Madison County Opinion...

OCTOBER 22, 2003


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
October 22, 2003

Frankly Speaking

Why not hire mercenaries to fight for us?
There are not many things I admire about the French, but they did have one good idea. They hire international mercenaries to do their fighting for them.
You have all heard of the French Foreign Legion. This famous military organization fought France’s wars around the world. It was made up of volunteers from around the world. They were not allowed to function inside France. They didn’t even have training facilities there.
Yet France depended on them to carry out their world wide military and diplomatic programs. Legionnaires fought in Northern Africa, Southeast Asia and in other areas where France wanted to extend their influence.
I am of the opinion that the U.S. should have such a force to handle our foreign adventures. If we had a paid Foreign Legion, with American officers, fighting the terrorist in Iraq we would not be hearing of these daily American deaths there. Our Congressional cry babies would have less reason to complain. By eliminating our forces as targets, we would likely solve the problems of the Middle East more quickly.
The use of mercenary soldiers is an old idea. England brought along a group of German mercenaries to help them fight George Washington’s Continental Army. We, on the other hand, used French mercenaries. How weird is that? Many of the recent wars in Southern Africa involved mercenaries from Cuba and other Latin American countries.
In the past, mercenary armies have proven to be less expensive. An army made up of international adventurers, trained and based entirely outside our borders would be subject to pay more in line with the region they occupy. Housing, food and clothing would also come from the local economy, giving them a boost, and reducing our cost.
We are bombarded with images of unemployed, starving people around the world that need our help. We are encouraged to donate money to help feed these unfortunate people. Why not put them to work. Let them earn the money we give them. Enlist them into the American Foreign Legion. Use our superb military training techniques to provide then with a solid basic education and motivation. They would gain great self confidence, earn money for their families and communities, and help extend American influence around the world without risking the lives of America’s most valuable citizens.
A mercenary army would eliminate the need to disrupt the nation’s economic and civic life by taking away our valuable reservist at a time when the economy is trying to recover. It would give those people who seek to enter our nation illegally a place to go outside our borders. A mercenary army would save American money and lives while accomplishing our national goals.
I urge Congress to at least consider this idea.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net.

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
October 22, 2003

In The Meantime

How do you define ‘the media?’
It’s there to view in the check-out line as you buy the butter for your bread: Is J-Lo cheating? Is Tom Cruise gay? Are these 12 senators really aliens?
Durn tabloid media.
Get home, turn the TV on to the Atlanta news, to the man with perfectly combed hair who warns you not to turn the channel during the commercial break because, “You’ll want to know what’s really on your apples.”
Durn television media.
Pick up your newspaper, read about the council meeting you were at, remark to yourself, “That’s not how I saw it.”
Durn local media.
We often take a “we’ve been wronged” outlook toward “the media.”
Even I do at times — and I’m part of “the media,” though I consider myself an individual, not an appendage to some faceless, blob-of-a-thing that is the much-maligned “media.”
Truth is, there are countless things wrong with “the media.” And I don’t exclude myself from that. Because all “media” are inherently flawed, just as all people are.
It should be recognized too that any sort of creative production — be it a television news show, a newspaper, a radio show — involves judgment calls at every turn. We expect objectivity from journalists, but subjectivity is unavoidable at every angle. For instance, there are countless subjective questions I must ask myself during the process of putting out a paper and after it’s done. A lot of times, there’s no clear answer to questions such as: What should be emphasized? How do I phrase this? Yes, he said that, but have I provided the proper context? Does this headline match the actual significance of the story? Is this really fair? Have I provided enough information? Have I provided too much information?
We often hear people say “you can’t believe what you read in the newspaper.” The natural response is to be defensive, but I think in all humility, any journalist who cares about truth will admit their shortcomings, will notice that there is a high degree of subjectivity inherent in a job that is ideally objective, that their perspective of truth may not mesh with another’s perspective of truth. They will certainly admit that they can be wrong, but assert with conviction that they diligently strive to be right.
Our society focuses a lot on the shortcomings of media. There are many things to note, both among individual journalists and the organizations they work for. On a broad scale, how can we not be disturbed by a common tendency of many news outlets to focus on what’s titillating, what’s provocative, instead of what’s less sexy but more important? How can we not be bothered by the obvious aim of many organizations to cut corners for profit instead of focusing on quality?
Many are alarmed by what they see as a liberal media bias, seeing news agencies as simple propaganda mouthpieces for left-wing idealists. Others say big media are nothing more than corporate cronies who cow-tow to the national conservative leadership base.
Truth is, “the media” are both and neither. There is complexity in “the media.” Media include our society at its ugliest and its best, the most prurient and the most pure. Because you can find whatever you want if you look, magazines and books of true value or truly trashy stuff that pollutes the mind. You can tag whatever definition you like to “the media” and be both right and wrong.
“Media” include news outlets that make a genuine effort to drive down the middle-of-the-road (the attempt may fail at times in your eyes, but there are those who make a real effort for objectivity). If you want right-wing spin, you got it, left-wing spin, it’s there to be viewed. You can find quick, fast-food news or news that takes a couple of hours to read but provides a degree of context to many of the happenings in the world.
It’s obvious that there’s a two-way street in societal communications.
And too many prefer to ignore their end of the bargain, their responsibility in seeking an educated perspective. Instead they sit tired in front of the TV with remote in hand, mad at “the media” for all of its obvious ugliness. They are right to notice the failings of perspective, the sensationalism, the lack of substance — all of that is there.
But they should remember too, that if their judgment ends there, then they have assumed the easy role of “victim” to “the media.” They have also shortchanged many who have genuinely good-hearted aims. There are plenty of people in “the media” working hard in anonymity, writing, recording and photographing life both near and far away. They document the simple beauties and the complex horrors of this world. In doing so, they often fail, but sometimes they succeed brilliantly.
To dismiss all of those efforts, to hold up the remote and simply say “the durn media is awful” without ever shutting off the TV and trying to seek something better, without ever opening magazines or reading non-fiction books that feature writers of true skill — if you find yourself casting such an easy judgment, then your words are more a statement about your own lack of effort than an indictment of the media as a whole.
When we speak of “the media,” we must look not only at what slaps us in the face, the “no way, he’s gay?” tabloid cover.
It seems important to look inwardly too, does it not? Does our view of “the media” not also reflect the effort we put into educating ourselves about the world? Are we really doing much to inform ourselves if the movement of our thumb on the remote is the only energy we expend?
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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