29 February 2008

An Alum responds to fellowearlimites "counter-recruitment " in our Highschools.

edit: Earlier when I posted this I forgot to take out a bit involving my suspicion about why the article I responded too was not in the online version of The Word specifically I called it Orwellian. I apologize as I did talk to the editor of the paper and we worked out why that was. It was a misunderstanding on my part. Again I apologize for not deleting that portion when I orginally posted the artcle earlier this morning.
I am told that the article that I am responding to will eventually be up at link above.
Recently in the Earlham Word I foud an article on Counter-recruitment (military recruiters) that was just badly written and clearly biased and in no way interested in helping students get solid info on joining the military. It seems to me as if the article is against the idea. Anyway here is my response.

An Alum takes issue with
“Counter-recruitment” and its heroes
It was with great disappointment (if not great surprise) that the lead story in the February 15th edition of The Earlham Word should be a negative one about the military. Specifically that it should be about that most mythical and evil beast, the military recruiter, is even less surprising.

The maligning of military recruiters is one of the older maneuvers of the anti-war movement. It is such a stand-by I suppose that the heroes of Bennett Murray’s article, Stephanie Scheurich and Mica Whitney, are permitted to present the most negative opinions as if they are facts. “Recruiters are allowed to say anything,” for instance slides by Murray with nary even “an according to.” While it is certainly true that recruiters are salespersons for the military one might look deeper into their biases toward the institution than the Michael Moore style of analysis adopted by Murray Bennett, Stephanie Scheurcih and Mica Whitney. In any event recruiters are not “paid to lie” and, as anyone who has visited MEPS (Military Enlistment and Processing Service) will tell you recruiters can find themselves in quite a lot of trouble for having done so. It isn’t that recruiting isn’t high pressure, or that recruiters aren’t salesmen. It is and they are. It’s a tough business and they sell a product that requires serious commitments of time, and effort attached to a concomitant ration of risk. The problem with the Murray article and the analysis of Scheurich and Whitney is that it is shallow and at least as biased as they claim recruiters are.
Adding to their credibility woes is the fact that this the article rather disingenuously represents the motivations of the Scheurich and Whitney and as such has them talking out of both sides of their mouths. At times “they want to represent the other side” (of what I wonder), and “provide them [recruits] with information about other scholarship programs, programs…so they can get money for things other than killing people.” In the next paragraph they accuse recruiters of exaggerating and misrepresenting the educational and vocational benefits of the military, while in almost the breath they engage in the very same thing with AmeriCorps and these “other scholarships.” Later in the article Murray thinks he is providing balance by noting that Scheurich “never actually took a stance against enlistment. ‘It’s OK for people to go into the military. We just want them to go into the military knowing exactly what they’re expecting, and knowing more than military recruiters tell them.” Never mind, I guess, that this is categorically not what the counter-recruiting organizations claim to be about. The AFSC’s Youth and Militarism (www.afsc.org/youthmil/counter-recruitment/default.htm) and the Washington D.C. based Counter-Recruitment (www.counter-recruitment.org) are both openly and simply anti-war. It will not be lost on you that being “OK” with people joining the military and being part of the established anti-war movement (“Stop War Where It Starts!” was one slogan I found on the D.C. based site) is either an example of extra-ordinary cognitive dissonance or a calculated obfuscation of the truth. It could be that Whitney and Scheurich are creating their own counter-recruitment movement but it would be hard to tell since they seem to spout the same bromides.
What is really infuriating about the piece is the level of condescension and hypocrisy exhibited toward the poor not just Whitney and Scheurich but with the entirety of counter-recruitment movement. They accuse the military of disproportionately targeting the poor while they themselves cravenly use the wretched poor to garner sympathy for their case and their cause. They cite various statistics on what tax brackets get the most representation without any analysis as to why this might be the case. It is impossible to miss their unstated implication that poor people are obviously too stupid to figure out what a scam it all is. Their worry about Wayne County and its contingent of poor people could not possibly contain more condescension or shallowness. Why poorer families, and poor people might join military just isn’t a question counter-recruitment is interested in asking. The benefits of military employment are not reviewed, I would guess because neither the author, nor the proponents of counter-recruitment have a clue what those consolations might be.
They toss around ideas like AmeriCorp, or college scholarships as if that will solve the problems of people who may have squandered high school, have no skills or need health insurance right now. The military appeals to poor people because it will train you and pay you modestly well while providing a host of benefits. Honorable discharge is a strong reward, or twenty years followed by a decent retirement package. Recruiters have more success with poor people because the military-risks and all- is a good deal for poor people. It isn’t that poor people don’t know the risks; most of those people accept those risks as part of the deal. The hollow pretense of the anti-war movement’s concern for poor people is itself a deeply depressing joke. The movement is itself biased enough to force continued poverty on the poor to further its own morally bankrupt pacifism.
Scheurich and Whitney are of course correct that the military has lower representation in the upper middle and wealthier classes. The reasons for this are plentiful but also unexplored. It is easier for the wealthier of our societies to pay for college, health care and all the other little perks that come from proximity to wealth. Certainly many parents in such homes actively discourage enlistment. Such people have less to gain, or at least perceive fewer gains from military enlistment. It is easier to sit on the fence about the military when you sit from the comfortable vantage point of security. It is easier to see its faults. It is easier still to find fault when looking through the myopic lens of a wooly-headed ideology.
I am always struck by this poverty deflection when it is offered by my rabidly anti-war/anti-military friends. It is one of the default talking points designed to show how evil, callous, cruel, and let me not forget racist the military, in fact, is. The military doesn’t use poor people because it regards them as expendable cannon fodder. They use them because the wealthier members of our society won’t enlist. I suspect this is terrible for the military and terrible for the defense of our country. My challenge to my fellow liberals when they complain about the rotten way the military hires the poor and the “disenfranchised” is to go take their place. The military is in desperate need of people with formal education. You would be welcome. On the following point I do agree with Whitney and Scheurich go into the recruiter informed and knowing what it is you want to do. And if you can’t get what you want walk away. It isn’t for everyone, and you want to give it more thought than any other job you may want to consider. For advice and information on the military visit: http://military.com .
Earlham’s stance against allowing recruiters on campus is at odds with its mission to provide exchanges of ideas and opportunities to its students. This is especially so if it is going to allow organizing and speaking against the military. Earlham’s stance represents a tacit admission that its own mores are not up to the task of dealing with the arguments that disagree. It proves itself insular, incapable, and frightened of change. In so doing it deprives the military, and the country of valuable leadership, knowledge and experience in an institution that is constantly in need of fresh insight, and ideas. I understand that Earlham’s history is deeply steeped in Quaker religious tradition. But tradition especially religiously derived, is in no way a guarantor of right, or just action. It is simply a recipe for unthinking, reflexive stances and sanctimony. But not only is it depriving students a chance to hear ideas that might make them think more thoroughly about their own position, it is depriving military institutions highly qualified leaders, leaders that might make a crucial difference between a bad policy and a just one. The military benefits, like most institutions do, from a diversity of backgrounds, educations and perspectives. Earlham in particular and the liberal arts program in general offers a wide and comprehensively deep education to any potential officer a designation for which all college grads are eligible.
The military needs smart, worldly officers that know, or can quickly come to understand the conflcts now flaring across the globe.

