06 February 2007

Friendly Fire

The headline news item here in the UK today has been a story about friendly fire. US "tankbuster" aircraft fired on a British convoy in Iraq in 2003, killing one British soldier and injuring 4 others.

The US government subsequently refused to release information it had to a British inquest so that the family of the British solider could have information about the circumstances of his death. A video taken from the US aircraft was somehow leaked to British press and the recording was shown on the evening news.

If you read the Tabloid papers or watched the news this morning, there was a definite "them and us" feeling to how this was reported. "We" were the good British good guys and "they" were the American bad guys, and there was an unspoken and never-articulated implication that the American pilot had unconcernedly fired on the British convoy.

Except when the full video was broadcast on the evening news.

The papers and television are widely quoting one of the American pilots saying "We're in jail dude". The bits that are not being widely quoted were the American pilot expressing extreme regret and saying "I'm going to be sick" when it was reported back to him that he'd bombed the British tank unit.

I'm both British and American so I naturally don't want to get into "Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys". I do think it wrong of the US government for having tried to keep the information classified.

What I'm intrigued about, though, is the fact that the British press seems to want to spin this story to make out as if the American pilot didn't care.

I don't think this is institutionalised anti-Americanism in the UK. I think it's the sinful human propensity to want to make other people into enemies and bad-guys. We want nice, simple dualistic categories and don't much like to deal with tragedy. It seems to me that the lives of a number of people were ruined that day and a tragic - and yes, probably avoidable - accident happened. There is no clear "bad guy" here and no evil monster, so the press simply omits the information that puts a tragic human face on the US pilot.

If some of us can have some natural sympathy for an American and we can see how the press has spun the story to portray him as potentially evil, could we entertain the possibility that maybe some of the other people who we simplistically categorise as evil might also possibly be human too?

3 comments:

Beyond Words said...

It's also irresponsible journalism. The media are so into generating hype--they spin things any way they want to get ratings. I'm cynical, I guess.

Rev Scott said...

I find myself feeling the same way about our President at times. Assuming that he's just evil or ignorant is the cheap and easy path - but it tempts many of us nonetheless. The fact that someone may disagree with us does not automatically create a corollary of their evil nature. But it's easier to think that way. Thanks for this.

PamBG said...

Thanks for your reflection, rev scott. I could have written every word of your post and it is, indeed, food for thought.