KENNETH CRAWFORD, in the February 23 Washington Post reports a speech made by former Post Editor J. Russell Wiggins. Wiggins asked a rhetorical question. How would today's media have reported George Washington's crossing of the Delaware at McKonkey's Ferry on Christmas Day, 1776? Wiggins' answer to his question:
"Television camera men would have focused their zoom lenses on the rag-wrapped feet of Washington's troopers. When it was over, microphones would have been thrust under the noses of stripling recruits to catch their answers to the question: 'How do you feel about some of your buddies being lost in this sneaky operation?'...New York editorial writers would have followed with lamentations...Washington, instead of attacking, should have been negotiating...His occupation of Trenton and quick withdrawal showed that he was still engaged in search-and-destroy operations--following the will-o-the-wisp of military victory...."
Tee-vee might have done unusual work in other wars too. What about a sequence from the Civil War, with a title like, 'DISCIPLINE CRISIS IN THE ARMY.' Camera pans in to the draft riots as the Irish tear up New York City, shouting "Hell no, we won't go!' (Historically, they shouted worse.) Americans at dinner watch draftees escaping back to their farms. In another clip a Captain shoots a private who fails to advance on line. Next, the camera zooms in on a high-ranking officer. He's unkempt, rather shaggy looking. Needs a haircut badly. Is he even sober? The camera seems to be searching for lice in his beard. As he looks down at the camera, the TV reporter looks up, extending the mike, while careful not to be trampled under the stallion. He shouts to be heard above the din. "But don't you agree. Sir? This is a very dirty, unpopular war. Isn't it, GENERAL GRANT?"