Talking of class, I meant to post a link a while back to Robert Kaplan's essay in The Atlantic (possibly subscriber-only) on the cultural divide between reporters and soldiers. His Wall St Journal piece earlier this year on the Marines in Fallujah was a gem.

Apologies if you've already read this, but here's Kaplan's take on the central problem:

"The common denominator among the non-military groups is that they derive from the same elevated social and economic strata of their societies. Even relief workers are often young people from well-off families, motivated by idealism and a desire for adventure. An American journalist would most likely find it easier to strike up a conversation with a relief worker from another Western country than with a U.S. Marine or soldier, especially ifthat Marine or soldier were a noncommissioned officer. This is not necessarily because the journalist and the relief worker share a liberal outlook; a neoconservative pundit would fare no better with the NCO, for example. The NCO is part of another America—an America that the media elite is blind to and alienated from.

I am not talking about the poor. The media establishment has always been solicitous of the poor, and through much fine reporting over the years has become intimately familiar with them. I am talking about the working class and slightly above: that vast, forgotten multitude of Americans, especially between the two cosmopolitan coasts, with whom journalists in major media markets now have fewer and fewer opportunities to engage in a sustained, meaningful way except by embedding with the military.

The U.S. military—particularly at the level of NCOs, who are the guardians of its culture and traditions—is a world of beer, cigarettes, instant coffee, and chewing tobacco. It is composed of people who hunt, drive pickups, use profanity as an element of ordinary speech and yet have a simple, sure, demonstrative belief in the Almighty. Though this is by and large a politically conservative world, neoconservatives might not feel particularly comfortable in it. Some neocons, who have taken democracy and turned it into an ideological ism, wouldn't sit well with Army and Marine civil-affairs and psy-ops officers who pay lip service to new democratic governing councils in Iraq and then go behind their backs to work with traditional sheikhs. The meat-and-potatoes military is about practicalities: it does whatever is necessary to, say, restore stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, Army Special Forces work regularly with undemocratic warlords and tribal militias, and see no contradiction with their own larger belief in democracy. Arguing over abstractions and refining differences between realism and idealism is the luxury of a well-to-do theory class."

Kaplan goes on to discuss Samuel Huntington's recent essay on the gulf between the cosmopolitan elite and the people who do the heavy lifting:

"...The media and the armed forces, respectively, are poster children for these two categories. The world of the media is just as easily defined as that of the military. Journalists are increasingly global citizens. If they themselves do not have European and other foreign passports, their spouses, friends, and acquaintances increasingly do. Whereas the South and the adjacent Bible Belt of the southern Midwest and the Great Plains dominate the military, and the only New Yorkers and Bostonians one is likely to meet in the barracks are from working-class areas, heavily Irish and Hispanic, the urban Northeast, with its frequent air connections to Europe, is where the media cluster. Whereas the military is a lower-middle-class world in which a too-prominent sense of self is frowned on, the journalistic world too often represents the ultimate me, me, me culture of today's international elite.

The military and the media occupy distinct cultural and economic layers. For the military this doesn't really present a problem. Its culture is appropriate to its task, which is to defend the homeland, through the violent use of force if necessary. The troops who do this require nationalism more than they do cosmopolitanism, though a bit more of the latter would certainly be healthy. They also require a religious spirit that is both martial and compassionate, a requirement that the Old Testament orientation of southern evangelicalism satisfies nicely. The soldiers I have met harbor no particular resentments. They are middle-class in their minds, whether or not they are in reality; the military offers a telling demonstration that class resentment is mainly an obsession of the elite.

But the media do have a problem. They are supposed to explain what is happening in a diverse world, which is difficult to do if journalists all hail from the same social and economic background. The media establishment may claim eclectic origins, but whether a journalist grew up in New York or Hong Kong or Mexico City matters less than you might think if in any case he is affluent and well educated: the New Yorker will have more in common with his colleagues from Asia or Latin America than he will with someone from a working-class background in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

To deny that this is an issue for the media is to deny a basic truth of writing... The blue-collar element that once kept print journalism honest has been gone for some time. Journalists of an earlier era may have been less professional, but they were better connected with the rest of the country. The mannered intrigues of the well-heeled Washington and New York media world have come to resemble those of the exclusive Manhattan society that Edith Wharton chronicled a hundred years ago."

|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2004/10/media-vs-military-talking-of-class-i.html|||10/24/2004 11:52:00 am|||||||||