Is support for the troops only ‘bumper sticker deep’?

A poll taken in May of this year revealed that only 27% of Americans support the war in Afghanistan, with 66% opposing it. This shouldn’t be incredibly surprising given the near-complete media silence on military activity there. Most Americans have heard next to nothing about Afghanistan since May of 2011, when President Obama told America how he had killed Osama bin Laden. For all intents and purposes (props to TheBaldGuy), most Americans (at least 66% of them) were under the impression that the troops left the country along with the helicopter carrying bin Laden’s body.

Of course, this is nothing but a media-invented and media-controlled lack of publicity. News channels—print, radio, television, and web—were abuzz for weeks after the Obama announcement on live television about the assassination of America’s Most Wanted terrorist. Although nobody specifically stated it, the assumption and implication was clear enough: President Obama single-handedly (with maybe a little bit of help from the Joint Chiefs) ended the Afghan War by taking out its mastermind. Good news about the war in Afghanistan was in short supply and Obama was in need of a popularity bounce. Both problems were “solved” with one 15-minute “special report” to the American people. However, the coveted bounce never much materialized as Americans switched off their concern for Afghanistan and began focusing once again on the American economy. A dead Osama bin Laden didn’t do much for the American housing market, as much as Obama was hoping that it would.

But the real story here is the lack of media coverage about the war after last May. The media grew tired of covering it, not to mention that the Obama administration didn’t need the American people to be reminded about it. The collusion between the media and the President was mutually beneficial.  The media no longer had to embed correspondents and news crews in the war-torn country and Obama no longer had to listen to questions about the continuing hostility. Out of sight, out of mind. Now the only references to “war” coming from the mainstream media are the contrived ones being waged on women and the poor. War never left, it only switched battlefields.

Matthew Farwell served in Afghanistan for nearly a year and a half with the U.S. Army and had this to say regarding support “back home”: “[Americans are] bored with it. We [would] laugh about how no one really cares. All the ‘support the troops’ stuff is bumper sticker deep.” Except that it’s not. How many Americans have actually been told how to “support the troops” short of putting a sticker on their car? The vast majority of Americans have never served in the military and have no clue what it’s like, or how they can show or give support to soldiers and sailors on foreign shores. Their only connection to the troops is through the media, and if the media decides to put its attention elsewhere, the resulting ignorance should be a foregone conclusion. Soldiers like Farwell may think that the support is only “bumper sticker deep” but he should be intelligent enough to recognize the real problem, especially now that he is back home and no longer serving in the Army. He may have personal connections to the war—through friends and acquaintances still stationed in Afghanistan—but he is the exception, not the rule.

It is entirely disingenuous for the media to bemoan a problem of their own making. But then again, what else would we expect them to do? The media in America wastes little time trumpeting its own accolades—much like President Obama is wont to do—yet refuses to admit its own failings. Blaming the American public for a lack of concern for the Afghan War is like a parent scolding a child for playing with the knife the parent left on the kitchen floor. The media can’t have it both ways, and it is up to “We the People” to hold them accountable.