TED Conversations

Johnna Franklin

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Why do civilians think we as military personnel should not speak our minds? We fight for our liberties, yet many prefer to silence us...

In response to the question regarding General McChrystal being chosen to speak at a TED conference.


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    May 8 2011: Johanna,

    I don't think the question is about silencing the military. The military is outspoken, has defined generation after generation with both inventions and violence.

    It's more a question about who the military silences.

    Moreover, for those informed, there's a distrust of the charged political language of militarism. Technical terms like collateral damage, counterinsurgency, and so on can pacify our anger at actions done in our name that could be described otherwise.

    However, once we realize the history and context of the language, we develop a distrust of those who would speak from the perspective of the military.

    And for many, that takes the form of anger or censorship if they could get the chance, to try to push away what has already been done in their name by not having to listen to the calculated half-lies from a General's mouth.

    So, I must reject your premise that military personnel don't get enough airtime. Intellectuals have always had a disdain for the military, but that doesn't mean that the military is generally silenced or isn't respected by many.

    Indeed, often it is respected more than one's government. However, I think if there was any disdain for McChrystal at TED, it was not because he was in the military - but because of his actions in the military. Thus, it's not about the military per se, but about him.

    Sneering and jeering a lesson in leadership from McChrystal is thus not based in his militarism, but in his actions. So, it's not about silencing the military, but about censoring him for his actions and his willingness to overlook their consequences to give a glib talk on leadership.
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      May 10 2011: Thank you Mister Seth.

      If this is the case, then the same standard should hold true of politicians.

      Although some of our history as you reference the military being outspoken is true, it is not the case of General McChrystal. Please explain your point as it pertains to General McChrystal. Who was he silencing? It is not a matter of airtime, it is a matter of freedom of speech. Many are angry that the General spoke his mind and with it, truth. You may differ in opinion but, a General officer does not put his lifetime career on the line for lies...

      It is a double standard I think. It is also a contradiction in terms of intellectuals and military leaders. Most Majors and above have at minimum a Masters degree and some go on become professors after service. Generalizing the military based on limited knowledge of a few is what hurts us as humans. This is most certainly the case with General McChrystal.


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