When it comes to the military, says one former diplomat, the media are totally gay. Or girly. To wit:
They couldn't stop spooning out man-sized helpings of testosterone — the SEALs' phallic weapons, their frat-house, haze-worthy training, their romance-novel bravado, their sweaty, heaving chests pressing against tight uniforms, muscles daring to break free...
Writing in Alternet, Peter Van Buren argues that journalists are often adulatory or soft on the military because when they go on embeds, they're so helpless and so grateful to be included that they lose all critical sense. By this reading, the military plays the journalists like a harp:
Even though you may be only a few years older than many of them, you feel fatherly. For women, it works similarly, but with the added bonus that, no matter what you look like, you're treated as the most beautiful female they've seen in the last six months — and it's probably true.
It's less clear from his piece why there might be a similar effect for non-embedded journalists, and strangely, he leaves the whole "cult of masculinity" thing largely unexplored, or even implicitly enforced with all the "giddy schoolgirls" stuff. (Even after quoting an unnamed male pundit who "said in reference to the Israeli Army, 'They give me a hard-on.'" No homo.) Not to mention the substantive difference between lionizing the heroism of individual soldiers versus endorsing the top-down decisions made by their superiors, which is largely conflated here. Still, it's hard to quibble with this:
I respect my military colleagues, at least the ones who took it all seriously enough to deserve that respect, and would not speak ill of them. Some do indeed make enormous sacrifices, including of their own lives, even if for reasons that are ambiguous at best to a majority of Americans. But in order to understand these men and women and the tasks they are set to, we need journalists who are willing to type with both hands, not just pass on their own wet dreams to a gullible public.
I would argue that there's a fair amount of class anxiety or guilt at play here too. Not all journalists come from privileged backgrounds, but many do (it helps to have a cushion for all of those unpaid internships along the way), and almost all are college-educated. Van Buren implies it, but doesn't come out and say, that along with the feeling of being included with the cool, tough kids, there's the discernable feeling that amid real sacrifice, temporarily trying on a flak jacket and typing your way through isn't much.