OTHER SOCIAL ISSUES

Truth and (self) censorship in military memoirs

Article

This article questions how truth and self censorship issues influence the content of military autobiographies.

Abstract

It can be difficult for researchers from outside the military to gain access to the field. However, there is a rich source on the military that is readily available for every researcher: military memoirs. This source does provide some methodological challenges with regard to truth and (self) censorship, nevertheless. This study questions how truth and (self) censorship issues influence the content of these military autobiographies. It shows that these issues are not only a concern for researchers, but also for military writers themselves. The study provides concrete quantitative data based on military Afghanistan memoirs published between 2001 and 2010 from five different countries: the UK, the US, Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands. The majority of soldier-authors make some kind of truth claim in their books that they also substantiate. Military books published by traditional publishers do so significantly more often than self-published books. In books published in Anglo-Saxon countries soldier-authors make truth claims five times more often than do military authors from the Netherlands and Germany. At the same time, military authors also frequently admit to some form of self-censuring, so truth claims and self-censorship go hand in hand. From each of the countries studied, at least one author mentions being actively censored by the military, but most do not even mention it, making censorship a common, almost normal military feature. Making truth claims, mentioning being censored, or self-censoring do not influence the kind of plots these authors write either in a negative, or positive way.

Full Reference

Kleinreesink, E. and Soeters, J., 2016. Truth and (self) censorship in military memoirs. Current Sociology, 64(3), doi: 10.1177/0011392115590613.