Outsourced war in Afghanistan wins only a thin slice of America’s attention

The New York Times reports:

The grueling war [in Afghanistan], where a day rarely goes by without an allied casualty, is like a faint heartbeat, accounting for just 4 percent of the nation’s news coverage in major outlets through early December, according to a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, an arm of the Pew Research Center.

That is down slightly from last year, when the war accounted for 5 percent.

“It’s never passed the threshold to be a big story week in, week out for Americans,” said Mark Jurkowitz, the associate director of the project.

One senior foreign correspondent for television, when told of the 4 percent coverage figure, said he was impressed — given the relatively small contingent of foreign journalists in Afghanistan.

“There are like seven of us there,” remarked the correspondent, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to call into question his network’s commitment to the war. Those who are there have done courageous work, exposing corruption and documenting military progress in rooting out insurgents.

The low levels of coverage reflect the limitations on news-gathering budgets and, some say, low levels of interest in the war among the public. About a quarter of Americans follow news about Afghanistan closely, according to recent surveys by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

“Inside the United States, you’ve got audiences that are beginning to suffer from war fatigue,” said Tony Maddox, who oversees international coverage for CNN.

Mr. Maddox said CNN had “worked very hard” to make the war resonate with viewers, sometimes through human interest stories. “It’s always the eternal challenge in terms of international coverage: making the important interesting,” he said.

The only kind of war that has an audience is someone else’s war — which is what America’s wars have become for Americans. And for a CNN executive to say that his viewers are suffering from “war fatigue” is to employ a perverse euphemism. No one suffers fatigue while watching a war from their couch — they simply become bored.

No wonder the antiwar movement has struggled to enlist wide support when those who oppose the war are so vastly outnumbered by those who have next to no interest in the war.

Only in a nation that has “outsourced” war — which is to say, normalized war as a governmental activity that can be handled by a dedicated workforce — can a nation’s war become someone else’s war.

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1 thought on “Outsourced war in Afghanistan wins only a thin slice of America’s attention

  1. Nemo

    “There are like seven of us there,” remarked the correspondent, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to call into question his network’s commitment to the war. Those who are there have done courageous work, exposing corruption and documenting military progress in rooting out insurgents.”

    So that’s what it is really about – we and our army are doing good work; they are bad.

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