Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More fun framing fibs from Fox

It's just too easy sometimes, isn't it?

Anyway. What's fun about this one is not that the frontpage presence is false. In the sense that 12 solons are seeking to overturn something, it's literally quite true. But it illustrates another one of those first-week-of-spring-training tricks of the propagandist's trade: The quicker you can move from event to reaction, the easier it is to bury the original untruth.

Here's the hed and story you get to when you click from the front:

Furor After Flag-Folding Ceremony Pulled From Cemeteries
A group of congressmen has asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to reconsider its ban on the flag-folding ceremony at military funerals after the agency decided last month to streamline burials at federal cemeteries.

Legitimate hed truncation or clever hed fake? That one's hard to say. The lede, on the other hand, embeds a series of out-and-out lies. There is no ban on "the flag-folding ceremony"; there's apparently a ban on this one particular recitation. And it's not a ban at "military funerals"; it covers federal cemeteries. And, if the reporter whose tale appears to have triggered this is to be trusted, it isn't even a "ban": He [the Cemetery Administration spokesman] said the flag-folding narrative can be read but only if families make arrangements on their own and do not use cemetery workers, which include volunteers.

Or as the AP, which has an interest in seeing that stuff is true before it's shipped, put it: Flag-folding recitations by Memorial Honor Detail volunteers are now banned at the nation's 125 veterans graveyards because of a complaint about the ceremony at Riverside National Cemetery. Catch the distinctions? But for Fox's purposes, now that we have a "furor," who's going to go back and read the fine print? Certainly not the protagonists:

"The flag folding recitation is a longstanding tradition which brings comfort to the living and honor to the deceased," Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., writes in his letter Tuesday signed by 11 other congressmen. "The recitations accompanying each fold pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of our veterans and their families, the nation they proudly serve, and the beliefs that they hold dear."

Veterans Affairs made the new policy decision last month, after a complaint was filed to the White House, said Rees Lloyd, a member of the American Legion's Memorial Honor Detail for services at Riverside National Cemetery in California.

"To me, it's a slap in the face for every veteran, every member of the Memorial Honor Detail and every family of the deceased veteran," Lloyd said.

One is inclined to suggest that Mr. Lloyd speak for himself. But more in a second.

At issue are secondary meanings attached to the folding of the flag. As the honor guard makes the 13 folds — traditionally representing the original colonies — they recite "the first fold of our flag is a symbol of life, the second fold is a symbol of our belief in the eternal life, etc."

Nah, I'm betting they don't say "our belief in the eternal life, etc."

A complaint about the recitation for the 11th fold — "in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" — garnered a complaint and prompted the ban.
In a Sept. 27 memo, the National Cemetery Administration halted the ceremony. It was an effort to create uniform services throughout the military graveyard system, spokesman Mike Nacincik said.

No word on who entered the complaint (though the fairly predictable comments about his/her patriotism, humanity &c are getting a bit widespread). Did somebody think it was too religious? Not religious enough? A little too Knights Templar Lite for general use?

But it's caused a furor among veterans. Members of the American Legion have been flooding national headquarters since the decision, according to Ramona Joyce, an organization spokeswoman.

"We definitely think is a matter left up to the families," she said. "It's a nice ceremony; we've been doing it for years. Our honor guards have been doing it."

OK. I've been wondering why I never heard of the thing, "never" including two funerals of World War II-era veterans, some decades apart (and for the record, no: I don't feel slapped in the face, and neither does the doc). It's something the Legion has been doing for "years." And where did it start? Hard to say. But as the nice folks over at the Military Salute Project suggest, it was somewhere over in Choking Doberman territory. Indeed, one of the moderators seems to have tried to debunk myths about the secret meanings of flag-folding -- why, two years ago today! Right under the one about "boot camp food is laced with saltpeter," if you're scoring along at home. Snopes walks it back a little farther, to an anonymous chaplain at the Air Force Academy.

But that's water under the bridge. We're past the "check the facts" stage and on to the outraged reaction. O'Reilly and Hannity will have it next, and it'll go in the books as another battle in the War Against America. Why mess with a good thing?

As a framing question, because we're all about framing here, let's ask some Entman-inspired questions, meaning ones about how frames categorize problems, help divide the cast into good guys and bad guys, and define the solution set. What if this one was categorized a bit differently -- say, as a matter of who's claiming a right to subject families to pseudo-historical private-sector mumbo-jumbo at an emotionally difficult time to begin with?

These things don't always go smoothly. The idea of taps on a boombox is jarring. And I expect the Navy detail that couldn't get the flag folded right the first time was embarrassed (they asked for it back after the ceremony and redid it). But when they presented it to a fellow sailor's widow on behalf of the president and country, they meant it. And nobody seemed to miss the bit about the lower half of the Shield of Kings.

For you readers who are veterans, or relatives or survivors of veterans, or are still on active or reserve duty: Have you heard the story of the folds? Thoughts or comments?

[UPDATE: Unknow when it was posted, but as of this writing -- 7:51p -- the story has a new hed and lede:
Furor After Ceremonial Flag-Folding Readings Pulled From Military Funerals
A group of congressmen has asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to retain the tradition of reciting the significance of each fold in the flag-folding ceremony at military funerals.
Still no explanation of how or when this particular set of ex post fictions became a "tradition"; again, comments from those who've seen it done or can address the "furor" are welcome. And the hed on the frontpage has gotten a bit perkier:
Lawmakers target ban on ceremonial flag-folding
Sigh. Once again, there's no ban, and it's not on flag-folding. Do the Foxsters know that you can, like, fail a hed exercise for making stuff up?]

[UPDATE THE SECOND: I've run across some earlier comments on last week's shenanigans in California and on the roots of the fold thing. Well, that's framing for you. Late to the party as usual, but we try to bring something decent to drink.]

Labels: ,


Blogger Ed Darrell said...

The party's still going -- you're not late until the cleanup crew is gone.

Thanks for the links. It's an interesting issue, and a good point for educating people on the Flag Code, and the First Amendment, and history.

9:30 AM, October 31, 2007  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home