U.S. Navy SEALs conduct immediate action drills during predeployment training at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi Oct. 25, 2010. Navy SEALs are the maritime component of U.S. Special Operations Command and are trained to conduct a variety of operations from the sea, air and land. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Scorza/Released) (Mass Communication Specialist 2n)

A guide to the media's Navy SEALs porn

"A superhero has nothing on these guys"

Justin Elliott
May 9, 2011 4:30PM (UTC)

The week following the Osama bin Laden raid has seen an efflorescence of Navy SEALs porn masquerading as news.

We've previously noted the deferential stance toward the military taken by some in the media -- even as the official story of what happened in Abbottabad has changed radically.


But an entire subgenre of bin Laden coverage has focused on the Navy SEAL commandos who stormed the compound, killing bin Laden and four others (only one of whom, the administration now claims, was armed). The media celebration of the SEALs has been unbridled and largely formulaic. It is by now familiar. A rundown of the brutal training regimen. Swimming in freezing water. Hell week. Sea. Air. Land. The elite of the elite. Supermen. Et cetera.

The episode has been a public-relations coup for the military. Indeed, many of the stories on the SEALs have featured photographs taken and distributed by the military itself. Katie Couric even quoted a slogan directly from the SEALs' website the other night.

Here's our quick guide to the most explicit SEALs porn of the last week:


Newsweek/Daily Beast

Headline: "The Coolest Guys in the World"

Art: "[Shirtless] Navy SEAL trainees wait prior to taking the Drown Proofing Test, when their hands and feet will be tied in the Combat Training Tank."

Sample quote: "They’re America’s quietest killers, working anonymously and without public recognition."


The takeaway: Compared to these guys, your boyfriend is a loser.


Headline: "Inside the covert, superhuman world of Navy SEALs"

Art: M16-bearing SEALs in wetsuits, prancing on rocks on the beach

Sample quote: "And so while we can't offer photos of the men who took down al-Qaida's leader, we can offer this chiseled homage to the graduates of one of the most grueling training programs in the military."


The takeaway: Summed up by Slate's Twitter feed: "#badass"

New York Times 

Headline: "In Bin Laden’s Compound, Seals’ All-Star Team"

Art: Shirtless, tattooed SEAL dresses in makeshift locker room

Sample quote: "Then there is Seal Team 6, the elite of the elite, or, as Mr. Roberti put it, 'the all-star team.'"


The takeaway: You have permission from the New York Times to ogle shirtless SEALs

Wall Street Journal

Headline: The SEAL Sensibility

Art: Extreme close-up of SEAL's head emerging from water

Sample quote: "As some of my SEAL instructors would say, 'The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war.'"


Bonus sample quote: "There are a dozen types that fail [SEALs training]: the weight-lifting meatheads who think that the size of their biceps is an indication of their strength, the kids covered in tattoos announcing to the world how tough they are, the preening leaders who don't want to get dirty, and the look-at-me former athletes who have always been told they are stars but have never have been pushed beyond the envelope of their talent to the core of their character. In short, those who fail are the ones who focus on show."

The takeaway: SEALs epitomize American "smart power"

New York Times

Headline: "Muscle Memory"


Art: A trio of beefy SEALs-turned-memoirists

Sample quote: "They are America’s Jedi knights: the elite of the elite, an all-star team of commandos, 'tier one' special operations warriors given mission-impossible assignments in the most dangerous parts of the planet."

The takeaway: If you don't buy the new SEALs' memoirs, you're unpatriotic.



Headline: "Inside Navy SEALs Team Six"

Sample quote: "A superhero has nothing on these guys."

Bonus sample quote: "You know, Diane, as impressive as the details of the bin Laden operation are, you really start to appreciate how special these SEALs are, when you learn that taking out bin Laden was just another day at the office."



Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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