Has Social Media Destroyed Loyalty?

What happened to loyalty and standing up for one’s team mates?

The furore in the media about the video of marines allegedly urinating on dead terrorists in Afghanistan is shocking not for what they are supposedly doing, but for the fact that:

  • The video was recorded in the first place.
  • It was released to the media and put on You Tube.
  • The media decided to make a huge issue out of it – thereby turning what should have been a non event into a propaganda tool for enemies of the USA.
  • Many of those that are making the most noise have never been in a combat situation.

I accept that I served in the military 35 years ago when small video cameras were not available and smart phones with cameras had not been invented. But small cameras were available and relatively cheap. Kodak Instamatic is a model that I remember well. Few soldiers took cameras to the operational areas and those that did restricted their use to non-sensitive subjects. Sure a few irresponsible types did bend the rules, but it was extremely rare for any even mildly embarrassing photos to find their way into the newspapers or onto TV screens.

If individual soldiers had a problem with other members actions, they reported it through their chain of command. It was handled internally. Putting one’s fellow servicemen’s lives or reputations at risk for a fleeting moment of publicity was seen as unpatriotic, dangerous and totally unacceptable.

While the local media frequently criticised government policy, its members did not put soldiers lives at risk or provide ammunition to the enemy by elevating minor issues into major ones. Some of the international media did go out of their way to fabricate stories, but that was expected and part of the campaign against our country.

Armed conflict is a terrible experience, bad things happen. No one who has not experienced it can understand the stresses and reactions of those who have. Those reactions can manifest themselves in ways that may seem bizarre or savage to the uninitiated.

Urinating on dead bodies (if the video turns out to be genuine and not staged) certainly shows an error of judgement, but is small beans on the scale of atrocities in the field of human conflict.  Recording it on video compounds the error and publicising it is the crime that should be punished.

Publicising the video of this incident seems to have more to do with creating a You Tube number of views record than addressing misconduct.

Let’s hope that common sense prevails and this whole sorry episode is put to rest as soon as possible.

What is of concern is the wider implications of the publicity given to this and other exposures of stupidity by a few members of  the Nato forces. We know that a large part of the world dislikes the West in general and the USA in particular. It is understandable when the media serving those interests tries to stir up animosity. It is a different matter when our own media and that of our allies does it.

Why the disloyalty to one’s military unit, team members and country? Is it a symptom of a wider problem, disenchantment with government, the effects of three years of tough economic conditions, rising unemployment and falling living standards? Is it a desire to lash out at anybody or anything seen to be connected to the establishment?

The lack of good judgement and common sense is also worrying. Lack of both of these combined with the instant, global reach of social media is a very dangerous mix.

How loyal and fair are we to the people we rely on in our businesses and our lives? Can they rely on us to do the right and honourable thing if we are put to the test? Would we   stand by our team mates or get seduced by the dream of publicity?

All the more reason to look after and support our people in our own businesses, our customers and our suppliers and to think about what we put out in social media.

Wishing you success in all your endeavours.


Peter Wright


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