edit: Earlier when I posted this I forgot to take out a bit involving my suspicion about why the article I responded too was not in the online version of The Word specifically I called it Orwellian. I apologize as I did talk to the editor of the paper and we worked out why that was. It was a misunderstanding on my part. Again I apologize for not deleting that portion when I orginally posted the artcle earlier this morning.

10 Comments:

At 11:20 AM , Anonymous Bennett Murray said...

This comment is my initial reaction. I'll probably respond in next week's addition in the Word.

To begin, I'd like to inform you that your entire response is based on an erroneous assumption. When I wrote my article, I walked around eggshells to try to avoid putting my own politics into the article. Well, I did it a bit too well it seems.

I'm going to now take off my journalist gloves, and give my personal take on the issue:

I am not opposed to military recruitment, and I agree with many of your criticisms of the counter-recruitment movement. While I support the idea of informing potential recruits of all the facts of the case before they make such an important commitment, I found the counter-recruitment movement at Earlham too polemical and partisan for my own tastes.

Now, onto your critique:

You accuse me of presenting "the most negative opinions as if they are facts."

“'Recruiters are allowed to say anything,' for instance slides by Murray with nary even “an according to,” your proclaim.

As I read the article in front of me, I can see that I used the word "said." It is an uncontrovertible fact that Scheurich "said" those things to me, and is therefore a completely objective word choice. (Actually, my original article used the word "claimed", but my editors decided it was too slanted.)

