Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The 'Brian Williams' Syndrome: Why Do So Many Exaggerate Being Shot At In Wars?

It seems too many people live lives in quiet desperation and that aren't grandiose enough for their liking. Not content with being merely a news broadcaster, or ordinary retired  Vet (who never actually saw action, as in 'Nam) they make outsized claims for either being in the middle of war zones, or actually taking fire - getting hit. These losers have to know that others can eventually access the truth on their service, or else can find out without too much effort - including going to sound military news sources such as the newspaper 'Stars and Stripes' or by seeking (using FOIA) military service records.

The latest casualty is NBC News honcho Brian Williams who audaciously claimed on Jan. 10 that the helicopter his "team" was traveling in was "forced down after being hit by an RPG". It didn't take long to expose this malarkey, e.g.  when Travis Trenton - an editor for Stars and Stripes - interviewed vets on the mission and flatly stated Williams was in no such chopper, or attack.

According to Trenton:

"To see somebody else trying to take credit for being there....I think it just struck a very personal nerve for them."

As it would for any real vet when a poseur - even another vet who served during the Vietnam War but never actually served in theater, takes credit for being there.

Anyway, forced to recant., apologize and eat crow, Williams has now been forced to take at least a six month leave of absence by his Rockefeller Center bosses. According to a statement released:

"By his actions, Brian has jeopardized the trust millions of Americans place in NBC News. His  actions are inexcusable and this suspension is severe and appropriate."

But given Williams' existing stature one is baffled at why he'd try to pass this offal off and even more, why he thought he'd get away with it. Well, maybe for the same reason some ordinary vet would inflate his own service to actually being in 'Nam and even being wounded there when he was really thousands of miles away in a more benign position - out of harm's way. (Not ever believing that others might have records to show his misrepresentation)

But to me this gets to the heart of the whole military worship meme in this country, which has also manifested in other losers donning military medals or insignia they never earned - to attain some mythical bravado they never accessed in real life.  We call this  medals charade  'stolen valor' and the actual vets who were in those places, and suffered life-threatening wounds in particular operations, have every reason to be infuriated.  They earned their medals and ribbons, the poseurs did not - they only bloviate after buying their paraphernalia at surplus stores or online.

But what drives this misplaced war-rush braggadocio?  I suspect it is the climate in the country after 13 years of military engagements and the still prevalent post-9/11 meme that feeds and fuels a false patriotism. But the recent occupations are only the tip of the iceberg. According to a recent paper  in  the June 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.  (Also available as free PDF here.):

 there have been 248 armed conflicts involving the U.S. and in 153 locations, since the end of World Ward II.  Looking at any other  hypothetical nation that had been so frequently active in wars, no one would hesitate to cast the label "war monger" or "war like".   But instead, we adopt the mantle of pseudo-morality and beat our breasts as the "policeman" of the world. But in a planet of so many diverse conflict sources, infinite resources would be required to police all 200 odd nations all the time. And let's face it, we are in no position to do that.

All this military emphasis  then leads to the military being unduly worshipped, and the troops - no matter how menial their service, adulated like freaking gods. Let us bear in mind, first, that these troops volunteered for this service - in whatever guise it came. They weren't drafted as most were during the Vietnam War.

No one, certainly not me, begrudges them their benefits, but this should not include hyper-adulation or special public attention which - let's face it - is bound to induce the "not so grand" wannabe warriors to over-brag and even citizens who happen to be in war zones to hype their experiences (like Brian Williams).  If we don't tamp down this disease of militarism we will all be for the high jump. As the paper cited above notes:

"Militarism is intercalated into many aspects of life in the United States and, since the military draft was eliminated, makes few overt demands of the public except the costs in taxpayer funding. Its expression, magnitude, and implications have become invisible to a large proportion of the civilian population, with little recognition of the human costs or the negative image held by other countries. Militarism has been called a 'psychosocial disease,' making it amenable to population-wide interventions. . . .

The United States is responsible for 41% of the world's total military spending."

What we need in this nation is a major mental overhaul and attitude adjustment where we can see people emphasizing helping others in peace zones - like Kayla Mueller did (or thousands of Peace Corps volunteers) instead of bragging about being "warriors" in wars they never actually fought in. Sadly, movies like the still showing "American Sniper" don't help advance this positive aid incentive - but merely make it more difficult to achieve by glorifying a run amuck militarism.

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