The Military-Literary Complex

Not so long ago, American corporate media willingly accepted a set of new conditions and limitations in exchange for the privilege of reporting on the frontlines of Iraq, such as they existed. The military bed was a place of censorship, where reports underwent military review prior to publication. But more importantly, the failures of the bed were ones of sympathy and lack: by focusing on one story—the story of an all-volunteer American army—embedded journalism failed to report on the experiences of the vast majority of people—unarmed Iraqi civilians—conscripted by American policy into a life of violent war and brutal occupation.

The military bed is not a thing of the past, but its home has changed. Over the last few years, the practice of embedding has been moved from the chambers of journalism into those of literature. The story of how it moved involves an unlikely array of governmental, commercial, educational and grass-roots organizations—including the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Boeing Corporation, grassroots veterans support groups, MFA programs, publishers and professional and amateur literary associations—that have come together to extend embedded writing into the heart of American letters. (Read More)