Tuesday, February 24, 2015

the manly lie, or DWFD

So much could be said about the Robert McDonald and Bill O'Reilly flaps.  The former is the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the latter is a professional prevaricator for Fox News.  Actually most Secretaries of Stuff for the federal government are also professional prevaricators, but in this case the two gents in question committed a special kind of sin.  They presented themselves as Dudes Who Face Danger (DWFD) in slightly dishonest ways.

DWFD is a boy-trope.  We men become more manly men when we "face danger," especially the dangers of War.  God save us from probative masculinity, but just as urgently, save us from these adumbrations of manly-men-ness via media-generated archetypes.

This morning, I opened up the news online, and there was an article excoriating McDonald because he falsely claimed to have been a member of Special Forces.  In fact, he was a paratroop officer with the 82nd Airborne Division, and he had attended Ranger School - an eight-week course in patrol orders, sleep deprivation, and caloric deficits (if it still resembles my own experience in that school some 36 years ago).  The article was quick to point out that Special Forces is not the same as the 82nd (a light infantry division), and it even correctly described what Special Operations is and how Special Forces is a subset of that category.  Most journalists get this wrong, because . . . impressionism is what they want to achieve.  In my own career in the military - a great deal of it in Special Operations (in Ranger Battalions, in Special Forces, and in a constituent unit of the Joint Special Operations Command) - I read more than a few news articles about operations in which I had been involved, and the number of them that got it right was exactly zero.  In this particular article, even though it managed to apprehend the organizational flow chart, it still said some incredibly stupid things about Special Operations that conform to the myths about it which underwrite the aforementioned suggestive power - that manly mystique.  It described the terrifyingly difficult training that we had to go through, the almost incomprehensible skills we all learned, and the criticality of our missions . . . we heroes.  We, well, not me any more . . . I am an old man . . . the "special" operators . . . are heroes.

Let me disabuse people of some of this nonsense right here and now.  Just because.  These guys do not face any more danger than kids who participate in extreme sports.  They are not in any better shape than your average college female medium distance runner.  They do not have even a fraction of the special-effects-created "skills" that are routinely portrayed by stuntmen and digital hoodoo in films.  They are no brighter on average than insurance salesmen.  Yes, they have particular skills that are more trained than others, a few, and yes, they learn the moving parts for operations.  Some get to try on a few wazoo "insertion" techniques (try that one on, Dr. Freud!), like free-fall parachuting or swimming with a breathing apparatus (which are very seldom actually used, because they are too difficult to control).  Their operations fail as often or more often than they succeed.  They face no more danger than a steelworker or a woman working the line in a poultry factory.

But these facts are not supportive of the DWFD idea, which is itself enmeshed with militarism, nationalism, and . . . well, yes, patriarchy.  That's why it is such a good idea, in my own opinion, to undermine it as much as humanly possible.

Poor McDonald and O'Reilly just got caught up in this probative masculinity game, and couldn't resist claiming some bonus bona fides.  Now the rest of the men, like the worshipful press, are compelled to police them.  This is serious business guys . . . you can't devalue . . . well, whatever it is.  The accepted criteria for DWFD?  (I mean, all the other stuff these guys lie about, and this is the shit they get gassed for!)

I say, go ahead.  Let's all put our hands on our little pollinators, don green berets, and let the world believe we are its dangerous defenders.

I have to go out and feed the birds.




  1. Oh, the imaginary Tempo Tasks we face...

  2. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/feb/25/american-sniper-trial-eddie-ray-routh-found-guilty-and-sentenced-to-life-in-prison-without-parole?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

    And don't kill the "heroes". If you do, you will be punished. The absurdity of this situation "under the law" is as deep as it is monstrous. Gads, I wonder if the Romans did stuff like this....