As for the merits of what she "said," someone else who shares her opinion can defend the politics of my interviewees. My job is to report what was "said," which I feel I did acurately.

You also lump me into your accusations of "condescension and hypocrisy" when I quoted statistics of the representation of various economic brackets in the armed forces. Actually, those statistics were gathered on my part, and in my opinion, suggested that the claims of Whitney and Scheurich to be exaggerated. I mentioned that the highest representation in the Army came from the $45,000 to $49,000 income range. "In contrast," I go on to explain, "the median household income is $47,837." With all those numbers well above the poverty line and roughly corresponding with the national median income, that entire paragraph actually seems to support your (our?) argument.

You further said that the benefits of military employment are not reviewed in my article. I must ask you, did you stop reading the article following my account of the interview with Scheurich and Whitney? Let me highlight a few selections:

Earlham Professor of History Chuck Yates, who was enlisted in the Navy from 1966 to 1970, said that he recieved substantial student aid after he returned to civilian life.
"I went back to college and got G.I. Bill money," said Yates. "It made it possible for me to finish college.


And there's this part:

While Yates didn't argue in favor of enlisting during a war, he mentioned that his experiences in the military benefited him later in life.
"When I came back from Vietnam and went back to school, I didn't spend any time worrying about the grades I was getting, because I knew that it just didn't matter, because that's not why I was in school. I think I probably could have figured that out without going to Vietnam," admitted Yates, "but Vietnam certainly put things like that into perspective, and that's definitely a benefit."


May I also remind you that the last couple paragraphs were devoted to an interview with an Army recruiter? That certainly isn't something I'd waste my time with if I were the propaganda outlet you paint me to be. Furthermore, I clearly state the benefits of the Montgomey G.I. Bill in the article's sixth paragraph.

If you don't think the subject of counter-recruitment is newsworthy, that's your own opinion. But it's something that Earlham students are interested in, and therefore something that I chose to cover as objectively as possible. I feel that you're shooting the messenger.

 
At 1:29 PM , Blogger Max II said...

Bennett,
The recruiter responded cooly. This seems to me to slant against the recruiter. Cooly as if he has something to hide, not something that had been established by any thing said by Mica and Stephanie or supported in the Word article itself. If the paper thought that "claimed" was too strong a word then why did they let "cooly" slide by. There is a neat question for you to ponder. I don't know, "said" and "responded cooly" seems not of the same tenor. But then again I don't wear journalistic gloves.

I was confused by you poverty statistics myself as it did not help their case but I thought it did come from them. That we can chalk up to poor writing on your part.

Moving on. You did talk to Chuck and that was good. But by wasting alot of space on Yate's 1960s experience you didn't really address the issues raised by Mica and Stephanie. Moreover you give the impression that they are closer to right than wrong on this issue. And yes you did talk to a recruiter but certainly didn't give him a forum to attend to the claims made by the counter-recruitment heroes. Did you just not ask him about that?

I do appreciate that you are trying to be balanced but since the article was about military recuritment and you give very little time to the recruiter and note his response was "cooly' given and offer no such editorial business on M and S you can understand perhaps why I find, and found your article to be slanted more against recruitment than a middle of the road treatment, or even a balanced look at counter recruitment.

Nor did I say that counter recruitment shouldn't be reported on. It should be. I am interested in it as well.
Good day.
-Max

 
At 3:05 PM , Anonymous Bennett Murray said...

The recruiter responded cooly. This seems to me to slant against the recruiter.

At this point, you're deliberately interpreting anything I write as being slanted against recruiters for the sake of defending your argument. The fact of the matter was that I had asked the recruiter to his face whether or not people like him were dishonest, and thus his resposne was best described as "cool." Given the fact I was writing an article on counter-recruitment for a college that is known for its sometimes militant leftism, I don't think many people would find his "cool" response uncalled for.

For the record, I've spoken with the recruiter since the article came out, and he wasn't displeased at all. He even asked me to drop by sometime to say hi.

I was confused by you poverty statistics myself as it did not help their case but I thought it did come from them. That we can chalk up to poor writing on your part.

Here's the paragraph:

"With promises of money for college and job training, some accuse the military of disproportionately targeting the poor. According to the National Priorities Project, active-duty Army recruits from neighborhoods with a median income between $30,000 and $59,000 were over-represented in 2007, with the highest over-representation in the $45,000 to $49,999 bracket (in contrast, the median household income is $47,837)."

I really couldn't have made the source any more clear.

