Veterans as Pseudo-Experts

Chris Marvin, a former soldier who was wounded in Afghanistan in a helicopter crash, is on a campaign to strip away the illusion of the wounded warrior. The only problem is, the wounded warrior picture is no illusion.

A 2007 study found that fully 31% of OEF/OIF veterans seen at VA facilities received mental health and/or psychosocial diagnoses. Given the fact that mental health issues and alcohol abuse are grievously underreported, not to mention the well-documented fact that mental health issues are generally ignored due to military culture, it is very likely that the numbers of veterans suffering from mental illness could be well above those reported.

The problem with the media attention given to Mr Marvin is that veterans are not informed experts. An analogy makes the situation clear: a person with a brain is not an expert on neurology simply because she has a brain.

Giving credence to the uninformed is dangerous. For one, suicide, drug abuse, and mental illness are ravaging the veteran community right now and we need interventions. And for another, our democracy depends on a well-informed electorate, an electorate that is informed by the media. But the media is failing by taking the easy route of praising a veteran who has taken a voice for himself rather than exposing the lack of factual grounds for his position as well as the real damage Marvin is doing to the campaign to heal our wounded vets.

Ignorance is always dangerous, but in this case it is truly damaging.