-war group that offers legal aid to deserters. (Related story: Marines hunt Vietnam-era deserters)

Ooo. Bright shiny object for the Armorer. Are the Marines using M21s? *shakes head* Sorry. Got distracted.

Y'know - that could be true. This being McNews in McPaper, we aren't going to get in-depth analysis, especially if we had to torture the headline in order to try and slip the shiv into George's ribs.

I'm willing to concede following statement is probably true.

"the war in Iraq is driving more soldiers to question their service"

Both baldly as written, and as an excuse by more run-of-the-mill "My God this stuff is hard and they make me work weekends with mean people!" deserters because they think it will a., get people to help pay for their lawyers, b., get them laid by the patchouli-scented, c., give them cover with their Marine/Ranger/fighter pilot family members who would otherwise crush them like a grape for dishonoring the family. A higher percentage of the overall drop in deserters *are* probably deserting because they don't want to serve in combat - whether for noble, or ignoble, reasons.

Down at the bottom (and hey, something has to be upfront, in the middle, and at the end), comes this little gem:

The desertion rate was much higher during the Vietnam era. The Army saw a high of 33,094 deserters in 1971 - 3.4% of the Army force. But there was a draft and the active-duty force was 2.7 million.

Desertions in 2005 represent 0.24% of the 1.4 million U.S. forces.

Which isn't surprising, since we fought Vietnam with draftees, and this one is being fought with volunteers. Another useful comparison (that I don't have time to hunt up this morning) would be WWII desertion rates. How'd things go with a Bulk Draftee Greatest Generation Mostly Popular War?

Heh. And they wonder why they're losing market share? This really was a moderately objective view, given what I expect from MSM outlets. And Mr. Nichols may have written something much different, I don't know. But I do know that a headline that read:

"Desertions drop during War" would have more accurately represented the article, and saved two spaces.

Of course, if it was written by a Kossack, the thrust of the article would have been:

Military suppresses desertions by keeping hundreds of thousands of troops locked up in camps overseas so they can't desert.

Except they would have spelled it dessert.

Just sayin'.

Read it for yourself, here.