On Monday night's All Things Considered newscast, National Public Radio sent reporters to three different military bases looking for reaction to the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell." Art Silverman came last at the Marine Base in Quantico, Virginia:
SILVERMAN: Then I march into Number Two Military barbershop and find only one customer to ask about the repeal. How will this affect people in the field doing their job?
Turn off the recorder, he says. He wants to talk frankly. He wants me to know that most Marines come from parts of the country where tolerance toward homosexuality doesn't exist. This means problems ahead. He says, "These are country boys, and they even have problems accepting blacks and women in the Corps." For him, repeal of “don't ask, don't tell” means hostility and harassment ahead for Marines who let people know they are gay or lesbian.
That must have been just what NPR was looking for -- matching their anti-bumpkin agenda. After the three stories from the bases, anchor Robert Siegel talked to a pseudonymous gay officer calling himself "J.D. Smith" with the activist group "OutServe." (Even if the "out" part isn't fully true.) Siegel wanted to know if superiors would tolerate anti-gay harassment or violence:
SIEGEL: Here's something that our colleague who went to Quantico heard from some servicemen today, he heard people say: Look, I'm not biased against gays or lesbians, but there are a lot of others here who are. So coming out could be dangerous for them, and conceivably our immediate superiors might ignore acts of harassment or violence against them. Are you concerned about that?
"SMITH": Absolutely not. And the Pentagon working group study actually proves that. When you take even the combat arms, just the Marine Corps, we saw over 80 percent of those Marines that knew somebody that was gay or lesbian in their unit were okay with it. So I think there's some kind of, like, group-think mentality among the Marines. I mean, and the leadership sets that tone that they have to be, quote-unquote "anti-gay."
So when the leadership, you know, starts setting the tone that you will accept this, and you will respect one another, that's what will happen. But furthermore, I mean, history and this study shows us that the Marines that know people that are gay in their units just simply don't care.
Reporter David Sommerstein hinted at rural backwardness as well in his report from New York's Fort Drum: "Like many military communities, the surrounding area is rural and conservative. So homosexuality itself is a subject people wrestle with. They choose their words carefully. They um and ah a lot." Apparently, at NPR, when you're a sophisticated urbanite, you never again wrestle with the morality of homosexuality.
NPR found several military people who were skeptical of the new policy, and worried about it being rushed, but also found a lot of people who tried to offer the Seinfeldesque reply that they had no personal problem with it. Was there really no one on a military base who would feel free telling a liberal public-radio reporter that this behavior is morally wrong and shouldn't be treated like race or gender?