Newsworthy Reconsidered
Paris Hilton or Colonel Sean McFarland?


Victor Davis Hanson

Which of these two do we Americans know anything about?

Is it the daily minutiae of an empty-headed blond, or the enlightened action of a Marine colonel in Iraq, who helped turn once murderous Sunni insurgents into fellow enemies of al Qaeda — in a war that might well change the future of millions in the region and of Americans here at home?

In this time of war, our news channels — with updated alerts no less that interrupt the usual IED fare from Iraq — tell us more than we wish about O.J.’s latest rampage in Vegas. But they give us almost nothing about Colonels Rick Gibbs, or David Sutherland, or JB Burton, or Paul Funk, or Michael Kershaw — or dozens more like Cols JR McMaster and Chris Gibson, who are daily trying to incorporate former enemies in the so-called Triangle of Death into coalition forces to stabilize Iraq.

How they, and hundreds of their fellow officers — away from their families on serial tours, replete with MAs and PhDs, and often survivors of multiple IED attacks — do this is largely lost on the American public in a way Aruba, the ghost of the drug-laden Anna Nicole Smith, and the trashy Britney Spears are not.

I don’t wish to suggest that our present titillation on the home front, or amnesia about those fighting overseas, is entirely foreign to the American war experience. In 1942 Americans kept their business-as-usual East Coast cities lit up at night, apparently oblivious that their resulting silhouetted freighters meant German U-boats would sink a fifth of the entire U.S. merchant fleet in the first year of the war, along with slaughtering 5,000 Americans, usually right off the American shoreline.

Nor should we entirely blame the increasing tabloidization on Fox News and the other less watched 24/7 all-news cable stations that in some respects offer more war coverage than do the major network stations. It is debatable, after all, whether the National Enquirer-hype of Greta Van Susteren, for so long embedded in Aruba, itself promotes the inconsequential as news, or simply reflects — in a competitive war for ratings and market share — our preexisting public inanity.