But by wasting alot of space on Yate's 1960s experience you didn't really address the issues raised by Mica and Stephanie. Moreover you give the impression that they are closer to right than wrong on this issue. And yes you did talk to a recruiter but certainly didn't give him a forum to attend to the claims made by the counter-recruitment heroes. Did you just not ask him about that?


While writing an article, I can only go with the information avaliable. I spent a good half hour at Richmond's recruitment center speaking with Sgt. Glass, but he wasn't very engaged, constantly repeated himself, and went off on tangents. "Perception is what it is" was what he responded to most of my questions with.

Admittedly, the article does focus on the counter-recruiters. But at a college where there's not even a Young Republicans club, I can't make pro-recruitment viewpoints come out of the blue. As it was, I managed to find two people who were less than thrilled with the counter-recruitment, and I did the best to represent that side with the information they gave me. Again, don't blame the messenger.

Actually, most of the time I spent on the article was dedicated to tracking down opposing opinions to counter-recruitment. Within one day of getting assigned the story, I had already completed my research into Earlham's counter-recruitment movement. The rest of the week was spent tracking down other viewpoints.

 
At 4:09 PM , Blogger Max II said...

Bennett,
I would like to apologize for misunderstanding what you were trying to do with the National Priorities Project statistics. They were kind of dropped in after the line, "With promises of money for college and job training, some accuse the military of disproportionately targeting the poor." The institution you cite was not given context, nor did you explain what it was. At least I don't think you did, I don't have the article in front or me. However the fault is mine for not further examinining the institution you cite. And you are right you couldn't have been more clear about your source. However I still don't think the paragraph is very clear.
I'll take the hit on completely missing the the source you cite, but I still think you have to admit that that your intent with the paragraph is kinda vague.

 
At 10:20 AM , Blogger Jason C. said...

The level of condescension in the article that this responds to is incredible. If I read another article about how poor people need to be protected and educated, I am going to puke. In my experience, many poor neither want to be educated nor saved. In addition, sociological research bears out that poor people have different values than the upper middle class ultra-left wingnuts who want to save them.

 
At 12:10 PM , Blogger Isaac said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12:15 PM , Blogger Isaac said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12:27 PM , Blogger Isaac said...

Hopefully this formats correctly this time...

Max,
As an Earlham Student opposed to counter-recruiting I found your article and the post to be counterproductive in arguing against counter-recruiting both in its focus and rational. At its best counter recruiting is ineffective at doing anything and at worst it ends up moving opposition away from bad wars ( like the current situation in Iraq) and ineffectually focuses students on stopping the military ( not only almost an impossibility but also a needed both to protect the country and innocents abroad). Often legitimate problems like lying recruiters, veterans care and lack of funding for the Montgomery GI bill are overlooked in favor of merely condemning the whole armed forces, this needs to stop and your not helping.

You end up attacking Bennett for merely reporting the news and ( as he rightly points out) quoting accurately go as far as to state “Stephanie Scheurich and Mica Whitney, are permitted to present the most negative opinions as if they are facts.” as if allowing presentation of options is bad ( something you directly contradict later stating recruiters should be invited onto campus by the college). The idea that somehow the most “negative opinions” of students taking part in the organization being reported on shouldn’t be included is inane . While knowing Bennett may color my views on this it does seem clear that you unfairly criticize him.

In your more recent post you take this even farther seem to take issue with Bennett for not allowing the recruiter the ability to respond and commenting on his tone. You seem far to quick to jump on the idea that this is a conspiracy rather then the idea that this particular recruiter might not have that much to say or even care about the issue at all. You seem to mistakenly think that a reporters job is to make both sides equal regardless of presentation rather then to give both sides a chance to present their own case as Bennett did.

The other problem I have is that your argument against the counter recruiting group ofen have nothing to do with the groups actual goals. You criticize the group for not helping the poor themselves or enlisting in their place and remark “They accuse the military of disproportionately targeting the poor while they themselves cravenly use the wretched poor to garner sympathy for their case and their cause,” yet the only mention of the poor was the concern that the military disportionatly targeted them for recruitment. You construct a straw man where the counter recruitment group has “their unstated implication that poor people are obviously too stupid to figure out what a scam it all is,” yet the idea of suggesting alternative programs like Americorps are based on the idea that it is lack of funds that drive people to the military, not stupidity. The point these programs have problems with funding and often pay little or nothing is a much more compelling one.

