Yes, it's tragic that she died,
but what about the troops dying in Iraq almost every single
day? Do they get the kind of attention that Smith's death,
and life, have garnered? Are their lives, and deaths, less
And it wasn't just television's
network news and CNN and MSNBC and FOX (no surprise there),
it was on the front page of newspapers like The Washington
Post and the Los Angeles Times.
Tim Rutten, of the LA Times,
gives an interesting explanation of why Smith hit the front
pages of so many newspapers:
"The mainstream journalistic
coverage of Smith's death is among the first such stories
driven, in large part, by an editorial perception of public
interest derived mainly from Internet traffic. Throughout
the afternoon Thursday, editors across the country watched
the number of 'hits' recorded for online items about Smith's
death. These days, it's the rare newspaper whose meeting to
discuss the content of the next day's edition doesn't
include a recitation of the most popular stories on the
paper's website. It's a safe bet that those numbers helped
shove Anna Nicole Smith onto a lot of front pages."
Who knew our internet surfing
habits were so influential?
You know what would be really
revolutionary in the world of breaking news, and news
reporting in general? If, every time a soldier died in this
illegal war we're mired in, the media would give them as
much attention as they give so-called celebrities. If our
media really supports the troops, their actions should show
it. And if we really support the troops, we should demand
that they do.
What if the media gave each
military fatality the same attention they've given Smith?
And what if they asked the following questions every single
time someone died in this war? Questions like:
What took this person to war in
the first place?
On what grounds was he or she there?
For what noble cause did they die?
The media will question at
length if illegal drugs were found in a "reality" tv star's
hotel room. And show video and photos of her methadone
stocked refrigerator. But when it comes to a reality with
far greater and crucial consequences to, arguably, all of
humanity, they are mostly silent. They should be asking why
faulty intelligence and manufactured reasons and ulterior
motives were used to start an illegal war of aggression in a
foreign land. They should be asking why this illegal war of
aggression has been allowed to squander--and continues to do
so daily--our military, its good men and women, our
country's credibility, its ability to take care of business
at home, its safety, and billions and billions and billions
of our dollars. Instead of showing us video of Smith's
refrigerator, they should show us video of what war looks
like. Of its consequences. This is the news we may not
want--just like a child might not want to eat her
vegetables--but it's the dose of news, and reality, we need.
Perhaps they might continue by
asking more questions.
How did the soldier die?
Had he or she been supplied with all the appropriate safety
Had he or she been supplied with all the critical
information necessary to fight in another country's civil
What about the grieving family and friends he or she left
Again, what about the manufactured intelligence that was
used to begin this illegal war of aggression?
And, what should the consequences be for those responsible
for leading us to, and keeping us involved in, this
manufactured and illegal war?
That would be a few questions
for starters. I'm sure those who have lost--or will lose--a
loved one in this illegal war could, and have, and will,
come up with many more.
Unfortunately, we can't expect
that serious questions and focus will become the new modus
operandi of the news media anytime soon. Can't keep the
masses brain dead, and thirsting to consume, if they're
faced with the real news and encouraged to start asking real
questions themselves. Jeepers, what would happen if we
started thinking and questioning? You see, it probably isn't
so much that they're feeding us what they think we want to
eat. When we care about our children's health, do we feed
them whatever they ask for? No, the media likes it that we
eat crap. It keeps us less than healthy . . . and distracted
. . . and buying all the products and propaganda that they
and their companies are selling.
So that's why we have to become
the media. Like Amy Goodman said, we have to "go to where
the silence is and say something."
I've also been thinking about
what Molly Ivins said when she began her last series of
"This will be a regular feature
of mine, like an old-fashioned newspaper campaign. Every
column, I'll write about this war until we find some way to
end it. STOP IT NOW. BAM! Every day, we will review some
factor we should have gotten right."
What Molly did was illustrate,
in a way Molly did so well, that writing about the same
issue regularly was a tactic that worked, and was necessary.
Sure, it's a play right out of Joseph M. Goebbel's play
book, "Tell a lie that is big enough, and repeat it often
enough, and the whole world will believe it." Except in this
case, it's truth being told, and just one of many that have
to be told in order to counter all the lies.
In this age of so much dross and
garbage and misinformation and distraction and lies, it's
imperative to tell the truth again and again and again.
Bigger and bigger. Repeating and repeating and repeating it.
Making the ridiculous look more ridiculous. So that the
message finally gets heard. And so that once the message is
finally heard, the people will be moved to act. Both the
people, and their representatives in Congress.
Like it or not, we are the
deciders. It's what our founding fathers envisioned after
all. And we are shirking our patriotic duty when we do
nothing, when we accept drivel and propaganda and constant
distraction as truth, and as reality.
So let us commit ourselves to
Molly's old fashioned newspaper campaign. Let us each commit
to being the media. If the "breaking news" won't tell us who
died in Iraq today, and why, we can each do our part to fill
that void. We can take up part of the information highway
with the news that really is important. And we can put
pressure on the media to do its job.
Iraq war casualty data is
available at icasualties.org and at the Department of
Defense. But it also needs to be on the front pages of our
nation's newspapers, and it should be the breaking news of
our television networks and news broadcasts . . . every day
until this illegal war is over. What Molly started, the rest
of us should continue.
