The U.S. Military in Discourse: Media and Messaging in the American Empire

Q1. Describe the scope and content of The U.S. Military in the Print News Media: Service and Sacrifice in Discourse.

Answer: My most recent book, The U.S. Military in the Print News Media: Service and Sacrifice in Discourse provides a critical assessment of the discourse surrounding the U.S. military as it has been rendered in the authoritative print news media in the United States over the course of the last 125 years. It encompasses an analysis of the tone, content, lexicon and narrative intent of print media coverage of American military engagements from the Spanish American War to the second U.S. invasion of Iraq as part of the ongoing and perpetual American War on Terror. The book achieves this analysis by combining the disciplinary approach of history and critical discourse analysis in offering a robust political and ideological critique of the U.S. military and its ongoing role within the contemporary geopolitical world. The unwavering nature of this critique makes this book unique in contemporary academic literature and provides intellectual insight where a viable, academic critique has been missing for so long.

Q2. What prompted you to write this book? Why take on a project such as this at this point in time?

Answer: The United States today is a state utterly bound to its own historical legacy even as it continues to maintain an incredibly destructive presence around the globe. Popular media and the pervasive culture instruct that we should be uncritical, deferential and completely unquestioning in our support for the warrior caste who bestrides the globe in order to sustain and support an undeniably iniquitous system. The vehicle through which this system of violence, militarism, inequality and privatization are maintained is discourse, particularly the discourse on the U.S. military disseminated, reified and absorbed throughout the country in the form of news media presentations of ongoing military actions. These elements, in tandem with wildly popular cultural products like television and films, instruct audiences to lionize soldiers and sailors as unimpeachable heroes in service of the state and all of its laudable objectives. These are the conditions, described here in brief, that prompted me to take on this book project over the course of the last three years.

Q3. What are the primary strengths of the book?

Answer: The benefits of the book are manifest within its innovative approach to the study of discourse construction, its broad historical vision and its multifaceted methodological approach applying the precepts of history, critical discourse analysis, political science, and media and communication studies. Further benefits from the book include the pioneering analysis it offers about the U.S. military itself, an institution which is routinely spared from a critical academic approach given its unique position within the contemporary American imperium as well as its ongoing position within the country’s discourse, and therefore, within the popular, American imagination. Because of this unflinching analysis, this book is both viable and timely given the current position of the United States at the apex of global politics and possibly, according to some researchers, at the beginning of the end of its military imperium.

Q4. Who is it aimed at? Who will derive the most benefit from reading this book?

Answer: There are at least two groups of people who should be compelled enough by the scope of this book to purchase a copy for personal use. The first group includes any scholars or academics who are either students of media and/or discourse analysis. This collective would find within this study a new and potentially groundbreaking effort in Critical Discourse Analysis taking on one of the most protected institutions in American history, the United States military. The second group who should procure this text includes any member of the global, political left who would be interested in a historical and institutional criticism of American militarism and the empire that it spawned. This latter group would comprise educated non-experts who know the general history of the United States but might be keen to know more about the manner in which this militancy developed over time, as well as the methods through which expansive militarism has been foisted upon the population of the United States. Both of these audiences would be compelled by The U.S. Military in the Print News Media given that it is a highly approachable study largely free of the language of post-modernism. At the same time, this book comprises an exhaustively researched work with source material ranging from the theoretical to the archival, and from the historical to the contemporary all collected in an unflinching analysis of the U.S. military and the mass-produced American media.

Q5. Can you provide a glimpse into any conclusions that this book reaches? What was your primary takeaway as the author once your research and writing for this project had concluded?

Answer: The U.S. Military in the Print News Media: Service and Sacrifice in Discourse provides an innovative and carefully researched view into the linkages between discourse and politics, and between cultural and policies within the United States looking at various, critical moments in the history of the development of the American Empire. Ultimately, this book provides a heretofore absent insight into the complex interrelationships between policy, the military, discourse and culture focusing upon the power centres of discourse creation while connecting previously disjointed lines of historical and media research considering the United States and its imperial and military reach throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Q6. What are some comparable books? What existing books are closest in form or function to The U.S. Military in the Print News Media?

Answer: A number of works exist in the literature which would be considered comparable works to this book. They comprise a mix between academic and popular sources and range widely in their disciplinary approach, but they are unified in providing a strong, critical voice in discussions of American history, foreign policy, militarism and/or American cultural chauvinism. Among them are John Tirman’s exceptional work from 2011, The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America’s Wars. A seamless accompaniment to Tirman would be anything by former military officer and current well-respected academician and historian, Andrew Bacevich. In particular, his The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War offers valuable insight into the peculiar characteristics of the American people that have led to our embrace of violence and war and our lack of insight or introspection into our own, uber-violent footprint in the current geopolitical world. Likewise, former journalist and seminarian cum driven social critic Chris Hedges speaks poignantly on these topics in his 2006 offering War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. His book is not to be missed by any serious student of violence, conflict or war in America today. And finally, Howard Zinn’s classic critique of American history and self-conceived notions of supremacy, most recently updated in 2010 titled A People’s History of the United States would certainly be a suitable accompaniment to The U.S. Military in the Print News Media. Any fans of Zinn would find common cause, and if I may esteem myself, a common voice for criticism and change in the United States in both my book as well as in Zinn’s masterwork of historical analysis.