Friday, December 10, 2010

Common things

There are certain things about the current WikiLeaks furor that bring back the past. The difference is that today we have instant communication and knowledge of actual goings on. Or the potential of.
Back in the days of the Viet Nam war. We heard only what news was meant for North America via newspaper and TV reports and what the precarious pipeline of independent news gatherers were able to report. Which was published in underground tabloid newspapers. It was the beginning of the era where the government controls the news to the people back home.

This was furthered in the news during the first Gulf War when Peter Arnett reported direct from Baghdad and was eventually disgraced and fired for his truths.

There are many stories from Viet Nam vets on the conduct of that war. Instances of distortion of the truth that grew in volume as Lyndon Johnson took over direct management of the conflict in Indo-China.

A Sergeant in the Army returns to his commander after a foray into the jungle. "What happened with your squad, today, soldier?" His superior asks.
"We lost two men Sir, and killed three Viet Cong."
The Captain retorts in a gruff voice, "No, soldier, tell me again what happened."
Causing the young Sergeant to stammer a second reply, "Sir, We lost two soldiers in a firefight. We know we killed two enemy in the attack and think we got two more."

The Captain sighs. Stands up behind his desk, intimidating the young soldier, and says, "No no no. You must have it wrong. You killed ten Cong commies and lost none?"
"Um, Sir?"
"You hard of hearing Sergeant? You heard what I said. Now what exactly did you say?"
The Sergeant, swallows visibly, straightens to attention and takes a stab at another answer. "Sir! We killed ten Viet Cong and came back with no casualties. Sir!"
"Thank you, Sergeant. Dismissed."

The Captain then reports this accounting to his own superior, who says, "Captain, that is exactly NOT what happened today. Exactly what happened is that a squad of our troops attacked the enemy in spite of their overwhelming numbers, but with our superior training, skill and weaponry they killed 200 Viet Cong and lost none of our brave soldiers."

The report goes to the another officer higher up the chain. Who nods his head and then says, "These reports go right to General Westmoreland now who sends them directly to President Johnson."
And he then proceeds to write a memo to the General - "Our platoon had no losses today but over 500 Viet Cong were killed in a fierce firefight near Hanoi. We expect to liberate the city soon."

And an independent newspaper reporter, sitting in a cafe in Saigon, sipping French coffee, who read this latest report in an American newspaper and commented to a friend. "So far, with my math, we have killed over twice the population of North Vietnam? Doesn't anyone get it?"
The reporter disappeared the next day. Saigon was a dangerous place.

And so began the fear of truth in the modern era of media reporting. And so began the intent to kill the messenger. The web today may be the last bastion of truth to the people.
Is WikiLeaks the messenger?

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On ongoing chew of events worth puking up later.