Monday, July 20, 2009

Sit Down and Shut Up (redux)

The department of Defense has made it clear that when an enemy takes an American hostage, it is better not to talk about it publicly. There are several reasons for this, the most obvious being that it makes negotiations much more complicated. If you remember, US government policy is that we don’t negotiate with terrorists. The most recent example of the benefit of keeping a kidnapping quiet was when NYTimes reporter David Rohde was taken, it was kept pretty quiet – there was little or no conversation and since the public didn’t know and was paying no attention, he was actually able to escape. The NYTimes said that they felt going public could increase the danger to the victims.

This morning, I was watching CNN talk about the kidnapping of 23 year old PFC Bowe R Bergdahl. The Defense Department has asked the media to back off, and the family has asked for privacy, but for about 20 minutes, CNN talked about, speculated and yammered non-stop about the danger this young man is in. They interviewed one ‘expert’ who explained (ad nauseum) how a minor Taliban group often sells a hostage to a larger Taliban group and then that group will make the kidnapping an issue. Needless to say, the conversation then turned to selling hostages. Next was the speculation about where PFC Bergdahl was sold, and how the only solution was for the US Government to go in a save him—wherever he was. Throughout the broadcast were tapes of PFC Bergdahl eating and talking about how frightened he was about never seeing his family again. It was heartbreaking, and, of course, that’s why they kept running it.

While it is true that the Taliban released the tape and wanted this kidnapping to be a national issue, the fact that this network is speculating about who, what and where, and trying to make it their big story (you know, the ‘we own that story’, approach to journalism where there is all talk and no judgment ) may be putting this young man’s life in more danger. There are certainly the ‘public has a right to know’ arguments. But if you look at what happened when no one knew about David Rohde and what is happening with Bowe Bergdahl, you have to pause and ask what may make the most sense. We’re just sayin’…Iris

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