Please go read this deeply moving letter that was printed as an Op-Ed in this morning's Washington Post. It was written by two members of the Air National Guard team that transported the body of Army 1st Lt. Brian Bradshaw from the forward base where he was killed to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Bradshaw was killed on June 25, 2009, the day Michael Jackson died. On July 5, the Post published an eloquent letter from Bradshaw's aunt, Martha Gillis, of Springfield, VA, which criticized the media for offering wall-to-wall coverage of a singer's death while practically ignoring the deaths of Lt. Bradshaw and the several other soldiers who died that week in Afghanistan. Capt. James Adair and Master Sgt. Paul Riley wrote their letter, a detailed account of the hundreds of soldiers from Lt. Bradshaw's company who stood in formation on the runway in total darkness as their plane touched down to retrieve his body, to let the family know that his death had not gone unnoticed or unmourned. Here are a couple of paragraphs, but please go read the whole thing:
Why do you need to interrupt your Web-surfing to click over and read something that will make you cry or otherwise upset you? Several reasons.
Brian's whole company had marched to the site with their colors flying prior to our arrival. His platoon lined both sides of our aircraft's ramp while the rest were standing behind them. As the ambulance approached, the formation was called to attention. As Brian passed the formation, members shouted "Present arms" and everyone saluted. The salute was held until he was placed inside the aircraft and then the senior commanders, the sergeant major and the chaplain spoke a few words.
Afterward, we prepared to take off and head back to our base. His death was so sudden that there was no time to complete the paperwork needed to transfer him. We were only given his name, Lt. Brian Bradshaw. With that we accepted the transfer. Members of Brian's unit approached us and thanked us for coming to get him and helping with the ceremony. They explained what happened and how much his loss was felt. Everyone we talked to spoke well of him -- his character, his accomplishments and how well they liked him. Before closing up the back of the aircraft, one of Brian's men, with tears running down his face, said, "That's my platoon leader, please take care of him."
You need to read it as a penance for every moment you spent reveling in the orgy of coverage of Michael Jackson's death. Yes, he had a significant impact on music, dance, and popular culture, but you have to admit the coverage was wildly out of proportion to anything remotely approximating Jackson's actual significance.
You need to read it because combat deaths are rising in Afghanistan, and none of us is paying careful enough attention. That needs to change. Immediately. Whatever your position on the escalation of troops, you need to face the consequences of the United States expanding its involvement in some of the most dangerous parts of one of the most unstable countries on earth. Earlier this week, in a story about how hard the president is working behind the scenes to get health-care reform passed, White House senior advisor David Axelrod audaciously compared President Obama to Lyndon Johnson for having "a big vision" for the country and "a great appreciation for the legislative process." Let's hope that so far wholly unjustified comparison to LBJ doesn't get born out in another American presidency brought down by its commitment to an unwinnable war.
You need to read it because WaPo needs to see that readers care about such stories. There is disturbing evidence that editorial and staffing decisions, particularly at bastions of print journalism now painfully transitioning to a mostly nonprint environment, are being made on the basis of what gets clicked on and what doesn't. Page-view data seems to have played a role, for example, in the Post's recent decision to terminate Dan Froomkin, a liberal columnist whose blog White House Watch suffered some slump in traffic once Obama took office. If you don't click on stories like this, then you won't see stories like this.
(Of course, another part of the problem is the issue of how easy [or not] it is for readers to find "stories like this" in the online versions of big papers like WaPo and NYT. Moose noticed the story about Lt. Bradshaw because she spent time this morning with the dead-tree edition of the paper, which she no longer does with the same religious dedication she used to have. Had she only read the online version, she likely would not have clicked on the piece because it wasn't well-promoted and the authors weren't names she recognized. Also, part of what grabbed her attention in the dead-tree version of the story was a compelling photo, similar to the one at the top of this post. Moose scoured the Post Web site looking for the image and could not find it. This is a consistent and, to Moose, deeply annoying pattern with WaPo online. Why deny Web readers the visual elements of a story? And why separate images from stories in cheesy galleries of "Photos From Today's Post" that don't, in fact, include all of the photos from today's Post?)
Pardon the rant, but you know how my typist gets when someone thwarts her quest for eye candy. Anyway, go read that story, then come back here and tell us what you think about the escalation of troops in Afghanistan. And while we are ordering your eyeballs around, please do not under any circumstances click on the profile of antiabortion lunatic Randall Terry (no link here) that ran in today's Style section. Shakesville's Melissa McEwan tears the piece to shreds for failing to convey "Terry's intimate association with the exhortation of violence against abortion doctors and his extended history of harassment." Per usual, Liss is spot-on. The article will help to resurrect the career of a man who ought to be consigned to the dustbin of history -- or held accountable for the violence he helped to inspire -- as quickly as possible. It is, as Liss puts it, "gobsmackingly irresponsible." Do not give it a click!
You have your orders, darlings. Obey and be happy. Peace out.