May 30, 2006

Hack Week


"The city they [sailors on Fleet Week shore leave] are visiting is... nothing like the one experienced by the untold thousands of sailors in untold thousands of ships who have come before them over the decades. Once it was strip clubs and bars and tattoo parlors and girls. And while there still may be some of that, sailors who sauntered around Midtown on Memorial Day gave some surprising answers when asked how they experience New York City in the two or three short days they are here. They mentioned frozen cappuccinos, and Off Broadway, and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, and architecture — specifically, terra cotta facades." —The New York Times, May 30, 2006

"The petty officers were going to disappoint those who think the nation's sailors are a hard-drinking, loutish bunch. In a cab downtown, their discussion focused on their husbands (both Navy men), the latest 'Star Wars' movie, Crate and Barrel versus Pottery Barn and that stalwart of conversation — shoes." —The New York Times, May 28, 2005

"It was barely past noon yesterday and already the three seamen were in a room full of scantily clad, statuesque women... Mr. Zima and two of his shipmates were eyeing a woman who goes by the name Andromeda. Full-figured, but coolly professional. They found her at one of New York City's finest topless joints -- the Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art... Mr. Zima and his buddies had already done Wall Street, Chinatown, the Guggenheim Museum ("Everything was upside down," one of them said) and had come to the Metropolitan mostly to check out the medieval armor. There were others at the museum besides Mr. Zima and his friends. Larry Brantley, 38, a chief electrician on the aircraft carrier America, was wandering among the Impressionists... These guys are sailors. Aren't they supposed to be out drinking and ripping up the town?" —The New York Times, May 27, 1995

"There were also new-age sailors, the fighting men and women who said they avoid not only strong drink but also high-cholesterol foods. For instance, Vernon L. Black of Pittsburgh, a third-class petty officer on the Kennedy, said he spent much of Thursday browsing through the New York City Public Library." —The New York Times, May 29, 1993

"Two officers from the carrier decided to skip the bars and burlesque of Times Square and headed straight for the epicenter of Manhattan sophistication, grabbing ringside seats on the outdoor terrace of Le Relais on Madison Avenue at 63d Street." —The New York Times, June 10, 1991

Posted by Daniel Radosh


I think this proves that Don't Ask/Don't Tell isn't working out for either side.

All it proves is that the Times' general opinion of the military hasn't changed since at least 1991.

You could imagine the thought process: Everyone joins the military only to kill, right? Only brutish thugs and low-brow low-lifes would do a thing like that, right? (You can almost hear John Kerry droning, "...in a manner reminiscent of Genghis Khan...") And what kinds of recreation would that sort like?

This is why the Times is perpetually surprised when members of the armed forces don't live up to that stereotype. They cannot believe that intelligent young people with wide ranging interests would join.

Michael: As a hack reporter myself, I can safely say that your cyncism, while justified, is about 30 degrees off. That is, the reporters and editors aren't genuinely surprised. They know very well that lots of sailors don't fit the stereotype and go looking for them, because they think both the stereotype and the breaking of it are funny. It's condescending, sure, but not quite in the way you put it, which would better fit the readers (if there are any) who eat these articles up every few years.

You're right- I at first couldn't figure if it was the writers' view of the military, or of its readers, and decided on the former. The latter is more probable on reflection, but it's still irksome.

I don't think it's either the writers' view or the readers' view; I think it's the writers' (or editors') assumption of the readers' view.


I thought that's what I wrote, but I can see now how it's ambiguous.

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