Thursday, March 17, 2011

NPR's purple prose shows little mettle


   Wow, NPR reporters finally did some investigative reporting this morning! They had to have someone to hold their hand, though, so the excellent ProPublica team was brought in to help uncover a TERRIBLE SCANDAL: Some soldiers who get concussions are not receiving Purple Hearts. 
   Surely NPR could have found an injustice somewhere in the world -- and probably in any American city -- that is more worthy of what little investigative energy it has.
   More than 45,000 Purple Hearts have been hauled out
during our absurd military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. You don't have to be heroic to get one -- all you have to do is get injured. A concussion certainly is an injury, but the real injury is what these wars are doing to the people in the region, to our young people who have no other options for employment or higher education, to our moral stature in the world and to our economic viability at home.
   I feel as much anguish as anyone over the terrible, traumatic injuries that our troops are suffering,  but Purple Hearts have become so diminished in meaning and value that they might as well put them in Cracker Jacks boxes.
   The disbursement of medals by the military is -- now more than ever -- just one more way to hold onto troops, which have been so difficult to recruit and retain. It's a morale-booster, a PR gimmick,  that usually means merely that someone was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
   It is surprising that ProPublica, which usually picks its battles so well, agreed to devote any resources to such a trivial story. Its own mission statement says, "Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with 'moral force.' We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them."
   ProPublica itself deserves a few medals, but certainly not for this story.