NBC: Americans Fear a Potential ‘Major War.’ What About the Real One?
National media outlets shouldn't downplay our military's ongoing sacrifices.
“An overwhelming majority of Americans – 76 percent – are worried that the United States will become engaged in a major war in the next four years,” a recent NBC News article began.
Just one week before NBC News and SurveyMonkey began conducting its poll, an American soldier was killed in Afghanistan. According to NBC’s own reporting in a separate story, U.S. Army Pfc. Hansen Kirkpatrick, 19, was “killed in an indirect fire attack in the Nawah District on July 3.”
Valiant U.S. troops are still making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. Our brave men and women in uniform have served for almost 16 years. So how could NBC possibly publish a piece about its poll that fails to mention ongoing violence there or in terrorist hotbeds like Iraq, Syria and Yemen?
“While concerns about Russian meddling in the 2016 election have divided the country in recent months, Democrats and Republicans agree that North Korea is the most urgent threat,” the July 18 NBC article went on to say.
As U.S. troops risk their lives in faraway lands, words like “Democrats,” “Republicans” and “Russia” made it into NBC’s story while the countries our military is actually fighting in did not. To be fair, more than 35,000 U.S. troops are serving on the Korean border, where NBC has done some solid recent reporting.
Downplaying the Real War
NBC’s ill-conceived poll about hypothetical wars underscores a longstanding trend in many national newsrooms — including CNN when I worked there — to downplay the very real war being fought by our Armed Forces. As long as ISIS, al Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups are slaughtering U.S. troops and innocent civilians, journalists should spotlight our military’s sacrifices not just on Memorial Day or Veterans Day, but every day.
Some journalists put their lives on the line to report from war zones. The underlying issue, in many cases, is news executives choosing the never-ending quest for ratings over what they see as “an old story” that began on Sept. 11, 2001. Viewers just don’t care about Afghanistan or Iraq anymore, as I was often told when I worked in the television news business.
Minimizing the sacrifices of heroes like Pfc. Kirkpatrick on the national stage isn’t just irresponsible journalism. It’s an insult to the selfless warriors who volunteer to protect our liberty and way of life, including freedom of the press.
According to Pentagon figures tracked by icasualties.org, eight U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year. Since the war was launched by President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks, 2,400 American heroes have died in the conflict, which continued under Presidents Obama and Trump. That sounds like a “major war” to me, especially after interviewing more than one hundred Gold Star family members since 2009.
Perhaps I’m being too hard on NBC. Perhaps it’s only one story and one poll. Perhaps I should just accept (if the survey is accurate) that Americans just don’t care that much about places like Afghanistan or Iraq anymore, as those media colleagues used to tell me.
“Six months from now, people won’t be calling to see how I’m doing,” Gold Star wife Nikki Altmann told me shortly after her husband, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joe Altmann, was killed in Afghanistan on Christmas Day in 2011.
Nikki never forgot what her husband sacrificed on America’s post-9/11 battlefield. To honor Joe’s memory, she enrolled at Texas A&M University, from which she graduated in May.
“Thinking of you my love,” she wrote in a poignant July 18 Facebook post.
The war being fought by our nation’s best and brightest — along with the incomprehensible burdens being shouldered by families like the Altmanns and Kirkpatricks — are indeed “major.” Unlike NBC’s ridiculous poll, they’re also real.
If the national media hopes to shed the “fake news” label that the current president has bestowed (whether fairly or unfairly) on many inside the industry, it can start by giving the men and women of our military — and the wars they are fighting — the prominent coverage they so richly deserve.