As for the notion that recruiters should be invited on campus, as Bennett points out it seems a tad silly to have the College import recruiters only to have them rejected once here, particularly when the college seldom invites private businesses or other government agencies to recruit on campus either There is nothing to my knowledge stopping students from inviting them to speak.

Finally I just wanted to urge you to realize the militaries faults as well as its virtues. Honorable service in well thought though out and necessary conflicts is a good thing but the military does off fail to live up to its promises to its veterans. While you may learn valuable skills, see the world and fight honorable there’s also chance you’ll end up with your veterans benefits cut, stuck in stop loss or dealing with a wretched veterans healthcare system. My own family rose into the middle class through military service but as Chuck points out the military today is a different beast from what it once was and many of the Iraq War vets I know are worse off financially and psychologically then when they went in Ultimately both counter-recruitment and recruiters both fail to give the whole truth to both the benefits and problems of service.

Note:
I’ll probably submit this as an op-ed later. Also just wanted to comment your lightsaber fight rankings were spot on.

 
At 12:02 AM , Blogger Jason C. said...

Isaac,
I don't think that Max is against counter recruiting as much as he is against biased reporting, inconsistent claims, and ultra leftist ideologies that make no practical sense.

Before you go and get your article published, you might want to consider whether you are arguing against Max or just wanting to make some additional points that he never made an attempt to make. In fact, if you print that comment you will have set up a straw man to knock down. Try focusing on what Max actually wrote instead of what you would have liked him to have written.

 
At 9:07 PM , Blogger Max II said...

Isaac,
Thanks for your response.

A couple of things. My online version has ideas added that I didn't think were as germane to my thoughts on Counter-recruitment.

My ideas about allowing Recruiters on campus was one of those very topics. I had was thinking about our career center and the mass of jobs, employment, and other educational opportunities that get presented there. I do remember more than one job type fair thing being offered on campus. I simply think that the military option ought to be offered in part because I think it would be good for the institution that is the military. Having read more than a few books on the debacle in Iraq, I think that the military needs better officers with a much more nuanced view of the world. Many of the objections that have been raised about what would happen in Iraq if regime change was instituted were made far more forcefully from within the military than from without. However a handful of people had trouble over coming the huge intstitutional inertia of the green machine.

The military is hugely short officers right now. The reasons for this are plentiful but it is an opportunity to engage with it in a way that may, just may bring more to the institution than it had before. Having grown up around Earlham, having attended Earlham I hope it will be seen as a compliment what I am saying. I think the military needs thoughtful people, and it needs more people with education beyond high school and GEDs. Not because such people are stupid, but because education can offer different perspectives that the military definately needs to be hearing. I suspect that the main reason for Earlham's out right ban on recruiters has more to do with its Quaker principles than to any other consideration. (though I will follow this up on monday and get back to it here.)

You are also pushing against an open door with your critique of the military. I am with you. It is not and never has been all wine and roses. It has serious flaws (the reason I recommend that schools like our fair-minded liberal oasis Earlham rescend the current hostilities with recruiters) that must be addressed. Allow me to name just a few points of our agreement. I think that it over sells an enlistees ability learn valuable job skills that will make veterans more hireable post service. I think the organization is still backwards with its policies on sex and sexual orientation. I think soldiers are largely underpaid (I think this even though a active duty benefits-health care, the PX, etc are quite good). We certainly agree that the treatment of Iraq war vets was woefully inadequate and perhaps even criminal. (Perhaps we can take some hope from the fact that this situation at Walter Reed is now being remedied. Let us hope that these problems are taken care of swiftly and not in beauracratic military fashion. I don't like their current camoflauge pattern. I am sure there is more but that will do for a start.

I will have to agree to disagree with you on the main points regarding my critique of Bennett's piece. I've apologized for the my mis-interpretations of his intent and if he or you want to say so in your articles that is quite fine with me. Now that I have read the his description of the silly things the recruiter said I wish he had added those in too. It is a small paper though and I know i struggled with the length of what I wrote so I am sure it was a something he had to contend with as well. In any event I certainly don't fault the omission. I do find fault with the editors who dis-allowed claimed and allowed cooly. That you can't see that this presents the two parties in question in a slightly different light, on slightly different grounds of credibility without the the justification necessary (recaping the vaguery of the recruiter would have helped justifiy this more fully) helps me to see why we saw the article differently.

-Max

Oh thanks for the light saber comment. Even in midst of disagreement we can find things to agree on.

 

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