Dear Correspondents

Isn't It Hard to Blow Off Steam With Your Head Stuck Way Up There?

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This is to the angry, the disappointed and the suspicious. It's also to the bigots and morons. I hope it helps, because it won't soon happen again.

I'm going to make some comments about the Army recruiting column. They should be unnecessary, because my words were quite clear. Nonetheless, in the interest of clarity I'll say a few more things.

Let's start with the predominant theme of the letters I've received: that you do not wish for my opinion column to be tainted by my... opinion. Well, that's obviously stupid.

As to whether my "personal politics" color my analysis, well, maybe they do. But I would be a sorry analyst if I didn't let what I think influence what I think. Not that I much injected my "personal politics" into the piece. I said Iraq was a catastrophic war. Is there anyone who thinks differently? I said that the US Army was lowering its standards to meet its recruiting goals. That is a fact, corrobrated by the US Army. I said that John Kerry, in muttering something about the least educated getting stuck in Iraq, "wasn't entirely wrong." He wasn't. Just look at the demographics of who is dying and get back to me.

But, of course, some readers are incapable of processing somebody else's opinion if it doesn't entirely coincide with their own worldview -- and if it doesn't, they start sputtering labels and accusations grounded more in their own anger than the actual text.

Somehow, "John Kerry... wasn't entirely wrong" becomes twisted into John Kerry is my hero and all our troops are nitwits and fools for serving their country." It comical/terrifying how those who complain about "media bias" ignore text, twist facts, invents motive and otherwise discard intellectual honesty in launching their screeds.

In what way, for instance, does observing that the Army is lowering its standards equal an insult to the courage or dedication of our fighting men and women? Where does that leap come from? I can actually answer that: It comes from hitting "send" too soon. In point of fact, the only words I had on the subject were as follows:

"Under the circumstances, then, McCann managed to fill the bill – focusing on the character benefits flowing from service and esprit de corps. These, after all, are not nothing."

But getting back to the question of contaminating my opinion with opinion. My methodology was the same as I've employ on almost every other of the thousands of AdReviews I've done in the past 21 years. I look at the advertising in the context of thge market conditions. Here I did no more, no less. Furthermore, my observations were absolutely consistent with the many other columns I've written about Army recruiting over the years, in war and peace. Furtherfurthermore, to the several correspondents who guessed I had always rated Army ads low, just because they were for the Army -- then rambled on as if their hallucinations were fact -- I have several time sawarded 3 stars or more. This one was 2 1/2 stars out of four. My previous one was 4 stars out of four.

Of all the criticism of my criticism, the only point with validity is the question of whether McCann should have made some reference to the Iraq war. Several people thought that my take was idiotic, as if next I'll be asking cigarette makers to talk about cancer and McDonald's to talk about saturated fat.

Advertising, they said, is about putting your best foot forward, not about going on truth serum. It's about why TO join the Army, not about why NOT to.

But, of course, these writers make my point for me. Those advertisers DO talk about the down side of their products, because conditions have forced them to. And the reason McCann should have done so, is because by ignoring the war, these ads only succeed in calling attention to it. It's so conspicuous by its absense that nothing else registers -- whereas a few scenes of actual deployment would have broken that tension, made the whole appeal seem more honest and, not incidentally, heightened the appeal to service.

Concerning the word "casualties." A number of people accused me of exaggerating, but they are flatly, unequivocally wrong. Casualties = dead + wounded. Always has. One final thing. At least one writer asserted I don't know what it is to be an American. Yes, I do. It means above all else to be free, especially the freedom to speak your mind. THAT -- not a pack of government lies -- is what our young men and women have died for in battle for 230 years. And anyone who thinks speaking your mind is un-American himself does not know what it is to be an American. On the contrary, such a person is a fool.
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