What would happen if the New
York Times put on its front page, every single day, stories
about the people who died in Iraq that day? Or that week? We
need to insist that this issue be brought to the forefront
of our nation's consciousness. It's not an issue for the
back burner, or buried in some dark corner of the newspaper,
or only on the pages of the deceased person's hometown
paper, or passed over for more sensational but less than
momentous stories of celebrities and their foibled lives.
Perhaps the more places we post
it, and the more ways we pay attention to the names and
details of all the precious lives being squandered in this
illegal war (and that would continue to be squandered in
greater numbers if we allow ourselves to be sold on any kind
of attack on Iran), the more we can put a personal face on
this war (and any potential future illegal wars) and build
greater opposition and action against it (them).
And, maybe those editors trying
to figure out what to print will take notice.
Let's start with writing The
Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times,
USA Today, CNN, MSNBC, and FOX (it never hurts to try),
asking them to give as much focus and space to the brave men
and women in the military who are dying nearly every day, as
much time and space as they are giving to Anna Nicole Smith
(or whatever celebrity or drivel that is taking up news
space at the moment). And tell them to start asking the
difficult questions about this war, and about the escalating
talk (all a replay of what came before we invaded Iraq) of
war or air attacks against Iran.
Imagine what might happen if
hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands of us
demanded this from our news media?
I'd like to personally commit to
Molly's old fashioned campaign by posting weekly reports
about the people dying in this illegal invasion to different
locations on the internet. I will do so out of respect for
the deceased, out of care for the living, and out of hope
that in some small way it can help make the unnecessary
dying stop. The focus will mostly be on American troop
deaths, but will also hopefully begin to include information
on coalition and Iraqi deaths as well.
I begin here by recognizing
members of the United States Military who died in Iraq--as
reported by the Department of Defense--in the first seven
days of February 2007.
Petty Officer 1st Class
Gilbert Minjares Jr., 31, of El Paso, Texas, and Petty
Officer 3rd Class Manuel A. Ruiz, 21, of Federalsburg, Md.,
died Feb. 7 in a helicopter crash in Al Anbar Province,
Sgt. Maj. Joseph J. Ellis, 40, of Ashland, Ohio, died
Feb. 7 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar
Cpl. Jennifer M. Parcell, 20, of Bel Air, Md., died
Feb. 7 while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar
Sgt. Joshua J. Frazier, 24, of Spotsylvania, Va.,
died Feb. 6 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar
Lance Cpl. Brandon J. Van Parys, 20, of New Tripoli,
Pa., died Feb. 5 while conducting combat operations in Al
Anbar province, Iraq.
Capt. Kevin C. Landeck, 26, of Illinois, died Feb. 2
in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised
explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
Staff Sgt. Terrence D. Dunn, 38, of Houston died Feb.
2 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised
explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
Chief Warrant Officer Keith Yoakum, 41, of Hemet,
Calif., and Chief Warrant Officer Jason G. Defrenn, 34, of
Barnwell, S.C., died Feb. 2 in Taji, Iraq, of wounds
suffered when their Apache helicopter was forced to land
during combat operations.
Sgt. Randy J. Matheny, 20, of McCook, Neb., died Feb.
4 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised
explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
Cpl. Richard O. Quill III, 22, of Roswell, Ga., died
Feb. 1 from a non-hostile cause in Al Anbar province, Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Ronnie L. Sanders, 26, of Thibodaux, La.,
died Feb. 3 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an
improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
Spc. Alan E. McPeek, 20, of Tucson, Ariz., and Pvt.
Matthew T. Zeimer, 18, of Glendive, Mont. died Feb. 2 in
Ramadi, Iraq, of injuries sustained when they came in
contact with enemy forces using small arms fire.
Pfc. David C. Armstrong, 21, of Zanesville, Ohio, and
Pfc. Kenneth T. Butler, 21, of East Liverpool, Ohio, died
Feb. 1 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries suffered from a
Sgt. Corey J. Aultz, 31, of Port Orchard, Wash., and
Sgt. Milton A. Gist Jr., 27, of St Louis, died Jan. 30 at
Ramadi, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised
explosive device detonated near their vehicle during combat
Spc. Eric R. Sieger, 18, of Layton, Utah, died Feb. 1
at Buritz, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his Bradley
Fighting Vehicle rolled over.
These men and women--someone
else's son or daughter, father or mother, husband or wife,
friend or lover--deserve our attention, and the attention of
the news media. As do all the other men and women still in
To the nineteen men and one
woman listed above, who died in the space of a week, and to
all those who have died needlessly before you, may your
lives and sacrifice be recognized, appreciated, and mourned
appropriately. In your memory, in memory of the estimated
650,000 Iraqi civilians who have died since 2003, and for
all those still fighting in, and living amidst, this illegal
war, our rally cry will be: STOP IT NOW.
Debi Smith will continue
reporting on this issue until it is no longer necessary to
do so. If you would like to contribute information about the
lives of the men and women needlessly sacrificed in this
illegal war, please feel free to contact Debi at