Ever since the American-led invasion of Iraq last year, when hundreds of journalists were embedded with military units, people in media circles have been debating whether journalists lose their professional detachment under such circumstances and begin to identify too closely with the troops they are covering. A journalist I met recently in Iraq told me that whenever he returns from a stint with the military, he gets a string of queries from journalism professors, wanting to know if embedded journalists have become, in effect, "whores" of the armed forces.
Having spent much of the past two years embedded with U.S. military units around the world, I find such fears to be a case of class prejudice. As with many forms of prejudice, the perpetrators are only vaguely aware of it, if at all.
Even with the embed phenomenon the media still manifest a far more intimate—one might say incestuous—relationship with politicians, international diplomats, businesspeople, academics, and humanitarian-relief workers than with the U.S. military. Given that all these groups push various political agendas, it is fair to ask why embedding has struck a raw nerve.
The common denominator among the non-military groups is that they derive from the same elevated social and economic strata of their societies. Even relief workers are often young people from well-off families, motivated by idealism and a desire for adventure. An American journalist would most likely find it easier to strike up a conversation with a relief worker from another Western country than with a U.S. Marine or soldier, especially if