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Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day

Memo to staff:

These points should be obvious, but please observe the following basic conventions in your reporting.

* Always refer to U.S. soldiers using the possessive pronoun “our.”

* Always refer to all of our U.S. troops as “heroes.”

* Always refer to their actions in war as “service.”

* Always refer to their actions in war as “sacrifice” and their deaths in war the “ultimate sacrifice.”

* Always refer to their actions anywhere as “defending our country (or Homeland)” and fighting for “us.” Acknowledge our “debt” to them.

* Always, no matter what the cause or war theater, aver that the soldiers are always “defending our freedoms.”

*Always express gratitude and appreciation; always thank U.S. soldiers from commanders on down for their “service,” whether in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq or wherever.

Sample model statement, following an interview with a retired general hired as a consultant: “Well, General, we’d like to thank you and all our heroes in the service for your sacrifice defending our freedoms.” Consider this basic etiquette.

Say this sort of thing so often that it gets rooted in the viewer’s mind as the correct default interpretation. The point is to unite people of all political persuasions to accept this correct mindset and show commercial sponsors that our network is appropriately patriotic.

Never affect a position that distances you from our patriotic audience, for example, referring to “the” soldiers (as opposed to “our” soldiers) or avoiding the terminology specified above.

Never suggest that the U.S. military has slaughtered millions of innocent people since 1945, or that this is un-heroic and does not serve the interests of the people of this country.

Never opine that tens of thousands of U.S. troops have in fact died in vain, for wrong or even criminal causes.

Never express empathy for the soldiers who come back from wars feeling anything but heroes, guilt-stricken about the suffering they were forced to inflict, driven to substance abuse and suicide-prone.

Be aware that exceptionalism is this and every other mainstream network’s official position. Never imply a moral equivalence between our troops and those of any other country, suggesting for example that Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s were heroes fighting for their country in the same way that U.S. forces had been heroes in Vietnam a decade before. Or compare them to the German troops who fought for their country by invading Russia in 1940. Indicate in all your coverage that U.S. troops are unlike all others good by definition.

And never, ever be so foolish as to quote Karl Marx to the effect that the working people in every country really “have no country” to defend—-until they acquire political supremacy.

Such departures from the rules will get you fired and your career will be over in this free country, kept free by our heroes’ sacrifice. Your cooperation is appreciated.

More articles by:

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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